Dr Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, said Wednesday that the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ in America will eventually change to require a booster dose as well.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) said that the change is unlikely to happen in the next week, but he expects it to happen at some point in the future.
He also said the health officials are already investigating the potential need for a fourth dose of the vaccine after people receive their boosters.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla also said that a fourth dose may be needed, even saying it might be needed ‘faster’ than Fauci’s timeline suggests.
Fauci’s statements come the same day that Pfizer announced that people who had received its jab require a COVID-19 booster shot to keep the same level of protection against the Omicron variant – and that those who have only received two doses are now at risk of a breakthrough infection.
The variant, which was discovered last month by South African health officials, has already managed to spread around the world, being sequenced 2,324 times in 61 countries across the world.
That includes 71 cases in 21 U.S. states, with New York leading the nation with 21 cases sequenced as of Thursday morning.
Officials around the world are instituting measures to prevent the spread of the new variant, which could be the most infectious yet and can evade protection provided by the Covid vaccines.
In the U.K, Prime Minister Boris Johnson took drastic action on Wednesday, announcing a work from home order, mask mandates, enhanced contact tracing efforts and even the use of vaccine passports to attend some events.
There have been 568 cases of the variant detected in the UK, while Johnson says the real figure is likely over 10,000.
Denmark is the world’s leader in confirmed Omicron variant cases, having logged 577 cases of the variant, with at least 64 cases tied to a high school Christmas lunch event.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen also announced new measures Wednesday to combat the spread of the variant, with orders telling the population to work and attend school from home, and reducing the hours bars are allowed to stay open for.
In South Africa, where the variant was first detected, hospitalizations remain on the rise, and the nation recorded nearly 20,000 new Covid cases on Wednesday, bringing the seven day average up to 13,400.
Not many of the hospitalized patients are requiring intensive care, though, a positive sign as to how mild cases of the new variant may be.
Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured), the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on Wednesday that the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ in America would eventually be changed to only included people who have received three doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. He also told CNBC that he is already mulling over the potential of rolling out fourth Covid shots for Americans
Pfizer unveiled data on Wednesday that shows people who have only received two doses of its Covid vaccine, which could be up to 110 million people, are not as protected against Omicron as they are other variants. The company says that receiving a booster shot could increase the level of virus-fighting antibodies 25-fold. Pictured: A man receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine in Detroit, Michigan, on June 21
An African research team found that the Pfizer vaccine provided 40 times less Covid antibodies to fight against the Omicron strain that it does against other variants, hinting that it may be less effective at preventing infection
‘Certainly, when you want to talk about what optimal protection is, I don’t think anybody would argue that optimal protection is going to be with a third shot,’ Fauci told CNN on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Pfizer released its first official batch of data of how its COVID-19 vaccine reacts to the Omicron variant.
Pfizer finds that third shot is needed to protect from Omicron
The pharma giant Pfizer revealed data Wednesday showing that its two-dose Covid vaccine regimen may not be effective at preventing infection from the Omicron variant
Data published by AHRI on Tuesday found that the jab had 41 times less antibodies effective against Omicron as it had against over variants
Pfizer reports that a booster dose increases Omicron-fighting antibodies 25-fold when compared to only receiving the two-shots
Officials could not say whether the jab is still effective at preventing severe Covid infection
The Pfizer vaccine is the most popular in the U.S., having been administered over 275 million times to fully vaccinate more than 110 million people
The company, that’s vaccine has been used more than 200 million times to fully vaccinate over 110 million Americans, said the two-dose vaccine has diminished capability to prevent infection from Omicron.
Separate data from the African Health Research Institute, released Tuesday but pending peer-review, found that Pfizer vaccine recipients had 40 times less antibodies effective against the Omicron variant than they did against other virus strains.
Pfizer said that receiving its booster, which 25 million Americans have already gotten, could increase those antibody levels 25-fold.
‘Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,’ Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said in a statement.
