‘Widespread’ COVID-19 outbreaks are presenting opportunities for new variants to emerge: former CDC official

Former CDC acting director Dr. Richard Besser.
Former CDC acting director Dr. Richard Besser. NBC News/Today
  • COVID-19 outbreaks are creating opportunities for new variants to emerge, an ex-CDC official said.
  • “That’s what happened” with the Delta variant, Richard Besser said on NBC News’ “Today” show.
  • The Delta variant is now responsible for more than 80% of US coronavirus cases.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sweeping COVID-19 outbreaks are creating opportunities for new variants of the coronavirus to emerge, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said Monday.

“As long as there’s widespread transmission of the virus, there’s the opportunity for new variants to arise,” ex-CDC acting director Richard Besser said during an interview on NBC News “Today” show as he explained “that’s what happened” with the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Besser added, ​​”Thankfully, it is covered by the current vaccines, but there is no guarantee that the next variant that emerges, it won’t be one that the vaccines aren’t effective for.”

Coronavirus cases, fueled by the Delta variant have been surging in the US and across the globe, largely among those who are unvaccinated.

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Internal CDC document warns ‘the war has changed’ with the more infectious Delta variant

The Delta variant is now responsible for more than 80% of US coronavirus cases.

“We can’t give up on people who so far have not gotten vaccinated. We have to meet people where they are, address their concerns and help them roll up their sleeves to get that shot,” Besser said.

He noted, “Most of the transmission we’re seeing is from unvaccinated people.”

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said last week that the coronavirus could be “just a few mutations potentially away” from evolving into a variant that can evade existing COVID-19 vaccines.

And according to a recent CDC study, vaccinated folks may transmit the Delta variant just as easily as the unvaccinated, though the chances of a vaccinated person contracting the virus are low.