A full investigation into the origin of COVID-19 in China is “absolutely critical” in order to prevent future pandemics — and avoid “COVID-32,” an expert warned Sunday.

“There’s going to be COVID-26 and COVID-32 unless we fully understand the origins of COVID-19. This is absolutely critical,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Hotez said that he believes the US needs to do more than launch an intelligence investigation into theories that the virus emerged naturally from animals or escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

“I’m personally of the opinion that we’ve pushed intelligence as far as we can,” Hotez said, saying that the US needs to send experts to the original epicenter of the pandemic in Wuhan.

“We need a team of scientists, genealogists, biologists, bat ecologists in the Hubei province for six months to a year-long period and fully unravel the origins of COVID-19.”

Hotez, however, acknowledged that China may be resistant to a full investigation. A World Health Organization team probing the site earlier this year was stymied from independent digging due to interference from Beijing.

“I think we have to really put a lot of pressure on China, including possible sanctions to allow a team of outstanding epidemiologists and virologists in China with unfettered access to the animals, the people, to samples [and] the lab,” Hotez said.

He warned that without “full access,” the origins may never be uncovered.

“I think you really need to have detailed analysis about the bat populations — all of the possible reservoir animals and people — and without that, it’s going to be really hard to work this out,” he said.