Doctor Holding Coronavirus Vaccine Syringe

Vaccine Providers Pledge 240 Million Covid-19 Vaccine Doses By The End Of March 

Johnson & Johnson has joined Pfizer and Moderna in their commitment to the US to provide a total of 240 million vaccine doses by the end of March. The drug companies told a House subcommittee this week that they expect to deliver this amount of doses after Johnson & Johnson pledged to add 20 million additional doses to Pfizer and Moderna’s 220 million dose pledge should the company receive emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration this week. 

Dr. Richard Nettles is J&J’s vice president of medical affairs who spoke with the lawmakers regarding the company’s pledge should they receive the EUA as expected. 

“If the emergency use authorization is received as expected this week, we hope to contribute to ending this pandemic as soon as possible.”

Embed from Getty Images

Nettles claims that the company is prepared to ship out 4 million doses immediately upon authorization of the vaccine. Executives from each of the vaccine makers testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations this past Tuesday. 

If AstraZeneca secures an FDA authorization as well it will become the fourth Covid-19 vaccine available in the US. Dr. Ruud Dobber, the executive vice president and president of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceuticals business unit, said the company “will immediately release 30 million doses upon authorization of the vaccine and up to 50 million doses by the end of April.”

Pfizer initially planned to deliver up to 40 million doses of their vaccine by the end of 2020, however, they just reached that milestone last week. Moderna was close to reaching their goal of 20 million doses by the end of 2020 but fell short by just a week. Executives for the companies claimed that a lack of access to raw materials and manufacturing a product that has never been made before were the main issues in production. John Young, Pfizer’s chief business officer, recently spoke about this issue to the media. 

Embed from Getty Images

“We did initially experience some problems with the initial ramp up of our vaccine. We particularly saw some rate-limiting steps for raw materials.” 

“We ultimately had never–when we were trying to make those estimates — manufactured at this scale, and so we had a lot to learn along the way. As we look back, could we have maybe started earlier in that process and lining up all of the critical raw materials sooner, would we have been able to get there a little bit faster instead of the first week of January, last week of December? It’s possible. Certainly hindsight, and that is 20-20 for us,” said Moderna’s president Dr. Stephen Hoge.

Moderna is currently seeking FDA approval for increasing the number of doses in each Covid-19 vaccine vial from 10 to 15. Hodge claims this would “accelerate delivery substantially and decrease the demand for some critical, high-demand raw materials. Obviously, any gains — for instance, filling more doses in a vial — we will take. We need to get more doses more quickly into peoples’ arms.”

Johnson & Johnson will be finding out if they receive an emergency use authorization this Friday.

Older Woman Getting Covid Vaccine

Vaccines Could be Available to the General Public in April, Fauci Says

The general public may be granted access to Covid-19 vaccines as soon as April and the country may be able to have most Americans inoculated by the middle or end of the summer, Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week. 

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told NBC’s “Today” show that he is confident the pace of vaccination across the country will increase going into the next couple of months. More doses should be available daily by March and April, Fauci said, also claiming that he was ‘fairly certain’ that pharmacies, community vaccine centers and mobile units will help increase the vaccination rate by the end of April, and not just for those in the higher priority groups.

“I would imagine by the time we get to April, that will be what I would call for, you know, for better wording, open season,” Fauci said. “Namely, virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated. 

Fauci previously said that Americans had a chance of having a more normal life by the beginning of fall, under the assumption that at least 70% of the population was vaccinated by the end of summer. Meanwhile, more states are loosening Covid-19 restrictions, despite experts’ warnings that the country is not yet in the clear as more-transmissible variants are increasingly appearing across the country and rest of the world.

Embed from Getty Images

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill this week that will shield businesses and houses of worship from legal liability for Covid-19 transmission as long as they are taking sufficient measures to follow public health guidelines, and announced he did not intend to extend the state-wide mask mandate. “The mask mandate will expire on Friday,” the governor said, adding, “Since we’re not out of the woods yet, I will continue to wear a mask, and I will encourage all Montanans to do the same.”

