US health officials call for more vaccinations as they strive to answer 3 key questions about the new Omnicron variant – .

US health officials call for more vaccinations as they strive to answer 3 key questions about the new Omnicron variant – .

Experts are now rushing to determine if Omicron’s mutations make it more transmissible, more serious and potentially more vaccine resistant, but it could be weeks before we have answers.

So far, no cases have been confirmed on U.S. soil, but the variant has been detected beyond the Canadian border and experts say it will likely appear in the United States soon.

With much about Omicron still unknown, officials say vaccinations and boosters remain the best protection available.
Currently, about 59.1% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and about 19.1% of fully vaccinated people have received a booster dose, according to data from the state Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). -United.

National Institutes of Health director Dr Francis Collins told CNN on Sunday that Omicron is increasing the need for vaccination.

“We need to use all types of tools in our toolkit to prevent (Omicron) from getting into a situation that makes it worse,” he said.

“It also means we have to be careful with mitigation strategies that people are really fed up with, like wearing masks indoors with other people who might not be vaccinated and keeping this social distancing issue.” he added. “I know, America – you are really tired of hearing these things. But the virus is not tired of us. And he metamorphoses himself. “

On Fox News Sunday, Collins appealed to those who have not yet been vaccinated: “If Omicron is one more wake-up call, then let’s wake up. And come on America, you can do it. These vaccines are safe, they “are effective – people have been using them for over a year, 200 million people and more have been injected, this is something you want for yourself, your family, your community . “

The warnings about the renewed threat of the Omicron variant come as Americans weary of nearly two years of precautions and return from a Thanksgiving hiatus that saw air travel approach pre-pandemic levels.

Two-week critical timeline

President Joe Biden is expected to provide an update on the U.S. response to Covid-19 on Monday, the White House said Sunday after Biden met with Dr.Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other members of the Covid team.

“Dr Fauci informed the President that although it will take about two more weeks to have more definitive information on the transmissibility, severity and other characteristics of the variant, he continues to believe that existing vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of Covid, ”said a report of their meeting.

Regarding immediate recommendations, the White House said the Covid team recommends boosters for all eligible vaccinated adults.

“It’s a bugle call for me to say, let’s put all these differences aside that we have, and say, if you’re not vaccinated, get the vaccine. If you are fully vaccinated, get boosted ”. Fauci told NBC News on Sunday.

Fauci explained that if tests show that the antibodies from a vaccinated person can neutralize the Omicron variant of the virus, then “we’re in pretty good shape.”

“If it looks like even at a high antibody titer it isn’t, then what you need to do is change and modify what the vaccine will be, which you can do quite easily,” said Fauci.

Moderna’s chief medical officer said on Sunday that the company expects to know in a few weeks whether the new variant of Omicron has an impact on the effectiveness of its vaccine.

If the company finds it needs to pivot and produce a new vaccine, Burton said Moderna is working on several approaches, including one that would be specific to the new variant.

The world is on high alert over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus

“Our platform, we can go really fast. We think within a few weeks to maybe two to three months we would be able to have a specific vaccine booster at Omicron for testing and then for administration, ”he said. “This is going to go at the fastest speed possible, but we need to do some deep research now. We don’t want to be wrong. “

BioNTech, the German company that has partnered with Pfizer to make a vaccine against Covid-19, is also studying the impact of Omicron on their vaccine, with data expected in the coming weeks.

Johnson & Johnson said it is also testing the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron.

United States travel restrictions take effect

Since the variant was first identified in South Africa, it has also been found in Botswana, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom, Portugal, Germany, Israel, Italy, Czech Republic and Hong Kong.

Biden set to reassure tired Americans as fears grow over new variant of Covid

The United States is now restricting travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Several other countries around the world have introduced similar measures.

While the Biden administration believes the variant will likely appear in the United States, it has instituted travel restrictions to save time while health experts work to learn more about Omicron’s potential impact.

But on Sunday, the US Travel Association urged the Biden administration to reconsider the restrictions.

“The Covid variants are concerning, but the border closures have not prevented their presence in the United States as vaccinations have proven to be incredibly durable. This is why the US travel industry is a strong supporter of the vaccine for everyone, ”the association said in a statement. “With a vaccine and testing requirement in place to enter the United States, we continue to believe that assessing an individual’s risk and health status is the best way to accommodate qualified international travelers. in the USA. “

Passengers were able to fly from Johannesburg to Newark on Sunday.

Meanwhile, passengers arriving at Newark International Airport on a direct flight from Johannesburg on Sunday morning described the impact of global travel restrictions.

Kyle Bogert, of Hoboken, New Jersey, told CNN the rest of his family are still stranded in South Africa because their connecting flight via Dubai was canceled on their way to the airport.

“On the news you hear about all these variations that appear in different places and you hear about the airport closures… is stuck there,” he said.

Bogert said passengers on his flight were asked to get tested for Covid-19 “within three to five days,” but noted that his exit from his flight was otherwise “normal”.

CNN’s Nikki Carvajal, John Bonifield, Michael Nedelman, Frederik Pleitgen, Naomi Thomas, Pete Muntean and Sarah Fortinsky contributed to this report.


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