President Joe Biden called the new variant of the omicron coronavirus a cause for concern but “no cause for panic” on Monday and said he was not considering a blanket lockdown in the United States. masks indoors in public places to slow down any spread.
Speaking at the White House on Monday, Biden said it was inevitable that the new variant would reach the United States, but he also said the country had the tools to protect Americans – especially vaccines and drugs. recalls approved.
When omicron does, and it will, Biden said, America “will face this new threat just as we have faced the ones that came before it.”
He called on the roughly 80 million unvaccinated Americans aged 5 and older to get vaccinated, and the rest of the country to seek boosters six months after their second dose. He also encouraged everyone to resume wearing face masks in all indoor public places – a precaution in the event of a pandemic that has fallen into disuse in much of the country.
Separately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded their recommendation for COVID-19 booster shots to include all adults due to the new variant. The agency previously approved the recalls for all adults, but only recommended them for people 50 years of age and older or living in long-term care facilities.
“Everyone aged 18 and over should receive a booster either six months after their first Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after their first J&J vaccine,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. .
Biden was joined by Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert and adviser to the President on COVID-19, who said earlier Monday that scientists hope to know within a week or two to what extent vaccines Existing COVID-19 protects against the variant, and how dangerous it is compared to earlier strains.
“We really don’t know,” Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” calling the speculation premature.
The new variant is the latest test of Biden’s efforts to contain the pandemic, mitigate its impacts on the economy and bring back a sense of normalcy in the United States during the holiday season.
“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” said Biden, as US financial markets rebounded on Monday after falling sharply on Friday. The White House said there were no plans to cut back on Biden’s travel due to the new variant.
Biden last week decided to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries, effective Monday, in a bid to give scientists time to learn more about the news. variant and for more Americans to get vaccinated before it reaches the United States. South African officials argued they were being punished for promptly identifying and reporting the new variant.
As omicron spreads around the world, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday: “We will continue to assess the steps we need to take to protect the American people.”
Some other countries are reinstating tough travel and business restrictions to prevent the spread of the omicron variant, but Biden said the United States is not following suit.
“If people are vaccinated and wear their masks, there is no need for containment,” he said.
Fauci said earlier on “CBS Mornings” that limiting travel from countries where omicron was first identified “buys you a few weeks because if you can keep things going for a few weeks you can do a lot of. things”.
Pharmaceutical companies are already adjusting their existing COVID-19 vaccines to better attack the omicron variant, but Fauci said Americans should make it a priority to get their first vaccines or a booster dose now, rather than wait for a new formulation. .
“I would strongly suggest that you get a boost now,” he said.
He added that based on what scientists learn about the omicron variant in the coming weeks, “we may not need” targeted boosters to contain this strain of the virus.
Biden said his administration “is sparing no effort to remove all obstacles to keep the American people safe,” including working with drugmakers on potential new boosters and specifically testing the new variant.
No omicron-specific vaccine could probably start being produced for another two or three months, so getting boosters is now a “very important initial line of defense,” Dr Paul Burton, chief medical officer of the manufacturer, said on Monday. Moderna vaccines. .
Burton said Moderna and other vaccine companies are testing existing COVID-19 vaccines to determine their effectiveness against the omicron variant.
“If we’re going to make a specific omicron variant, it’s going to take a few weeks, two to three months is probably what we’re looking at so we can really start manufacturing,” Burton told ABC.
Noting that the new variant, like the previous ones, has appeared overseas in areas with low vaccination rates, Biden said it was both a moral imperative and in America’s best interests to speed up. global vaccinations. He noted that the United States has already donated more than 275 million doses – more than the rest of the world combined – and is on track to deliver more than 1.1 billion doses globally by September. 2022.
“Now we need the rest of the world to step up as well,” Biden said. “We can’t stop until the world is vaccinated.”
As the holiday season began, Biden tried to reassure buyers that his administration was working to resolve supply chain issues. Companies are working to overcome the lingering effects of COVID-related closures and now the problems resulting from the strong recovery that has generated demand that is greater than what many ports, manufacturers and retailers can handle.
The president spoke to CEOs of Best Buy, Food Lion, Samsung, Etsy and Walmart among the companies on Monday. Business leaders reassured Biden.
“While we are all concerned about the supply chain, we have more inventory than a year ago, and we have the inventory we need to be able to support the business,” said Doug McMillon, CEO from Walmart. “And we are seeing progress. Port and transit delays are improving.