“I would like to just take a couple of minutes to pre-emptively answer three types of questions that I have been asked over the last several days that I believe are important to address pre-emptively because they will come up,” Fauci said at the Covid-19 response team White House press conference.

“The first relates to the fact that many states, cities, and locations who have gone from 1A to 1B will soon or have already gone into the 1C of the phase. Within 1C are persons 16 to 64 years of age with underlying conditions, including those that might be immunosuppressed because of certain drugs such as glucocorticoids or corticosteroids for diseases like autoinflammatory diseases or allergic diseases.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that stadiums and arenas with a capacity of more than 10,000 can start reopening on February 23, with approval from the state’s health department and heavy restrictions. Chicago officials also announced this week that bars and restaurants could increase capacity as the state goes about slowly easing pandemic restriction measures. “There has been a number of individuals who feel that they should not get vaccinated because of those underlying conditions. I want to set the record straight for these individuals because they are more vulnerable to these more severe effects of if they do get infected. Therefore, they are the very people who should get vaccinated,” Fauci continued at the press conference.

“When you think in terms of having an immunosuppressed state, for example, if you’re on glucocorticoids for rheumatoid arthritis or you’re on some of the monoclonal antibodies that block the markers of inflammation, that under those circumstances, if that’s where you are, there is not a safety issue with regard to the vaccine.

Embed from Getty Images

“Safety issues in immunosuppressed individuals relate to live attenuated vaccines which are contraindicated in people who are immunosuppressed. There is no safety reason not to get vaccinated. So for those who are thinking of getting vaccinated or soon will come up for vaccination, this is something that would be beneficial to you.

“The only potential downside might be that you might not have as robust a response to the vaccine as if you had a normal immune response. But clearly, getting a less than optimum response is much better than no response at all. And I’m sure we’ll be getting back to this question as more vaccines become available and more people in that category will be ready to get vaccinated.

“The next is the question of the vaccination of children, namely pediatrics and pregnant women. As we all know, these were not included in the original clinical trials that led to the EUA for the two vaccines that are currently available. But I want to point out that since the EUA, and under the EUA, approximately 20,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated with no red flags, as we say, and this is being monitored by the CDC and the FDA. So that’s where we’re going there. With regard to children and pregnant women, as I mentioned on a prior discussion with this group, the fact remains that we will be starting clinical trials and some have already started.”

Scientists Want To Use Artificial Intelligence To ‘Predict The Next Coronavirus’

A team of scientists are working to use artificial intelligence (AI) to work out when another novel coronavirus could emerge. The researchers are using a combination of fundamental biology as well as machine learning to get a better grasp over where these viruses come from. 

The computer algorithm being used has already predicted a multitude of potential hosts that new virus strains have been detected in during past studies, and could potentially be detected in during future outbreaks. The findings themselves have been published in the journal of Nature Communications. 

Dr. Marcus Blagrove is a virologist from the University of Liverpool in the UK who was involved in the study. He explained that the goal of the study was to hopefully get a grasp on where the next coronavirus could come from. 

Embed from Getty Images

“One way coronaviruses are generated is through recombination between two existing coronaviruses. Basically two viruses infect the same cell and recombine into a ‘daughter’ virus, or an entirely new strain of the virus we’ve been fighting.”

Researchers were able to place existing biological evidence into an AI algorithm, which then taught the computer how to spot certain viruses and host species that are the most likely to be the source of the recombination based on environmental stats. 

The team first “asked” their AI algorithm to look at certain biological patterns so that they could predict which mammals may be the most susceptible to known coronavirus strains. This would mean that those specific species are most vulnerable to being the host for recombinations as well. The initial research showed links between 411 coronavirus strains and 876 potential mammal species hosts. 

