CDC ramps up booster plan as Biden pushes vaccines vs. variant

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention broadened its recommendation for COVID-19 booster shots to include all adults amid the detection and spread of the omicron variant.

The CDC had previously approved boosters for all adults but only recommended them for those 50 years and older or living in long-term care settings.

“Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after their initial J&J vaccine,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Monday.

The CDC’s recommendation came hours after President Joe Biden called omicron “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic” in remarks from the White House Monday.

Biden pushed vaccination as a way to fight the variant rather than widespread lockdowns and shutdowns.

“We’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion,” Biden said. “We have more tools today to fight the variant than we ever had before, from vaccines to boosters, to vaccines for children.

The United States began restricting travel to at least eight African countries Monday as the reports of the variant popping up in countries around the world emerged.

It’s not clear where the new variant first appeared, but scientists in South Africa alerted the World Health Organization, and it has now been seen in travelers arriving in several countries, from Australia to Israel to the Netherlands.

Adding to the confusion, the Netherlands announced Tuesday that the omicron variant was already in the country when South Africa alerted WHO about it last week. The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute found omicron in samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said earlier this week he would not be surprised if the omicron variant was already in the United States.

When omicron arrives, and it will, Biden said, America will “face this new threat just as we’ve faced those that have come before it.”

Much is still not known about the variant — though the WHO warned that the global risk from the variant is “very high” and early evidence suggests it could be more contagious.

Fauci said vaccines and boosters should protect from the omicron variant but that the administration is putting vaccine companies on standby to create a more effective variant-specific vaccine if needed.

On Tuesday, an FDA health panel voted to recommend emergency use authorization of Merck’s antiviral drug to treat COVID-19. The panel voted that the drug’s benefits in curbing hospitalizations and deaths outweigh its risks. Those risks include potential birth defects if used during pregnancy. The FDA isn’t bound by the panel’s recommendation and is expected to make its own decision before the end of the year. 

Both Pfizer and Moderna said they are monitoring the variant and expect more information about the current vaccines’ effectiveness in the coming weeks.

Biden is expected to go to the National Insitute of Health Thursday and announce his strategy on how to fight the omicron variant.

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