The Biden administration is urging Americans to get vaccinated and those already vaccinated to get booster shots as the newest variant of the COVID-19 pandemic raises concerns about another outbreak.
“We don’t know a lot about the variant, except that it is of great concern. It seems to spread rapidly. And I spent about a half-hour this morning with my COVID team, led by Dr. Fauci, and so, that was the decision we made,” Biden told reporters in Nantucket Friday.
The Biden administration also imposed a travel ban on eight nations in southern Africa, including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, as concerns grow over the discovery of the “Omicron” variant of COVID-19. The ban goes into effect Monday.
In a statement announcing the bans, President Joe Biden urged Americans to get vaccinated:
[F]or those Americans who are fully vaccinated against severe COVID illness – fortunately, for the vast majority of our adults — the best way to strengthen your protection is to get a booster shot, as soon as you are eligible. Boosters are approved for all adults over 18, six months past their vaccination and are available at 80,000 locations coast-to-coast. They are safe, free, and convenient. Get your booster shot now, so you can have this additional protection during the holiday season.
Second, for those not yet fully vaccinated: get vaccinated today. This includes both children and adults… we need more Americans in all age groups to get this life-saving protection. If you have not gotten vaccinated, or have not taken your children to get vaccinated, now is the time.
Finally, for the world community: the news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations.
White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told the TODAY show Saturday that there were a lot of unknowns with the new variant. He said that the new variant has mutated in a way that suggests it could evade both monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma, as well as vaccines. These were not certainties, he noted, but the possibility necessitated caution, he argued.
When asked whether the Omicron variant was already in the U.S., Fauci said he would not be surprised if it was.
“I would not be surprised if it is. We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” he said Saturday.
“This is yet again another reason … it is absolutely essential that unvaccinated people get vaccinated and that vaccinated people get boosters.”
Fauci concluded by reiterating his call to get vaccinated, as well as urging Americans to wear masks indoors.