Embed from Getty Images

Lead researcher Dr. Maya Wardeh was able to use existing biological knowledge to teach the algorithm to search for specific patterns that equated to a correlation between the species and virus strains. 

“We were able to predict which species had the chance for many coronaviruses to infect them, either because they are very closely related to a species known to carry a coronavirus or because they share the same geographical space.”

The Asian palm civet and greater horseshoe bat, for example, were predicted to be host to 32 and 68 different coronaviruses, respectively. And in species including the common hedgehog, the European rabbit and the dromedary camel, the algorithm predicted that Sars-CoV-2 might recombine with other, existing coronaviruses,” she continued.

The scientists behind the study claim that their findings could help target the surveillance for new diseases, and potentially prevent another pandemic from occurring before it even starts.  Dr Wardeh explained, however, that these findings are “not a reason to demonize these species. Spill-over of viruses into human populations tends to be linked to human activities like wildlife trade and farming. But it’s virtually impossible to survey all animals all the time, so our approach enables prioritization. It says these are the species to watch. If we can find them before they get into humans, then we could work on developing drugs and vaccines and on stopping them getting into humans in the first place.”

Syrigne of Covid Vaccine

UK Study Seeks to Find Efficacy of Combining Vaccines

Scientists in the UK have begun the world’s first ever study to examine whether different coronavirus vaccines can be used together safely for two-dose regimens, a tactic which could potentially provide extra flexibility and even boost protection against the virus if approved.

The UK Department of Health and Social Care revealed in a news release this week that participants in the study, which will last 13 months, will be administered with the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines in various combinations and intervals.

“If we do show that these vaccines can be used interchangeably in the same schedule, this will greatly increase the flexibility of vaccine delivery, and could provide clues as to how to increase the breadth of protection against new virus strains,” said Matthew Snape, chief investigator and associate professor in pediatrics and vaccinology at the University of Oxford.

“Nothing will be approved for use more widely than the study, or as part of our vaccine deployment program, until researchers and the regulator are absolutely confident the approach is safe and effective,” he said.

Embed from Getty Images

Participants in the study have already begun to be enrolled and according to the news release, preliminary results are expected over the summer.

The UK government also revealed that its current vaccine dosing system for the general public will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future. Should the study show promising results, however, the government would consider revising the regimen, according to the release.

As well as testing the efficacy of a combination of the vaccines, the study will also attempt to ascertain whether a vaccination is more effective with a four-week or 12-week gap between the two doses. More than 800 people will take part in the trial and will begin receiving their shots by mid-February.

Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said that given the challenges of rolling out mass vaccination of populations and “potential global supply constraints,” there were advantages to having data to support a more flexible immunization program, if needed and approved by the regulator.

“It is also even possible that by combining vaccines, the immune response could be enhanced giving even higher antibody levels that last longer; unless this is evaluated in a clinical trial we just won’t know,” said Van-Tam.

Official guidance from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization currently states that the second dose should be with the same vaccine as the first.

However, in certain circumstances, for example when a patient attends a site for a second vaccination and the first is either unknown or unavailable, it is ‘reasonable to offer one dose of the locally available product to complete the schedule’, according to the guidance.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization do not currently recommend interchanging coronavirus vaccines, since no data is currently available that examines whether doing so would still provide the same level of protection.

This week in the US, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave updates on Biden’s plan for Covid relief and how vaccination efforts are going.

Republicans and Democrats continue to fail to agree upon a financial relief package for the country, meaning the all-important financial support is currently being withheld from those who need it the most.

Embed from Getty Images

Today President Biden joined the house democratic caucus meeting by phone to discuss the American Rescue Plan,” Psaki said.

“The president made clear that the American rescue plan was designed to meet the stakes of the public health and economic crisis and the president caucus agreed that a final package must address the crisis facing working families, including housing and food insecurity and reopening schools.

