Healthcare

Biden: Omicron coronavirus variant ’cause for concern, not a cause for panic’

President Biden on Monday described the omicron variant of COVID-19 as a “cause for concern” but not a cause for panic, saying Americans getting vaccinated and getting their booster shots is the best defense against the virus.

He also said officials would release more guidance on how they plan to fight the spread of COVID-19 this winter, but promised it wouldn’t include lockdowns.

“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said in prepared remarks at the White House. “We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day. And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion.”

The president acknowledged the U.S. would see confirmed cases of the latest strain of the virus “sooner or later.”

And he pleaded with Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, adding that Anthony Fauci, his top medical adviser on the pandemic, believed the existing vaccines provide at least some protection against the omicron variant.

“If you are vaccinated, but still worried about the new variant, get our booster. If you aren’t vaccinated, get that shot. Go get that first shot,” Biden said.

Biden met earlier Monday with his medical advisers about the latest variant of COVID-19, which has roiled global financial markets and sparked concern about another wave of cases even as scientists and medical experts are still working to learn more about how contagious the new strain is and how effective vaccines are in preventing serious illness.

The president said the White House does not believe additional doses of the vaccine will be needed as of now, but officials are in touch with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson “to develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters if needed.”

“I’m sparing no effort and removing all roadblocks to keep the American people safe,” Biden said. 

Multiple experts have said they believe more will be known in the next couple weeks about the omicron variant’s transmissibility and how vaccines respond to it.

The variant was first detected and reported in southern Africa, and Biden over the weekend restricted travel to the U.S. from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

The World Health Organization last Friday identified omicron as a “variant of concern,” a label applied when a particular strain is especially virulent, transmissible or able to defeat public health measures.

Tags Anthony Fauci COVID-19 Joe Biden Omicron variant vaccination campaign
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