Nov 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

NIH director: "No reason to panic" yet about Omicron variant

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins on Sunday said that while much is still unknown about the Omicron coronavirus variant, "there's no reason to panic" yet but more data is needed.

Why it matters: Collins' remarks on CNN's "State of the Union" come amid a broader discussion of how the new strain, first identified in South Africa, will impact the pandemic and how to curb its spread.

  • The newly discovered Omicron variant has a significant number of mutations that have led some to fear that it may be able to evade immune systems and drive a new wave of cases.
  • Collins reiterated the impact the new variant will have is not known, adding that it should "redouble our efforts to use the tools that we have, which are vaccinations and boosters."
  • Collins cautioned it could take a few weeks to know just how effective current vaccines will be against Omicron.

What they're saying: "I think there's good reasons to think it will probably be OK," Collins told host Dana Bash.

  • "We're going to get better information about this," he added. "There's no reason to panic but a great reason to get boosted."
  • "We have to use every kind of tool in our toolbox to keep ... from getting in a situation that makes this worse."

Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, said on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

  • "If and when, and it's going to be when, it comes here, hopefully we will be ready for it by enhancing our capabilities via vaccine, masking — all the things that we do, and should be doing," he said on ABC's "This Week."

Go deeper: Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

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