“President Biden said the cost of inaction and doing too little is greater than the cost of doing too much. The president also had the opportunity to meet in the oval office just a few minutes ago with leader Schumer and the democratic chairs of the senate committees with jurisdiction over the American Rescue Plan, as part of his ongoing engagement with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

“During the meeting, they had a productive conversation on the status of legislative proceedings on the package. They were in agreement over the need to move swiftly to ensure that we get $1,400 direct payments to middle and working class Americans as quickly as possible, that we need to take steps to get immediate relief to the Americans who are struggling with food insecurity or facing eviction and that we need to provide more resources to get shots into arms faster. The president and the senators were also in agreement over the need to go big and to meet the challenges we face with a response that will get the job done in beating this virus and in protecting our economy from long-term damage.”

Positive Coronavirus

LA County Now Has 8 Confirmed Cases Of UK Covid-19 Variant 

Los Angeles County recorded another five cases of the UK coronavirus variant this past Tuesday, bringing the total number of variant cases up to eight for the county. Officials are currently expected to enforce measures to prevent citizens from traveling, however, the past month has left residents hopeless after numerous public establishments that promote close contact have remained open despite California being one of the world’s hot spots for Covid-19. 

The variant is scientifically referred to as B117, and the reason its presence is so concerning is because its more transmissible than the standard Covid-19 virus that we’ve been fighting for the past year, which as we know, is already extremely contagious. Health experts do believe that all current vaccines being distributed in America will likely work against B117, however, curbing the spread is top priority so that we can get everyone vaccinated. 

Embed from Getty Images

California was just beginning to recover after a post-holiday increase in cases, but now the presence of this variant and lack of lockdown procedures being enforced is a major cause for concern. 

Statewide about 159 cases of the UK variant have been detected, but those aren’t the only Covid-19 mutation cases that are raising some red flags among healthcare workers. Around 1,200 cases of two different “west coast variants” of Covid-19 have been reported in the state, according to Governor Gavin Newsom.

LA County Health Director Barbara Ferrer also recently spoke with tht media about the South African coronavirus variant, stating that even though California hasn’t reported any cases of that variant, “that doesn’t mean it’s not there. There’s just no way that the state doesn’t have a fair amount of variants circulating, it’s more of a question of how much and will any of them become dominant.” 

Embed from Getty Images

“It’s unlikely LA County’s latest surge was due to the UK variant, it’s possible there were mutations that were circulating in the state that were already more infectious. We know that at least 50% of our samples have shown the ‘California variant’ already.”

LA County Department of Public Health posted a memo regarding the new mutations and the virus response in general: “COVID-19 surged after Thanksgiving and Christmas travel in November and December. The more people travel, the more interactions they have with individuals outside of their household, the greater the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Shared transportation, including travel by air, bus, or rail, can not only put travelers at risk but also all members of the community if infected travelers spread COVID-19 to others after returning to Los Angeles County.”

The B117 variant has been found already in dozens of states; 932 cases have been reported nationwide according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are only weeks away from reducing transmission in L.A. County to a level where elementary schools will be allowed by the state to offer in-class instruction, provided they adhere to all State and County directives… Please do your part to continue to slow the spread so that our recovery journey does not suffer a setback,” Ferrer said in a statement. 

Vaccine Bottles

Biden Announces Plan To Expand Vaccine Distribution

President Biden said this week that he expects the US to soon be able to vaccinate 1.5 million people a day, an increase of 500,000 on his target of 1 million per day in his first 100 days in office. Speaking at a Covid-19 press conference, Biden said that the initial target could be surpassed within three weeks.

Biden pointed out that the key factors in increasing vaccination distribution efforts included having enough of the vaccine, having enough syringes and other necessary equipment and not having enough people to administer the jab. The 78-year-old said his administration was already working to produce more vaccinators.

“I’d like to update you on the aggressive steps we’re taking to meet our goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots within 100 days, and to ramp up the vaccine supply as fast as we can,” President Biden said at the press conference.

