European Union leaders said Wednesday they are considering a number of public health options, including vaccine mandates, to address the growing threat posed by the omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said little is currently known about the variant, but enough is known to be concerned. She said they expect scientists to have a handle on the nature of the variant in about two to three weeks, but in the meantime are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen rings the bell at the beginning of the College of Commissioners in Brussels, Dec 1, 2021.
Von der Leyen said the best use of that time is to get more people vaccinated, and those who are inoculated should get booster shots. She said more than one-third of the European population - 150 million people - are not vaccinated.
The European Commission president said that while not everyone can be vaccinated, the majority of people can.
'This needs discussion. This needs a common approach, but it is a discussion that I think has to be had,' she said.
Von der Leyen said Pfizer-BioNTech has indicated it can accelerate the production and distribution of its children's vaccine, which will be available to European children beginning December 13.
She also said Pfizer and Moderna are set to deliver 360 million more doses of their vaccines by the end of March 2022, and that boosters are available to those who received their initial shots.
The commission also urged EU members to commit to a day-by-day review of travel restrictions and a readiness to impose all necessary controls, including decisive action, if clusters of the omicron variant are found.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.