Story at a glance

  • A new, more contagious form of COVID-19 first seen in Europe has been recorded in the U.S.
  • Fauci says the approved vaccines are still providing protection.

The much-discussed new strain of COVID-19 — which is reportedly more contagious than the initial strain that swept the world in 2020 — has been detected in states like California and Colorado, leaving many Americans to wonder when it might emerge in their state and how the country will fight it.

Public health experts have largely agreed that the recently approved vaccines will be able to fight the mutated COVID-19 strain effectively, noting that viruses mutate constantly. 

Speaking on "Today" on Thursday, leading infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci says that it was “inevitable” for the new strain to arrive in the U.S. but notes that it doesn't seem to be worse than the original strain.


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“The good news is that it does not appear to be more virulent, namely, making people more sick and leading to more death,” he said. “The other thing that is important and a favorable thing, it does not seem to evade the protection that's afforded by vaccines that are currently being used.”

The Food and Drug Administration has granted Pfizer's and Moderna’s vaccines emergency use authorization, and roughly 2 million Americans have been vaccinated so far.

“This is the worst that we’ve had literally in 102 years,” Fauci said of the pandemic. “The good news is that science has and will come to the rescue. 

Other vaccine candidates from companies like Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are also hovering around emergency approval pending results from clinical trials. 

Between Pfizer's and Moderna’s vaccines, Fauci says that the new COVID-19 strain “does not seem to evade the protection that's afforded by vaccines that are currently being used.”

He emphasizes that a more contagious strain should reinforce the need for public health protocols while the vaccine is distributed. 

“This just underscores the need to continue to put our foot to the floor and the pedal, about making sure we do the public health measures that we talk about all the time,” he said. “The wearing of masks, the physical distancing, the avoiding crowds in congregant settings. Those are the things that will ... prevent this new strain from spreading even further.”


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Published on Dec 31, 2020