Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Friday said that new mutations of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) are not likely to considerably decrease the effectiveness of vaccines but could lead to a faster spread of the virus.
In his first press briefing as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Fauci said that while new strains of the coronavirus originally discovered in Britain and South Africa do not on a “one-to-one basis” present a greater risk of illness or death, the variant found in Britain is about twice as transmissible as the original strain of the virus.
The British strain has been reported in 20 states and Fauci said “it does not appear” that the South African strain has yet emerged in the United States but warned the “level of comprehensive sequence surveillance thus far is not at the level that we would have liked.”
Fauci warned that the “phenomenon” of a more transmissible virus must be taken seriously as an increase in infections can result in a greater death toll.
“We shouldn’t be lulled into complacency about that because if you have a virus that is more transmissible, you’re going to get more cases. When you get more cases, you’re going to get more hospitalizations and when you get more hospitalizations, you’re ultimately going to get more deaths,” he said.
Fauci added that the strain discovered in South Africa and another present in Brazil have shown the ability to affect the monoclonal antibodies provided by vaccines to combat the virus.
“We can do that given the platforms we have, but right now given the reports we have literally as of today, it appears that the vaccines will still be effective against them with the caveat in mind that you want to pay close attention to it,” he said.
He said, however, that while these effects may somewhat suppress the vaccine it will likely remain “well above the line of not being effective” and that the United States has alternative plans in the event the vaccine must be modified. SOVEREIGNPH