Joe Biden

Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials

November 30, 2021

Via Teleconference

12:36 P.M. EST

MR. ZIENTS: Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us.

Today, we will focus on the Omicron variant. And we'll start with Drs. Fauci and Walensky to share the latest on what we know about the variant and what we're doing to be prepared for it in the U.S.

Before I turn it over to Dr. Fauci, I want to underscore what the President said yesterday: "This new variant is a cause for concern, but not panic" -- because we now have the tools we need to confront this variant and continue to make progress in our war against the virus.

We have vaccines for everyone ages five and up, boosters that provide the highest level of protection, significant genomic sequencing and testing capacity to detect cases early, and lifesaving therapeutics.

So, we have more tools than ever before. We are prepared, and we will continue to be guided by science and stay vigilant to keep people safe.

Now over to you, Dr. Fauci.

DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much, Jeff. I'm going to talk a little bit about the details of this Omicron variant.

So, if I could have the first slide, just to put it into some perspective.

This is a list of the variants of concern that we've had to deal with, what their lineage designation is, and what the earliest documented samples were. And of course, for today, we're going to be focusing on the latest -- namely, the Omicron variant -- that we're dealing with.

Next slide.

Let's take a look at some of the characteristics and what has emerged over the last several days to weeks quickly. It was first reported in Botswana on November the 11th, and in South Africa on 11/14.

The thing that got everyone's attention was the large number of mutations -- around 50 -- much larger than previous variants. And some, according to the molecular configuration, were anticipated to impact transmissibility and antibody binding.

There were varying cases that were rapidly increased, particularly in the Gauteng province of South Africa, which is Pretoria and Johannesburg, but is also present in virtually all the other South African provinces.

Confirmed cases, as of yesterday, was 205 in 18 countries. And just this morning, that's gone up to 226 in 20 countries. And I think you're going to expect to see those numbers change rapidly.

Importantly, it has not yet been detected in the United States.

It has been called "Omicron" by the WHO, and it was named as the fifth of the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.

Next slide.

So, let's take a look at the mutations. So, you've heard it now from many sources, but just to underscore: There's a very unusual constellation of changes across the SARS-CoV-2 genome, with greater than 30 of them in the important spike protein, which is the business end of the virus, particularly in its receptor-binding domain, where there are about 10 mutations there.

This mutational profile is very different from other variants of interest and concern. And although some mutations are also found in Delta, this is not Delta; it's something different.

And these mutations have been associated with increased transmissibility and immune evasion, whereas other of the mutations have not yet been characterized as to their functional capability.

Next slide.

So, let's take a look at what we're looking at, and then we'll get back to some of the properties. So, the CDC -- and you'll hear from Dr. Walensky -- is implementing their surveillance program via the National SARS Strain Surveillance Program.

We have now ongoing communication multiple times and information sharing between our scientists and public health officials and the South African government. And kudos to them; they have been extraordinary, helpful, and transparent in sharing information with us.

So, the in vitro neutralization data with the vaccinee sera, convalescent plasma, monoclonal antibodies, and oral antiviral therapies -- that's the question people often ask: "When are we going to get information about that?"

We'll get to that in a moment, but, generally, it's going to be two to four weeks, possibly a bit sooner, depending upon when the specimens -- and by "specimens," I mean the "virus" -- gets to individual investigators at the CDC, at the NIH, and even in other countries for them to prepare that to be able to make a determination.

And pending these data, the effect of this variant on transmission, severity of disease, and how well current vaccines treatment work remains speculative, regardless of what we're hearing in the press.

Next slide.

So, what about these potential properties? Let's look about what we know and what we don't know.

First, with regard to transmission. Obviously, when you look at the molecular configuration of those particular variants, it suggests strongly that there's increased transmission compared with the original pandemic virus, but it is difficult to infer what the relationship between this transmissibility is and Delta. Although you can suggest it might be more, we do not know until we see the dynamics of how this evolves.

What about vaccine effectiveness? Now obviously, the significant reductions in neutralizing titer are possible. And we say that because the mutations suggest immune evasion.

But remember: As with other variants, although partial immune escape may occur, vaccines and particularly boosters give a level of antibody that, even with variants like Delta, give you a degree of cross-protection, particularly against severe disease.

