Another COVID-19 variant could emerge this winter, Fauci says
NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that "we should not be surprised" if a new COVID-19 variant emerges this winter.
Driving the news: "We should anticipate that we very well may get another variant that would emerge that would elude the immune response that we've gotten from infection and/or from vaccination," Fauci said during an event with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.
- Fauci said we're currently moving "in the right direction,"
But, but, but: "We are entering into the winter months, where no matter what the respiratory disease is, there's always a risk of an uptick."
- Last winter, the Omicron variant led to a surge in COVID-19 cases as public health officials urged people to get vaccinated or get booster shots.
- Since then, there have been multiple Omicron sub-lineages, Fauci added.
- An updated Omicron-specific booster, called bivalent, has been recommended for certain age groups in the U.S.
What he's saying: Fauci, who has been Biden's chief medical adviser and is retiring from government service later this year, was cautious when asked if he thinks an end of the pandemic is in sight.
- "I think it would be a bit cavalier to all of a sudden say we're completely through with it," he said.
- He acknowledged that there has been a decrease in COVID-19 related deaths in recent months but said it's still not at a level he's comfortable with.
- President Biden in recent weeks clarified remarks that the pandemic was over, acknowledging he was criticized for the remarks but saying the pandemic "basically is not where it was."
The big picture: COVID-19 cases have been trending downward in recent months. But winter will push more people inside.
- COVID has killed more than 6.5 million people and infected more than 619 million worldwide, per Johns Hopkins University's online tracker.
Meanwhile, scientists have been tracking three new sub-variants in recent weeks.