“It’s certainly possible that this is not the last emerging variant that will attract a lot of attention and a lot of concern,” Dr. Francis Collins said in an interview on “Meet the Press” Sunday, when asked if people should be expecting a “new dominant variant” every six months.
“This one does have the largest number of mutations that we’ve seen so far—Omicron with about 50 mutations compared to the original Wuhan virus.”
The NIH director shared a hypothesis that the Omicron variant may have developed from an immunocompromised person who wasn’t able to “completely fight off the virus.”
“So it remained in the system maybe for months in that person until they finally got over it. And that is of course a perfect situation for the virus to be able to pick up additional mutations along the way,” he said.
At least 16 U.S. states have reported Omicron cases as of Sunday: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin, according to an Epoch Times tally of news reports on Dec. 5.
Collins said the pattern of different variants emerging is likely to continue.
“To the extent that that’s gonna keep happening, if we don’t have adequate immune protection across the globe, yeah, we’re probably gonna see something. We’ll have to use some of the other letters in the Greek alphabet,” he said.
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told Fox News Sunday despite his concerns that Omicron might be more transmissible than other variants like Delta, Amercans should not panic over the new strain, but continue to take measures such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated to protect themselves.
“I do think it’s a reason for us to not necessarily panic but just to be more vigilant and to recognize that the precautions that we have been talking about for the last year or so are all the more important now than ever,” Murthy said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said on Sunday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is already in talks to fast track the authorization process for an Omicron-specific vaccine.
“They’re already in conversations about streamlining the authorization of this, of an Omicron-specific vaccine, partially because much of the vaccine is actually exactly the same and really, it would just be that mRNA code that would have to change,” Walensky told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.”
“So those conversations are ongoing, and certainly, FDA will move swiftly and CDC will move swiftly right thereafter.”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report