“We have seen what happens in other countries that have actually had the coronavirus under relatively good control, then these variants took control and had an explosive spread of the virus, and then they overwhelmed the hospitals,” said emergency doctor Dra Leana Wen to Citizen Free Press’s Anderson Cooper.
Minnesota authorities announced Monday that they detected the P.1 variant of the virus in a traveler from Brazil. The variant is one of four being watched closely by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appears to be more easily transmissible. CDC officials have also said they have detected another variant called B.1,1.7, which was first detected in the UK, in more than 20 US states.
While the United States appears to be heading in the right direction when it comes to infection rates, with 42 states reporting declining trends, that progress could be erased if the variants take hold, Wen said. Preventing that will mean extra vigilance.
“If there is something more contagious between us, if we think that going to the supermarket before was relatively safe, actually there is a greater chance of contracting coronavirus through those daily activities,” he said.
“Wearing an even better mask, reducing the number of times we have to go shopping or in close quarters with a lot of people, all of that will be helpful,” Wen added.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC on Monday that wearing two masks is likely to be more effective in stopping the spread of the virus.
“If you have a physical covering with a layer on, put on another layer, it just makes common sense that it’s probably more effective,” he said.
Moderna says its vaccine protects against some variants
The good news, Fauci told Citizen Free Press, in a separate interview Monday, is that current COVID-19 vaccines are likely to be effective against the new variants.
“The sobering news,” he added, “[es que] As you get more and more replications, you can get more and more variant evolution, which means you always have to stay one step ahead.
Moderna said Monday that its vaccine created antibodies that neutralized the covid-19 variants that were first found in the United Kingdom and South Africa. There are concerns that the vaccine may be somewhat less effective against the strain first detected in South Africa, and the company is working on a booster vaccine to combat it.
But as COVID-19 evolves, it will be important to demonstrate “over and over” that vaccines provide protection against new strains, Moderna president Dr. Stephen Hoge said during a panel Monday.
“Until we have this thing completely suppressed and under control, and people are widely vaccinated or HIV-positive and protected against it, it will be an ongoing battle for years to come,” he said.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is currently being tested in South Africa, the United States and Brazil, and those results could provide insight into how well it works against emerging variants, one of its developers said. The company has said it could share its phase 3 vaccine trial data starting this week.
«If we see the results of efficacy […] it will give us information not only on whether this candidate vaccine is effective or not, but it will also give us information on whether the variants circulating in South Africa could be a problem for vaccines, ”Dr. Dan Barouch, professor of research, told Citizen Free Press. Harvard Medical School.
6% of the US population has received a dose of the covid-19 vaccine
So far, about 19 million people, nearly 6% of the United States population, have received at least the first dose of the covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. More than 3.3 million are fully vaccinated.
The numbers are a far cry from where some officials expected the United States to be now, but President Joe Biden said Monday that he hopes the country will soon be able to administer 1.5 million vaccines a day. That’s roughly 50% faster than the goal of one million doses per day that he promised before the inauguration.
A White House official told Citizen Free Press that the administration’s official goal remains to administer 100 million injections in the president’s first 100 days in office.
Across the country, health leaders and state officials have been working to improve their vaccination strategies and increase the number of shots.
CVS will begin offering vaccines at more than 270 facilities in 11 states, beginning in February, Dr. David Fairchild, CVS Health associate medical director, said Monday.
“We are definitely ready and want to play an important role in helping make the vaccine available,” he added. “Our internal goal is to have the capacity to make 25 million applications per month or more.”
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice unveiled a new online pre-registration system on Monday, allowing residents to pre-register for a vaccine. Since the system’s launch on Monday morning, more than 32,000 residents had scheduled an appointment for the vaccination, the governor said. That will work in conjunction with an existing hotline that residents can call and pre-register.
Illinois announced it was entering its next stage of vaccination on Monday, opening guidelines for people 65 and older and essential frontline workers, including teachers, first responders and supermarket workers. The governor added that as more doses become available, more mass vaccination sites will open.
Chicago will target 15 “high-need communities, based on the city’s covid vulnerability index,” the Mayor’s Office said in a press release. The initiative will include “strike teams” that will reach “those who may be disconnected from the more traditional vaccine delivery channels,” he said.
“Our city is made up of two-thirds of people of color,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference. “Unfortunately, however, we are falling behind in the number of people of color who have been vaccinated today.”
Lightfoot said that of the nearly 108,000 residents who received their first dose of the vaccine, only 17% are Latino and about 15% are black.
Vaccine supply is still limited
Many states are still struggling with the supply of the vaccines.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that his state needs more doses to keep up with a plan to vaccinate 70% of the population in six months.
“We probably need two or three times the weekly doses that we are getting right now,” Murphy told the program. Good Morning America, of ABC.
The state has built a network of about 270 vaccine distribution sites, including six of the so-called “mega-sites,” but Murphy said there was not enough supply to meet demand.
A spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Health confirmed that the Meadowlands mega-site is temporarily closed due to a lack of vaccinations, a reality Murphy acknowledged later Tuesday morning in an appearance on MSNBC.
Kentucky has used about 88% of its first doses so far, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday, calling on the federal government to send more supplies.
Beshear told reporters that the state reached an unprecedented high vaccination rate last week, with more than 82,500 doses administered, but stressed that the state could be in the range of 250,000 weekly doses if the supply were there.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis also renewed the order for more vaccines as the state continues to deplete the supply allocated by the federal government.
“I continue to urge our federal partners and the new Biden administration in Washington to increase vaccine distribution immediately,” Polis said in a statement. “Colorado is ready to immediately deliver three to four times more vaccines than we are receiving each week.”
The state has so far administered more than 458,400 vaccines, more than 82,600 of which are second doses.
“The faster Colorado gets vaccines, the faster we can get them to people and the faster we can help our small businesses and our economy rebuild stronger,” said the Governor. “We are ready and we welcome renewed federal assistance to get the job done.”
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