Fauci: UK Strain Could Be Worse Than Thought

British experts find a higher death toll in one age group
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2021 12:35 PM CST
Fauci: UK Strain Could Be Worse Than Thought
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks with reporters Thursday at the White House.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Recent data suggests the UK strain of the coronavirus is more deadly, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday. "We want to look at the data ourselves," Fauci said. Until that happens, he said, the US needs to "assume now that what has been circulating dominantly in the UK does have a certain increase in what we call virulence, namely the power of the virus to cause more damage, including death." Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert now working in the Biden administration, made the comments on CBS's Face the Nation. Fauci earlier had said the UK strain didn't seem to be any deadlier, the Hill reports, but he said that premise changed when British experts looked closer. They found in one age group that the death rate "was one per thousand… and then it went up to 1.3 per thousand in a certain group," Fauci said. "That’s a significant increase."

Fauci also addressed the US vaccination effort, saying President Biden's goal of giving 100 million doses in 100 days is "really a floor and not a ceiling." Fauci called it a reasonable target, per CBS, that's still going to be a challenge. Modeling by the Biden team projects that 100 million shots would translate to about 33 million people being fully immunized and 67 million at least partially immunized, per the Washington Post. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says almost 17.4 million Americans have received at least one shot so far. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines still appear to be effective against the UK strain, Fauci said Sunday, but the variant that seems to have started in South Africa concerns him. "It looks like it does diminish more so the efficacy of the vaccine," he said. "But we're still within that cushion level of the vaccines being efficacious against these mutants." (A higher vaccination goal would be better, health experts say.)

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