Dr. Anthony Fauci said the delta variant that was first detected in India is the “greatest threat” to eliminating COVID-19 in the United States.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert made the comment during a press briefing held by the White House’s coronavirus response team on Tuesday.
“Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the delta variant,” Fauci added afterwards.
When explaining what we know about the delta variant, Fauci said it’s more transmissible and causes more severe illness than the original coronavirus or the alpha variant first identified in the U.K.
“The transmissibility is unquestionably greater than the wild-type SARS-CoV-2, as well as the alpha variant,” said Fauci. “It is associated with an increased disease severity, as reflected by hospitalization risk, compared to alpha. And in lab tests, associated with modest decreased neutralization by sera from previously infected and vaccinated individuals.”
However, he says the current vaccines have remained effective against the delta variant and other emerging strains of the virus.
“The effectiveness of the vaccines – in this case, two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech – was 88% effective against the delta and 93% effective against the alpha when you're dealing with symptomatic disease,” Fauci said.
Fauci also commented on the Biden administration not expecting to meet its goal of having 70% of U.S. adults vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4. While the goal will likely not be met, he said that figure is not the ultimate goal or endgame.
“The endgame is to go well beyond that, beyond July 4, into the summer and beyond, with the ultimate goal of crushing the outbreak completely in the United States,” said Fauci.
Along with the emerging variants, Fauci said under-vaccinated regions of the country are some of the main obstacles to emerging from the pandemic. He specifically pointed to young people who are not vaccinated, particularly those 18 to 26.
“There are 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, (that) have vaccinated greater than 70%; four U.S. states vaccinated less than 50. And so, between them, you have 30 states between 50 and more than 70%. And those are the individuals that we need to concentrate on,” said Fauci.
Fauci concluded his remarks by saying the U.S. has the tools to crush the coronavirus outbreak, so the nation should use them.
Watch the full briefing below: