WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — In an address to the country about the emerging omicron variant of COVID-19, President Joe Biden said health officials do not believe new vaccines are needed. But, he said, the government is beginning to plan for it, just in case.
“The variant is a cause for concern,” Biden said Monday morning, “not a cause for panic.”
He added we already know the best way for people to protect themselves — “getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot.”
Because a portion of the population remains unvaccinated the virus continues spreading and mutating into new variants. Health officials said the current vaccines and boosters offer some protection from the new variant, but plans are already underway in case that protection is not enough.
“My team is already working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson to develop contingeny plans for vaccines or booster if needed,” Biden said.
Even though the omicron variant has been detected in other parts of the world, White House Press Secretary Jen Psai said right now the US is only banning travel from 8 countries in southern Africa.
“It is a much larger spread in South Africa than it is, at this point, in Europe and other countries,” Psaki said. “We will continue to assess if there are additional restrictions that need to be put in place.”
That travel ban does not apply to US citizens or permanent residents traveling back from those southern Africa countries.