“It’s certainly possible that this is not the last emerging variant that will attract a lot of attention and a lot of concern,” Collins told anchor Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”
Collins speculated that Omicron developed in an immunocompromised person who was infected with another variation of the virus.
“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 pressed.
“And so, it remained in the system, maybe for months, in that person until they 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 confirmed that it is likely that similar scenarios will play out that will result in other variants.
“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,” he said.
The World Health Organization has classified Omicron as a variant of concern, though it is not known yet whether it causes more severe disease or is resistant to vaccines.
Since the variant was first detected in South Africa, it has spread to more than 40 countries, including the U.S.
U.S. health officials said Sunday that while the omicron variant is rapidly spreading throughout the country, early indications suggest it may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations.
Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.
“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci said. “But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta.”