NIH Director Omicron Not Last of Emerging COVID Variants

NIH Director Omicron Not Last of Emerging COVID Variants francis collins looks up with his face mask pulled under his chin Dr. Francis Collins (Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

By Cathy Burke | Sunday, 05 December 2021 03:37 PM

The director of the National Institutes of Health said Sunday it is possible omicron will not be the last of emerging variants of COVID-19.

In an interview on NBC News' "Meet The Press," Dr. Francis Collins it is "plausible" omicron might have arose in an immunocompromised person.

"It's certainly possible that this is not the last emerging variant that will attract a lot of attention and a lot of concern," he said. "This one does have the largest number of mutations that we've seen so far, omicron, with about 50 mutations, compared to the original Wuhan virus."

"And it looks as if they probably arose in an immunocompromised individual — this is a hypothesis but it seems plausible — who wasn't able to completely fight off the virus."

Collins explained the virus might have remained in the individual for months before the person finally got over it.

"And that is, of course, a perfect situation for the virus to be able to pick up additional mutations along the way," he said. "To the extent that that's going to keep happening if we don't have adequate immune protection across the globe.

"Yeah, we're probably going to see something and we'll have to use some of the other letters in the Greek alphabet."

Collins said the NIH is involved in a big push on at-home testing — possibly even having it available for free from Amazon.

"There are now eight home tests that are out there, approved by FDA, available," he said. "Go to your pharmacy. You'll see them on the shelves. And those are pretty easy

"Fifteen minutes and you get an answer. They are pricey and that's one of the things the president's trying to do about this right now; announcing this week that basically if you get one of these home tests, you can file with your insurance company and get reimbursed for it."

"We at NIH, we're running pilot tests in seven states to see what happens if you just make it possible for people to order these for free from Amazon," he added. "We'll see how that plays out. I get it. We ought to have testing as easily accessible as possible and as cheap as possible, because it is a good way to protect yourself."

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