Omicron Now Makes up 73 Percent of New COVID Infections in the US

Moderna says its booster increases protection against the variant.
Ameya Paleja
The new variant is more transmissibleEoneren/iStock

According to new data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Omicron variant now accounts for 73 percent of new infections in the U.S. NPR reported. The data covers the week that ended on Dec 18. 

It was just over two weeks ago that we had reported the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the U.S. and the fears of the virus being highly transmissible are coming true. NPR reported that just a week prior to this data being released, Omicron accounted for just over 12 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The number has shot up dramatically as the variant rapidly outpaced the Delta variant in the country, while in some regions such as the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, the Southeast, and New England, the ratio exceeds 90 percent, per NPR's reporting. 

Omicron's share in new cases
Omicron cases are shown in purple. Source: U.S. CDC 

According to some estimates, the doubling time for the Omicron variant might be as few as two days, making it harder to stop the spread of infections, unless lockdowns are put back in place. The Netherlands has become the first country to impose a nationwide lockdown until January 14 while countries like France, Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland, and Austria have imposed tougher restrictions ahead of the holidays, The Guardian reported

In its latest update, the World Health Organization has called for restraint in celebrations and called for canceling of events to protect public health, BBC reported. There is a lot of uncertainty associated with the new variant as the scientists still do not know if the new variant causes more or less severe illness. 

The many mutations on the spike protein of the Omicron variant have also been associated with escaping the immune protection offered by vaccines. Preliminary data from South Africa shows that the Pfizer vaccine offers only 33 percent protection against the infection against the Omicron variant but 70 percent protection from hospitalization, PBS reported. 

Early data from Moderna showed that its booster dose that has already been authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increases antibody levels 37-fold when compared to people who have not received the booster, NPR reported, a claim Pfizer has also made about its own vaccine as well. Booster shots offer protection from severe disease caused by the new variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci told NPR, while stating that a variant-specific booster might not be needed at the moment. 

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