US top coronavirus adviser Dr Anthony Fauci on Wednesday (local time) said that COVID-19 cases may double as variant worse than Delta could be coming.
"If America's current COVID-19 surge continues unabated into the fall and winter, the country will likely face an even more deadly strain of the virus that could evade the current coronavirus vaccines, Fauci told McClatchy, reported Axios.
His comments underscore the importance of acting quickly to vaccinate the tens of millions of Americans who have not been inoculated against the virus.
The current surge in coronavirus cases nationwide is being driven by the Delta variant, which is already more contagious than the original strain of the virus.
Recent data shows that vaccinated people who still get infected with the delta variant also have high viral loads and can spread it to others, even when they aren't showing symptoms or are experiencing mild disease. "We're now dealing with, really, a different virus," said Fauci.
As the virus continues to spread due to insufficient vaccination rates, it is being given "ample" time to mutate into a more dangerous new variant in the fall and winter, Fauci said.
"[Q]uite frankly, we're very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants -- particularly against severe illness," Fauci said, emphasizing that this might not be the case with a new variant.
"If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble," he said.
"People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it's only about them. But it isn't. It's about everybody else, also."
Moreover, other variants are already cropping up. South Korea has reported two cases of highly transmissible delta plus variant of the coronavirus.
It is the first time that the country has reported the Delta Plus variant, considered a sublineage of the Delta variant, Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday citing the country's Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Some experts believe the Delta Plus variant could be more contagious than the Delta variant.
The Lambda variant, which originated from Peru last year, has already been detected in the US, reported Axios.