NIH Director Says New COVID-19 Variant Should Double Vaccination Efforts

Bryan Dijkhuizen

While much remains unknown about a newly discovered coronavirus variant, the director of the National Institutes of Health said that action should be taken immediately to avoid a situation that makes this worse.

He added that while much remains unknown about the variant, action should be taken immediately to avoid a situation that makes this worse.

"It's certainly not good news. We don't know yet how much of an impact this will have. It ought to redouble our efforts to use the tools that we have, which are vaccinations and boosters, and to be sure we're getting those to the rest of the world, too, which the US is doing more than any other country," NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union," referring to the new variant, named Omicron.

While public health experts, including those working in the Biden administration, are still trying to figure out more about the new variant, which is currently circulating in southern Africa and has been detected in Europe and Asia, Collins' comments come at a time when they are attempting to learn more about the new variant.

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden said that the United States would begin restricting travel from South Africa and seven other nations on Monday to prevent the new strain from spreading to the United States.

"It also means we need to pay attention to those mitigation strategies that people are just really sick of, like wearing masks while indoors with other people who might not be vaccinated and keeping that social distance issue," he added. "We have to use every kind of tool in our toolbox to keep (Omicron) from getting in a situation that makes this worse."

Scientists are concerned about the Omicron coronavirus strain because the variant's substantial number of mutations might make it more infectious than the original new coronavirus strain, according to health experts.

Even though it is yet unclear whether or not the three vaccinations now available for usage in the United States are effective against the new strain, vaccine producers have said that they are attempting to determine what influence Omicron will have on their products.

Meanwhile, the United States is still dealing with an outbreak of the Delta strain, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has described as roughly as infectious as chickenpox.

By Friday, the average daily number of deaths had reached more than 1,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Statistics, and hospitalizations in 16 states had increased by more than 50 percent in comparison to the previous week, according to the United States Health and Human Services Department.

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