Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president, was asked about the strain at a White House briefing on COVID-19 after it was added to the World Health Organization‘s ‘variant of interest’ list on Monday.
The Mu variant, also known as B.1.621, ‘has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,’ according to the weekly pandemic bulletin published by the WHO.
‘Yes, we certainly are aware of the Mu variant. We’re keeping a very close eye on it,’ Fauci said on Thursday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday that the United States is ‘keeping a very close eye’ on the Mu variant of COVID-19 but it is ‘not an immediate threat’
He added that the Mu variant is ‘not at all even close to being dominant’ as the Delta variant maintains its 99% dominance among coronavirus infections.
‘Even though it has not – in essence – taken hold to any extent here, we always pay attention to – at all times – variants,’ Fauci said.
‘This variant has a constellation of mutations that suggest that it would evade certain antibodies, not only monoclonal antibodies, but vaccine and convalescent serum- induced antibodies,’ Fauci said.
‘But there isn’t a lot of clinical data to suggest that. It is mostly laboratory, in-vitro data. Not to downplay it, we take it very seriously.’
Fauci added that vaccines are still ‘quite effective’ against COVID-19 variants.
‘Bottom line, we’re paying attention to it, we take everything like that seriously – but we don’t consider it an immediate threat right now,’ Fauci said.
During the press briefing, Fauci also said it is ‘likely’ that Americans will need to get a third dose of vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fauci said a final determination would be made by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. is preparing for boosters for all Americans who received the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna between five and eight months after their second dose, pending approval by the FDA.
A map shows the total number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the United States since the start of the pandemic
A graph shows the number of coronavirus deaths in the United States each day since the start of the pandemic
A graph shows the number of coronavirus deaths in the United States each day in August and September
A graph shows the number of coronavirus infections in the United States each day since the start of the pandemic
A graph shows the number of coronavirus infections in the United States each day in August and September
A map shows the percentage of people in each state that have been vaccinated so far
The U.S. is still studying whether a booster dose of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be needed.
A formal determination of the third dose for ‘full vaccination’ would have broad implications for schools, businesses and other entities with vaccine mandates put in place amid surges in COVID-19 numbers caused by the Delta variant.
Impacts from the newly defined Mu variant could further impact the necessity for booster shots and mandates to get them.
The Mu variant was first identified in Colombia in January 2021, and has since spread to 39 countries across the world with at least 4,500 cases tied to the variant as of August 29, according to the WHO.
The WHO noted that the prevalence of Mu variant cases has increased in Colombia to 39% and in Ecuador to 13%.
There were just under 4.4 million new cases of COVID-19 reported and just over 67,000 new deaths reported worldwide for the week of August 23 to August 29, according to the WHO.
The number of total cases globally since the start of the pandemic has reached 216 million and the total number of deaths sits just under 4.5 million.