As the U.S. marks the two-year point of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci talked to ABC 10 News about what people can expect next for the virus, future vaccinations and boosters, and the BA.2 variant spreading across Europe. How can you stay safe? ‘If in fact we do see a turnaround and a resurgence, we have to be able to pivot and go back to any degree of mitigation that is commensurate with what the situation is,’ Fauci said in a CNN interview as well. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
The Pandemic Surprised Everyone
“I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted that we would still be in a situation where we still have hospitalizations and deaths at a level like as of yesterday, 1300 people died of COVID,” Dr. Fauci says. “A few months ago we had as many as 900,000 cases a day, with tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and 3 to 4000 deaths per day. Right now, fortunately, we’re coming very rapidly down in both cases and hospitalizations and deaths, but no one in their wildest dreams two years ago would’ve predicted that we have close to a million deaths, about 965,000 deaths, in this country alone. And you know six or, or more million deaths worldwide. That never would’ve been imagined, that we would have such a devastating impact of this virus.”
The BA.2 Variant Will Become Dominant
“The BA.2 is the subvariant of Omicron (the original Omicron that’s referred to as BA.1). BA.2 is a sub lineage,” Dr. Fauci says. “It has a transmission advantage over BA.1, namely it is more likely to transmit, which is the reason why we’re seeing the uptick in cases in the UK and in European countries that have pulled back a bit on their mitigation. In other words, they’re allowing much more mingling and indoor settings without masks. And there’s a degree of waning of immunity that you get either from vaccines or from prior infection. So we’re keeping an eye out on that in the United States. A few days ago, a week ago, we had about 11% of the isolates were BA.2. Now it’s about 25, 26% of BA.2. So we expected over the coming weeks. It likely will be more and more dominant over the BA.1.”
BA.2 Is Not More Dangerous Than Other Variants
“The somewhat encouraging news is that the BA.2 variant doesn’t appear to make the disease any more severe than BA.1, and it doesn’t seem to evade immune responses anymore than BA.1,” Dr. Fauci says. “The only issue is it’s a bit more transmissible, again, which accounts for the uptick in cases in Europe and the UK. I would expect that we might see an uptick in cases here in the United States, because only a week or so ago, the CDC came out with their modification of their metrics for what would be recommended for masking indoors. And much of the country right now is in that zone where masking indoors is not required, but we have to be careful that if we do see a surge as a result of that, we’re flexible enough to reinstitute the kinds of interventions that could be necessary to stop an additional surge. I hope that doesn’t happen, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
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A Fourth-Dose Booster Is On the Way
“Variant specific shots are being studied right now by the NIH and by a number of companies,” Dr. Fauci says. “Thus far, boosting with the original ancestral strain seems to do quite well in reconstituting the waning immunity. So even though we may not need a variant-specific boost, we are certainly developing one just in case. I don’t think there’s any doubt that sooner or later, particularly among the elderly, who have less of a robust immune response than a normal younger population, that they will need a boost of a fourth shot. In fact, the FDA is soon considering data from companies, particularly Pfizer, about the safety and the efficacy of a fourth dose boost. Right now, we know that after four or five months, the protection against hospitalization, and individuals who are given a third shot, diminishes somewhat. It’s holding pretty strong at around 78% efficacy against hospitalization. But if it goes any significantly lower than that, you certainly would consider the possibility of a fourth dose boost, particularly among elderly and those with underlying diseases.”
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Get Vaccinated and Boosted ASAP
“One of the most important tools that we have, that are highly effective, are vaccines. So for those who have not been vaccinated, please get vaccinated,” says Dr Fauci. “Because if you look at the hospitalization and deaths, comparing unvaccinated with vaccinated people, overwhelmingly it’s weighted towards the unvaccinated people. And if you are vaccinated and your time has come to get boosted, please get boosted. We only have about 50% of the people who are eligible to be boosted, who have gotten boosted. So if you want to doubly protect yourself in case you get infected from severe disease, it’s highly recommended that you get a booster.”
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How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.