Dec. 22, 2021 -- Amid rising cases of the contagious Omicron variant, family members should test for COVID-19 before gathering for the holidays even if everyone who attends is vaccinated and boosted, says CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD.

“You’ve heard me say before: We know what works against COVID-19, and it’s critically important we implement our proven multilayer prevention strategies,” Walensky said at a White House briefing on Wednesday. “Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high-risk community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

The Omicron variant skyrocketed from 3% of COVID-19 cases in the United States to 73% in a week, the CDC reported.

Walensky said that number has grown to around 90% in some Eastern Atlantic states, parts of the Midwest, the South, and Northern Pacific states.

The rapid increase in domestic cases mirrors what health authorities have seen worldwide, with Walensky noting that the speed of transmission is as expected. Given that, the widespread nature of the Omicron variant means a potentially dangerous holiday season that should be approached with caution, she said, and the most important thing is that people gathering take as many precautions as possible.

Module: video
photo of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine
 
How Do COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Work?Some of the COVID-19 vaccines are known as mRNA shots. How are they different from traditional vaccines? And do they contain the real virus?189

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SPEAKER: How does a COVID-19

mRNA vaccine work?

COVID vaccines are now

available.

Some of the COVID-19 vaccines

are mRNA vaccines, but what does

this mean?

mRNA vaccines are

different from traditional

vaccines.

mRNA vaccines don't expose you

to any real virus instead,

they're made with messenger

Ribonucleic Acid or mRNA.

This is a type of molecule that

gives instructions to the cell

for how to make different kinds

of proteins.



mRNA molecules are

a natural part of our cells

and how our bodies work.

Researchers have been working

with mRNA vaccines

for many years.

They are made more easily

and safely in a lab

than a vaccine that uses

a virus.

Because of this they can also

be made faster.

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines

have passed many tests in labs

and in thousands of people,

and meet strict standards

from the FDA.



So how do these vaccines work?

First, a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine

is injected into a muscle

in your upper arm.

Some muscle cells take the mRNA

instructions in the vaccine

and make a harmless piece

of a protein called

a spike protein.

This protein is found

on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2

virus that causes COVID-19.



The muscle cells then destroy

the instructions for how to make

the spike protein.

The mRNA never goes

into the nucleus of your cells

where your DNA is stored.

The newly made spike protein now

sits on the surface

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Your immune system senses

the spike protein

as a foreign threat to destroy,

it starts making antibodies

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This will help your body's

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It's like recognizing someone

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Fast facts to remember

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They help get your body

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virus before it makes you sick,

they don't use

any live, dead, or weak virus,

they can't give you COVID-19,

they don't affect your DNA.

Want to learn more,

go to cdc.gov to find more

information about mRNA vaccines.

You can also learn more about

how the vaccines were approved

at fda.gov.



[SWOOSH]



[MUSIC PLAYING]



From Krames/delivery/aws/e1/19/e1194689-aff0-4d9e-9fd2-2c0084642589/b37084c0-2e1f-4b66-958c-96e7a6c3f4db_krames_activating_health_how_mrna_vaccine_works_021021_,4500k,2500k,1000k,750k,400k,.mp402/10/2021 12:00:0018001200photo of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/1800x1200_krames_activating_health_how_mrna_vaccine_works_video.jpg091e9c5e8210a400

“Holiday gatherings and risk of travel really has less to do with the airplane or car ride, and much more to do with how people from different households behave in the weeks to days before meeting up,” Walensky said. “Importantly, consider gathering with family and friends who are also practicing similar proper prevention measures.”

Walensky also stressed the importance of getting fully vaccinated and boosted. Those who are unvaccinated have a 10 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and a 20 times greater risk of dying from the virus than those who are vaccinated with a booster, she said.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients also reported that the Biden administration has pre-purchased 10 million courses of Pfizer’s antiviral drug, which was approved for emergency use by the FDA on Wednesday, as well as 3 million courses of Merck’s antiviral medication, which is expected to get the FDA’s green light in the coming days.

Some of the monoclonal antibody treatments have been deemed ineffective for treating Omicron, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the briefing. Still, new research out of Scotland aligns with data from South Africa that indicates milder disease from Omicron than other variants.

Fauci echoed Walensky’s recommendation to test ahead of the holidays, adding that indoor family gatherings should be small.

“An extra level of protection would be the testing,” he said.