Vice President Kamala Harris said in an interview last week that the Biden administration “didn’t see” the delta or omicron variants of COVID-19 coming, prompting one of her advisers to issue a damage-control statement.
“We didn’t see delta coming. I think most scientists did not — upon whose advice and direction we have relied — didn’t see delta coming,” Harris told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Friday.
“We didn’t see omicron coming. And that’s the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants,” she added.
The highly transmissible delta variant was the dominant strain of the virus over the summer. More recently, public health experts have warned of the omicron variant, which may be even more transmissible — while possibly causing less severe illness — than the delta strain.
Harris’ remarks appeared to suggest that the Biden administration didn’t consider the possibility of new COVID-19 variants mutating.
But as the Washington Examiner reported, “Despite what Harris said, scientists, including top advisers in the Biden administration, have been raising the alarm for months about the onset of a new, more dangerous variant as they pushed for increased vaccination rates.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci was one of those scientists.
“If we don’t crush the outbreak to the point of getting the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated, then what will happen is the virus will continue to smolder through the fall into the winter, giving it ample chance to get a variant which, quite frankly, we’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants — particularly against severe illness,” Fauci told the McClatchy news agency in August.
“We’re very fortunate that that’s the case. There could be a variant that’s lingering out there that can push aside delta.”
“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,” Fauci added. “People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them. But it isn’t. It’s about everybody else, also.”
An adviser to Harris issued a statement claiming the vice president was talking about “the exact kind of mutation,” not the general idea of COVID-19 variants themselves.
“The administration knew mutations were possible, it’s the reason we ordered extra tests, extra gear and extra PPE. It is the reason the President, vice president and our entire administration warned early and often that the best way to get on the other side of the pandemic is to get vaccinated. We were and continue to be prepared,” the statement added.