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Anthony Fauci during a Dec. 9 meeting with President Biden and the White House Covid-19 Response Team on the Omicron variant. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci tells Axios that public health officials are urging people to get COVID-19 vaccine boosters in light of waning antibody immunity and rising infections from Delta.

Driving the news: The Omicron variant is also now spreading in the United States. It's been shown to be highly transmissible and more able to evade vaccines, but a third shot or booster of an mRNA vaccine re-ups protection against Delta and Omicron, Fauci says.

  • "It's the same public health measure for Delta, for Beta, for Alpha: Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask," Fauci says.
  • Fauci expects Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa, "will rapidly spread" in the U.S. but adds, "you have to wait and see, as there may be factors in the United States that are different enough than factors in South Africa."
  • Antibodies naturally wane over time, and boosters are meant to help reconstitute the antibody level again, which is why they are so important, Fauci says.

Between the lines: Concerns are growing over the timing of holiday gatherings and the arrival of Omicron — plus the current booster gap in people eligible for a booster.

  • "Keep gatherings small, test ahead of time if you can, and make sure you get your booster," FredHutch immunobiologist Jennifer Lund tells Axios.
  • "We're kind of getting out of the range of two weeks before the holidays, but boosters will work quicker than the initial dose does because you're just kind of reminding your immune system of what it needs to do," Lund says.

The bottom line: "If you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you're not supposed to be boosted, be prudent and wear a mask," Fauci says.

  • "If you're vaccinated and your family's vaccinated, you can enjoy nice Christmas dinners and holidays — but be careful when you're around people who you don't know what their vaccination status is."

Go deeper: How the little-known B and T cells can protect against COVID variants

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated."
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated — Annual vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate — Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance — Arizona governor sues Biden administration over funds tied to mandates.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
35 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

S&P 500 on track for worst-ever start to year

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stocks suffered their steepest drop of the year early Monday, putting the S&P 500 on course for its worst-ever start to a year.

Driving the news: The benchmark S&P 500 dropped for its fifth straight day, with losses nearing 3% in early trading, momentarily putting it on track to fall into a "correction." Some of the steepest losses were recovered in early afternoon trading.

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