Biden instructs FDA and CDC to clear new vaccines as needed

President Joe Biden said Monday that he is instructing federal agencies to be ready to accept additional vaccines or boosters as soon as possible, designed to protect against the new variant of the omicron coronavirus.

Current Covid vaccines are believed to provide at least some protection against the highly mutated omicron strain, and booster vaccines “greatly enhance that protection,” Biden assured the Americans in his White House speech.

“We do not yet believe that additional measures will be required,” he said.

But the president said his administration is nonetheless working with vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for new vaccines or boosters, if needed.

The White House is also directing the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use “the fastest process available without cutting corners” to endorse these potential vaccines and bring them to market, Biden said.

On Friday, Biden ordered precautionary restrictions on air travel from South Africa, where the omicron was first discovered, and seven other African countries. The new rules, which took effect Monday, were announced after the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its deepest fall in a year, fueled by fears of a deadly new wave of the pandemic. Stocks recovered somewhat on Monday morning.

These concerns have arisen despite the lack of clarity about the threat posed by the new option. Scientists, including leading American infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, say it can take weeks to understand the transmissibility of omicron, the severity of its symptoms, and the effectiveness of existing vaccines against it.

The Biden administration has struggled to contain the devastating spread of the highly contagious delta variant, which is currently the most common form of Covid in the United States.

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