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Omicron ‘Is Going to Find You,’ Fauci Says in Warning to the Unvaccinated

The Washington Post reported:

While the country grapples with the latest coronavirus explosion due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, Anthony S. Fauci on Tuesday reassured those Americans who are vaccinated and boosted that they would have considerable protection from serious illness.

Fauci went one step further in predicting that Omicron, which is even faster-spreading than the Delta variant that sent infections spiking earlier in the year, “is going to find” those who are unvaccinated.

“That’s why I worry about the people who refuse to get vaccinated. When you’re dealing with any SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 virus, it’s a problem,” he said to MSNBC’s Alicia Menendez. “When you’re dealing with one that spreads so rapidly and you are unvaccinated, the virus is going to find you.”

Anthony Fauci Says Only 30% of Americans Might Be Classed as Fully Vaccinated

Newsweek reported:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, has said that in the future it’s possible that only those who have had a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine could be considered by the government as “fully vaccinated,” which is currently only 30% of all Americans.

Fauci made the comments on MSNBC on Tuesday night. Asked whether the definition of “fully vaccinated” would change to include a booster dose as well, Fauci said: “The semantics of what you’re calling ‘fully vaccinated’ or not — for regulatory or requirement purposes — doesn’t avoid the fact that if you want to really be optimally protected, go get a boost.”

Army to Announce Vaccine That Protects Against an Array of COVID Variants

The Hill reported:

The U.S. Army is expected to announce that it has developed a vaccine that protects against an array of COVID-19 variants, Defense One reported.

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) has been developing a spike ferritin nanoparticle (SpFN) vaccine since early 2020 and began early-stage human trials of the vaccine in early April.

Kayvon Modjarrad, director of WRAIR’s infections disease branch, told Defense One that the early-stage trials ended this month, and yielded positive results that are currently under review.

The SpFN vaccine uses a protein with 24 faces which allows for scientists to attach the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on different faces, according to Defense One.

FDA Authorizes Pfizer’s COVID Treatment Pill, the First Oral Antiviral Drug Cleared During the Pandemic

CNBC reported:

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization Wednesday to Pfizer’s COVID treatment pill, a major milestone that promises to revolutionize the fight against the virus.

The medication, which is recommended for people at a high risk of hospitalization or death, could be available to patients as early as this weekend. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC earlier this month the company has already shipped some of the pills to the U.S. so they can be prescribed as soon as the FDA authorization comes through.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to quickly follow suit with its seal of approval, authorizing its distribution.

Pfizer Pill Adds to Growing U.S. Stockpile of Virus Treatments

Bloomberg reported:

The Biden administration expects to take delivery of 4 million courses of COVID-19 treatments by the end of January, according to officials familiar with the matter, sharply ramping up therapies for the disease as the Omicron variant spreads.

The treatments include a monoclonal antibody product, pre-exposure preventive drugs for immunocompromised people, and new antiviral pills awaiting Food and Drug Administration authorization, the officials said. That authorization is expected as soon as Wednesday.

How Omicron Broke COVID Testing

Vox reported:

A surge in cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant has stretched America’s COVID-19 testing capabilities to their limit. Rapid antigen tests are out of stock at many drug stores, and lines for PCR tests stretch around the block in cities across the United States. The problem will likely get worse as more people travel for the holidays and fuel new outbreaks, long before new supplies of tests from the federal government are scheduled to arrive.

With test supplies dwindling, some local officials are urging the Biden administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law that allows the president to order private companies to manufacture certain products during emergencies.

The supply crunch for tests might seem sudden, but it’s actually been months in the making. Limited federal investment, a sluggish regulatory approval process, and ongoing shortages of raw materials and workers have all hampered test manufacturing.

Fauci Says the U.S. Is Considering Changing Its 10-Day Isolation Guidelines for Vaccinated People Who Test Positive for COVID

Business Insider reported:

The White House’s chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that the U.S. is considering shortening the 10-day recommended isolation period for vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days.

But Fauci said the guidelines should be reassessed for people who test positive but who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic so that they can get back to work sooner.

The White House has yet to announce a revision to the policy.

South African Study Offers Omicron Hope Ahead of Second Coronavirus Christmas

Reuters reported:

A South African study offered pre-Christmas good tidings about the severity of Omicron on Wednesday as the fast-spreading coronavirus variant forces countries across the world to impose new curbs.

The study by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and major universities, which had not been peer-reviewed, compared South African Omicron data from October and November with data about Delta between April and November.

The authors found that the risk of hospital admission was roughly 80% lower for those with Omicron, and that for those in hospital the risk of severe disease was roughly 30% lower. “Compellingly, together our data really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants.”

South Africa’s Drop in Daily New COVID Cases Suggest Its Omicron Peak May Have Passed, Experts Say

Business Insider reported:

COVID-19 cases in South Africa have been steadily declining in recent days, prompting some experts to say the country’s peak of the Omicron variant may have passed.

Marta Nunes, senior researcher at the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics department of the University of Witwatersrand, told the Associated Press she believes this “sustained drop” in cases “indicates that we are past the peak.”

It’s important to note that case numbers are not a wholly reliable indication of the trajectory of a virus, with potential delays in testing and fluctuations in numbers being two common factors that could impact the data.

Vulnerable Children Aged 5 to 11 to Be Offered COVID Jabs

The Guardian reported:

The government’s vaccines watchdog has recommended COVID vaccinations should be extended to the most clinically vulnerable children aged five to 11, but could wait another month or more before extending them more widely.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which also announced the expansion of the booster program to some younger teenagers, will for now only recommend vaccines for around 330,000 younger children.

The JCVI’s recommendations are UK-wide, though it is then up to the governments of each UK nation to decide whether to accept them.

France Cancels Order for Merck’s COVID Antiviral Drug

Reuters reported:

France has cancelled its order for Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) COVID-19 antiviral drug following disappointing trial data and hopes instead to receive Pfizer‘s (PFE.N) competing drug before the end of January, the health minister said on Wednesday.

France is the first country to publicly say it has cancelled an order for the Merck treatment after the company released data in late November suggesting its drug was markedly less effective than previously thought, reducing hospitalizations and deaths in its clinical trial of high-risk individuals by about 30%.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to decide whether to approve the Merck and Pfizer pills in the new year.

Israel to Offer Fourth COVID Vaccine Dose in Bid to Outpace Omicron

NBC News reported:

Israel is to offer a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to people older than 60 or with compromised immune systems, and to health workers, as part of a drive to ramp up the shots and outpace the spread of the Omicron variant.

A health ministry expert panel — whose findings have yet to be implemented — recommended Tuesday that those eligible receive the fourth shot at least four months after receiving their third.

The panel further recommended that the time allotted between second and third shots be reduced to three months from five.