COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
President Joe Biden sought to reassure Americans on Monday as more cases of the new coronavirus variant known as omicron popped up around the world.
Biden, in remarks from the White House, stressed that Americans should use caution regarding the new variant, which has not been detected in the United States, but not panic.
And he promised to fight the new variant by encouraging wider vaccination against the coronavirus instead of lockdowns and more restrictive measures.
However, Kamal Singh a molecular biologist for Molecular Interactions Core at MU said, "Having this many mutations... I'm not sure how effective the vaccination will be"
Experts say there are just too many mutations in the new variant to tell if people vaccinated will be protected against Omicron.
"I can see how well vaccines protect and how they may not protect. I won't be surprised if there is another surge of infections", Singh said.
Initial data from Africa shows people in their 20's and 30's coming in with moderate to severe symptoms.
MU says 35 percent of its students have voluntarily reported they are vaccinated.
Issac Rhode an MU student says it's disappointing another variant is threatening the community.
"You think it's gone and then all of a sudden it's back... something else is back", Rhode said.
Another student at MU Payton Blanchard, says he's worried that if there is a variant surge in the US we'll lose the sense of normalcy people slowly regained.
"It's like my high school senior year was definitely messed up because of COVID and like even now there's a lot of stuff that I want to do that I can't really do because of COVID like concerts. So like I hope that people take this more seriously now than they did COVID in the beginning. So we don't end up in the same situation". Blanchard said.
According to the World Health Organization, evidence suggests there may be a higher risk of reinfection with the omicron variant, meaning people who've previously had COVID-19 be reinfected by omicron.
Scientists are still trying to find out if vaccines will stop the omicron variant. However, the U.S. and other health officials have stressed that vaccination is still the best protection against coronavirus.
Missouri vaccination rates lag behind the rates for the country as a whole. About 60% of people in Boone County have initiated a vaccination and 53.1% completed vaccination, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Nearly 6.5 million first and second doses have been administered in Missouri and more than 600,000 people have received a booster shot.
The World Health Organization warned people on Monday that the omicron variant risks were very high. Researchers in South Africa identified the variant last week, sparking travel restrictions in Europe and the U.S. Scotland and Portugal have identified the new variant and Japan, Morocco and Israel have banned all foreign travelers.
The World Health Organization is urging nations to increase surveillance testing and vaccinations.
Check back and watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6 for more on this developing story.