So, there's every reason to believe, as we talk about boosters, when you get a level high enough, that you are going to get at least some degree of cross-protection, particularly against severe disease.

And what about disease severity? Again, these are estimates. And with the small number of cases, it is very difficult to know whether or not this particular variant is going to result in severe disease.

Although some preliminary information from South Africa suggests no unusual symptoms associated with variant, we do not know and it is too early to tell.

Next slide and final slide: How do we address Omicron?

We've said it over and over again, and we -- and it deserves repeating: If you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. Get boosted if you are vaccinated. Continue to use the mitigation methods -- namely masks, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Choose outdoors rather than indoors. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Test and isolate if appropriate.

Those are the things we have been doing. We need to keep doing them.

I'll stop there. And over to you, Dr. Walensky.

DR. WALENSKY: Thank you, Dr. Fauci. And good afternoon, everyone.

As I've said before, this virus is unpredictable, and we must remain ready to be proactive as new data, new science, and new variants evolve.

One thing has become clear over the past 20 months: We cannot predict the future, but we can be prepared for it. And we have been doing exactly that: preparing for this moment.

Today, I want to walk with -- through with you what we've been doing at CDC to prepare for emerging COVID-19 variants and what we are doing currently to address the new threat of the Omicron variant.

To be crystal clear, we have far more tools to fight the variant today than we had at this time last year.

Today, we have increased our protection through vaccination for everyone five years and up. And we have vaccine booster doses for all adults to optimize that vaccine protection, as Dr. Fauci just said.

Compared to earlier this year, when we were sequencing about 8,000 samples per week, we have increased our genomic sequencing capability. And we are now sequencing approximately 80,000 samples per week -- about 1 in every 7 PCR-positive cases. And that's more than any other country.

And, we have increased our nation's testing capacity, including expanding rapid testing for quick detection of cases.

We have worked to address spread of infection through travel -- during travel, through masking, vaccination, and pre-departure testing for international passengers.

And we are continuously working closely with our public health partners, both here in America and around the world, to understand the evolving science of COVID-19 infection.

Let me express how grateful we are to the South African government and to their expert scientists, who have been open in their communication and willing to share their data with CDC and the entire world. Their collaboration has allowed us to make evidence-based decisions quickly and to ensure that we can protect as many people as possible from COVID-19.

We are actively looking for the Omicron variant right here in the United States. Right now, there is no evidence of Omicron in the United States. The Delta variant remains the predominant circulating strain, representing 99.9 percent of all sequences sampled.

Throughout the pandemic, as noted above, CDC has continuously monitored variants and vastly expanded our capacity for genomic sequencing over the past nine months. We have received specimens from all 50 states plus Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. We are sequencing samples from these jurisdictions and from geographically diverse areas around the country, collaborating with state labs, academia, and industry partners.

And our variant surveillance system has demonstrated we can reliably detect new variants, from Alpha in the start of 2021 to Delta over this past summer. We are actively putting systems in place with local and state laboratories to make detection and sequencing even faster.

As we have done throughout the pandemic, CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to the time of flight and considerations around additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantines.

Currently, CDC is expanding a surveillance program with XpresCheck to JFK, San Francisco, Newark, and Atlanta airports -- four of the busiest international airports in the country. This program allows for increased COVID testing for specific international arrivals, increasing our capacity to identify those with COVID-19 on arrival to the United States and enhancing our surveillance for the Omicron variant.

Thanks to our updated travel policies earlier this month, we are also actively working with the airlines to collect passenger information that can be used by CDC and local public health jurisdictions to enhance contact tracing and post-arrival follow-up should a case be identified in a traveler.

As we have done throughout the pandemic, we are holding regular -- even daily -- calls with local, county, and state health officials and our public health partners. These calls include state, county, and city health officials; state epidemiologists; state laboratory directors; and partners from public health organizations. And we are conveying the knowledge we have at CDC to these partners, and we are relying on their local expertise to provide information back to us.

CDC's efforts throughout the pandemic to understand and address variants, such as Delta, have provided us a unique experience in planning, preparing, and strategically responding to new variants as they emerge.

We have the tools and surveillance in place to identify the Omicron variant. We have also have the tools to prevent Omicron from increasing the strain on our society and our healthcare system.

Evidence has repeatedly shown that prevention strategies work. With over 80 percent of our nation's counties still in substantial or high transmission, CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in these areas, washing your hands frequently, and physical distancing. These methods work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 no matter the genetic sequence.

