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President: Vaccine is best defense against Omicron variant of COVID-19

President Joe Biden also encourages people to wear masks in crowded indoor settings.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden briefed reporters Monday about the latest fight against the Omicron variant. So, here's what we know about Omicron.

Our sources: 

There are travel restrictions to and from South Africa and seven countries in the region. President Biden commended South African health officials for immediately alerting the rest of the world about the variant, but the President said he imposed the ban because of the "significant cases" there, allowing the U.S. time to come up with a plan of action.

RELATED: 'This time of year, it’s devastating' | New travel restrictions bring uncertainty for South Africans in DMV

“We needed time to give people an opportunity to say, 'get that vaccination now before it moves around the world," Biden told reporters. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, our current PRC COVID tests detect the new variant. 

Officials said the best defense against Omicron consists of vaccinations and mask-wearing in crowded indoor settings.

"There's still time to get both your vaccines, your booster or get your children vaccinated before Christmas. They are free and available,” Biden explained. “If you and your family are vaccinated you can celebrate the holidays much more safely." 

According to the CDC’S COVID-19 dashboard, 71% of adults over 18 and 86% of seniors are fully vaccinated. 62% of children between 5 and 11 and 69% of kids ages 12 and up have received their shots.

Dr. Fauci said the vaccine and booster are the best defense against Omicron right now, but officials are planning to roll out an updated vaccine if necessary. 

“So that we are prepared if needed my team is already working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson to develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters if needed," the President said. 

What we don't know yet because there isn’t enough data:  

How transmissible is the Omicron variant? If you contract the new strain, how sick will you get?

“We'll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed," said President Biden.

The President will roll out a detailed plan Thursday that will call for more vaccines, not shut down or more travel restrictions. But Mr. Biden said to beat the pandemic we must vaccinate against coronavirus worldwide and encourage other countries to ship vaccines to our neighbors overseas.

RELATED: How omicron variant symptoms differ from other COVID cases, according to South Africa doctors

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, the World Health Organization skipped 'Nu' and 'Xi' when naming 'Omicron' variant

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