The federal government promises to continue to help fight against the coronavirus pandemic with the increase of vaccine distribution. However, even though more and more Americans will be receiving the vaccine, everyone needs to continue wearing their face covering and social distancing.
The President is joining forces with officials to ensure Americans are aware that this pandemic is not over just yet.
President Biden’s Plan
Amidst President Joe Biden’s announcement of the federal government’s plan to increase the distribution of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, he said, “the brutal truth is it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated. Months. In the next few months, masks, not vaccines, are the best defense against Covid-19.”
In the first 100 days of his presidency, Biden has pushed for 100 million vaccination shots and for Americans to wear masks during that time.
According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, half the country believes the pandemics worst is behind us. But the worst may, in fact, be in front depending on coronavirus variants.
Health officials are expressing their concerns regarding the new variants detected in the U.S., and it is clear they are worried about what the upcoming months hold.
“We’ve seen what happens in other countries that have actually had coronavirus under relatively good control, then these variants took over, and they had explosive spread of the virus, and then overwhelmed hospitals,” emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen told CNN’s, Anderson Cooper.
Why the Worst Could Be Coming
One of the biggest concerns health experts have is how the new variants spread. Minnesota officials detected the more transmissible, P.1 variant in a traveler from Brazil. There are currently four variants being closely watched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC officials say another variant that was first spotted in the U.K., called B.1.1.7, has been found in more than 20 U.S. states. Although the number of cases is decreasing in a vast majority of states, that progress could go back to square one if variants take over.
“If there is something more contagious among us, if we thought that going to the grocery store before was relatively safe, there’s actually a higher likelihood of contracting coronavirus through those everyday activities,” Dr. Wen said.
“Wearing an even better mask, reducing the number of times that we have to go out shopping, or in indoor crowded settings, all of that will be helpful,” Wen added.
It is important to realize that nearly 20 million people have received at least the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, but that is only 6% of the US population, according to CDC data. And only 3.5 million are fully vaccinated.
Some U.S. officials hoped the numbers would be much higher by now, but Biden is hopeful that 1.5 million vaccines could soon be administering daily. That is about a 50% faster pace than Biden’s original goal of a million doses per day.
Biden also says the government aims to order 200 million more vaccine doses in total from Moderna and Pfizer. And the government will increase vaccine distribution from 8.6 million doses to 10 million doses per week, which is a 16% increase. Biden is hoping to have most Americans vaccinated by late summer or early fall!
According to Biden, states will be getting a notice three-weeks in advance about how many doses to expect.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, believes the three-week forecast will make a big difference.
“When I have been talking to state officials, they get basically no forecast whatsoever. … (A) three-week forecast will make it much, much easier for states to make sure that they have places staffed and ready to go and give people vaccines,” says Jha.
Health leaders and state officials across the country are working on vaccination strategies and boosting the number of shots going into arms. On-site vaccinations at more than 270 CVS locations across 11 states are becoming available this week.
What are States Doing?
According to officials, California will switch to a third-party system for their vaccination deliveries instead of counties and hospitals. The state’s new approach is meant to simplify eligibility, standardize information and data, and streamline the vaccination process to address the available supply of doses.
A new online pre-registration system is available in Virginia, allowing residents to pre-register for vaccination. More than 32,000 people registered just two days after the state launched the system. Residents also have the option to pre-register via phone.
Illinois announced a couple of weeks ago that it was entering its next stage of vaccinations. The guidelines allow those 65 and older and frontline essential workers, including teachers, first responders and grocery workers, to receive the vaccine. And more mass vaccination sites will open as more doses become available.
In a press release, the Chicago Mayors’ office stated that the city plans to target 15 “high-need communities based on the City’s COVID vulnerability index.”
“Strike teams” will be included in the initiative to reach residents who are disconnected from more traditional vaccine administration channels.
Even though Chicago’s population consists of two-thirds of people of color, they are falling behind in the number of people of color who have received the vaccine, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She said that of the nearly 108,000 residents who have received their first vaccine dose, only 17% are Latino, and about 15% are Black.
Minimal COVID-19 Spread is Possible at Schools
A recently published study in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report examined more than 5,500 students and staff members at 17 different schools in Wood County, Wisconsin. The study found that it is safe for students in K-12 schools to go back to classrooms. If, of course, the right mitigation strategies are in place.
Staff was told to wear masks, maintain social distance and limit time in shared indoor spaces. If a student was outside of school with reported COVID-19 symptoms, they and their siblings were told to stay home.
Students received three to five double or tripled layered cloth masks. The state and schools required mask-wearing. Over 92% of students of all ages wore them.
Researchers found that COVID-19 case rates in schools were 37% lower than in the surrounding community after a total of 191 people tested positive for the coronavirus.
Through contact tracing and investigation, it was determined that only seven of the 191 cases were contracted in school, and three of the seven positive cases were students from one elementary school class.
Moderna Vaccine Protects Against Some Variants
Dr. Anthony Fauci, leading infectious disease expert, told CNN that current COVID-19 vaccines likely effective against new variants. Some more sobering news, according to Fauci, is that after receiving the vaccine, you get one step ahead of the virus because more of the mutants evolve in your body, meaning you always got to be a step ahead of it.
Moderna says its vaccine creates antibodies that neutralize COVID-19, the variants first found in the United Kingdom and South Africa. However, they are a bit concerned the vaccine has less efficacy on the South African variant but intend to create a booster shot that fights the problem.
COVID-19 continues to evolve, and Moderna plans to continuously prove their vaccines protect against new strains.
“Until we’ve got this thing sort of fully suppressed and in control, and people are broadly vaccinated or seropositive and protected against it, it’s going to be an ongoing battle for the next couple of years,” Moderna president Dr. Stephen Hoge said in a recent panel discussion.
The Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is currently being tested in South Africa, the U.S. and Brazil. One of the new vaccine’s developers said the results would likely provide insight into how well it works against emerging variants. Johnson & Johnson shares updated insights on their website.