‘Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Dr Ugar Sahin, co-founder of BioNTech, who develops the vaccine being distributed by Pfizer, explained last month that the company’s vaccine provides two layers of protection.
The first is the prevention of infection, where antibodies within a person react to the detection of the virus and respond by killing it before it can infect and replicate in cells.
A second layer of protection boosts the immune response against cells if they do become infected, and prevent a person from suffering more severe case.
The findings unveiled by Pfizer affect the first layer of protection, and the company is yet to reveal if the two-shot vaccine has a diminished ability to prevent severe infection as well.
CNBC reporter Meg Tirrell said Wednesday that Fauci had said during a conversation that some of his concerns about the variant were ‘alleviated’ by the data.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, the other two companies that manufacture vaccines used in the U.S., have not released data specific to their vaccine’s effectiveness against the new variant.
The new variant has continued its spread throughout the U.S. in the meanwhile, now being confirmed in at least 21 states.
On Wednesday, Louisiana health officials reported 16 probably cases of the variant, alongside one confirmed case from earlier in the month.
The 17 potential cases in the state make it among those with the most cases in the nation, trailing only the 21 in New York.
While receiving the booster dose should be able to protect people from these cases of the variant, the efficacy of the shots may wane over time.
Fauci says that officials are already weighing the potential need for a fourth shot for Americans.
Tirrell reported that Fauci and others are will gather data over the next few months to determine whether Omicron can overtake the Delta variant – which still accounts for almost all of the new cases in the U.S. – and how much booster protection wanes over time.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said a fourth dose might eventually be needed as well.
‘I think we will need the fourth dose … With omicron, we need to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need it faster,’ he told CNBC.
He later said it was unclear how durable the additional protection provided by the third dose would be.
The U.S. is slowly approaching 50 million confirmed Covid cases, and is currently averaging 120,000 new cases every day – the highest total since the summer Delta wave – and a 27 percent increase over the past two weeks.
Hospitalizations are up 20 percent over the past two weeks as well, with over 60,000 Americans being admitted for treatment for the virus.
Deaths in the U.S. are on the rise as well, with nearly 1,300 per day – a 12 percent jump over the last two weeks – as the country also creeps towards 800,000 Covid deaths since the pandemic first began.
Despite the variant already spreading across the globe, President Joe Biden’s travel ban on eight southern African nations remains in place, with no other nations struggling with the variant added to the list.
Cases and hospitalizations are particularly rising in the U.S. Northeast, as states like Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island get hammered despite high vaccination rates.
According to official data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 71 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 60 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
What are the new Covid rules in England?
Boris Johnson announced this evening that the Government is implementing its Covid Plan B.
The return of work from home guidance. People will be told to work from home in England from Monday if they are able to.
Face masks will be made compulsory in most public indoor venues including in cinemas and theatres from this Friday. They will not be required in pubs, restaurants and gyms.
The NHS Covid pass will be compulsory to gain access to nightclubs and other large venues where large crowds gather.
This will apply to all unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
Two vaccine doses will be treated as fully-vaccinated but this will be kept under review because of the booster programme.
A negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient.
This requirement will be rolled out in one week’s time to give businesses time to prepare.
Contacts of Omicron cases will be told to take daily coronavirus tests instead of having to self-isolate. They will have to quarantine if they test positive.
Meanwhile in the UK, the Omicron situation is quickly spiraling, and health minister Sajid Javid warns that the country could have more than one million cases of the variant by the end of December.
To get ahead of an upcoming crisis, Prime Minister Johnson announced drastic measures on Wednesday to curb the spread of the variant.
Face masks will also now be compulsory in most public, indoor, venues, though restaurants, bars and gyms will be exempt from the order.
People who are believed to be a close contact to someone with a confirmed case of the Omicron variant will also be ordered to take daily Covid tests, and will have to enter quarantine if they test positive for Covid.
He also announced plans to use a vaccine passport titles the ‘NHS Covid pass’, which will be needed to attend many events, whether indoor or outdoor, though presentation of a negative Covid test will suffice in most cases.
