The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday the COVID-19 variant first isolated in the United Kingdom, and which is now in the United States, is more deadly even though current vaccinations provide protection against it.
In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed the U.K. variant B117’s virulence, which a study reportedly found is 30-70% more deadly.
“The U.K. has studied it. They find out that it transmits more efficiently from person to person, which really accounted for the big surge that they had in the U.K.,” Fauci said. “But recent studies also indicate that it is also a bit more deadly … It makes people more sick and it’s more likely to lead to serious complications.
“The somewhat comforting news is that vaccine that we are now currently distributing, the Moderna vaccine and Pfizer vaccine, clearly work against the variant,” he said.
Fauci said a variant in South Africa appears to be more resistant to vaccine.
“The data that we got from South Africa is really quite sobering,” he said. “The South African isolate [B351] … is more problematic than the U.K. one in the sense that we know less about it, vis-a-vis whether it transmits more readily or not.
“But we do know that it evades the protection from some of the monoclonal antibodies, and it diminishes somewhat the capability and the effectiveness of the vaccine to block it.
“In South Africa, there were people who got infected with the original virus, recovered, and then got reinfected with this … South African variant — which tells us that prior infection does not protect you against reinfection, at least with this particular variant,” Fauci added.
“Somewhat good news is it looks like the vaccine is better than natural infection in preventing you from getting reinfected with the South Africa isolate,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines urging people to wear two cloth masks or medical-grade masks, when available, to limit the chance of spreading or contracting the various forms of the virus in circulation.
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