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Virus Expert Just Warned of Possible New Surge

Despite the warnings, "we can't get people vaccinated. That is what's happening today."
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We all want COVID to be "over" but COVID itself has a different idea; in fact, the Omicron variant just spun off a new variant of it's own, called BA.2, that may be more transmissible. What does that mean for you and how should you stay safe? Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, appeared on the latest episode of his podcast to sound a warning. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Virus Expert Warns Not Enough People are Vaccinated

unrecognizable doctor trying to vaccinate its patient while she is refusing it.

"There is one very, very central point, and yet it seems to be one that for some reason, we have not been able to overcome as an obstacle, and that is getting people vaccinated. You know, I hear people talking all the time now that this is not a pandemic of the unvaccinated and from an infection standpoint, that's absolutely true. But if you look at it from the standpoint of who had become seriously ill, hospitalized and dies, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And it clearly is. And we have to understand that here we are in this country almost two years into the pandemic, a year into the availability of vaccines, yet only 63.8% of the US population that are eligible to receive two doses of vaccine have, only 41.7% have received that third dose that we've noted over and over again is so important."

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Virus Expert Worries We Can't Even Get Enough People Boosted

Doctor holding syringe, medical injection in hand with glove.

"What's even more disappointing is the fact that among those who have received two doses of vaccine, only 41% have received that third dose," said Dr. Osterholm. "These are not people who are vaccine hesitant or vaccine hostile. They already got their first two doses. And yet we can say time and time again, getting that third dose, some call it a booster. I don't wanna call it a booster—really it's a three prime series vaccine that we should all acknowledge; I don't believe you're fully vaccinated until you have those three doses; If you're immune compromised, I don't believe you're fully vaccinated until you have your fourth dose—and yet we can't get people vaccinated. That is what's happening today."

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Virus Expert Said if We Were as Vaccinated as Other Countires, Lives Would Have Been Saved

Woman wearing face mask looking at camera showing thumbs up after getting the covid-19 vaccine.

Osterholm mentioned a report that looked at what "would the pandemic look like in the United States, if in fact we had the same vaccination levels that we see in Europe? The Financial Times group concluded that the number of patients in US hospitals on January 19th, would've peaked at 91,000 instead of 161,000. If the US had the same rates of vaccine coverage in each age group as did Denmark, it would've been a hundred thousand patients hospitalized in US hospitals. If we had matched the UK vaccination levels, 109,000 if we had matched those rates seen in Portugal. Think about that. All these other countries, while they were severely impacted by COVID, it was substantially less so than the United States. And it could be directly related to one thing: Why can't we continue to get more people vaccinated and even to that extent, fully vaccinated with all three doses and for the immune compromised all four doses? So I think this is still gonna be a challenge, and it's gonna continue."

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Virus Expert Warned of New Variant: a "210-Mile-an-Hour-Curveball"

Test Tube Labelled BA.2

The new BA.2 variant of Omicron concerns Osterholm, who says it "looks like another 210-mile-an-hour curveball headed our way this time." It's more transmissible than the original Omicron, it appears. "In a way we're almost dealing with a new variant," he says, "which means we've gotta figure out how and why the BA.2 variant is seemingly outcompeting is sibling….I would not be surprised if in the days ahead, we actually rename the Omicron BA.2 as its own distinct variant."

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This is the "Key Point" About Staying Safe

A mid adult woman protects herself by placing an N95 face mask over her nose and mouth.

"The key point is having three doses of the vaccine can still play a very big role in reducing your risk for becoming infected with either of the Omicron sub lineages," says Osterholm. Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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