National Institutes of Health

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins said Monday that available vaccines offer the best protection against existing coronavirus variants, including the new omicron variant.

Collins told MSNBC vaccines serve as a reason to be “pretty optimistic” as vaccinations have held up well to previous viral mutations, including the highly transmissible delta variant. 

“If there’s a message I would like people to hear this morning is get the vaccinations and the boosters,” Collins said. “This is the best way to protect yourself against delta, which is still very much with us in the U.S., and omicron if it comes to the U.S., which it almost certainly will at some point.”

Collins’ message echoes other health experts, including White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci, who have urged unvaccinated Americans to get their first dose while recommending COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to those who are fully vaccinated. 

The NIH director also joined Fauci in expressing caution as officials observe how quickly the new variant, which has been labeled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), might spread. Collins said this process could run between two and three weeks. 

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