And as CDC said yesterday, all individuals 18 and older should get boosted to strengthen that protection. For the 45 million unvaccinated adults, now is the time to get vaccinated. We also know that vaccination helps protect you, your loved ones, and your community from COVID-19. And we fully anticipate this protection, at least in part, will be beneficial against Omicron.

We don't know everything we need to know yet about the Omicron variant. But we know that vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from severe illness and complications from all known SARS-CoV-2 variants to date.

Thank you. I'll now turn things back over to Jeff.

MR. ZIENTS: Well, thank you, Doctors.

From the start, this virus has been unpredictable, and that's why we've been preparing for all scenarios, following the science, and acting aggressively to protect the American people.

Vaccines remain our most important tool in our fight against the virus. And as Dr. Fauci said, while it will take a few weeks to have definitive information on the transmissibility, severity, and other characteristics of the new variant, existing vaccines are likely to continue to provide a degree of protection against severe illness.

Today, nearly 60 percent of all Americans are fully vaccinated. We now have a vaccine to protect our kids, with hundreds of thousands of children getting vaccinated each day.

And importantly, we have boosters available to all adults, for free, at 80,000 locations across the country.

More than 100 million adults are now eligible for a booster shot but have not yet gotten one. We're working with governors, pharmacies, community health centers, and other partners to get these eligible individuals their booster shots.

Our message is simple: If you were fully vaccinated before June, go get a booster shot today. Getting boosted will give you the highest level of protection from COVID and this new variant.

If you're unvaccinated or if your children are unvaccinated, the best thing you can do is get yourself and your kids their shots. It's the right thing to do for own health and safety and from everyone around you in your community.

The significant progress we've made on vaccinations and boosters puts us in a much stronger position to face Omicron. We believe the current vaccines provide at least some protection against this variant and that boosters strengthen that protection significantly.

In the event that additional measures are needed, we will be prepared. We're working with Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J to develop contingency plans for modifications to vaccines or boosters, if they're needed.

And we will ensure that the FDA and CDC review them as fast as possible while maintaining their rigorous scientific protocols.

The President has been clear that we will spare no effort to protect people.

We have significant testing capacity to detect cases. And based on their preliminary review, the FDA believes the high-volume PCR and rapid-antigen tests widely used in the U.S. will be effective in detecting the variant.

We also have therapeutics to treat those who do get COVID, and our medical team is actively evaluating the efficacy of these therapeutics against the new variant so that we are prepared.

Since the emergence of Omicron last week, public health officials and experts across the federal government have been working closely with the world's scientific community. We're learning more every day, and we'll share that information with the public.

And later this week, the President will release a strategy outlining how we plan to fight COVID this winter, building on the progress we have made.

Let me close with this: We are working around the clock to ensure we're doing everything we can to understand this new variant and protect the American people and continue on our path out of the pandemic. We need each of you to do your part as well.

So, if you're one of the 100 million individuals who are eligible for a booster, get your booster. If you have kids, get your kids vaccinated. And if you're still unvaccinated, get your first shot now.

With that, let's open it up for questions. Kevin?

MODERATOR: Thanks, Jeff. I know there's a ton of questions today, so please keep your questions to one question, as I always say, but especially today.

First, let's go to Kaitlan Collins at CNN.

Q: Thanks. Two quick ones for you. One, has your definition of "fully vaccinated" changed? And if not, do you expect that it will?

And secondly, several of you have said the travel restrictions that were put in place yesterday are to buy time to study this new variant and evaluate it. So, what specifically are you doing with that time that you're buying to make sure that you're using it wisely?

MR. ZIENTS: So, "fully vaccinated" definition, Dr. Walensky?

DR. WALENSKY: Yeah, thank you, Kaitlan, for that questions. So, we -- the definition of "fully vaccinated" has not changed. That's, you know, after your second dose of a Pfizer of Moderna vaccines, after your single dose of a Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

We are absolutely encouraging those who are eligible for a boost six months after those mRNA doses to get your boost. But we are not changing the definition of "fully vaccinated" right now.

Thank you

MR. ZIENTS: And, Dr. Fauci, how we're using the time to learn more about the variant and prepare.

DR. FAUCI: Thank you, Jeff. Thank you, Kaitlan.

