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Anthony Fauci urged Americans Wednesday to get vaccinated to halt the spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 variant first discovered in India, which currently accounts for 6% of infections in the U.S.

Why it matters: The United Kingdom has seen an explosion in new cases as a result of the variant, which is now the dominant strain and may be associated with increased disease severity.

  • The U.K. reported 7,540 new cases on Wednesday, a surge that has largely been driven by virus spread among unvaccinated young people.
  • Evidence suggests the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly effective against the variant, a fact that Fauci cited to highlight the urgent need for more Americans to get vaccinated.

What he's saying: "We cannot declare victory prematurely because there is still a substantial portion of people who have not been vaccinated," Fauci said Wednesday on CNN.

  • "We don't want to let happen in the United States what is happening currently in the U.K., where you have a troublesome variant essentially taking over as the dominant variant," he continued.
  • "We have within our power to do that by getting people vaccinated, because we have very, very good vaccines."

The big picture: The pace of vaccinations is waning in the U.S. Last week, there was a 13% decrease in vaccinations as compared to the week before, according to the Washington Post.

  • In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering halting his plans to fully reopen society on June 21 as a result of the new surge, according to the Washington Post.
  • President Biden has also sounded alarm over the situation in the U.K. and urged young Americans to get vaccinated. "If you’re young and haven’t gotten your shot yet, it really is time. It’s the best way to protect yourself and those you love," Biden wrote in a tweet Tuesday afternoon.

Go deeper

13 hours ago - Health

Biden to get booster shot on camera

Photo: Saul Loeb/ AFP via Getty Images

President Biden will receive his COVID booster shot on camera once it's fully approved for Americans ages 65 and older, the White House said Monday.

Why it matters: A federal advisory panel unanimously voted last week to recommend that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) authorize a third dose of Pfizer's vaccine for people over the age of 65 and those at higher risk of infection.

14 hours ago - World

Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

President Biden will convene world leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to push them to do more to end the pandemic — though he's also facing criticism for prioritizing boosters at home.

Why it matters: There is still no functional plan in place to vaccinate the world, and past summits of this sort have flopped. The White House hopes that this virtual gathering will produce ambitious promises, accountability measures to track progress, and ultimately help achieve a 70% global vaccination rate this time next year.

D.C. schools to require teachers, staff to receive COVID vaccine without testing option

Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced Monday that all teachers, school personnel and early child care workers must get vaccinated against the coronavirus by Nov. 1 with no option to opt out with weekly testing.

Why it matters: A majority of the D.C. city council urged Bowser to eliminate the weekly testing option for public school teachers and day care professionals, WashPost noted. Bowser's new mandate extended the vaccine requirement without a testing option to all D.C. public schools, charter schools, private schools and child care facilities.