JAKARTA - It is too early to know whether the Omicron variant of the coronavirus will cause severe illness, with preliminary information from South Africa showing it does not cause unusual symptoms, US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
So far, Fauci said there were 226 confirmed cases of the variant in 20 countries as of Tuesday morning, but Omicron had not been detected in the United States.
Worries about the Omicron variant have rattled financial markets, fueling concerns about the strength of the global economic recovery, as the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
"It is very difficult to know whether this particular variant will cause severe disease or not," Anthony Fauci told reporters at a briefing.
"Although some preliminary information from South Africa shows no unusual symptoms, we don't know, and it's too early to tell," Fauci said.
Yesterday, President Joe Biden and his administration pressed Americans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses immediately. However, vaccine hesitancy in this segment of the US population has thwarted efforts to tame the virus' spread. About 69 percent of Americans 12 years of age and older have been fully vaccinated.
"We hope, and I think with good reason, to be pleased that there will be some level of protection against variants of the vaccine," Fauci said.
"If you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. And if you're vaccinated, get a boost."
In addition, President Biden also urged Americans not to panic about the new variant.
"To beat the pandemic, we have to vaccinate the world too," said President Biden.
Asked if the United States is doing enough to vaccinate the rest of the world, Fauci noted the United States is doing more than any other country.
"Enough is a difficult word. Do we do a lot? We do a lot," he said.
Fauci added that getting the vaccine into the hands of people in South African countries and other low- and middle-income countries were proving logistically difficult and many of the doses shipped were not used.
"Other African countries have actually told us not to send any more vaccines, because they haven't been able to use them adequately," Fauci said.
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