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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - WASHINGTON — The COVID-19 variant first identified in the UK is spreading in the US and could become dominant as the country races to administer vaccines, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday.
"It seems to be very efficient in spreading from person to person," the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease said, adding that recent studies show that it could be more deadly and cause more severe illness.
Of the more than 26.6 million cases of coronavirus that have been recorded in the US according to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been at least 618 variant cases across 33 states so far, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The emergence of these virus mutations — first detected in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1), respectively — could mean another surge in cases, according to Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
The UK variant is already on track to becoming dominant in hotspots like Florida and Southern California "within a few weeks," according to a testing company called Helix that has helped identify the largest share of US cases.
The only way to prevent the variants from becoming dominant is to prevent them from spreading from person to person by following public health measures and getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, Fauci said.
Fauci tweeted on Thursday his hopes that data will support coronavirus vaccinations for older children by late spring or early summer.
And the US Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it plans to use the process for updating flu vaccines as a template for authorizing any changes to coronavirus shots to address the emergence of new variants.
"We have a possibility, and the capability, of trying to stop them from becoming dominant," Fauci said.
How quickly the variants spread versus the speed of vaccinations will be a key factor in the number of coronavirus deaths over the coming months, according to the latest forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Depending on the balance, up to another 190,000 people could die between now and June 1, bringing the death toll total from 455,733 on Thursday to more than 630,000.
New coronavirus vaccines added to the market could help speed up the inoculation process.
The biotechnology company Novavax announced on Thursday that the "rolling review" process for authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine is underway in multiple countries. — Courtesy CNN
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