As First U.S. Omicron Case Reported, These States 50 Percent Vaccinated or Fewer

The Omicron COVID variant was detected in the U.S. on Wednesday, and 10 states have fewer than 50 percent of their population fully vaccinated, data shows.

The Omicron variant has caused concern since last month after it was discovered in South Africa, and scientists noticed that it had a large number of genetic mutations.

While researchers are still working on getting laboratory data on the variant, it is thought that it could possibly be more transmissible and vaccine-resistant than past forms of COVID based on the mutations that it has.

The variant has been reported in an increasing number of countries in recent days. The World Health Organization said it had spread to 23 countries on Wednesday. CNN reported on Thursday morning ET that it was in 25 countries.

Omicron was reported to be in the U.S. on Wednesday. It was detected in a traveler in California who had returned from South Africa on November 22 and had tested positive for COVID on November 29, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a White House press briefing.

The individual was fully vaccinated and had experienced mild symptoms that were improving as of Wednesday. All of the individual's close contacts were contacted and had tested negative.

Fauci said it was "just a matter of time" before the variant was detected in the country.

"We know what we need to do to protect people: Get vaccinated if you're not already vaccinated, get boosted if you've been vaccinated for more than six months with an mRNA or two months with J&J, and all the other things we've been talking about—getting your children vaccinated, masking in indoor congregate settings, etc," he said.

Fauci's comments came as 59 percent of people in the U.S. had been fully vaccinated as of December 1, according to data from The New York Times.

Out of all states, West Virginia had the lowest proportion of fully vaccinated people at 42 percent. 10 states in total have 50 percent or fewer of their population vaccinated.

These states are: West Virginia, 42 percent; Idaho, 45 percent; Wyoming, 46 percent; Alabama, 46 percent; Mississippi, 47 percent; North Dakota, 49 percent; Louisiana, 49 percent; Arkansas, 49 percent; Tennessee, 50 percent; Georgia, 50 percent. The vaccine rate in the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands in 49 percent.

The states with the highest percentage of their population vaccinated are Vermont and Rhode Island, both with 73 percent.

Speaking to Newsweek last week, Andrew Pekosz, professor and vice chair of the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins University, said the Omicron variant "is a reminder that if you haven't gotten a booster, go get one. If you haven't gotten the vaccine, go get it."

He said: "The more immunity we have in the population, the lower the impact of this variant will be even if it escapes from some of the vaccine induced immunity."

COVID vaccine
A health worker is pictured giving a COVID vaccine in Massachusetts on February 16, 2021. Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged people to continue getting vaccinated after Omicron was detected in the U.S. Joseph Prezioso/AFP / Getty