Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/Abaca/TNS

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday warned that COVID-19 could mutate into an even more virulent variant if the pandemic is not stamped out with mass vaccination.

The pandemic expert agreed with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski when she suggested that a new “monster” strain could make the delta variant look like child’s play.

“There’s always a risk of, as you get more circulation of the virus in the community, that you’ll get enough accumulation of new mutations to get a variant substantially different than the ones we’re seeing now,” Fauci said on the “Morning Joe” show.

Fauci said one of the most important reasons to get an overwhelming number of people vaccinated is to prevent the COVID-19 virus from mutating into new variants as it spreads.

“You’re vaccinating now to prevent the next mutant coming, the next variant from coming,” Fauci said.

He suggested that future variants might even be resistant to the vaccines that have so far proven very effective in protecting people against even the virulent delta variant.

“Then it would in many respects negate some of the very positive protection that you get from the vaccines,” Fauci said.

Public health experts like Fauci have been dismayed by the significant resistance to the COVID-19 vaccines. Tens of millions of eligible Americans have so far refused to get the lifesaving shots, and a big chunk of them say they will not get inoculated.

After months of pleading with Americans to do the right thing, President Joe Biden last week announced an aggressive new policy of vaccine mandates to cajole anti-vaxxers to get their shots.

But Fauci warned that an even more dire result of a failure to get an overwhelming number of people vaccinated is that it allows the virus to continue to spread widely enough to create even nastier new strains.

“Viruses will not mutate if they don’t have the opportunity to spread and replicate,” he said. “So the more dynamics of viral activity you have in the community, the greater opportunity you give to the virus to mutate.”

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