Another variant first spotted in the U.K. appears to make the virus more transmissible, the scientist said, which could overload U.S. hospitals if it becomes widespread here. So far roughly 20 states have detected the U.K. variant.
Taken together, Fauci said, the new strains highlight the need to quash the disease with an effective vaccine program as soon as possible. He said there are “alternative plans” if the need to modify the vaccine ever came up.
“That is not something that is a very onerous thing,” Fauci said. “But right now, from the reports we have literally as of today, it appears that the vaccines will still be effective against them, with the caveat in mind you want to pay close attention to it.”
Fauci said he has not seen evidence the strain under watch in South Africa has made its way to the United States, but he admitted the “level of comprehensive sequence surveillance, thus far, is not at the level that we would have liked. So we’re going to be looking very, very carefully for it.”
Fauci’s comments come on the second day of the presidency of Joe Biden, who has signaled tackling the coronaviurs as his most pressing priority. Biden plans to vaccinate 100 million Americans within the first 100 days of his term — a plan Fauci said is a “reasonable goal.” Fauci also stood by his earlier predictions that a critical mass of the country could be vaccinated by the middle of the year.