The top U.S. infectious disease expert on Sunday urged eligible Americans to get booster coronavirus vaccinations to give them the best protection against the new omicron variant.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told ABC’s “This Week” show that omicron can evade the protection provided by the three vaccines available in the United States. Nearly 202 million Americans are considered fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but only 53.8 million of them have received booster shots.
“If you want to be optimally protected, absolutely get a booster,” he said.
“The somewhat encouraging news is that preliminary data show that when you get a booster… it raises the level of protection high enough that it then does do well against the omicron,” Fauci said.
Health experts say that early anecdotal evidence shows that those who contract the omicron variant experience a mild illness, but its long-term effects are unknown.
Omicron is highly transmissible, but the delta variant is still driving a sharp increase in the number of new cases in the U.S. The U.S. is now adding another 118,000 cases a day, a 42% increase in the last two weeks, but so far there are only 140 reported omicron cases.
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus now stands at nearly 794,000, more than in any other country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
Fauci said 60 million eligible Americans have not been vaccinated and that about 100 million are eligible for boosters.