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Fauci: Preparations underway for vaccine upgrade to deal with mutations

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, listens during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 Capitol Hill on September 23, 2020, in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, listens during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 Capitol Hill on September 23, 2020, in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

Dr. Anthony Fauci says scientists are already preparing to upgrade COVID-19 vaccines to address the variants of the coronavirus originating in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, says those variants are not only more infectious but they do not respond as well to the monoclonal antibodies that have been used in treating patients. He says he is especially concerned about the South African variant, which he describes as “different and more ominous than the one in the UK.”

”The data has not come out officially, but taking a look at the preliminary data that the UK scientists have analyzed, I’m pretty convinced that there is a degree of increase in the seriousness of the actual infection, which we really have to keep an eye on,” Fauci tells NBC’s “Today.”

Fauci says there is also “a very slight, modest diminution” of the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against those variants but “there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective against both the UK strain and the South Africa strain.”

“We really need to make sure that we begin, and we already have, to prepare if it’s necessary to upgrade the vaccines,” Fauci says. “We’re already taking steps in that direction despite the fact that the vaccines we have now do work.”

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