The World Health Organization has warned that the omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity.
“Given currently available data, it is likely that omicron will outpace delta where community transmission occurs,” the agency said in a recent statement.
First detected in South Africa, omicron has circulated to more than 89 countries, with cases doubling nearly every day, health officials said.
The United Nations Health Agency noted the omicron’s substantial growth advantage over the delta variant.
“Preliminary findings of vaccine effectiveness studies (test-negative design) were obtained from South Africa and England, the United Kingdom,” WHO stated. “Available preliminary data to be interpreted with caution as the designs may be subject to selection bias and the results are based on relatively small numbers. However, results from England indicate a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease for omicron compared to delta after two vaccine doses of either Pfizer BioNTech-Comirnaty or AstraZeneca-Vaxzevria vaccines.
“There was, however, higher effectiveness two weeks after a Pfizer BioNTech-Comirnaty booster, which was slightly lower or comparable to that against delta,” the organization said. “A non-peer-reviewed study by South African researchers using private health insurance data reported reductions in vaccine effectiveness of the Pfizer BioNTech-Comirnaty vaccine against infection, and to a lesser degree against hospitalization.”
Health officials at Johns Hopkins University noted that the United States now averages 121,707 new COVID-19 cases each day. New case rates are up by 3% over September, and in the Northeast, Midwest and South are increasing faster than anywhere else.
New York, where Broadway shows and other activities have begun to shutter, accounted for 10% of new cases over the past week.
Deaths are also up, with the country averaging about 1,286 each day – or 8% higher than a week ago.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health officials have administered approximately 1.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines each day over the past week.
More than half of those doses have been boosters, and about 407,000 people are initiating vaccination each day.
“As we head into the winter and confront a new variant, we must resolve to keep fighting this virus together,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “This means getting vaccinated and getting your booster shot, and taking other preventive measures, such as masking. The vaccines are safe, effective, free, easy and our best tool to prevent more loss and pain.”