Well, one of the things you do is you get the virus and you grow it, or you put it into a modified form called a "pseudovirus." And when you do that, you can then get convalescent plasma, monoclonal antibodies, as well as sera and antibodies that are induced by the vaccine to see if they neutralize the virus. That will give you a pretty good idea as to what the level of immune evasion is.

As I mentioned in my brief comments, the molecular configurations of the mutations can give you a suggestion of immune evasion, but that's one of the things you can do -- is to take a look what the antibodies actually do.

That process will take, likely, two weeks or more, perhaps even sooner, depending upon how well the virus grows and the isolates that we get. That's the first thing.

The second thing is you can do what Dr. Walensky said about continuing the surveillance and trying to get a feel for what the situation is in the United States.

And in those countries in which there are a lot of cases, like South Africa, the computational biologist and the evolutionary biologist are going to be getting a good feel as to what the competition of this virus would be with Delta.

Those are just a few of the things that will take a couple of weeks to a few weeks to learn. And when we do find that, we'll have a much better picture of what the challenge is that's ahead of us.

Thank you.

MR. ZIENTS: The only thing I'd add, Kaitlan, is it's also a really important time for those who have not gotten their booster -- 100 million eligible Americans -- to get their booster, and for parents to get their kids their first shot or their second shot, and for those who –- adults who've yet to get vaccinated, for them to get their first and second shots.

So, operationally, we want to make sure that people are doing all they can to protect themselves.

Next question.

MODERATOR: Let's go to Erin Billups at Spectrum News.

Q: Hi. Thanks for taking my questions.

First, I was wondering: Are enough Americans getting tested? Many people are taking rapid tests at home. That data doesn't get to labs participating in surveillance. Is this hurting or limiting surveillance?

And also, the messaging is kind of confusing that the virus may evade our current vaccines or immunity from previous infections but that people who haven't yet should get vaccinated. Can you clarify why getting boosted or vaccinated with the vaccines currently available would potentially be protective against Omicron?

MR. ZIENTS: Okay, Dr. Walensky, on the first question about testing and surveillance. And then, Dr. Fauci, on the protection of the vaccines.

DR. WALENSKY: Yeah, so we are doing, you know, about a million and a half PCR tests every week [day]. And, of course, those rapid tests are really helpful from a public health standpoint, and many of those rapid tests that are positive are actually confirmed by PCR.

So, given that we have all that testing going on, those tests now we're – the PCRs -- we are doing about one in seven genomic sequencing, so a really broad amount of surveillance that is happening from a genomic sequencing standpoint. And there's really an important role of those rapid antigen test so that people can continue to screen themselves and protect themselves.

MR. ZIENTS: Dr. Fauci?

DR. FAUCI: You know, that's an excellent question. So, let me explain.

The vaccines that we use are directed against the original, what we call, "ancestral strain" or the "Wuhan strain."

So, you get a certain level of antibodies that are specific against that strain. Then we had the evolution of variants, including, for example, the very problematic Delta variant.

So, if you look at the mutations on the Delta variant and you look at its function, you actually diminish somewhat the protection that is induced by the vaccines.

However, when you get a high enough level of antibody -- and it's not only antibody, it's other elements of the immune response -- particularly when you boost it, you get a level so high that even if the mutations of various variants diminish that level of protection, you are still within the range of some degree of protection. And that's usually most manifested in protection against severe disease that leads to hospitalization.

So, when we say that although these mutations suggest a diminution of protection and a degree of immune evasion, you still, from experience that we have with Delta, can make a reasonable conclusion that you would not eliminate all protection against this particular variant.

And that's the reason why we don't know what that degree of diminution of protection is going to be, but we know that when you boost somebody, you elevate your level of protection very high. And we are hoping -- and, I think, with good reason to feel good -- that there will be some degree of protection.

Therefore, as we said, if you're unvaccinated, get vaccinated. And if you're vaccinated, get boosted.

MR. ZIENTS: Next question.

MODERATOR: Let's go to Cheyenne Haslett at ABC News.

Q: Hi. Thanks for taking my question. Director Walensky, you talked about how much our surveillance program has improved, but is there still work to be done? Is there a reason to be concerned that other countries have detected Omicron while the U.S. has not, or is it possible that it's actually not here?

