Nov 30 (Reuters) - It is too early to know whether Omicron
variant of COVID-19 will lead to severe disease, but preliminary
information from South Africa indicates it does not result in
unusual symptoms, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony
Fauci said on Tuesday.
Fauci said there were 226 confirmed cases of the variant in
20 countries as of Tuesday morning but Omicron had not been
detected yet in the United States.
Fears about the variant have rattled financial markets and
sparked concerns about the strength of the global economic
recovery as the world continues to fight the coronavirus
"It is very difficult to know whether or not this particular
variant is going to result in severe disease," Fauci told
reporters in a briefing. "Although some preliminary information
from South Africa suggests no unusual symptoms ... we do not
know, and it is too early to tell."
President Joe Biden and his administration have pressed
Americans to take advantage of vaccines and booster shots, but
vaccine hesitancy in a segment of the U.S. population has
thwarted efforts to tame the virus' spread. About 69% of
Americans aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated.
"We are hoping, and I think with good reason, to feel good
that there will be some degree of protection," against the
variant from the vaccines, Fauci said. "If you're unvaccinated,
get vaccinated. And if you're vaccinated, get boosted."
Biden, whose poll numbers have suffered in part amid
frustration that the pandemic is not under control, on Monday
urged Americans not to panic about the new variant.
"To beat the pandemic, we have to vaccinate the world as
well," the president said.
Asked on Tuesday if the United States was doing enough to
vaccinate the rest of the world, Fauci noted the United States
was doing more than other nations.
"'Enough' is a tough word. Are we doing a lot? We are doing
an awful lot," he said.
Fauci said getting vaccines into people's arms in southern
African countries and other low- and middle-income countries had
proven difficult logistically and many doses that were shipped
"Other African countries ... have actually told us not to
ship any more vaccine because they have not been able to
adequately utilize it," he said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by
Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)