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'Good likelihood it's in Houston': Expert stresses need for vaccinations as Omicron spreads in U.S.

Dr. Peter Hotez says whether you're fighting Omicron or Delta, the weapon's the same: full COVID-19 vaccination with a booster.

HOUSTON — Doctors are reacting to President Biden's new COVID winter plan as the omicron variant continues to spread across the country. 

Dr. Peter Hotez says the strategy here has not changed. It remains all about the vaccines. 

The longer you wait, he says, the more you're putting yourself and others at risk. 

"The answer is vaccines, vaccines, and vaccines," Dr. Hotez said.

As the world races to contain the omicron variant, cases are popping now in multiple states. Yesterday in California, and today in Minnesota, New York and Colorado. 

RELATED: Health officials confirm omicron cases in New York, Colorado, Minnesota, California

RELATED: Biden details winter plan for combating COVID-19, omicron variant

The City of Houston is looking for signs of it too. 

"There's a good likelihood it's in Houston," said Hotez. "It's not too unusual. The question is how much will it accelerate and will this next omicron variant be the one to compete with Delta?"

No one yet knows the answers to those questions, but Dr. Hotez says while Houston waits, we can't lose focus on what we already know is here and still making people sick. 

"Delta, by far, is the biggest threat to Americans right now," Dr. Hotez said.

He predicts initially delta and omicron will co-exist. 

"For the next two weeks we'll be fighting that twin epidemic," said Hotez. 

Both variants will, he believes, hone in on the unvaccinated and undervaccinated. Only 59% of eligible Texans are fully vaccinated and just 14% of eligible Texans have been boosted. 

"This is a big problem," Dr. Hotez said. "We need 85% of the country, not 85% of adults, but 85% of the country fully vaccinated, and we have to redefine what fully vaccinated means as 3 doses."

So here's Dr. Hotez's best advice: 

  • If you're unvaccinated, go get your shots now.
    If you are vaccinated and now eligible (2 months since your last J&J dose and 6 months since your Pfizer or Moderna 2nd dose), don't wait, go get your booster ASAP.
    And if you had COVID-19 and recovered and were never vaccinated, you also need the vaccine right away. 

"The strategy is the same whether you're fighting omicron or delta," said Hotez. "The major tool we have are the vaccines, and we are underutilizing them with tragic consequences."

Dr. Hotez says we should have a lot more data on omicron within two weeks. That should give us a better idea of what the next phase of the pandemic will look like.

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