Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a TV interview Thursday that is was “inevitable” that a new COVID-19 strain has appeared in Colorado and California — and predicted its spread in the US, though “it does not appear to be more virulent.”
“We predicted it would be, when you have so much of it in the UK, which then spread to other countries in Europe and Canada, it was inevitable that it would be here,” Fauci said on NBC News’ “Today.”
“You’ll be hearing reports from other states and more cases in the state that is already reported. Unfortunately, that’s just the reality of the way these viruses spread,” he continued.
“Our British colleagues have shown, clearly, that it is much more efficient in spreading from person to person,” Fauci said, adding that “the good news is that it does not appear to be more virulent, namely, making people more sick and leading to more death.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also noted that the mutation “does not seem to evade the protection that’s afforded by vaccines that are currently being used.”
He added: “But the fact that you have a virus that spreads more efficiently is something that’s important and needs to be taken seriously.
“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. The wearing of masks, the physical distancing, the avoiding crowds in congregant settings,” Fauci said.
Regarding the national vaccination plan, Fauci told host Craig Melvin that it was “disappointing” to have administered close to 3 million — not the 20 million doses as previously projected — by the end of 2020.
“Hopefully, as you get into the first couple of weeks in January, the gaining of momentum will get us to the point where we want to be,” he said.
“But there really has to be a lot more effort in the sense of resources for the locals, namely, the states, the cities, the counties, the places where the vaccine is actually going into the arms of individuals. You have to support the local groups, the states and the cities, to help them to get this task done, which is a very prodigious task,” he added.
The nation’s top infectious diseases doctor also revealed that changing the approach to administering the jab is “under consideration.”
“I still think, if done properly, you can do a single dose, reserve doses for the second dose, and still get the job [done] but there’s a lot of discussion about whether or not you want to spread out the initial vaccination, by getting more people vaccinated on the first round,” he said.
“One of the problems of doing that is if you don’t then get the second dose in time, you’re going to have a lag period. We know from the clinical trial that the optimal time is to give it on one day, and then, for Moderna 28 days later, and for Pfizer 21 days later,” Fauci continued.
“That’s what the data tells us is the best way to do it. So if you want to stick with the data, that’s the way you should do it. But you can make an argument, and some people are, about stretching out the doses by giving a single dose across the board, and hoping you’re going to get the second dose in time to give to individuals.”
On Wednesday, Fauci said he foresees the US achieving enough collective COVID-19 immunity through vaccinations to regain “some semblance of normality” by autumn 2021.
He made his remarks during an online discussion of the pandemic with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who announced that the new strain has been detected in his state.
“As we get into January, the feeling is that we’re going to gain momentum to be able to catch up,” Fauci said, adding that he expected immunizations to become widely available to the general public on demand by April.
Assuming that the inoculation campaign progresses as it should through May, June and July, “By the time we get to the early fall, we will have enough good herd immunity to be able to really get back to some strong semblance of normality — schools, theaters, sports events, restaurants,” Fauci said, according to Reuters.