And then, for Jeff, you talked about this a bit, but companies have said it'll take less than 100 days for a variant-specific vaccine, which is three months, but can you clarify how much longer we should be saying the FDA and CDC process would make that whole process? Thanks.

DR. WALENSKY: Yeah, and maybe I'll start, Cheyenne, and say: We have a really robust surveillance system right now. Certainly, this has been detected in other countries, but other countries also have different policies for international travelers.

One of the things that's really robust here in the United States is our international travel policy where we have pre-departure testing -- both for people who are unvaccinated, but also for people who are vaccinated.

So, I do believe, with all of our international travel policies that have helped to keep Americans safe as well as for our really robust surveillance system -- genomic surveillance system -- we do have detection mechanisms that we need in place in order to find it, should and when it occurs.

MR. ZIENTS: Good. On the question about preparing for the possibility -- the contingency plan -- of the potential modification of the vaccine, the vaccine manufacturers are working on possible modifications to the vaccine and have been since late last week.

These are, you know, if-needed basis. Our doctors and scientists across the government are already in discussions with the three manufacturers on this scenario. And this includes conversations about the most appropriate regulatory pathway for review and authorizations, discussions about the tests that would be most appropriate to study the vaccine effectively and efficiently.

These conversations are happening as we speak, in the spirit of being prepared for any scenario. And we will remain in close contact with the drug manufacturers through the days ahead as we learn more about the variant.

The companies currently estimate that it would take a few months to prototype and manufacture a modified vaccine or booster, and that does include -- to your question -- the time for FDA and CDC to do their evaluation.

So, the estimate of a few months is all-inclusive.

Next question.

MODERATOR: Josh Wingrove, Bloomberg.

Q: Thank you, kindly. Dr. Fauci, can you address the question of severity of disease from the cases that we know? It's been sort of widely said that we shouldn't overinterpret what has been seen as mild cases because some of these might be in younger people or be early on in the case sort of progression. Is that your view as well?

In other words, what do we know so far? You said it's too early to tell, but what clues or breadcrumbs do we have about how severe these cases that we are seeing so far are? Thank you.

DR. FAUCI: Yeah. Yeah, that's a good question. Be careful about breadcrumbs; it may not tell you what kind of loaf of bread you have. Because we really don't know.

There have been, as you mentioned correctly, some anecdotal reports out of South Africa that the physicians -- mostly private physicians -- who've been seeing patients are seeing that they appear to be a less of a severity of illness. But you said, quite correctly, most of those are among younger individuals.

We believe that it is too soon to tell of what the level of severity is. We sp- -- Dr. Walensky and I specifically asked our South African colleagues that on the most recent Zoom call that we had, and they agreed with us that it's too early to tell. They're hoping that it is going to, across the board, give a lower level of severity, but they don't know that right now.

So, they agree with us and we agree with them that it's just too early to make a definitive prediction about what the severity is going to be. We will know, though, because they are really looking at this very carefully.

That gets to the two to four weeks that I was talking about on one of the slides. We should have a much better idea within the next few weeks.

MR. ZIENTS: Next question.

MODERATOR: Shannon Pettypiece NBC.

Q: Hi, thanks for taking my question. I wanted to follow up on the timeline question that one of my colleagues asked a moment ago.

I understand the pharmaceutical companies say it would take several months for them to, you know, come up with a new vaccine if that worst-case scenario occurs.

Under this worst-case scenario where people would need to get another booster or another vaccine, what does the timeline look like for how long it would take to have enough doses to re-vaccinate the 300 million-some Americans who are already vaccinated? And what is some of your planning for how that would work -- how that sort of worst-case scenario would work if we were to need a new vaccine?

MR. ZIENTS: Right. So, the few-months estimate that I discuss not only includes the prototype; obviously, the FDA and CDC authorization and recommendation; but also time to manufacture enough doses for the American public. That's obviously an estimate.

And we are planning in that scenario not only for supporting the manufacturers through that process if needed, but also for how would we rapidly get shots in arms.

And we know how to do that, given the experience we've had the last year, and that is lessons learned about how we deployed the federal pharmacy programs, set up mass vaccination sites, go to community health centers and rural clinics.

So all that type of planning is part of our contingency planning so we could get shots in arms efficiently and effectively.

Next question.

