Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that allowing the coronavirus delta variant to circulate freely among unvaccinated individuals could lead to a more potent variant that could harm even vaccinated individuals.
The delta variant has already given rise to a small variant known as "delta plus" variant that has a spike protein mutation that may cause it to spread faster. So far, the variant has appeared in only a few cases in several countries, but the original delta variant rapidly spread through the United States and became the dominant strain after only a few months.
So far, health officials have argued, and studies have shown, that vaccinated individuals remain protected from serious illness, hospitalization and death due to current variants of COVID-19. Fauci cautioned, however, that unvaccinated individuals will allow the virus to circulate and continue to mutate, potentially giving rise to a variant that could harm even vaccinated individuals.
"There's a tenet that everybody knows in virology: a virus will not mutate unless you allow it to replicate," Fauci told NBC’s Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press." "Fortunately for us, the vaccines do quite well against delta, particularly in protecting you from severe disease, but if you give the virus the chance to continue to change, you're leading to a vulnerability that we might get a worse variant, and then that will impact not only the unvaccinated, that will impact the vaccinated because that variant could evade the protection of the vaccine."
Fauci has urged Americans to vaccinate as soon as they are able to in order to guard against the coronavirus, and he voiced his support for several measures to ensure the nation reaches the appropriate coverage.
Full authorization of the current vaccines may provide the much-needed confidence for Americans who have otherwise remained hesitant to finally get the vaccine.
"I've said it several times … that you're not going to see a federally from the federal government mandating vaccines for the country," Fauci said. "But I'm almost certain in fact, I am certain that as soon as the FDA fully approves the vaccines … I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it's within the month of August."
Fauci explained that authorization may also allow businesses, universities and other such private entities to mandate vaccines.
"The time has come is we've got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated," he added.