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Sen. Rand Paul: Fauci, NIH could be partly responsible for Covid-19 pandemic

Republican Sen. Rand Paul (L) and Dr. Anthony Fauci at a congressional hearing on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul is saying that White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could be partly responsible for the coronavirus pandemic and the deaths of 4 million people around the world.

During a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Fauci and Paul traded barbs about whether or not the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded so-called “gain of function” research at a virology lab in Wuhan, China.

Paul suggested that Fauci had lied before Congress in May when he denied that the NIH funded such research, which could, in theory, enhance the transmissibility of a virus, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

"On May 11, you stated that NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Paul said.

He said the research was carried out in the lab and referred to an academic paper by a Chinese scientist.

"Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11, where you claimed at the NIH never funded gain-of-function research and move on?" Paul asked.

Fauci flatly rejected the claim, saying, "Sen. Paul, I have never lied before the Congress. And I do not retract that statement."

Fauci said that the paper Paul referenced does not represent gain-of-function research, noting, "Sen. Paul, you do not know what you're talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially, you do not know what you're talking about."

Paul then said, "You're dancing around this because you're trying to obscure responsibility for four million people dying around them from a pandemic."

Fauci replied by saying, "If you look at the viruses that were used in the experiments, that were given in the annual reports, that were published in the literature, it is molecularly impossible."

Paul interrupted by noting, "You are obviously obfuscating the truth."

Fauci then said, "You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals. I totally resent that.”

"It could have been," Paul said.

Fauci oversees several NIH research programs as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Former US president Donald Trump claimed that the coronavirus originated in the Chinese lab. China has vehemently denied suggestions the lab was the source.

Scientists have condemned conspiracy theories about the Chinese laboratory, saying the coronavirus jumped from animals to humans, emerging in China late in 2019, possibly from a market in Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.

Delta variant accounts for 83 percent of all COVID-19 cases in US

The delta variant makes up 83% of cases in the United States, up from 50% at the beginning of this month, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky.

"CDC has released estimates of variants across the country and predicted the delta variant now represents 83% of sequenced cases. This is a dramatic increase from -- up from 50% for the week of July 3rd," Walensky testified in a hearing before the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday.

Walensky said the alarming increase was happening the most in unvaccinated areas, adding they were "allowing for the emergence and rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant."

She added that the percentages are even higher in some parts of the country with low vaccination rates.

She went on to say that "vaccines are available to neutralize the circulating variants in the United States and provide protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death."

Vaccination has been uneven across US states, and just around half of all eligible people are fully vaccinated across the country.

Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Louisiana are the four states with the highest per capita new cases per day, show data from the Covid Act Now tracking site.

Johnson & Johnson less effective against variants: Study

Meanwhile, a new study shows that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may be less effective in fighting coronavirus variants than other shots.

The efficacy of the vaccine in neutralizing the disease "significantly decreased" with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, show the results of the study, published by bioRxiv.

They study suggests that the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna could better protect against the delta and lambda strains than the Johnson & Johnson shots.

This comes two weeks after Johnson & Johnson announced their vaccine was successful in battling the delta variant.

"We believe that our vaccine offers durable protection against COVID-19 and elicits neutralizing activity against the delta variant. This adds to the robust body of clinical data supporting our single-shot vaccine’s ability to protect against multiple variants of concern," Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in a release.

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