(CNN) — America is in an “absolute race against time” to vaccinate as many people as possible before the new variants of covid-19 take over the country, an expert said Sunday.
“We have a bit of room to breathe right now, but if these new variants become dominant in our country, we will be back to where we were in November and December, and maybe even worse,” emergency doctor Dr. Megan Ranney.
Several experts have echoed Ranney’s warning recently, who say that while the numbers of covid-19 may go in the right direction for now, the next few weeks could be a different story unless Americans double down on safety and increase vaccinations.
At least 32 states have found cases of a variant first identified in the UK, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English). Experts have said that the variant, called B.1,1.7, appears to be more transmittable.
‘The increase that is likely to occur with this new UK variant will occur in the next six to 14 weeks and if we see that happening […] we’re going to see something we haven’t seen in this country yet, ”Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC on Sunday.
But that is not all. Last week, Minnesota officials announced that they had detected the first American case of the P.1 variant in a traveler from Brazil. Two states also recently detected cases of a variant first identified in South Africa, which has worried scientists because of a mutation that could cause current vaccines against covid-19 are less effective.
“Despite the falling numbers, now is not the time to stop taking basic precautions,” Ranney warned Sunday. “Wear a mask, avoid indoor gatherings without a mask and, of course, wash your hands and try to keep a distance from others when possible.”
The expert urges a change in the vaccine strategy
Amid the push for more vaccines before another possible increase, Osterholm said that while it is important for people to receive both doses of the two-component vaccines, the country needs a change of strategy to protect more Americans than it could be arriving.
“We still want to give everyone two doses, but I think right now, before this increase, we need to give as many first doses to as many people over 65 as possible to reduce serious illness and deaths to occur in the next few weeks.” he told NBC.
Getting more first doses now shouldn’t mean giving up a second dose, Ranney said.
“We must count on Pfizer and Moderna, and hopefully soon Johnson & Johnson as well, to help fill that void,” Ranney said. “Give everyone the doses you can right now and count on that increased production so you can protect people properly.”
So far, more than 25.2 million Americans have received at least the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while about 5.6 million have received both doses, according to CDC data.
The problems facing states
Across the country, allocation and distribution problems continue to slow down the rate of vaccines.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear told CNN on Sunday, “If we have three problems, it’s supply, supply, and supply.”
While the state has the capacity to deliver 250,000 first doses a week, Beshear said, they are only scheduled to receive about 64,000 doses, a shortfall that, he said, other states are also facing.
“The only thing preventing us from beating this virus next month is the amount of supply we receive,” said the governor.
Meanwhile, parts of the country face a different problem: racial disparities in vaccines.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio highlighted preliminary data Sunday that shows a clear racial disparity among New Yorkers who have received doses of vaccines so far.
“Clearly what we see is a particularly pronounced reality that many more people from white communities receive vaccines than people from black and Latino communities,” de Blasio said.
In response, the city expanded its list of neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the virus and will increase outreach, prioritize appointments, and add new vaccine sites in those areas, among other efforts, the mayor said.
The disparity, said de Blasio, must “be addressed aggressively and creatively.”
CDC Releases Super Bowl Guide
Meanwhile, following calls from health experts to double down on security measures, the CDC has also updated guidelines on the safest ways to watch the next Super Bowl.
The short version: Enjoy the game with only people in your household and have other guests join in virtually.
“Attending large gatherings like the Super Bowl increases the risk of contracting and spreading covid-19”, said the CDC.
For Americans who choose to attend large Super Bowl events such as game-watching parties, the agency offered several recommendations including calling the venue ahead of time to make sure they take safety measures, following physical distancing guidelines, avoiding cheers, use contactless payment methods and keep a mask on at all times.
– CNN’s Maggie Fox, Ganesh Setty and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism