Fauci Warns Of ‘Ominous’ New Covid-19 Strains, Says Biden Can Achieve Aggressive Goal Of Vaccinating 100 Million In 100 Days

Topline

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed confidence in President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office and added that the aggressive vaccination effort is one of the “easiest ways” to avoid the negative effects of new, more contagious strains of the virus that are emerging in the United States and across the world. 

Key Facts

In a Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Fauci described Biden’s ambitious vaccination plan as “absolutely a doable thing.”

Biden’s team said last week they have built a national vaccination plan from scratch because the Trump administration has left “no plans to get needles in arms.”

As part of a $1.9 trillion health and economic rescue package, Biden plans to ask Congress for some $400 billion to fight the virus, including $20 billion for a national vaccination plan and $50 billion to expand testing. 

Key Background

Last week, the World Health Organization warned that the new variants of the Covid-19 virus that have been detected in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, South Africa and Nigeria, among other countries, are “highly problematic” because they are more contagious (though not necessarily more deadly). They are expected to cause surges in cases that could overwhelm health workers and hospitals that are already stretched beyond capacity. 

What We Don’t Know 

Fauci said that scientists are studying new mutant strains of Covid-19 “very carefully,” including an especially “ominous” variant that has been detected in South Africa and Brazil. The infectious disease specialists added that if those mutations of the virus have an impact on the effectiveness of vaccines, “we’re going to have to make some modifications.” Fauci said the new variants point to the need to double down on public health prevention measures like mask-wearing and social distancing as well as implement a speedy vaccination campaign. 

Crucial Quote

“The easiest way to evade this negative effect of these new isolates is to just when the vaccine becomes available, people should get vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If we can get … the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, we’d be in very good shape and could beat even the mutant.” 

Not-So Big Number

88. That’s how many Covid-19 cases caused by new variants of the coronavirus have been detected so far in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because the U.S. sequences such a small portion of virus samples compared to the U.K. (where a more infectious strain of Covid-19 was first detected that’s now been found in countries including the U.S.), this number could actually be much higher, as Vox reported in December. 

Further Reading

Rate Of Black Americans Getting Vaccinated Significantly Lower Than Rate Among Whites (Forbes)

WHO Warns Of ‘Highly Problematic’ New Covid-19 Variants, Says Hospitals And Essential Health Services At Risk (Forbes)

U.S. Has No Covid-19 Vaccine Reserve Despite Trump Administration’s Claims, Report Says (Forbes)

Ahead Of Release Of Covid Plan, Biden Team Says It’s Building On Shakier Foundation From Trump Than It Had Imagined (Forbes)

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