Fauci: Virus mutations are a 'wake-up call'

Fauci: Virus mutations are a 'wake-up call'
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The emergence of new coronavirus variants should be a "wake-up call" for the country, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Fauci says it's recommended to get same vaccine for COVID-19 boosters The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat MORE said Friday.

During a White House coronavirus briefing, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the different mutations have "clinical consequences" that will need to be addressed.

Recent studies from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax have shown some protection in their vaccines against variants, but the results are far weaker against the B.1.351 strain, which was first discovered in South Africa. 

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"This is a wake-up call to all of us," Fauci said. "We will continue to see the evolution of mutants so we ... will have to be nimble to be able to just adjust readily to make versions of the vaccine that actually are specifically directed towards whatever mutation is actually traveling at any given time."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskySunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters GOP leaders escalate battle against COVID-19 vaccine mandates Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds MORE said the country is working to quickly ramp up its genomic sequencing in order to better identify the differing variants.

However, she said the virus is so widespread that every new case should be treated as if it were a new variant.

"By the time someone has symptoms, gets a test, has a positive result, and we get the sequence, our opportunity for doing real case control and and and contact tracing is largely gone," Walensky said. "And so I think, and I believe that we should be treating every case as if it's a variant during this pandemic right now."

According to Fauci, the goal remains to quickly vaccinate as many people as possible.

"Mutations occur because the virus has a playing field, as it were, to mutate. If you stop that and stop the replication, viruses cannot mutate," Fauci said. "And that's the reason to continue to do what we're doing, namely intensify our ability and our implementation to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible."