Fauci says vaccinations will help stop the coronavirus from mutating

Speaking at the White House COVID-19 response team briefing Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said getting the public vaccinated will help stop the virus from mutating. He also said the virus will continue to mutate as long as there are a high number of cases in communities.

Video Transcript

ANTHONY FAUCI: Even though the long-range effect in the sense of severe disease is still handled reasonably well by the vaccines, this is a wake-up call to all of us that we will be dealing, as the virus uses its devices to evade pressure, particularly immunological pressure, that we will continue to see the evolution of mutants. So that means that we as a government, the companies, all of us that are in this together, will have to be nimble to be able to adjust readily to make versions of the vaccine that actually are specifically directed towards whatever mutation is actually prevalent at any given time.

And finally, this all tells us that it is an incentive to do what we've been saying all along-- to vaccinate as many people as we can, as quickly as we possibly can. Because mutations occur because the virus has a playing field, as it were, to mutate. If you stop that and stop the replication, viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate. And that's the reason to continue to do what we're doing, namely, intensify our ability and our implementation of to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. So now I'll hand it back to Andy Slavitt. Andy?

- I wanted to ask about the-- two-thirds of cases in Los Angeles County, it's been reported, came out in the last two months, have been reported in the last two months. One study said that the factor was this recent coronavirus surge of a new variant-- CAL.20C. What more do we know about the LA variant, and what does that tell us about other big cities? Should we expect maybe a New York, a New Orleans variant? What is LA teaching us about what our big cities might be experiencing?

ANDY SLAVITT: Thank you. Dr. Fauci, do you want to take that one?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yeah, sure. Well, what it tells us is what I alluded to in one of my prior comments, that when you have a significant amount-- and we certainly have that now and have had that very much so over the past couple of months with the very steep slope of acceleration of cases that we've seen-- is that the virus will continue to mutate and will mutate for its own selective advantage. So if you have a lot of cases in Los Angeles and you have this mutant that you referred to, you can be almost certain that as long as there's a lot of virus circulating in the community, there will be the evolution of mutants, because that's what viruses do-- particularly RNA viruses, and that's what I was referring to just a moment ago. You're giving the virus an opportunity to adapt.

So when people make an immune response against it-- particularly in someone like that might be immunosuppressed where the virus stays in that person for a longer period of time-- it gives the virus the chance to adapt to the forces, in this case the immune response that's trying to get rid of it, and that's where you get mutations. So if the question you were asking, which is very relevant, is that what do we think is happening in other cities, I think what the underlying issues that are going on in California and Los Angeles very likely are taking place throughout the country, which is one of the reasons why, as Dr. Walensky has said, that we are really ratcheting up our genomic surveillance capability, and our ability to get that information in real-time.