Omicron spread: 'We are sitting ducks for next wave of Covid-19', says expert

The Delta variant is still the dominant strain in the United States but Omicron is on its way to dethrone it and claim the position for itself. The heavily mutated variant has been shown in early data to have a worrying resistance to vaccines and higher transmissibility.
People stand in a queue for Covid-19 test in Times Square, New York City, on December 19.(Reuters Photo)
People stand in a queue for Covid-19 test in Times Square, New York City, on December 19.(Reuters Photo)
Updated on Dec 20, 2021 07:57 AM IST
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By | Written by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Omicron variant has been spreading fast, especially in the United States, which was already ravaged by the second wave of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). It is confronting another dark winter, with hospitalisations increasing 45 per cent over the last month and cases rising 40 per cent, according to a tally by news agency Reuters.

Also Read | What more we know of Omicron today

And now, a healthcare expert has warned that people in the United States are “sitting ducks for the next wave of Covid-19”.

Watch: Covid Omicron spreading 'significantly faster', says WHO

Advocating booster shots to fight Omicron, Dr Eric Topol, a cardiologist and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told CNBC that Americans might not be ready for the fast-spreading variant of coronavirus.

“We’re lagging behind what we need to get out to the American public,” he told CNBC last week, adding that fully vaccinated should mean three shots instead of two.

“We are in Omicron land now,” he said.

His comments were made days before US President Joe Biden’s top medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci said that a redefinition for what it means to be fully vaccinated is certainly on the table.

“There’s no doubt that optimum vaccination is with a booster,” Dr Fauci told CNBC.

On Sunday, he urged unvaccinated Americans to get a shot and the vaccinated to get boosters, which have been shown to get the protection back.

He also cautioned against too much optimism over Omicron's severity, noting that in South Africa, while the hospitalisation-to-case ratio is lower than with Delta, this could be due to underlying immunity from widespread previous infections.

"No matter how you look at it," he underscored, "when you have so many, many infections, even if it is less severe, that overcomes this slight to moderate diminution in severity."

Currently, in the United States, people are considered fully vaccinated if they have received two shots of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, or a single dose of Jonson & Johnson vaccine.

The Delta variant is still the dominant strain in the United States but Omicron is on its way to dethrone it and claim the position for itself. The heavily mutated variant has been shown in early data to have a worrying resistance to vaccines and higher transmissibility.

Also Read | Threat of Omicron looms over Xmas holidays in Europe, US

While a little more than 70 per cent of the US population has had at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another 50 million eligible people remain unprotected.

Omicron now accounts for around three per cent of cases in the United States, a figure that is expected to rise rapidly as has been seen in other countries.

On Saturday, New York state announced a record number of daily cases for the second day in a row, with almost 22,000 positive results.

The United States crossed the 800,000 known Covid-19 deaths last Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

(With inputs from agencies)

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