What Is ‘Wild Type’ Coronavirus And Why Does Anthony Fauci Keep Talking About It?

(Photo by PATRICK SEMANSKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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Dr. Anthony Fauci got into an extended debate with Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday over the necessity of masks after being vaccinated and frequently used the term “wild type” to describe strains of COVID-19.

The term “wild type” refers to the base version of COVID-19 that originally spread out of Wuhan, China, and eventually across the globe. “Wild type” means it is the most common and dominant version of the disease, and it is the version all existing COVID-19 vaccines are aimed at combatting.

Paul argues there is no reason for a person to wear a mask after getting vaccinated because they then have immunity. Fauci argued that masks are still necessary for vaccinated people because they may still contract or spread other variants of the coronavirus, such as those that developed in the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil.

“If I vaccinate you or me against the wild type you get a certain level of antibody that’s specific for a particular viral strain,” Fauci said. “If there’s a circulating variant you don’t necessarily have [immunity to it].”

The U.S. found its first cases of the Brazilian and South African strains in late January, by which time there were already more than 300 cases of the U.K. strain. Fauci and other experts say that existing COVID-19 vaccines are still helpful in combatting the new strains, but they do not grant the same level of protection. (RELATED: REPORT: Biden Administration Has Administered Vaccine To Hundreds Of White House Staffers)

Since Fauci has been vaccinated, Paul accused him of “theater” for wearing two masks despite being immune and he demanded evidence that vaccinated people have shown a significant threat of reinfection.

“If you have immunity, they are theater. If you already have immunity, you are wearing a mask to give comfort to others. You’re not wearing a mask because of any science,” Paul said.

Fauci conceded that no such data existed, but he argued that was only due to how early the other strains were in their development and have yet to spread significantly. He argued there is a potential for reinfection from the non-wild type strains and masks are necessary in order to keep that risk low.

President Joe Biden’s administration says it is on track to secure enough vaccine supply for the entire country by the end of May. Fauci has also said he expects the U.S. to reach herd immunity–70-85 percent of the population vaccinated–by the end of summer or early fall.