Dr. Fauci warns of possibility of new COVID-19 variant

During a discussion with USC Annenberg on Tuesday, the NIAID Director and White House medical advisor speculated about COVID’s future.

A photo of Dr. Anthony Fauci wearing a face mask

White House Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned of the possibility of a new COVID-19 variant which may render existing immunity less effective.

During an event hosted by the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism on Tuesday, Dr. Fauci said it would be, “a bit cavalier to…say we’re completely through with [COVID-19],” just weeks after President Joe Biden referred to the pandemic as “over.”

“We should anticipate that we very well may get another variant that would emerge that would elude the immune response that we’ve gotten,” Fauci said.

While Fauci did not say a new variant had been discovered, he emphasized the impact that a hypothetical new variant could have on the virus’ spread, similar to that of the Omicron variant in 2021.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Omicron variant represents over 81% of current COVID-19 cases in the United States. However, Omicron has demonstrated across multiple metrics — such as cases, deaths and hospitalizations — to be less deadly. A March 2022 Johns Hopkins University report stated that Omicron’s lower severity indicated that an “easing of the pandemic may be in sight.”

Still, Fauci warned of unknown challenges ahead and urged people to continue to get vaccinations. He noted that new booster shots specifically target the Omicron variant, which now has multiple “sub lineages.”

“Although we can feel good that we’re going in the right direction, we can’t let our guard down,” Fauci said. “We are entering into the winter months, where no matter what the respiratory disease is, there’s always a risk of an uptick.”