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article imageVaccinating Americans — A race to stop spread of COVID variants

By Karen Graham     Feb 2, 2021 in Health
January was the deadliest month yet of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., yet there are signs of progress as case numbers, and hospitalizations begin to drop. But, we still face a slew of new virus variants that could halt any progress we have made.
Vaccinating Americans has turned into a race to beat the spread of the deadly virus and with the spread of variants of the coronavirus that seem to be more infectious and even deadlier, getting shots into the arms of Americans has become critical.
To date, the U.S. has recorded 26,034,475 cases of COVID-19 and 439,995 deaths, according to the CDC COVID Data Tracker. The total number of vaccine doses distributed across the country stands at 49,936,450.
To date, 32,222,402 doses have been given. This is up from 16.5 million on the day President Joe Biden took office, Jan. 20.
Over 95,000 lives were lost to the virus in January alone, and deaths are now running at about 3,150 per day on average, down slightly by about 200 from their peak in mid-January.
“While the recent decline in cases and hospital admissions are encouraging, they are counterbalanced by the stark reality that in January we recorded the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in any month since the pandemic began,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, per the Associated Press.
Dr. Philip Landrigan, an epidemiologist at Boston College, said vaccines are a factor in the sharp drop in cases but are not the primary cause. He notes that the "depoliticization" of the pandemic has helped in getting people to come to grips with the seriousness of the crisis.
I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of this culture change. I think it’s critically important,” he said.
Medical staff workers prepare syringes with doses of Covid-19 vaccine while working behind beer taps...
Medical staff workers prepare syringes with doses of Covid-19 vaccine while working behind beer taps at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts
Joseph Prezioso, AFP/File
The risk of re-infection from variants
Three mutated variants of the virus from Britain, South Africa, and Brazil have been detected in the U.S. At least 467 cases of the UK coronavirus variant have been detected in 32 states.
Health officials warn that this variant is more easily spread and is believed to be deadlier than the original virus strain. There is a real concern that if this variant becomes dominant, re-infections will spike.
Additionally, at least three cases of the strain from South Africa, B.1.351, have been identified in the U.S., and one case of the P.1 strain first identified in Brazil. Even for those who have been infected with Covid-19, there is a "very high rate" of re-infection if the new variants become dominant, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday, according to CNN.
While the current vaccines do not offer the same level of protection against the variants, they can protect against serious disease, including hospitalization and death, Fauci said. They could also keep variants from becoming more dominant.
"Viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate. And if you stop their replication by vaccinating widely and not giving the virus an open playing field to continue to respond to the pressures that you put on it, you will not get mutations," Fauci said.
"You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the country."
More about coronavirus in US, covid variants, Vaccinations, 32 states, reinfection
 
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