The White House is bracing for an omicron surge based on new stats out of South Africa. Senior official says, "Everything points to a large wave. It will be fast. It won't be as severe, but regrettably, there will be plenty of hospitalizations." Even a slight uptick in the latter is terrible news for overwhelmed hospitals. A major study out of South Africa suggests that Pfizer's two-dose regimen offers only 33% protection against omicron, significantly lower than other variants, though the shots offered 70% protection against hospitalization. Better news: Pfizer said Tuesday that its COVID pill, still under review, appears to dramatically reduce hospitalizations and deaths among those especially vulnerable to the virus. Both rates were cut by 90% among people who took the pill within a few days of the onset of symptoms. US regulators are still considering the drug and another by Merck. Incidentally, Britain just recorded its first confirmed death from the omicron variant. (Axios)
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