Omicron: New variant ‘not a cause for panic’, says Biden

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The US president urged people to get vaccinated, but says the country is in a good position to control the potential spread of the strain.

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Joe Biden has urged Americans to receive COVID-19 jabs amid global alarm over the new Omicron coronavirus variant, but the US president says tensions should be “considered a cause for concern, not a cause for panic”.

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In remarks made at the White House on Monday, Biden said that top United States health officials are consulting with major vaccine manufacturers and preparing for possible updates to Omicron’s mutation.

But he insisted the country was in a good position to control Omicron’s potential spread without resorting to lockdowns or more travel restrictions beyond those already imposed on eight southern African countries.

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“This version is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” he said. “If you’ve been vaccinated but are still worried about the new version, get your booster. If you haven’t been vaccinated, get that shot. Go get that first shot.”

Biden said his chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, expects existing vaccines to work against the newer version, with boosters adding increased protection. “We will fight this version with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not with chaos and confusion,” he said.

Earlier this month the US expanded its recommendation for booster jabs to all adults, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but an estimated 47 million US adults have yet to be vaccinated. .

Travel bans from South Africa and seven other African countries into the US went into effect on Monday, as countries around the world imposed travel restrictions over the past several days amid concerns over Omicron.

“The matter of [travel] The ban is to give us time to get people vaccinated,” Biden said on Monday.

No cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in the US so far, but Fauci warns that the virus may already be present in the country.

Dr Anthony Fauci says experts are working to better understand how well existing COVID jabs protect against new variants [File: Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

Speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America program, Fauci said that scientists hope to learn over the next week or two how well existing COVID-19 vaccines protect against the variant, and that it is the first How dangerous compared to strains of

“We don’t really know,” Fauci said, calling the speculation “premature.”

Dr Angelique Coetzee of the South African Medical Association, who first detected Omicron in South Africa this month, told Al Jazeera on Monday that people infected with the new strain so far show “very mild symptoms”, particularly Those who were vaccinated after August. ,

The Omicron variant has been detected in more than 10 countries, including Canada, Australia, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Mozambique.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the global risk from the spread of omicrons was “very high” and urged 194 member states to accelerate the delivery of vaccinations to high-risk groups.

“Omicrons have an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are related to their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the WHO said.

The Omicron variant is “highly transmissible” and requires “urgent action”, the Group of Seven (G7) health ministers also said in a joint statement, urging the establishment of an international pathogen surveillance network to address the variant. Praised South Africa for putting WHO.

The rise of the Omicron variant is seen by some as validating earlier warnings that the uncontrolled spread of the virus in countries with little access to vaccines could lead to mutations and dangerous new forms.

“The inequality that characterizes the global response has now come home to flourish,” Richard Hatchett, chief executive of the Coalition for Pandemic Preparedness Innovations, told a gathering of health ministers at the WHO in Geneva.

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