Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the White House, warned Thursday that COVID-19 will continue to mutate to evade protection from vaccinations if more holdouts do not get the shots.
“That will happen … if we don’t get good control over the community spread, which is the reason why I and my colleagues keep saying and over again, it is very important to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” Fauci said on ABC News Thursday.
Coronaviruses mutate constantly to become better at infecting people, and getting a majority of the population vaccinated is the best way to impede the spread of new variants, Fauci said. Gaps in vaccinations give the virus more opportunity to infect more people, the argument that Biden administration officials have made recently as new cases spurred on by the delta variant have swelled in many parts of the United States.
“People who say, ‘I don’t want to get vaccinated because it’s me and I’ll worry about me, I’m not having any impact on anybody else,’ that’s just not the case,” Fauci said. “When people don’t get vaccinated, it allows the virus to circulate through the community … even if it doesn’t make a particular individual ill, they may be asymptomatic, that person is still a vehicle for the spread to other people.”
The delta variant has not yet proven to cause more severe illness than previous strains, but it has been shown to be much more infectious. Yale University epidemiologists found that the delta variant spreads 50% faster than the alpha variant, first discovered in the United Kingdom last fall, and the predominant variant spreading globally through most of the spring. Further mutation, aided by spread among unvaccinated populations, could end up challenging the efficacy of the three vaccines authorized in the U.S.
“As long as the virus continues to spread, you give it ample opportunity to mutate, and when you give it ample opportunity to mutate, you may sooner or later get another variant, and it is possible that that variant might be, in some respects, worse than the already very difficult variant we’re dealing with now,” Fauci said.
Fauci warned on Wednesday, too, that a more dangerous variant than delta is likely on the way, citing past mutations of the virus that have made it more transmissible. The U.S. could be in trouble this fall if more people do not get the shots, he told McClatchy on Wednesday.
“What we’re seeing, because of this increase in transmissibility, and because we have about 93 million people in this country who are eligible to get vaccinated who don’t get vaccinated — that you have a significant pool of vulnerable people,” he said.
Roughly 93 million people in the U.S. are eligible for the vaccine but have not gotten the shots, leaving a large portion of the population vulnerable to COVID-19 infection caused by the delta variant. Granting full approval to the vaccines, which federal regulators have so far only given emergency use authorization, would go a long way in convincing holdouts to get vaccinated, Fauci said.
To date, slightly more than 70% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, while about 60% have been fully vaccinated. Most of the world’s doses have been allocated to wealthy countries, though, leaving much of the global population without protection against the delta variant, as well as any future variants to emerge. The U.S. has donated roughly 110 million doses of vaccine to 60 countries, but around 11 billion doses will be needed to get 70% of the world’s population fully vaccinated, according to a report in Nature.
Author : Cassidy Morrison
Source : Washington Examiner : Fauci warns of vaccine-evading variant if COVID-19 spread stays high