By Dakin Andone and Madeline Holcombe, CNN
(CNN) – The United States sees a sharp drop in new cases of Covid-19 – but there is a major caveat.
CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University shows a 29% drop in new Covid-19 cases from this period last week, the biggest drop in a week than the country experienced during the pandemic.
Improvements have been made; In a White House briefing on Friday, the director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Rochelle Walensky, said the United States continues to see a decline of five weeks, the average of seven cases days having declined 69% since its peak on Jan.11.
But it’s unclear how much of the drop can be attributed to the winter weather conditions that have plagued much of the country, forcing officials to shut down test sites, affecting crucial data collection.
Several states affected by winter storms are seeing a sharp drop in new cases this week, according to data from Johns Hopkins, including Texas, where cases are down 56% from last week.
The COVID tracking project said Thursday it had not been able to update the daily number of tests performed in Texas for four days due to winter weather conditions. Overall, the United States saw an almost 13.5% drop in testing compared to this period last week.
Again, that’s not to say the United States hasn’t made progress in reducing the number of cases. Earlier this week, Dr Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, and Dr Jonathan Reiner, Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University, both reported that wearing masks was one of the reasons for the decline in staff.
However, regardless of the progress made, they are also threatened by the rise of Covid-19 variants, some of which appear to be more transmissible. And while they may stir up trouble, pharmaceutical companies and scientists are confident vaccines will evolve with them, according to Andy Slavitt, senior White House adviser.
“ Run before the variant ”
“I’ve spoken to all the pharmaceutical and scientific companies, and they all say the same thing: even if these vaccines go down a bit, they will be able to continually update them,” Slavitt, responsible for the Covid-19 response, said Thursday to CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
With more than 1,500 disturbing variant cases reported in the United States, officials have rushed to administer vaccines quickly to get ahead of other mutations, with around 57.7 million doses administered across the country so far, according to the CDC.
“Even though the numbers look promising in terms of a drop in new cases, this is misleading,” said Dr Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College in Houston, referring to the UK variant of Covid-19. “I think we’re about to be hit really hard, so we have to get ahead of the variant.”
New research from Israel and Canada has found that a single dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine offers significant protection against the virus, but Slavitt stressed that doesn’t mean people should skip the second dose.
“We don’t know how long or how long that benefit is sustainable without boosting it,” he said. “We don’t know how effective it is against variants.”
Dr Anthony Fauci echoed this during Friday’s White House briefing, saying he had not changed his mind after reading the Israeli report. He said the United States “will stick to the scientifically documented efficacy and optimal response” of two doses.
He added that he was concerned that if large numbers of people were given a single dose and had a less optimal immune response, they could be exposed to the virus and start incubating viral mutations.
“You could theoretically induce new variants,” he says.
US will have to work ‘twice’ after winter
So far, more than 41 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 16 million have received two doses, according to CDC data. But that means only 4.9% of the American population has been fully vaccinated.
Vaccination delays caused by severe winter conditions plaguing much of the United States mean the country will have to work “twice” to get back on track, according to Fauci, who told MSNBC on Thursday that some places have seen it. vaccine deployment slow “to a squeak. stop.”
A number of states have reported delays in vaccine deliveries, forcing providers to cancel or postpone appointments for vaccinations.
During Friday’s White House briefing, Slavitt said there was a history of around 6 million doses affecting all 50 states. This backlog, he said, represented about three days of late delivery.
Workers were caught in the snow, he said, and they were unable to get to work to ship and pack the vaccines. Road closures have also delayed deliveries and, on top of that, more than 2,000 vaccination sites are in areas with power failure, rendering them unable to receive doses of vaccine as they must be stored at home. cold.
Officials expect the backlog to be cleared within the next week as weather conditions improve, and most doses could be delivered in the coming days, Slavitt said. 1.4 million doses were in transit as of Friday, he said.
“With everyone’s hard work and collective effort, we will be able to catch up, but we understand that it will mean asking for more people,” he said.
UPS and FedEx will make vaccine deliveries on Saturday, and employees at the Moderna vaccine packaging plant will work throughout the weekend to package late orders to make them available for early delivery. next week, Slavitt said. The government is also asking vaccination sites to extend their hours and schedule additional appointments to make up for lost progress, in addition to rescheduling canceled appointments.
“Whatever reduction we see in our seven-day average this week in bad weather vaccinations – if we all work together, from the factory to the vaccinators, we’ll make up for it in the week ahead,” he said. Slavitt said.
Blacks and Hispanics get fewer vaccinations
Researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analyzed state-level data for the 34 states that collect demographic information on Covid-19 vaccinations as of February 16.
In most of those states, blacks and Hispanics received a smaller share of vaccinations compared to their share of cases, deaths and percentage of the population, the researchers noted. The opposite is true for whites in most states.
In Texas, for example, Hispanics make up 42% of coronavirus cases, 47% of Covid-19 deaths, and 40% of the state’s population – but they have only received 20% of vaccinations.
Among the 27 states that report data on the ethnicity of those who received at least one dose of the vaccine, whites were vaccinated at a rate three times the rate of Hispanics and two times the rate of blacks.
The KFF team noted that some states do not record the race or ethnicity of people vaccinated.
Vaccine studies continue for more groups
Fauci said on Friday that the United States should have vaccine safety data for high school-age youth by early fall, although data on young children is not yet available. probably not available until next year.
In the White House briefing, Fauci pointed to Pfizer, who he said was set to study their vaccine for children ages 12 to 5 or 6 from April. But information from these studies is unlikely to be available until the first quarter of 2022.
“However, we do anticipate data on people of high school age, namely those aged 12 to 17, by early fall,” Fauci said. “Maybe it doesn’t exactly coincide with the first day of school, but in the fall we’ll have that.
A Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine trial for pregnant women gave participants their first doses on Thursday. The doses were administered to American participants, but the trial will be conducted in nine countries: the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mozambique, South Africa, United Kingdom Kingdom and Spain.
The company said the trial is designed to evaluate the vaccine in pregnant women, but also their infants, who will be monitored for safety and for transfer of potentially protective antibodies until they are around 6 months old. .
Pfizer / BioNTech also plans to expand testing to children aged 5 to 11 in the coming months, according to a press release from the company.
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