“This’ll be one of the most difficult operational challenges we’ve ever undertaken as a nation. I’ve said that before, but I must say it again because we’re going to do everything we can to get it done. But a lot of things can go wrong along the way.”

On day seven of his presidency, Biden announced an increase in overall weekly vaccination distributions of states, tribes and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses. The change comes into effect from next week and signals an increase of 1.4 million doses every seven days.

Embed from Getty Images

Biden also vowed to ensure states and territories will always have a reliable three week forecast on the forthcoming supply, giving governors and community leaders greater certainty to ensure plans can be carried out efficiently.

“And so as I’ve said in the past, we want to give credit to everyone involved in this vaccine effort and the prior administration and the science community and the medical sphere for getting the program off the ground, and that credit is absolutely due,” Biden continued.

“But it’s also no secret that we have recently discovered, in the final days of the transition… And it wasn’t until the final days that we got the kind of cooperation we needed, that once we arrived the vaccine program is in a worse shape than we anticipated or expected.”

During the conference, Biden said that there will be work carried out across the government with private industry in order to ramp up production of vaccine doses and protective equipment. He announced that his administration had already identified suppliers and were working with them on a plan forward.

Biden asserted that he hopes the problem at the end of the summer is that there is too much vaccine or equipment leftover, rather than the story being of interruptions in supply or access.

A White House official told CNN that the administration still views the 100 million vaccines in 100 days as ‘ambitious but achievable’. The official stressed that the hope was to surpass that original goal, but staff anticipated that plenty of things could yet go wrong given the circumstances around the pandemic.

Embed from Getty Images

After describing Biden as an ‘optimist’, the White House official also said that the president had been consistently pushing his Covid team to try and aim for their progress to go beyond their initial goal of 100 million doses in 100 days.

“A lot of you follow this and the press is the smartest group of people in town, I mean that sincerely. You hone this stuff down clearly. I think you found the same thing. Even before I took office, I announced a new vaccination strategy which centers on federal leadership and execution for our whole country,” Biden said.

“And that’s why I directed my COVID team to go to work immediately on how we could step up the vaccination efforts and the vaccinations.

“We’re increasing the transparency with states, cities and tribes and local partners when it comes to the vaccine supply. This is something we’ve heard over and over again from both Democrats and Republicans, state and local leaders that they need a plan in order to… They need to know what they have to plan on. They need to know what the orders going to be.

“Jeff had a meeting with the governors on Zoom and others and I think we’re getting this coordinated in a way that there’s increased cooperation and confidence. But until now we’ve had to guess how much vaccine to expect for the next week, and that’s what the governors had to do. “How much am I getting next week?” This is unacceptable. Lives are at stake here.

“We’ve directed FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to stand up the first federally supported community vaccination centers and that work is underway. We’re working to make vaccines available to thousands of local pharmacies beginning in early February, it’s a couple of weeks off. And that will enormously expand our reach.”

Americans Covid-19 Vaccine

CDC Reports 22 Million Americans Have Now Been Vaccinated For Covid-19 Safely 

Early safety data from the first month of Covid-19 vaccinations in America has shown that the shots are just as safe as the studies have suggested. So far every individual who has experienced an allergic reaction to the vaccine has been successfully treated, and no other serious problems have appeared within the 22 million people who have now been vaccinated. 

The data has been collected from several different tracking systems throughout the nation. One of the voluntary programs lets patients easily text any symptoms they experience after being vaccinated directly to the researchers collecting the information. Another program specifically seeks out people who have had a negative reaction to the vaccine and the other collects reports from medical records.

Embed from Getty Images

The CDC has claimed it’s nearly impossible to prove something is 100% safe, however, the data from these tracking systems is exactly what health officials need to see in order to continue with vaccination programs, as they only further prove what the trials already told them. These systems have also ensured healthcare officials already that the approved vaccines are not causing any dangerous or negative effects among large groups of people; meaning any negative symptom that has appeared so far has been due to the individuals personal immune response and isn’t an indication of a larger problem. 

