Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, makes an opening statement during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing to discuss the ongoing federal response to COVID-19 in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC , May 11, 2021.
Greg Nash | Swimming pool | Reuters
The new Covid-19 variant “must” is not an immediate threat to the USA, federal health authorities announced on Thursday.
“We are careful, we are taking all of this seriously, but we do not currently see it as an imminent threat,” said Dr. White House Chief Medical Officer Anthony Fauci at a press conference.
Mu – also known by scientists as B.1.621 – was added to the WHO’s list of “interesting” variants on Monday, the international health organization announced in its weekly epidemiological Covid report published late on Tuesday.
“This variant has a set of mutations that suggest it would evade certain antibodies, not just monoclonal antibodies, but vaccines and convalescent serum-induced antibodies,” said Fauci. “But there isn’t a lot of clinical data to suggest it is mostly in vitro laboratory data.”
Although Covid-19 vaccines were developed with the original Covid strain in mind, the vaccines are still very effective against the Delta strain.
“Remember, even if you have variants that reduce the effectiveness of vaccines a little, the vaccines are still very effective against variants this time,” Fauci said.
Delta was an interesting variant until the WHO reclassified it in early May after preliminary studies found it could spread more easily than other versions of the virus. This variant has since been blamed for a number of major outbreaks around the world, including in the United States.
The Delta variant is still the dominant variant in the US and covers more than 99% of the new infections in the country. The mu variant “is nowhere near dominant in the US,” said Fauci.
Mu was first identified in Colombia, but has since been confirmed in at least 39 countries, according to WHO. Although the global prevalence of the variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%, its prevalence in Colombia and Ecuador has risen steadily, the agency warned.
“We’re keeping a very close eye on it,” said Fauci.