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COVID-19 live updates: Dr. Jha on omicron surge, his prediction for next year

(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.3 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 806,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 61.4% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 20, 9:16 am
Dr. Jha on omicron surge, holiday travel, his prediction for next year

The omicron surge is so dangerous due to a combination of higher transmissibility and the variant’s ability to make vaccinated people mildly sick from the disease, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on “Good Morning America” Monday.

While there are still a lot of unknowns about omicron’s severity, Jha said cases with this latest variant’s surge are “doubling in numbers about every two to three days.”

“That’s unlike anything we’ve seen,” he said.

Jha said, “I do think lots of people are going to get [omicron].”

“It’s an incredibly contagious variant. I think people should understand that the goal cannot be to avoid infection at all cost — that’s an unrealistic goal,” he said. “The goal should be: prevent deaths and severe illness, which vaccines will do, [and] keep our hospitals from getting crushed, which again, vaccinations and testing can help with. This is very contagious. Lots of Americans will end up getting it. Let’s just make sure that they don’t get very sick from it. “

For people traveling over the holidays, Jha said airplanes are pretty safe, but he recommended wearing a high-quality mask because airports don’t always have great ventilation.

Looking forward, Jha said, “I think we’re going to be in much better shape next year.”

Dec 20, 5:15 am
Moderna says booster increases omicron neutralizing antibodies

Moderna on Monday said its current vaccine booster increased neutralizing antibodies against omicron within a month of getting the shot.

“The dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant is concerning to all. However, these data showing that the currently authorized Moderna COVID-19 booster can boost neutralizing antibody levels 37-fold higher than pre-boost levels are reassuring,” Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, told ABC News. “To respond to this highly transmissible variant, Moderna will continue to rapidly advance an Omicron-specific booster candidate into clinical testing in case it becomes necessary in the future. We will also continue to generate and share data across our booster strategies with public health authorities to help them make evidence-based decisions on the best vaccination strategies against SARS-CoV-2.”

Moderna’s current booster approved by the Food and Drug Administration is a 50-microgram dose. A 100-microgram dose would increase neutralizing antibodies by 83 times, the company said on Monday.

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