Fauci downplays concerns over COVID-19 variants, but claims variant vaccines in development

Fauci also advised that high school students can resume in-person by fall

Dr. Anthony Fauci downplayed the dangers of coronavirus variants, even as health officials prepare for the possibility that those variants become the dominant strain in the United States.

Multiple new strains of the coronavirus have appeared over the past few months, with the South Africa variant most notable among them.

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The British variant, B.1.1.7, has shown greater transmissibility, but the South Africa variant has shown to cut the efficacy of current vaccines.

"Fortunately, that's not dominant at all in this country," Fauci told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace. "However, the fact is that it does not protect, the vaccines do not protect as well against the acquisition of clinically apparent disease with the South African."

Fauci advised that some models project the British variant to be dominant by the end of March, but the current vaccines are still as effective against that particular variant.

"If, in fact, this does become more dominant, we may have to get a version of the vaccine that is directed against the South African isolate," Fauci added. "And, in fact, we are already doing preliminary and early experiments to develop such a variant of the vaccine to address that particular mutation."

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The new variants pose a potential challenge as the debate over reopening schools continues. The CDC continues to say that teachers should be a priority for receiving vaccines, but that teachers do not need to be vaccinated to return to in-person teaching.

"We’re doing what we can to protect the safety of the students and the teachers, but it’s not a requirement," Fauci said on the subject.

One of the main targets will be to vaccinate high school students, with vaccines approved for Americans ages 16 and older. Almost half of the high school student population are potentially as vulnerable to infection as adults.

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Fauci advised that the plan is for high school students to receive the vaccine later this year so they can resume full in-person teaching.

"That will likely occur in the fall," Fauci said.