Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Biden’s pick for US surgeon general, said Thursday that he is deeply concerned by the emergence of new Covid-19 variants in the US.
“We're in a race against the variants right now,” Murthy said in an interview with the Washington Post. “The faster we're able to reduce overall rates of infection by taking the public health measures, like masking, distancing, the faster we're able to vaccinate people, the sooner we'll be able to turn this pandemic around.”
Murthy noted that variants first identified in Brazil, South Africa and the UK all appear to be more transmissible, but do not appear to evade all protection from vaccines.
He said the administration is now working with Pfizer and Moderna to develop a booster to address variants.
“We have got to do a much better job doing genomic surveillance here in the United States so we can detect these variants earlier,” he added. “We've got to invest much more in treatment, because treatment becomes extraordinarily important when you've got a virus that’s spreading this quickly.”
Murthy's comments come as South Carolina officials announced the first two confirmed cases in the US of a more contagious coronavirus strain first spotted in South Africa.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement it was aware of the cases, noting "we have no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease." The agency said it would continue working with labs around the country to genetically sequence samples of the virus.