Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday said that the Biden administration expected COVID-19 to mutate but were unprepared for the “extent of mutations” found in the Omicron variant.
The White House chief medical advisor responded to comments last week from Vice President Kamala Harris, who said that scientists advising the administration did not see the Omicron or Delta variants “coming.”
“We certainly were anticipating that there were going to be variants because we have so many viruses, so much replication going on in the community,” Fauci told CNN anchor Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
“If you give a virus enough opportunity to replicate, you know, it’s going to ultimately mutate and sometimes those mutations wind up being a new variant and that’s exactly what happened with Delta and certainly that’s what happened with Omicron.”
But he said they were less prepared for the form that the new variants would take.
“What was not anticipated was the extent of the mutations and the amino acid substitutions in Omicron, which is really unprecedented. It kind of came out of nowhere,” Fauci said.
Fauci noted that Omicron has 50 mutations from the original coronavirus, mostly in the spike protein, the part of the virus that binds to cells.
“To me, that’s really quite unprecedented so that’s something you would not have anticipated,” Fauci said.
As the administration attempts to tackle the Omicron variant, Fauci said that rapid at-home COVID-19 tests will need to be more widely available.
“We really need to flood the system with testing. We need to have tests available for anyone who wants them particularly more in a situation right now when people are going to be gathering,” Fauci said.
“Even though they are vaccinated and boosted, they may want to go that extra step that extra mile.”