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Biden orders FDA, CDC to clear new vaccines if needed

President Joe Biden said on Monday he was directing federal agencies to prepare to act as quickly as possible to approve additional vaccines or boosters designed to protect against the new variant of the omicron coronavirus.

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

“We do not yet believe that further measures will be necessary,” he said.

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

The White House is also asking the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use the “fastest process available without cutting corners” to approve these potential vaccines and bring them to market, Biden said.

Biden ordered precautionary restrictions on air travel from South Africa, where omicron was first detected, and seven other African countries on Friday. The new rules, which took effect Monday, were announced after the Dow Jones industrial average suffered its deepest rout of the year, over fears of another deadly wave of the pandemic. Stocks rebounded somewhat on Monday morning.

These concerns have arisen despite a lack of clarity on the threat posed by the new variant. Scientists including Dr.Anthony Fauci, a U.S. infectious disease expert, say it may take weeks to understand omicron’s transmissibility, the severity of its symptoms, and the effectiveness of existing vaccines against it.

Biden administration struggled to contain the devastating spread of the highly contagious delta variant, which is now the most prevalent form of Covid in the United States

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