Story at a glance

  • National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said Monday available vaccines offer the best protection against existing coronavirus variants, including the new omicron variant.
  • "This is the best way to protect yourself against delta, which is still very much with us in the U.S. and omicron if it comes to the U.S., which it almost certainly will at some point," Collins added.
  • Collins’s message echoes other health experts who have urged unvaccinated Americans to get their first dose while recommending COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to those who are fully vaccinated.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins said Monday available vaccines offer the best protection against existing coronavirus variants, including the new omicron variant.

Collins told MSNBC vaccines serve as a reason to be “pretty optimistic” as vaccinations have held up well to previous viral mutations, including the highly transmissible delta variant. 

"If there's a message I would like people to hear this morning is get the vaccinations and the boosters," Collins said. "This is the best way to protect yourself against delta, which is still very much with us in the U.S., and omicron if it comes to the U.S., which it almost certainly will at some point."

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Collins’s message echoes other health experts, including White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci, who have urged unvaccinated Americans to get their first dose while recommending COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to those who are fully vaccinated. 

Approximately 59 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while around 19 percent have received a booster dose. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently authorized both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all U.S. adults ages 18 or older.

The NIH director also joined Fauci in expressing caution as officials observe how quickly the new variant, which has been labeled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), might spread. Collins said this process could run between two and three weeks. 

"We know that it is spreading quite rapidly in South Africa, so it probably is highly contagious," Collins said. "We don't know if it causes severe disease or mild disease — that's going to take a little while to sort out because it's still early days."


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Published on Nov 29, 2021