With the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines now in full swing, Americans are increasingly hopeful that the pandemic will end soon.
With three vaccines approved in the US for emergency use – from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – and improved vaccine distribution and availability, a welcome sense of security seems to be on the horizon. Bloomberg’s U.S. Vaccine Tracker came in at an average of 2.47 million doses per day last week, with 113 million doses dispensed at the time of publication.
But it’s not all good news, and this is not the time to be wary.
Although national infection rates are declining, the pandemic is still widespread across the country. To date, more than 29.5 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 540,000 deaths related to the disease have been reported in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracking system.
According to BGR, Dr Rochelle Walenski, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said this week during a White House response team briefing on COPID-19: We’re just starting to go around the corner. The data is moving in the right direction, but its evolution depends on our ability to do what is necessary to protect ourselves and others.
Public health experts are concerned about the spread of more contagious and potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus and continue to urge Americans to follow established protocols for COPID-19 and to take the precautions recommended by the CDC.
Walenski discovered that the B.1.1.7 variant (first discovered in the UK) was already present in all 50 states. It is also quickly becoming the dominant strain of the virus in at least two states: California and Florida. Worse, the CDC predicts it will become the dominant strain in the U.S. in late March or early April.
Fortunately, modern vaccines are still effective against the B.1.1.7 strain. So why worry about options?
B.1.1.7 not only spreads more rapidly and easily than older strains, but there is increasing evidence that it is more deadly. And right now, the US population has not been vaccinated enough to prevent a highly transmissible strain from causing a new outbreak that we would all rather avoid.
Follow our public health prevention guidelines and be prepared to be vaccinated when the vaccine is available, advised Dr. Walenski at Monday’s meeting.
COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo via Solar Panel / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Also keep in mind that B.1.1.7 is not the only potentially dangerous strain of the virus. And the longer the pandemic continues, the more likely it is that the virus will mutate into something even more problematic than what we are already dealing with.
Travel to South Africa has been suspended since January to prevent the native B.1.351 strain (which is 50% more contagious) from entering the United States. Travel to Brazil is also currently banned in hopes of avoiding a more contagious variant that could lead to reinfection. The researchers are still studying the degree of resistance of these strains to the current KOVID-19 vaccination package.
We are really trying to limit travel during this time, Dr. Walenski said in response to the growing question of whether it is safe to travel for people who are already fully vaccinated. We hope to have more information in the next guide about what vaccinated people can do, perhaps travel, while staying in their community, she said.
For more information, visit cdc.gov.
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