US Looking ‘Very Carefully’ at New Virus Variant

Washington, Dec 20 (AFP/APP): US authorities are looking “very carefully” into the virus variant spreading in the United Kingdom, top health officials said Sunday, while indicating that a ban on UK travel was not currently in the cards.

Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor to the government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that US officials “don’t know yet” if the variant is present in the country.

“We are, of course… looking very carefully into this,” including at the National Institutes of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said. At the moment, he said, no strain of the virus appears to be resistant to the vaccines available. “This particular variant in the UK, I think, is very unlikely to have escaped the vaccine immunity,” Slaoui said. “I don’t think there’s any reason for alarm right now,” agreed Admiral Brett Giroir, the US official overseeing coronavirus testing, when asked about the new variant on ABC’s “The Week.”

Asked whether the United States was likely to follow the example of European countries that have suspended flights from the United Kingdom, Giroir replied: “I really don’t believe we need to do that yet.” Nearly eight million more Covid-19 vaccine doses are to ship across the United States on Monday, Slaoui told CNN — two million of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 5.9 million of the Moderna shot that was greenlighted on Friday. The first Moderna shot was “most likely to be tomorrow morning,” he said.

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