Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that the country could gain control over the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19 by the spring if an “overwhelming majority” of unvaccinated people get inoculated, but he warned another strain of the virus could appear if high rates of infection persist.
“This is a very wily virus,” Fauci said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “If we keep lingering without getting those people vaccinated that should be vaccinated, this thing could linger on, leading to the development of another variant, which could complicate things.“
The infectious diseases expert added that if the U.S. can get through the winter, he’s hopeful that the country “could start to get some good control in the spring of 2022.”
“We could start getting back to a degree of normality,” Fauci said, then added: “There’s no guarantee, because it’s up to us.”
Fauci made the comments soon after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the virus, a key milestone in the U.S. effort to end the pandemic and beat back ongoing hesitance among millions of Americans.
Though more than 71% of Americans ages 12 and over have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Biden administration has struggled to reach about 90 million eligible Americans who have yet to get vaccinated. Several factors, however, may be contributing to a resurgence in vaccinations: fear of the delta variant, which has upended reopening plans nationwide, and a slew of new vaccine mandates for workers in some states and by the federal government.
The delta variant has caused soaring rates of infections nationwide, particularly in regions with lower vaccination rates. Hospitals across the South and in some other states, such as Washington and Hawaii, have reported running out of intensive care beds to treat severely ill coronavirus patients, and public health officials have called this phase of the virus a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Fauci told PBS’s Judy Woodruff on Monday that the FDA’s full authorization could help convince many unvaccinated Americans to now get the Pfizer vaccine after they had hesitated over the agency’s emergency use authorization. It should also help allow governments, businesses and schools to mandate vaccination.
“The FDA … has meticulously gone over every single bit of data, from the standpoint of the effectiveness of the vaccine, the safety of the vaccine and also things that the public doesn’t appreciate, namely, the inspection of the facilities that manufacture the vaccine to make sure that there’s consistency in the production of it,” the doctor said. “I hope that this is going to get those [not yet inoculated] to wind up deciding that now they feel comfortable with getting vaccinated.”