Dr. Anthony Fauci led his first Coronavirus press conference for the Biden administration on Thursday, January 21. The country's foremost infectious disease expert expressed concerns regarding new emerging virus mutations and the vaccine efficacy.
Fauci said that the US may be seeing a "plateauing" of its Covid-19 cases, but the virus mutations were concerning. The fast-spreading UK variant, dubbed as B.1.1.7, has been in almost 20 states. The infectious disease expert confirmed that this variant is more transmissible.
According to Fauci, more transmissible means more COVID-19 cases, as well as more hospitalization and then "you are ultimately going to get more death".
"[But] What we likely will be seeing a diminution in the efficacy of the vaccine â more in South Africa than the UK," he added.
The Vaccines and New Variants
As director of the government's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has spent decades fighting the worst of the world's diseases. After Coronavirus hit the US, he joined the efforts to curb the spread of the disease in the country. He appeared several times during the initial White House briefing in 2020, before being banished by Trump for his grim assessments of the pandemic.
But he came back to the White House along with the new administration. On the first day, Fauci said: "The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know â what the evidence, what the science is â and know that's it, let the science speak. It is somewhat of a liberating feeling."
However, he talked about the South African variant, also known as 501.V2. According to his observation, this mutated version "is having an effect on monoclonal antibodies used to treat Covid-19". He added that in the face of the South African variant, "vaccine effectiveness is diminished but still effective".
Fauci explained that while less impactful, the vaccines may become 80 percent effective, instead of 95 percent. But still, the inoculation will provide much more protection than zero percent protection if no shot is taken.
However, the new administration under President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris has a plan-B if vaccine-resistant variant takes hold, said Fauci. He also told the media that the Biden would use every facility, including the Defense Production Act during such unprecedented circumstances. The president will exercise all appropriate authority to increase supplies of masks, vaccines and whatever is necessary, said Fauci.
What about CAL.20C?
Fauci did talk about two major variants, but he did not discuss anything regarding CAL.20C. This new Coronavirus variant was identified in California recently. According to a study, this variant may be contributing to the acceleration of the recent surge of cases across the southern part of the state.
The California Department of Public Health said that this lesser-known variant is thought to have arisen in the state in July 2020, but it only began spreading significantly in November. CAL.20C carries a mutation known as L452R, which might be less susceptible to current vaccines. However, the researchers are still not sure whether the variant is more deadly than other current forms of the Coronavirus.