The UK has recorded the second most Omicron cases of any country in the world, with 568 being sequenced.
Johnson warns that the true figure of cases of the variant in the country could be upwards of 10,000.
The nation is currently averaging around 50,000 cases per day, and is rapidly approaching the 60,000 case average record set by the nation in January.
Denmark is the world’s leader in sequenced Omicron cases, with 577 having been recorded so far.
The nation’s largest outbreak has been tied to a Christmas lunch event in the Viborg region, attended by 150 students on November 27 from two local high schools.
At least 64 case of the Omicron variant have been tied to the event.
More than 1,000 people have been deemed close contacts to those infected at the event, and it is believed to be among the largest outbreaks of the variant detected so far.
Covid cases in Denmark have jumped over 20 percent in the past two weeks, from around 4,000 on November 25, before the event took place, to 5,200 in early December.
In response the surge in cases, Prime Minister Fredericksen announced new measures to prevent spread of the virus on Wednesday.
People who can will now be ordered to work from home, and virtual schooling has been extended as well.
Bars and nightclubs will also have reduced operating hours, being forced to close at midnight now, in an effort to prevent transmission.
Another outbreak of the variant may have occurred at a holiday party held by Scatec, a Norwegian energy company.
The Oslo based company held a Christmas party in Cape Town, South Africa, in November, bringing dozens of employees to the nation before the discovery of the new strain.
Now, 70 employees of the company have been tested positive for Covid in the weeks since, with 50 others outside the company who were present at the same restaurant the party was held at also testing positive.
Only 13 of the 120 cases have been sequenced as a confirmed Omicron case, though it is believed that all the related cases may be of the new strain.
Denmark high school Christmas lunch leads to Omicron surge
A Christmas lunch event in the Viborg region of Denmark has been tied to an Omicron variant outbreak of at lest 64 cases on November 27
The lunch was attended by 150 students from two high schools
After the event, 64 people tested positive for Covid, and all were sequenced to have the Omicron variant
More than 1,000 people in the area have been deemed close contacts to the infected
Denmark is among the world leaders in sequenced Omicron cases, with 398 as of Wednesday morning
Covid cases in the Nordic nation have jumped 20 percent over the past two weeks
One Scatec staffer is believed to be ‘patient zero’ with the related infections all being tied back to them.
Those who were not a part of the party but were infected are believed to have contracted the virus during a period after the festivities where Scatec employees began to mingle with others in the bar.
All of the cases tied back to the event were reported to be mild.
The event turned into a warning call for many in Europe, as all the staffers were fully vaccinated yet the variant was still able to cause breakthrough infections in all of them.
Cases in Norway have doubled since the event in mid-November reaching 4,000 new cases every day in the Nordic nation – with more than 5,000 positive tests recorded on Thursday.
Some positive news has emerged from South Africa, though, the nation the variant was discovered in.
While hospitalizations are rising in the country, MailOnline.com reports that only eight percent of people admitted require ICU treatment – around a third of the usual rate of ICU admittance.
The figure is further evidence that the new Covid variant may be more mild than previous strains of the virus.
Still, though, cases and hospitalizations in the country – and particularly in the Gauteng province where it was first detected, are continuing the rise.
This week, more than 2,600 people have been hospitalized with the virus nationwide.
Last week, more than 3,500 people were hospitalized due to Covid, a 2.5-fold increase from the 1,300 admittances a week earlier.
In Gauteng, 1,200 people have been hospitalized so far this week.
Last week, hospitalizations in the province also increased 2.5-fold, from 874 to 2,157.
Cases in the nation continue their sharp climb, up to 13,000 new cases per day – up from around 3,000 new cases only two weeks ago.
One South African expert, Dr Angelique Coetzee, told CNN that cases she was seeing in the nation’s capital of Pretoria are generally mild.
She did warn that people who were fully vaccinated, and had previously been infected with the virus, were testing positive for the virus at her practice, though.