The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday recommended that all adults get a COVID-19 booster shot following the emergence of the new omicron variant.
Previously, the CDC advised people over 50 or living in a long-term care facility "should" get a booster, while all other adults "may" get boosters at least six months after their previous shots. Now all adults should get a booster, the CDC said.
While South Africa first altered global health authorities to the omicron variant last week, Dutch health officials said Tuesday they have found two omicron cases from before the alarm was raised, indicating omicron was already spreading in parts of Europe.
Samples dated from Nov. 19 and Nov. 23 in the Netherlands were omicron variants, the country's health officials said. South Africa reported the variant to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24.
France and Japan also reported their first cases of the variant Tuesday. The United States has not yet reported a case, but President Joe Biden on Monday called omicron, "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."
He said he would release a plan Thursday on how his administration planned to combat COVID-19 this winter with vaccines, boosters and testing rather than lockdowns.
It remains unclear exactly how transmissible or severe an omicron infection is, but WHO said preliminary evidence raises the possibility the variant has mutations that could help it both evade an immune-system response and make it more transmissible. Many of the reported infections, however, were in college-aged people who tended to have milder cases, WHO said.
Also in the news:
► A Food and Drug Administration panel will meet Tuesday to discuss whether it will recommend use of Merck's antiviral COVID-19 pill. An FDA analysis released last week found the pill was effective against the virus but identified several potential risks, including possible toxicity and birth defects.
► China plans to donate 600 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, Chinese President Xi Jinping said. Another 400 million doses will also be supplied through other means, including from Chinese companies operating in Africa
►The omicron variant will "bring some challenges in terms of prevention and control" for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Tuesday. But he said he was confident the games will be held.
► Greece announced Tuesday it would mandate vaccination for all people 60 and older. Unvaccinated people will face a monthly 100 euro fine.
► A judge blocked the federal government on Monday from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for some health care workers in ten states.
► Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to ask the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its booster shot for 16- and 17-year-olds in the next few days, The Washington Post reported.
????Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 778,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 262 million cases and 5.2 million deaths. Nearly 196 million Americans - roughly 59.3% of the population - are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
????What we're reading: How serious is omicron? Is it more transmissible than delta? It will take weeks to understand COVID-19 variant.