MODERATOR: All right. We have time for a couple of more questions. Let's go to Zeke Miller at the AP.

Q: Thanks for doing this. Jeff, I was hoping you might be able to provide an update on the duration of these travel restrictions on South Africa and regional -- countries in the region there. What metrics are you looking at to see when to ease those?

And then to follow up on Dr. Walensky's question -- or answer to Kaitlan's question before: Given what we have seen through the vaccination campaign over the last year, that, you know, people don't just get -- a lot of people just don't get vaccines unless they're really forced to, why isn't the CDC taking sort of a step of changing the definition of "fully vaccinated" if boosters are as important as you say they are to prevent against Delta but also Omicron?

MR. ZIENTS: So, in terms of the travel restrictions, you know, we will learn more about the variant -- as we've been discussing across the last half hour -- of transmissibility, the severity, vaccine effectiveness. We'll learn that across the short period of time. And based on the data and the science, the medical team will make a recommendation on any changes to international travel policy.

Dr. Walensky?

DR. WALENSKY: Yeah. And what I would say is that we are continuing to follow the science in this area. Certainly, our recommendation for boosters that was updated yesterday is related to Dr. Fauci's comment that the more mutations you have, the more you'd like to have bolstered your immunity. And as that science evolves, we will look at whether we need to update our definition of "fully vaccinated."

MR. ZIENTS: Last question.

MODERATOR: All right. Last question, let's go to Jeff Mason at Reuters.

Q: Thank you very much. This question is for Jeff and for Dr. Fauci. President Biden, yesterday, referenced the fact that before the U.S. can be fully protected, the rest of the world needs to be protected. I'm well aware of how many vaccine doses the U.S. is donating. But my question for you, Jeff, is: What more is the United States going to do to get more vaccines to the rest of the world?

And for Dr. Fauci, do you think the U.S. is doing enough?

MR. ZIENTS: Dr. Fauci, do you want to go first and then I'll follow?

DR. FAUCI: Well, the question directly to me -- you know, the word "enough" is a very, very unusual word because it really -- compared to what? Are we doing a lot? We are doing a lot. We're doing more than all the other countries of the world combined. That's really very important.

We have promised –- are giving 1.1-plus billion doses, 275 million of which have already been given to 110 countries.

One of the frustrating aspects of this is that the logistic capability of getting vaccines into people's arms in Southern African countries and in other low- and middle-income countries is really very difficult.

And in fact, many of the doses that have been shipped have not been used, and other African countries on the African continent have actually told us not to ship any more vaccine because they have not been able to adequately utilize it.

So, again, "enough" is a tough word. Are we doing a lot? We are doing an awful lot.

Back to you, Jeff.

MR. ZIENTS: You know, let me pick up there. We have sent the 275 million doses to the world. And, as Dr. Fauci said, that's more than all other countries in the world combined. And this includes 94 million to Africa, as a continent, and 13 million to Southern African countries.

I think the shots in arms piece that Dr. Fauci talked about – "the last mile," if you will -- is really important. And the U.S. State Department and USAID are leading the administration's effort to turn vaccines into vaccinations.

They've helped train health workers to administer vaccines around the world, run local media campaigns to answer questions and increase vaccine confidence, and launched mobile vaccination clinics -- the type that we have here -- in other countries.

Specifically, USAID has deployed nearly $1.6 billion to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to fight the pandemic, including more than $61 million to South Africa alone. And this involves field hospitals, training health workers, and supporting national campaigns to -- as I mentioned earlier -- national and local campaigns to build vaccine confidence and combat misinformation.

So, around the world, USAID is, you know, building data systems to track vaccine deployments. They're providing training to health workers and setting up vaccination sites. They'll continue this vital work. And it is increasingly important as there are greater and greater supply of vaccine around the world.

And I think, just overall, stepping back, the United States is doing just what the President said we would do, which is leading the effort to vaccinate the world, including helping with that last mile but also by supplying the 1.2 billion doses to the world with no strings attached. These are all donated.

And we'll continue to share more and more doses. We're going to continue to help scale manufacturing both here and in other countries. And we're going to do all we can to get the world vaccinated because we know we're not safe here until the world is vaccinated, and it's the right thing to do.

So, thank you for today's briefing. We look forward to briefing later in the week.

1:12 P.M. EST

To view the COVID Press Briefing slides, visit:

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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