Indian-American physician Vivek Murthy, US President Joe Biden's pick for US Surgeon General, said that the deadly COVID-19 is going to "continue to change" and the country has to be ready for it, calling for better genomic surveillance and more investment in contact tracing to deal with the crisis.
Mr Murthy, 43, who is playing a key role in shaping the COVID-19 policy of the Biden administration, said there is also a need to invest a lot more in testing and contact tracing, because these are also going to be essential.
"The virus is basically telling us that it's going to continue to change, and we have got to be ready for it. It means we have got to, number one, do much better genomic surveillance, so we can identify variants when they arise. It means we have got to double down on public health measures, like masking and avoiding indoor gatherings," Dr Murthy told ABX News this week.
"It also means investing more in something we haven't talked about very much recently, which is in treatment strategies, which have received a lot less attention than vaccines, but are really important," said Dr Murthy, who served as Surgeon General of the US during the Obama administration and had to leave abruptly when Donald Trump became the US President.
He also expressed concern over the variants of virus.
"We are in a race against these variants. The virus is going to change. And it's up to us to adapt and to make sure that we're staying ahead," he said in response to a question.
"But they are not surprising, because this is what viruses do. They mutate, they change. And we should expect them. But here's what we know. We know that the variant, not just the UK variant, but likely the South Africa variant, the Brazilian variant, P.1, are likely to be more transmissible," he said.
"While there's some early data that was reported on earlier this week that the UK variant may, in fact, be more deadly, we still need more data to clearly understand the answer to that question," Dr Murthy said.
The US is the worst-affected country from the virus. It has killed more than 400,000 Americans in the last one year.
Biden has set an ambitious target of 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first 100 days of his administration.
"The goal of achieving 100 million shots in 100 days is one that is achievable with the supply that we have and that we're anticipating from Pfizer and from Moderna. And that's what we have got to focus on. So, we hope for the best, but we have got a plan for the situation we have now," Dr. Murthy said.
According to him, the goal of 100 million is a floor, not a ceiling.
"He's (Joe Biden) set a goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office. That's a floor; it's not a ceiling. It's also a goal that reflects the realities of what we face, what could go right but also what could go wrong," he said.
"President Biden fully understands there's a larger goal here, as we all do, which is that we've got to vaccinate as many Americans as possible. And that's going to take a lot of work, work dispelling this disinformation, working on the supply, increasing distribution channels. That's some of what the vaccine plan that he announced over the last week is intended to achieve," Dr Murthy said.