Highly contagious ‘super-Covid’ mutant strain will be ‘majority’ of US cases by March, ex-FDA head predicts

THE new highly-contagious strain of Covid will make up the "majority" of cases in the US by March, according to the former head of the FDA.

At least three states in the US – Colorado, California, and Florida – have already recorded cases of the new strain, originally detected in the UK.

Former FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb, who is also on the board at Pfizer, discussed the new strain of the virus and the lag in getting the recently-approved vaccinations rolled out in the US during an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation.

"Right now, there's some estimates that the new variant probably represents about one percent of all infections in the country," Gottlieb said on Sunday.

"By March, it's going to be the majority of new infections. It's going to grow quickly."

Gottlieb said that the approved vaccines are not being rolled out quickly enough to "create a backstop" against the new Covid variant, noting that Americans should still focus on controlling the pandemic.

"That means doing the things that we've been doing, mask wearing, social distancing, but it also means getting more people vaccinated quickly," Gottlieb said.

"I think that the existence of this new variant that spreads more readily really creates more urgency around trying to get this vaccine out more quickly and get more people vaccinated, even if it's a more general population."

After two vaccines – one from Pfizer/BioNtech and one from Moderna – were approved in December, the government had initially said it hoped to have 20million people vaccinated by the end of 2020.

But the rollout program has run into some issues, and only 4.2million people had received their first two doses of the vaccine as of Saturday, even though more than 13million doses have been sent out, according to the CDC.

Gottlieb suggested that health officials should move quickly through the phased approach to administering the vaccine, and start giving it to people in the general population over the age of 65 to combat the spread of the new Covid strain.

"If someone who is 70 years old or 65 years old wants to schedule an appointment at CVS to get a vaccination, they should be able to do that this month," he said.

"I think we should start working through the age brackets and just work our way down until we work off some of this supply.

"There's more vaccine coming on the market every day. We're going to have a significant backlog right now or warehouse inventory of vaccines, and that's tragic because these could be accomplishing an important public health purpose," Gottlieb added.

The first case of the super contagious variant of the virus in the US was detected in Colorado last week.

Health officials do not believe the strain to be more deadly, but it appears to be significantly more transmissible.

Health officials have also said that the approved vaccines appear to protect against the new Covid variant as well.

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