Story at a glance
- Fauci said the high number of unvaccinated people in the U.S. could result in new mutations that could be worse than the highly transmissible delta variant.
- As the virus continues to spread, it is being given ample time to mutate into a more dangerous variant by fall and winter.
- Fauci said the U.S. could see up to 200,000 daily COVID-19 infections by the fall.
The nation’s top infectious diseases expert is warning new coronavirus variants capable of evading the protection of current COVID-19 vaccines could emerge if community spread of the delta strain isn’t brought under control.
Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with McClatchy Wednesday that the high number of unvaccinated people in the U.S. could result in new mutations that could be worse than the highly transmissible delta variant.
As the virus continues to spread, it is being given ample time to mutate into a more dangerous variant by fall and winter.
“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,” Fauci told the news outlet.
“If we don’t crush the outbreak to the point of getting the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated, then what will happen is the virus will continue to smolder through the fall into the winter, giving it ample chance to get a variant which, quite frankly, we’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants — particularly against severe illness,” he said.
Fauci said if another variant comes along that is as contagious as delta but also results in more severe disease, “we could really be in trouble.”
The chief White House medical adviser said the U.S. could see up to 200,000 daily COVID-19 infections by the fall, noting that the nation was tallying just about 10,000 cases a few months ago.
The prediction comes as the U.S. is experiencing a surge in cases driven by the delta variant. While evidence has suggested vaccinated people are more likely to spread the delta variant than earlier strains, vaccines have proven to remain powerfully effective against severe illness and death.
More than 58 percent of Americans eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines have been fully vaccinated, with 68 percent receiving at least one dose.
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