by zeke miller
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Monday called the new coronavirus variant Omicron a cause for concern but “not a cause for panic” and said he is not considering any widespread US lockdowns. He urged Americans to be fully vaccinated, including booster shots, and face masks indoors in public settings to slow any spread.
Speaking on Monday at the White House, Biden said it was inevitable that the new version would reach the US, but he also said the country has the equipment needed to protect Americans – specifically approved vaccines and booster shots.
When O’Micron comes, and it will be, Biden said, America “will face this new threat just as we have faced those who have come before it.”
He called on the nearly 80 million illiterate Americans aged 5 and older to get their shots, and the rest of the country to get booster shots six months after their second dose. He encouraged everyone to wear face masks in all indoor public settings – a pandemic precaution that has fallen out of use in much of the country.
Separately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention broadened its recommendation for COVID-19 booster shots to include all adults due to the new version. The agency previously approved the booster for all adults, but only recommended for those 50 and older or living in long-term care settings.
Rochelle Valensky, CDC director, said in a statement, “Everyone age 18 and older should get a booster shot when they are six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series, or two months after their initial J&J vaccine. be later.”
Biden, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and the President’s COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said earlier on Monday that scientists hope to learn over the next week or two how well existing COVID-19 vaccines protect against. T, 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 version tests the latest of Biden’s efforts to contain the pandemic, ease its effects on the economy, and bring back a sense of normalcy in the US during the holiday season.
“This version is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said, adding that US financial markets bounced back on Monday after falling sharply on Friday. The White House said it had no plans to curtail Biden’s visit as a result of the new version.
Biden moved last week to restrict travel to and from South Africa and seven other countries in southern Africa, effective Monday, to give scientists time to learn more about the new version, and for more Americans in the US South. Officials have argued that they are being punished for rapidly identifying and reporting the new variant for getting the vaccination before it hits Africans.
As Omicron spreads around the world, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, “we will continue to assess what steps we need to take to protect the American people.”
Some other countries are reinstating severe travel and business lockdowns to stop the spread, but Biden indicated the US is not following suit.
“If people are vaccinated and masks are worn, there is no need for a lockdown,” he said.
Fauci previously said on “CBS Mornings” that limiting travel to and from the countries where Omicron was first identified “buy you a few weeks because if you can keep things in place for a couple of weeks, you’ll get a lot of money.” can do things.”
Pharmaceutical companies are already adjusting their existing COVID-19 vaccines to better attack the Omicron variant, but Fauci said Americans should take their first shots or booster doses rather than wait for the new formulation. Now priority should be given.
“I would strongly suggest that you promote now,” he said.
He said that based on what scientists learn about the Omicron variant in the coming weeks, “we may not need” a targeted booster to stop that strain of the virus.
Biden said his administration is “leaving no stone unturned to remove all barriers to keeping the American people safe,” including working with drugmakers on potential new boosters and testing specifically targeted at the new version. .
Dr Paul Burton, chief medical officer of vaccine-maker Moderna, said that no Omicron-specific vaccine is likely to begin production for the next two or three months, so getting boosters now is “a very important starting line of defence. ” Is. Monday.
Burton said Moderna and other vaccine companies are testing existing COVID-19 vaccines to determine how effective they are against the Omicron variant.
“If we need to build an Omicron-specific version, it’s going to take a few weeks, two to three months maybe we’re looking to actually be able to start manufacturing,” Burton told ABC.
Noting that the new version, as before, emerged overseas in areas with low vaccination rates, Biden said it was both a moral imperative and in America’s self-interest to accelerate global vaccination. He said the US has already donated more than 275 million doses – more than the rest of the world – and is on pace to deliver more than 1.1 billion doses globally by September 2022.
“Now we need to step up to the rest of the world,” Biden said. “We can’t give up until the world is vaccinated.”
As the holiday season approached, Biden tried to reassure shoppers that his administration was working to ease supply chain problems. Businesses are working to offset the lingering effects of the COVID-related shutdowns and now issues arising from the strong recovery have generated higher demand across many ports, manufacturers and retailers.
On Monday, the president spoke with CEOs of Best Buy, Food Lion, Samsung, Etsy and Walmart, among companies. Corporate leaders reassured Biden.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillan said, “While we are all concerned about the supply chain, we have more inventory than we did a year ago, and we have inventory that we need to be able to support the business.” “And we are seeing progress. Port and transit delays are improving.”