LONDON: Indian-American physician Vivek Murthy, US President-elect
Joe Biden’s pick for Surgeon General, has said there is no evidence to suggest
that a new and more contagious coronavirus variant reported in the UK is any
Dr Murthy, 43, said that there was
no reason to believe that the coronavirus vaccines that have already been
developed would not be effective against the new strain as well.
“This news from the UK appears
to be about a new strain of the virus that’s more transmissible, more
contagious than the virus we’ve seen prior to this,” he said.
“While it seems to be more
transmissible, we do not have evidence yet that this is a more deadly virus to
an individual who acquires it,” Dr Murthy told NBC News on Sunday.
Several countries have announced
restrictions on UK travel and suspended flights amid growing concerns of an
“out of control” new variant of coronavirus spreading at a much
faster pace in parts of England.
It is thought the variant either
emerged in a patient in the UK or has been imported from a country with a lower
ability to monitor coronavirus mutations.
“The bottom line is if you’re
at home and you’re hearing this news, it does not change what we do in terms of
precautions as individuals that can reduce the spread of this virus. It turns
out that masking, that keeping physical distance, washing our hands – these are
still the pillars of preventing COVID transmission,” Dr Murthy said.
Asked if he agreed the vaccine would
be rolled out by spring in the US, he said: “I think when it comes to the
vaccine timeline, we all want the vaccine to be delivered as quickly (and) as
fairly as possible”.
“But we also want to be
realistic about the timeline. I think that if everything goes well, we may see
a circumstance where, by late spring, people who are in lower-risk categories
can get this vaccine, but that would really require everything to go exactly on
schedule…We want to be optimistic but we want to be cautious as well,”
Biden nominated Dr Murthy as his
Surgeon General this month, exuding confidence that the renowned
Indian-American physician will be a key voice on his response to the
coronavirus pandemic to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine.
After his nomination, Dr Murthy had
said that he will dedicate himself to caring for every American, will be driven
always by science and facts, by head and heart – and be endlessly grateful to
serve one of the few countries in the world where the grandson of a poor farmer
in India can be asked by the president-elect to look out for the health of the
“That is a testament to the
promise of America – one that I will work to fulfil every day as Surgeon
General,” he had said. Dr Murthy served as Surgeon General of the United
States during the Obama administration and had to leave abruptly when Donald
Trump became the US President.