Fauci encourages vaccination and boosters after first US Omicron case

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As the first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant was reported in the United States, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, identified the detection as a reason for Americans to get vaccinated or get boosters and said public health recommendations hadn’t changed in the presence of the fast-growing strain. .

“We knew it was only a matter of time before the first case of Omicron would be discovered in the United States,” said Dr. Fauci.

The patient, a traveler who returned to California from South Africa on Nov. 22, has been isolated and aggressive contact tracing is underway, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The individual was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the person had received two doses of the Moderna vaccine but was within the six-month window and thus had not received a booster.

dr. Fauci said he wasn’t necessarily in favor of vaccine requirements for domestic air travelers, preferring instead to vaccinate the country’s remaining unvaccinated people.

He said he was “not too sure” that new testing requirements for international travelers that government officials are currently weighing would have helped address the matter sooner — because the patient took a test immediately after he began experiencing what he described as mild symptoms. . And he said it’s possible the federal government could change its definition of “fully vaccinated” in the future to require international travelers to be given booster shots before entering the United States.

dr. Fauci emphasized the added protection booster shots provide for variants of the virus and said Americans shouldn’t wait for drug companies to develop a booster shoot designed for Omicron.

“Get a boost now,” said Dr. Fauci. “Maybe we don’t need a variant-specific boost.”

Asked whether Americans should feel free to attend holiday parties and drink exposed holiday drinks, he said it depended on the size of the gathering.

“In a situation with the holidays, indoor-like environments with family you know have been vaccinated, people you know, you could feel safe without wearing a mask and having dinner, having a reception,” he said. But in larger public facilities where it’s unclear whether everyone has been vaccinated, he said, people are required to wear masks except to eat or drink.

Jill Cowan reporting contributed.

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