As it currently stands more than 22 million Americans have received at least one of the two vaccine doses from either Pfizer or Moderna. Of those more than 70% reported pain, 33% fatigue, 30% headaches, 23% muscle pain, and about 11% chills, fever, swelling, or joint pain. The side effects were also the same among both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, though people generally had a harder time recovering from the second dose than the first. 

According to the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, “more than 9,000 people reported side effects after vaccination. The problems in slightly more than 1,000 of those reports were considered serious. The majority of complaints involved headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, chills, fever and pain.”

Embed from Getty Images

One way that the CDC looks to see whether or not a vaccine is safe or not is to look at the number of individuals who have died within a few days of their vaccination, and compare it to the number of people expected to die over a given period of time. The reporting system showed 196 deaths after Covid-19 vaccinations, of those, 66% were residents of long-term care facilities; 1.3 million nursing home residents have been vaccinated within the past month. 

“In a group that large followed over that length of time, 11,440 people would be expected to die of all causes. That led the CDC to conclude the much lower number of nursing home deaths were not caused by vaccination,” according to Barbara Bardenheier of the Brown University School of Public Health. 

“Findings suggest that short-term mortality rates appear unrelated to vaccination for COVID-19 in skilled nursing facility residents,” according to a summary of the study’s results. The CDC is currently investigating whether or not individuals who have had Covid-19 in the past and have been vaccinated are more susceptible to an allergic response, however, no solid link has been found at this time.

Getting Vaccine

Biden Inherits ‘Non-Existent’ Vaccine Plan From Trump

Newly sworn in President Joe Biden and his administration are facing an even tougher task battling the coronavirus than first thought, as sources close to the situation reveal that no vaccine distribution plan was left by Trump and his team.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have made it clear that their initial priority is to regain control over the coronavirus, promising to drastically speed up the pace of vaccinating Americans. This task has already proved tougher than initially thought, with sources telling CNN that the pair were shocked to discover the complete lack of vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, meaning a new system would have to be created by scratch.

Continuing his prioritization of dealing with the pandemic, Biden signed an executive order requiring masks on all federal property, an act he had been promising since before the election.
“This is going to be the first of many engagements we’re going to have in here,” Biden said in his first appearance in the Oval Office as president. “I thought with the state of the nation today there’s no time to waste. Get to work immediately.”

White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters this week that despite the ’lack of cooperation’ from the Trump administration causing an ‘impediment’ for Biden and his team, he was still confident that the new administration could meet its 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days target.

Embed from Getty Images

“For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy, let alone a comprehensive approach to respond to Covid,” Zients said. “And we’ve seen the tragic costs of that failure. As President Biden steps into office today… that’ll change tomorrow.”

The incoming White House staff are now under intense scrutiny as they go about making good on the promises that Biden and Harris made during the campaign. These promises include drastically turning things around on the pandemic, as well as the administration conducting itself completely differently from Trump when it comes to the virus and vaccine distribution.

“The American people deserve an urgent, robust, and professional response to the growing public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. President Biden believes that the federal government must act swiftly and aggressively to help protect and support our families, small businesses, first responders, and caregivers essential to help us face this challenge, those who are most vulnerable to health and economic impacts, and our broader communities – not to blame others or bail out corporations,” a White House statement on the new administration’s plan to combat Covid-19 says.

“The Biden-Harris administration will always listen to science, ensure public health decisions are informed by public health professionals and promote trust, transparency, common purpose, and accountability in our government.”

Prior to his inauguration, a number of Biden’s Covid-19 advisors had warned the newly elected president and his team to avoid being overly critical in public of the Trump administration’s handling of the virus and vaccine. This was because Biden’s transition team were already facing difficulties obtaining critical information and cooperation from the outgoing administration.

