Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, says that the U.S. is “in for a tough ride” as new Covid variants spread across the country.
“Because they’re more transmissible, it means more Americans will become infected, so even though we’ve had a slight decrease in the number of new cases … the expectation now, it’s going to go back up because of these new variants,” said Hotez in a Thursday evening interview on “The News with Shepard Smith.” “More people are going to get infected, start overwhelming hospital systems again, and possibly the death rate will start to go up, both from a combination of more new cases in general and also they may have slightly higher mortality rates just from the variant just by the nature of the variant.”
Health officials in South Carolina confirmed two cases of the dangerous, highly transmissible South African strain of Covid. The officials said the cases do not appear to be connected and are not linked to any recent travel. Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a member of President Joe Biden‘s Covid Advisory Board, said that’s why the South African strain is so concerning.
“This is worrisome because these two individuals have no evidence of travel, and so it does mean that the variant from South Africa, which is more worrisome than even the British variant, is about and in the community,” said Emanuel.
Hotez told host Shep Smith that the new strains are even more problematic because “we haven’t been looking.”
“We’ve been so profoundly underperforming in genomic sequencing, which is how we pick up these U.K, South African, Brazilian variants, so we know they’re in South Carolina, but they could be elsewhere,” said the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the U.K. variant, also known as B117, could be dominant in the U.S. by the spring. Hotez said that the key to protecting the population was vaccinating people at a quicker rate.
“The bottom line is we’re going to have to find a way to vaccinate the American people faster than the current projections,” said Hotez. “One, in order to reduce hospitalization and death, but also to get ahead of these variants. If we can vaccinate three-quarters of the American population, we could potentially interrupt transmission and prevent some of these new variants from becoming dominant.”