Former FDA Head Issues Urgent New Warning for Vaccinated People

There's no time to wait on this protective measure as Omicron circulates.

The COVID news this week has felt particularly grim. As the Delta variant continues to surge throughout the country, the new and highly infectious Omicron variant is making its presence known. While fully vaccinated individuals remain the most protected against all COVID variants, reports of a swell in breakthrough infections have many feeling concerned. But health officials and virus experts have maintained that we have the necessary tools to fight back against the oncoming Omicron wave—as long as we don't wait too long to act.

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Over the past couple weeks, it's become clear that booster shots are necessary in the face of the Omicron variant. Research has shown that while two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not particularly effective against Omicron, a booster shot ramps up antibodies and may be able to stave off symptomatic infection. One recent study found that while the two-dose Moderna vaccine was 50 times less effective against the new variant, combined with the booster it was about as effective as the two-dose vaccine is against Delta.

As White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, explained to CNN on Dec. 14, Omicron's shocking transmissibility means that it will fast become the dominant variant in the U.S. And that makes boosters all the more essential. "Omicron is going to be a challenge because it spreads very rapidly, and the vaccines that we use—the regular two-dose mRNA—don't do very well against infection itself," he said. "But particularly if you get the boost, it is pretty good. There is no doubt that the optimal protection is going to be with three doses of an mRNA."

If you've been holding off on getting your booster, there's no time like the present to act, as Omicron spreads rapidly. New York City has seen cases double in three days in large part due to the new variant, a local CBS-affiliate reported. But there's another reason why it's a bad idea to put off your third dose any longer: You may not be able to get an appointment if you don't book soon.

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In a Dec. 17 interview on CNBC's Squawk Box, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said that the current surge may make it difficult to get a booster shot in the near future.

"We know Omicron moves very quickly," he said. "This variant is going to move much more quickly through the country than Delta did, so people who are waiting to get a booster to afford themselves a measure of protection against this variant—time is running out to do that."

Booster shots are available at pharmacies across the country, but you can also check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) site to find a location in your area. As Fauci noted in a Dec. 17 appearance on Squawk Box, the current definition of "fully vaccinated" means two doses of an mRNA vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson, but that is likely to change—and "there's no doubt that optimum vaccination is with a booster."

With that in mind, it's best to heed Gottlieb's urgent warning sooner rather than later. "Appointments are going to fill up, demand's going to surge," he told CNBC. "The best way to protect yourself is a booster shot."

RELATED: The WHO Just Sent This Urgent Warning About Omicron to People Over 60.

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