Fauci says no need to modify vaccine for omicron

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a press briefing on Wednesday that there is no current need for any modifications to the COVID-19 vaccine to combat the omicron variant, and encouraged people to get booster shots if they are already vaccinated. 

“Our booster vaccine regimens work against omicron,” Fauci said. “At this point there is no need for a variant-specific booster.”

Pfizer previously reported that they were working on a modified vaccine and that it could be ready in about 100 days if necessary.

Data on current vaccines’ effectiveness showed that full vaccination was only about 33% effective against omicron infection, though they were still at least 70% effective in preventing hospitalization and severe infection.

Most COVID-19 hospitalizations among the vaccinated were seniors

Booster shots raised effectiveness against infection to around 70%.

Other recent data showed that 70% of COVID-19 hospitalizations among fully vaccinated people over the past several months have been among seniors 65 and over. Another 20% of vaccinated hospitalizations were in the 50 to 64 age group, and only 10% were among people under 50.

In contrast, 41% of hospitalizations of unvaccinated people were under 50 and 30% were in the 50 to 64 age group.

85% of hospitalizations through September were among unvaccinated people, even though only 44% of the population was unvaccinated at the time.

Booster shots preventing infection

Another study of nursing home residents found that those who got booster shots were 10 times less likely to get COVID-19. Booster shots have been recommended and have been available for those over 60 for a few months now, and were recently expanded to all adults six months after initial Pfizer or Moderna vaccination and two months after Johnson&Johnson vaccination.

Rates of COVID-19 among unvaccinated nursing home residents or those who have not received booster shots have been rising in recent weeks.

Only about one in four people have received booster shots so far, and it reports say more of them were seniors over 65 or nursing home residents, although no exact numbers were available yet.

“The message remains clear: If you are unvaccinated, get vaccinated and particularly in the arena of omicron, if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot,” Fauci said.

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