Anthony Fauci, the top medical adviser to the U.S. president, said it’s too soon to say whether the omicron variant will herald a shift in the COVID-19 pandemic to endemic.
“It’s an open question as to whether or not omicron is going to be the live virus vaccination everyone is hoping for because we have so much variability with new variants emerging,” Fauci said Monday at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda online conference.
The fact that the virus’s mutations appear to be able to evade some immune response through vaccines and infection will make achieving herd immunity difficult, he said. The U.S. official said variant-specific vaccines aren’t the best way to fight the disease and that inoculations that work against all strains are needed.
“We don’t want to get into a whack-a-mole for every variant, where you have to make a booster against a particular variant,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases. “You’ll be chasing it forever.
“That’s the reason why what we’re all pushing for is finding out what the mechanisms are that induces a response to a commonality among all the real and potential variants we’re seeing and that can occur,” he added.
Fauci, 81, said resistance to time-tested public health measures was also hindering the fight against COVID-19.
“We have such a degree of pushback against regular, normal, easy-to-understand public health measures,” he said. “A reluctance to wear masks, to promote vaccination, to do the kinds of measures we know if we all pull together as a society we’d be much, much better off.”
Richard Hatchett, the CEO of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations, said the virus appears to have the capacity to become pandemic at any time.
“Omicron has moved very, very rapidly, behaving exactly like an acute pandemic, and the virus is going to retain that capability in the future and that’s something I think should be quite concerning to all of us,” he said.
Andy Hoffman and Corinne Gretler, Bloomberg News