The US will see surges in cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in areas where vaccination rates are low, Anthony Fauci has predicted.
The chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden was speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press in an interview to be broadcast in full on Sunday.
The Biden administration has trumpeted the success of its vaccination campaign, with 66.8% of US adults having received at least one dose by 1 July and 54.6% of all Americans having received one or more shot.
But amid strong opposition to vaccines in Republican-run states, an official target of 70% of adults having received at least one shot by the Fourth of July was expected to be missed. More than 605,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US.
The Delta variant is highly contagious and is now present in at least 98 countries. On Saturday, the director general of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that vaccine availability around the world was being “outpaced by variants”.
Asked if it was more lethal than other variants and if he was concerned it could cause a spike in cases as businesses and society reopen, Fauci told NBC: “I don’t think you’re going to be seeing anything nationwide, because fortunately we have a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated. So it’s going to be regional.”
Fauci, 80, is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He has served seven presidents since 1984 and came to increased prominence in the last year of the Trump administration, when he was frequently at odds with a mercurial president.
Two Washington Post reporters’ account of the Trump administration response to the pandemic – titled Nightmare Scenario – was published this week. It details attacks on Fauci from insiders including the economic advisers Stephen Moore and Peter Navarro, and threats from Trump supporters that led to Fauci being assigned official protection.
Speaking to NBC, Fauci said Americans could find the situation “confusing” as Delta cases rise.
“We’re going to see … almost two types of America,” he said.
“You know, those regions of America which are highly vaccinated and we have a low level of dynamics of infection.
“And in some places, some states, some cities, some areas, where the level of vaccination is low and the level of virus dissemination is high – that’s where you’re going to see the spikes.”
Biden addressed the danger of the Delta variant on Friday.
“I am concerned that people who have not gotten vaccinated have the capacity to catch the variant and spread the variant to other people who haven’t been vaccinated,” the president said.
“I’m not concerned there’s going to be a major outbreak … another epidemic nationwide. But I am concerned lives will be lost.”
Elsewhere, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, told Politico widespread resistance to vaccines among evangelical communities was “heartbreaking”.
“It’s heartbreaking that it’s come to this over something that is potentially lifesaving and yet has been so completely colored over by political views and conspiracies that it’s impossible to have a simple loving conversation with your flock,” said Collins, who is himself a devout Christian.
“That is a sad diagnosis of the illness that afflicts our country, and I’m not talking about Covid-19. I’m talking about polarisation, tribalism even within what should be the loving community of a Christian church.’”