Embed from Getty Images

Now that the transition of power is complete, Biden and his administration had hoped to quickly ascertain where the country stands with vaccine distribution and administration across the country, going through what exactly Trump had and had not done in a ‘fact-checking’ exercise, a source told CNN.

“Social distancing is not a light switch. It is a dial. President Biden will direct the CDC to provide specific evidence-based guidance for how to turn the dial up or down relative to the level of risk and degree of viral spread in a community, including when to open or close certain businesses, bars, restaurants, and other spaces; when to open or close schools, and what steps they need to take to make classrooms and facilities safe; appropriate restrictions on size of gatherings; when to issue stay-at-home restrictions,” the White House statement continued.

“Invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free. We will ensure that politics plays no role in determining the safety and efficacy of any vaccine,” it said.

“The following 3 principles will guide the Biden-Harris administration: put scientists in charge of all decisions on safety and efficacy; publicly release clinical data for any vaccine the FDA approves; and authorize career staff to write a written report for public review and permit them to appear before Congress and speak publicly uncensored.

“Additionally, we shall ensure everyone — not just the wealthy and well-connected — in America receives the protection and care they deserve, and consumers are not price gouged as new drugs and therapies come to market.

“Experts agree that tens of thousands of lives can be saved if Americans wear masks. President Biden will continue to call on every American to wear a mask when they are around people outside their household, every Governor to make that mandatory in their state and local authorities to also make it mandatory to buttress their state orders.”

CDC Director Admits The US Doesn’t ‘Have Enough Vaccines’ To Keep Up With Demands

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, spoke to the media this past Sunday admitting that America doesn’t have enough Covid-19 vaccines to meet every states’ specific needs. The announcement comes after states like New York and Georgia have begun pleading with the federal government to send them more doses. 

“Right now, that is the pressure point that I am feeling and by the end of March or so I really do hope our production scale has scaled up dramatically and that we actually have way more than we have right now.”

This Sunday America surpassed more than 25 million Covid-19 cases and 417,900 deaths recorded since the beginning of the pandemic. President Joe Biden initially promised that 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine would be distributed within the first 100 days that he’s in office, but if the nation continues at the rate it’s going the entire country would be lucky to have received their first dose by the end of the year.

Embed from Getty Images

“Yes, we have to go faster…I think the supply is going to be the most limiting constraint early on,” Walensky said, adding that the nation was able to complete its goal of one million doses every day this past Saturday with around 1,060,000 doses administered. “We’re really hoping that after the first 100 days we’ll have much more production, not just for these two vaccines, but we’re hopeful we’ll have another one from Johnson & Johnson in the weeks ahead and perhaps a fourth one coming down the pipeline. So we’re really hoping that we’ll have more vaccines and that will increase the pace at which we can do the vaccinations,” she added.  

When asked about the difficulty that the Biden administration is facing in regards to inheriting Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, Walensky explained that “one of the biggest issues right now is how much vaccine doses America has.  If I can’t tell that to you then I can’t tell it to the governors and I can’t tell it to the state health officials. If they don’t know how much vaccine they’re getting, not just this week but next week and the week after, they can’t plan. They can’t figure out how many sites to roll out, how many vaccinators they need and how many appointments to make for the public,’ Walensky said.

Embed from Getty Images

“The fact that we don’t know today, five days into this administration and weeks into planning how much vaccine we have, just gives you a sense of the challenges we’ve been left with from the previous administration.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called on Biden to “do whatever he can to increase the supply,” claiming that the state’s vaccine stockpile may already be exhausted completely. Cuomo explained that “the federal government allocates dosages by week, and yesterday we exhausted all five weeks allocation. We are now starting to receive week 6 allocations which trickle in during the week, they’re delivered by Washington to individual locations.

“We’ll be getting 250,000 dosages in week 6, but it could take up to 17 weeks to inoculate the seven million New Yorkers currently eligible for the vaccine unless the federal government begins to send more.”

