November 29, 2021 – President Joe Biden said on Monday that available vaccines should provide some protection against the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, and federal health officials are working to gather more information on its effectiveness before until the first cases are detected in the United States.
He was joined by leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, MD. The president was briefed on Sunday by health officials.
Biden has said he doesn’t anticipate any blockages or tighter restrictions, and he hopes to combat the variant by increasing vaccination rates.
“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” he said. “We will fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion. We have more tools today to combat the variant than ever before.”
Scientists will work over the next few weeks to learn more about the virus and to determine the level of protection provided by the available COVID-19 injections. Omicron was first detected in South Africa, prompting Biden to impose a travel ban, and cases have now been reported in several European countries as well as Canada.
Biden praised the South African health community for quickly informing the world about this variant, and he said the travel ban was put in place to give US residents more time to get vaccinated and boosted. .
“The best protection against this new variant, or any of the variants available, is to get fully immunized and get a booster,” he said.
He continued, “Although it will be a few weeks before we know everything we need to know about the strength of existing vaccines against the variant, Dr Fauci, who is with me today, and our medical team believe that The vaccines will continue to provide some degree of protection against serious illness.
He urged people to continue to wear masks indoors in public places for an extra layer of protection.
In the unlikely event that the vaccines are not effective against the variant, Biden said, the White House is working with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to “develop contingency plans for recalls if necessary.”
“I will also ask the FDA and CDC to use the fastest process available without cutting corners for safety to get these vaccines approved and on the market, if necessary,” he said.
But he stressed that this is unlikely.
“As we continue this effort, let us remember where we are at,” he said. “We’re in a very different place as we move into December, compared to where we were last Christmas. “
He noted that only 1% of American adults were vaccinated last December, and by December that number will surpass 70%.
“If you are vaccinated but still worried about the new variant, get your booster,” he said. “If you are not vaccinated, go get vaccinated for the first time.”