(Bloomberg) -- There’s no reason to panic because of the omicron variant yet, but its spread reinforces the importance of getting a booster shot, Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, said Sunday.

Despite the rapid emergence of the omicron strain, first reported in South Africa last week, Collins said vaccines have worked against mutations before, and might do so again this time, he said on “Fox News Sunday.” 

“Given that history, we expect that most likely the current vaccines will be sufficient to provide protection, and especially the boosters will give that additional layer of protection,” he added.

The omicron strain has spread rapidly in southern Africa, and has now reached as far as Europe and Australia. On Saturday, Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the variant may well already have arrived in the U.S. 

The variant appears to be highly contagious, but it’s unknown how the symptoms compare with other strains of the virus, or whether current vaccines are less effective.

A new, targeted vaccine against omicron will take “at least three months or so to come into being,” he said, adding that this is “a great time” for Americans to get booster shots or initial vaccinations. “Omicron is one more reason to do this,” Collins said.

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