Fauci disputes VP Harris: 'We definitely saw variants coming' on COVID-19

"I think most scientists did not – upon whose advice and direction we have relied – didn't see Delta coming. We didn't see Omicron coming," Harris claimed.
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Fauci Biden
President Biden, Dr. Fauci, White House, Washington, D.C., November 28, 2021
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The nation's infectious disease chief is taking issue with comments that Vice President Kamala Harris made suggesting that the Biden administration did not expect the most recent rounds of coronavirus variants. Government officials "definitely saw variants coming," Dr. Anthony Fauci declared.

The dispute began after Harris gave an interview published Friday in the Los Angeles Times.

"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. 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," Harris told the newspaper.

Over the weekend, CNN's Jake Tapper pressed NIAID director Fauci on whether the administration "generally" understood COVID-19 strains would develop.

"We definitely saw variants coming. I think we referred to what was not anticipated was the extent of the mutations and the amino acid substitutions in Omicron, which is really unprecedented," said Fauci, adding that the specifics of the mutations were not anticipated. 

"When you have so much replication going on in the community, if you give a virus enough opportunity to replicate, you know it's going to ultimately mutate. And sometimes those mutations wind up being a new variant. That's exactly what happened with Delta and certainly that's what happened with Omicron," he continued.

Over the weekend, outgoing NIH director Dr. Francis Collins told NPR that due to the Omicron variant, the U.S. could soon reach a case rate of 1 million infections per day. 

"I know people are tired of this.I'm tired of it too," he said, "But the virus is not tired of us. It's having a great old time changing its shape every couple of months, coming up with new variants and figuring out ways to be even more contagious."