CDC Director: Initial COVID-19 Vaccines ‘May Not Be Enough’ for Omicron

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 21, 2021

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that initial COVID-19 vaccines “may not prevent infection” from the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNBC that so far, preliminary data suggest the variant—named last month—can breach current vaccine antibodies.

That means, she argued, that people need to “continue to wear their masks to prevent the infections overall” because the vaccines “may not prevent infection.”

Walensky conceded that the overall number of Omicron-related deaths appears to be fewer than previous COVID-19 waves. In the United States, officials believe the lone death occurred this week in Houston, Texas.

She said that there “have been a minority” of deaths, and “fewer than we’ve seen for other variants so far.” Still, Walensky said that more people need to receive vaccines and booster shots.

The South African Health Ministry recently said that hospitalizations from Omicron are one-tenth that of the initial Delta wave hospitalization rate. On Monday, New York City health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi noted in an interview that with Omicron, the hospitalizations are “about a quarter of where we were at the peak of last winter’s wave and less than a tenth of where we were in the spring of 2020.”

Walenksy’s comments come after her agency on Monday reported that Omicron appears to be spreading quickly and has overtaken the Delta variant. Omicron accounted for 73 percent of new infections last week, officials said.

In much of the country, it’s even higher. Omicron is responsible for an estimated 90 percent or more of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest. The national rate suggests that more than 650,000 Omicron infections occurred in the United States last week.

As of Dec. 21, meanwhile, the new strain has been detected in most U.S. states and territories, the agency confirmed on Tuesday.

Since the end of June, the Delta variant had been the main version causing U.S. infections. As recently as the end of November, more than 99.5 percent of coronaviruses were Delta, according to CDC data.

CDC’s estimates are based on thousands of coronavirus specimens collected each week through university and commercial laboratories and state and local health departments. Scientists analyze their genetic sequences to determine which versions of the COVID-19 viruses are most abundant.

CDC officials said they do not yet have estimates of how many hospitalizations or deaths are due to Omicron.

In the United Kingdom, about a half-dozen deaths have been reported to be associated with the new variant in the past week, although few details have been provided.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.