Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday said that the new Mu variant of COVID-19 is not considered to be “an immediate threat” to the US.
Federal officials are “keeping a very close eye” on the virus mutation, though its “not at all even close to being dominant” in the US, the White House chief medical advisor said.
“Bottom line, we’re paying attention to it. We take everything like that seriously, but we don’t consider it an immediate threat right now,” Fauci said during a White House COVID-19 briefing.
Also known as B.1.621, the strain was added to the World Health Organization’s “variant of interest” list on Monday. Preliminary data shows it may evade certain antibodies, meaning vaccines would be less effective against it, but experts said more research on the strain is necessary.
Since first emerging in Colombia in January, the variant has popped up in at least 39 countries, including in the US.
But Fauci said Mu has not yet “taken hold” in the country, where the Delta variant is dominant by far, accounting for about 99 percent of new cases.
The 7-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases was nearly 150,000 per day, while hospitalizations were at 12,000 and deaths at 953, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The CDC head also announced the agency would publish two new studies on Friday about COVID-19 in children, showing that kids who live in communities with high vaccination rates had lower chances of becoming hospitalized with COVID-19.
The findings previewed by Walensky also showed that the rate at which kids were hospitalized with COVID-19 was nearly four times higher in states that had the lowest overall vaccination rates.
“These studies demonstrated that there was not increased disease severity in children. Instead, more children have COVID-19 because there is more disease in the community,” she said.
At least 175 million Americans are now fully vaccinated against the virus, up 10 million from a month ago, officials said at the briefing.
The US saw an uptick in inoculations following the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration last month, but the increase could also be due to other factors, including fear of the Delta variant.
Fauci also told reporters its “likely” that Americans will eventually need to get a third dose of the vaccine to be considered fully inoculated, though a final determination would be made by the FDA and the CDC.
He discussed data from studies conducted on Israel’s booster shot rollout which showed the risk of COVID-19 infection was lower in people who had received a third dose of the vaccine.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said the federal government will bring the “same intensity” to encouraging Americans to get booster shots as it did for the initial vaccination campaign.
Zients also announced the US would invest another $3 million to expand production of “critical supplies,” including vaccines in US companies.
The US has committed to donating 600 million doses of the shot to other nations, Zients said, “far and away the largest contribution made by any country.”
“We can protect the American people, and contribute to the world as we are leading the world in vaccine doses donated,” he told reporters.
With Post wires