NIH director says it will take ‘weeks’ to understand omicron severity


https://thehill.com/homenews/sunday-talk-shows/583272-nih-director-says-it-will-take-two-three-weeks-to-better

NIH Director Francis Collins: “There's no reason to panic” over omicron yet.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins offered caution about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus in a Sunday interview, saying it will take weeks to understand whether it can evade COVID-19 vaccines.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Collins explained that omicron has more than 30 mutations on its spike protein, which raises the question of how effective the antibodies created by vaccines are against the variant.

“If you’ve raised antibodies against [COVID-19] from previously being infected or from being vaccinated, the question is, will those antibodies still stick to this version of the spike protein, or will they evade that protection? We need to find that out, to be honest, though that’s gonna take two, three weeks in both laboratory and field studies to figure out the answer. And that’s what all of us as scientists want to know,” said Collins.

Collins stressed that the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have been shown to be effective against previous variants, such as delta, saying that was a good indication they also will work against omicron.

“Given that history, we expect that most likely the current vaccines will be sufficient to provide protection. And especially the boosters will give that additional layer of protection because there’s something about the booster that causes your immune system to really expand its capacity against all kinds of different spike proteins, even ones it hasn’t seen before,” he said.

“Please, Americans, if you’re one of those folks who are sort of waiting to see, this would be a great time to sign up get your booster. Or if you haven’t been vaccinated already, get started. Omicron is one more reason to do this,” he added.

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