CNN Medical Analyst: “Forget About the Travel Bans, Let’s Go Vaccinate the African People”

Dr. Peter Hotez reacted to the new emergence of the Omicron variant, telling CNN’s Jim Acosta that the solution was vaccinations, not travel bans.

The Omicron (B.1.1.529) SARS-CoV-2 variant was first designated by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern” (VOC) on Friday. The United States has restricted travel from South Africa and other neighboring countries where Omicron has been spreading.

Hotez, a professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told Acosta it was important to maintain perspective, that so far “we’ve not seen any evidence that Omicron produces more severe disease than any of the other variants,” and while some previous variants had been partially vaccine resistant, this new one was “unlikely to be totally resistant.”

There were ongoing tests going on right now, said Hotez, and he expected we would have an answer about how vaccine resistant Omicron might be within the next two weeks.

“But what about these travel restrictions?” asked Acosta. “Is this the best way to slow the spread, or is it time to start requiring vaccinations to fly, worldwide? Or to conduct, you know, mandatory testing when people fly in from another country? What do you think?”

“What we do know is travel bans have not been very effective this entire pandemic,” replied Hotez, bringing up the travel ban from China imposed by former President Donald Trump, which was unable to stop the virus from entering the U.S. from southern Europe.

“I think much more productive than travel bans would be refocusing our energies on trying to vaccinate southern Africa, because that’s how these new variants emerge,” he continued. “They emerge out of large unvaccinated populations. Alpha came out of the unvaccinated population in the UK in 2020. Delta, the unvaccinated population in India, 2021. Now Omicron, among unvaccinated population in Africa.”

“So if the G7 leaders are serious about stopping new variants,” Hotez concluded, “forget about the travel bans, let’s go vaccinate the African people.”

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