Fauci says he fears a COVID variant worse than Delta could be coming

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If America's current COVID-19 surge continues unabated into the fall and winter, the country will likely face an even more deadly strain of the virus that could evade the current coronavirus vaccines, NIAID director Anthony Fauci told McClatchy Wednesday.

Why it matters: Fauci's comments underscore the importance of acting quickly to vaccinate the tens of millions of Americans who have not been inoculated against the virus.

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  • The current surge in coronavirus cases nationwide is being driven by the Delta variant, which is already more contagious than the original strain of the virus.

The big picture: As the virus continues to spread due to insufficient vaccination rates, it is being given "ample" time to mutate into a more dangerous new variant in the fall and winter, Fauci said.

  • "[Q]uite frankly, we’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants — particularly against severe illness," Fauci said, emphasizing that this might not be the case with a new variant.

  • “If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble,” he said.

  • “People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them. But it isn’t. It’s about everybody else, also.”

State of play: Other variants are already cropping up.

  • On Tuesday South Korea announced that it had detected two cases of the Delta Plus variant, one in a man who had recently returned from the U.S., Reuters reports. Some experts believe the Delta Plus variant could be more contagious than the Delta variant.

  • The Lambda variant, which originated from Peru last year, has already been detected in the U.S.

  • Recent studies indicated that Lambda could be more resistant to the current COVID-19 vaccines, according to Reuters.

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