Joe Biden’s pick for Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, claimed that “the Biden administration is saying the federal government will have a much heavier hand than the previous administration.” Data from the CDC directly showed that 20,537,990 vaccines have been administered in the US to date.

Doctor Giving Covid Vaccine

Fears That The ‘Vaccine Effect’ Will Keep Infection Rates High

The global rollout of vaccine programs is widely accepted as the most promising armory in the fight against COVID-19. However, experts fear that the ‘vaccine effect’ could lead to worryingly high and persistent infection rates which could potentially outweigh the positive effects achieved by mass vaccination.

The vaccine effect can broadly be described as a shift in behavior to a more relaxed approach to social distancing, handwashing and face coverings. This behavior could be displayed by those who have received the vaccine but it could also manifest in those who have not had the vaccine, but following successful vaccination of the most vulnerable groups falsely believe that that the danger has now passed.

Embed from Getty Images

The trouble with this approach is threefold; first, it takes the vulnerable a few weeks for the body to create the necessary antibody response that will ensure their body can fight off COVID-19 if faced with the virus. Secondly, dropping your guard when it comes to social distancing and hygiene practices means that even more people will become infected than would have under normal restrictions. The knock on effect of an increase in people becoming infected is that more people will become seriously ill and require hospitalization, placing sustained pressure on already stretched medical services. Thirdly and most importantly, it is important to realize that vaccines don’t work for every single person; so if it has a 9/10 success rate this means 1/10 vulnerable people will still be likely to suffer from COVID-19 even if they’ve had the vaccine. The reality is that for the most vulnerable to be protected, transmission needs to be brought right down across all groups in society, everywhere. Until that point, the risks of infection remain high. From what we know already of the vaccine rollout programs currently taking place, it could be some time before this level of protection is achieved on a global scale.

In a recent article for the BBC, Prof David Salisbury, a former director of immunization at the UK Department of Health and associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank said, ‘If you just protect the vulnerable, you will stop deaths that are happening in the vulnerable and you will reduce the burden of hospital cases, but it won’t stop transmission. This is a global pandemic, this isn’t a national epidemic, so you’ve got to stop the virus everywhere and, until you do, nowhere remains safe.’

Essentially this means that for the time being, we need to continue to undertake the same practices and behaviors as we did before an approved vaccine was in place. The trouble is, many people are facing lockdown ‘fatigue’ having had to follow the rules for so long. Following the announcement of a third national lockdown, there have been widespread concerns that the general public are not adhering to the rules quite as effectively as during the first major lockdown back in March 2020. Statistics revealed Apple based on analysis of map direction requests revealed that driving levels were down by 40% during the latest lockdown in comparison to 70% during the first lockdown. Public transport was down by 70% during the latest lockdown, compared to 85% back in March 2020. In addition, many more people remain in work this time around as businesses have developed more robust and pandemic-compliant ways to continue trading. Infact, in some schools in the UK, attendance during the third lockdown is as high as 50% despite nationwide closures except for vulnerable children and those of key workers.

Embed from Getty Images

The latest advice given by health officials is to ‘act like you have the virus’ which means take every precaution to minimize contact with others, maintain hand washing protocol, keep your distance when out and continue to wear face masks in close contact situations. The new UK and South African variants are reported to be up to 70% more infectious even in outdoor settings and it has recently been revealed that two home-grown variants have now been found in the US too, These variants are not believed to have originated elsewhere and although one is almost identical to the UK variant, scientists believe it evolved completely separately. In an article by the Daily Mail newspaper, Dr. Peter Mohler, chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center said, ‘These new strains ‘didn’t arrive on a plane or a boat. These are spontaneous or natural mutations that happened over the last six to eight weeks.’

What is clear is that despite the hope and positivity that the vaccines bring to the pandemic battle, they are certainly not a free pass to continue living without restrictions and due care for others in the community. For the next few months at least, it is absolutely vital that the public do not rest on their laurels, but maintain safe practices to prevent the second wave of the pandemic from soaring out of control.