Dr. Fauci Just Said This One Thing Could Stop the Next Omicron
The top health official says it could lessen the impact of future dangerous variants.
Throughout the pandemic, many of the significant changes in the trajectory of the virus have come following the discovery of a new variant. The slight mutations that brought about Alpha, Delta, and Omicron caused concern in the medical and scientific community over the ability of each to spread faster or to render vaccines less effective. Now, as we contend with an unprecedented number of infections brought on by Omicron, chief White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, is suggesting there's one thing that can be done to stop another dangerous variant from causing so much damage. Read on to see what top health official believe can help mute another viral mutation.
Fauci says getting enough people vaccinated could help stop a variant like Omicron in the future.
During a Jan. 19 video conference interview with Yahoo Finance, Fauci discussed what the rest of 2022 and beyond might look like in terms of getting a handle on COVID-19. He admitted that his greatest concern was how the high levels of unvaccinated people will be affected by the spread of the virus, but also said, "the worst-case scenario is we're on our way there and we get hit with another variant that actually eludes the immune protection. I hope that's not the case."
But while Omicron has been responsible for an unprecedented wave of breakthrough infections, the top health official pointed out that vaccinations and boosters were still incredibly effective at preventing severe illness and death, giving him hope that the shots will still be largely effective in the future.
"The thing that makes it less likely, but not impossible, is that by that time, you will have so many people vaccinated and already infected, that you might have a level of community protection that may not get you away from the next variant, but would protect you from the severity of the next variant," Fauci said.
A combination of vaccines and natural immunity could finally make COVID-19 endemic.
When asked about COVID-19 becoming endemic by the end of the year, Fauci said certain conditions would first have to be in place. Most importantly, the virus could stop having life-altering effects on society if there is "a combination of enough people vaccinated and boosted together with people who are infected and recover and have a degree of immunity—hopefully, they'll wind up getting vaccinated too—and you have a virus, a variant, that has a lesser degree of pathogenicity" that could bring it from a pandemic level to endemic, he told Yahoo Finance.
Fauci previously said that a general vaccine was more important than a variant-specific one.
This isn't the only time the top health official has recently spoken about how to tackle future variants. While appearing on a remote panel at the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda on Jan. 17, Fauci argued that the ability of COVID-19 to mutate as efficiently as it has shows that both herd immunity and variant-specific vaccines were not viable long-term options for controlling the virus. Instead, he said that a broader vaccine that can stay efficient against multiple variants was the only way to truly bring about an end to the pandemic.
"We don't want to get into a whack-a-mole for every variant, where you have to make a booster against a particular variant. You'll be chasing it forever," Fauci said. "That's the reason why what we're all pushing for is finding out what the mechanisms are that induces a response to a commonality among all the real and potential variants we're seeing and that can occur."
A fourth dose of vaccine may not be needed for everybody to control the virus.
During his interview with Yahoo Finance, Fauci also touched upon the theory that supplemental doses of vaccine boosters would be needed to protect against the latest variant. For now, he explained why he wasn't convinced the additional shots were necessary quite yet.
"If you get breakthrough infections, which we are seeing with Omicron, with the vaccine and the third dose … and you're either asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic, you may not need a fourth shot," Fauci said. "It's entirely conceivable that we might. But I think before we rush to a fourth dose, I would be careful to see what the result of the third dose is."
Fauci's one caveat to holding off on the fourth shot, however, was that the immunocompromised population might require an additional boost. "But for the rest of the generally normal population, I think it's important for us to see what the durability of third dose of an mRNA and the second dose of J&J is," he told Yahoo Finance.