Fauci: COVID-19 vaccines effective against Indian variant

The coronavirus vaccines authorized in the U.S. are effective at combating the strain that is currently ravaging India, top infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration 'Highest priority' is to vaccinate the unvaccinated, Fauci says Sunday shows - Boosters in the spotlight MORE said Tuesday.

Public health experts think the B.1.617 variant is likely leading to the massive spike in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in India. 

That strain has also been linked to increased cases throughout parts of Europe, and the World Health Organization recently reclassified it as a “variant of concern” — an indication that the variant has the “highest public health implications.”

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During a White House briefing Tuesday, Fauci said initial studies indicated the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are "at least partially and probably quite protective" against serious illness, hospitalization and death, "indicating another very strong reason why we should be getting vaccinated."

Overall, the White House said all numbers in the U.S. are trending in the right direction as more people get vaccinated.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 17,724 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest daily case numbers since June.

CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyFDA panel endorses COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, rejects widespread use Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows MORE said 60 percent of people age 18 and older have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. In addition, more than 4.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 years old have received their first dose since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for that age group last week.

"Cases have continued to decrease, and have not been this low since spring of last year. Hospital admissions are down, deaths are down, and we are vaccinating between 1.5 million and 2 million people per day," Walensky said.

"The past week has been a big week, with progress and milestones that set us on a path out of this pandemic. We should all have cautious optimism," Walensky added.