Biden’s quest to kill the epidemic is at a turning point. In some cases the number of new cases has plateaued and even fallen, and millions of more vaccine doses are expected to be available within weeks. But news that more infectious versions have arrived in the US reduces the government’s margin for error – potentially making it harder to continue reducing the number of new infections, and vaccinating millions of Americans over the summer The President’s goal is to draw resources away from it.
“We need better genetic monitoring of all the variants emanating from there … but you can’t snap your fingers and get it,” said bioethics expert Ejacial Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania, who Biden during the infection Kovid was an adviser to 19. . Manufacturers need to develop vaccines capable of protecting against many strains – as much as flu shots do – and easy-to-administer drugs to treat the virus, he said.
This is on top of the country’s need for vaccines. Biden’s team Emanuel said, “Already they are putting as much pressure as they are putting, but as many people as possible have to get vaccinated.”
In some ways, the current situation resembles that of March 2020, when the US was dangerously behind in testing to monitor virus activity and was almost entirely dependent on other basic public health measures to limit its reach. . Although the US has two vaccines available and more in development, their slow-to-expect rollout has executives looking for ways to buy time and protect already-expanding health care systems while they battle their epidemic make plans.
“You’re going to hear me say this, so here it is: wear a mask. Stay six feet apart. Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated places. Plus, now is not the time to travel,” CDC Director Rochelle Wallensky Friday spoke at the White House about the agency’s “dramatic” scaled-down efforts to expand variant surveillance and testing over the past 10 days – partnerships with testing companies. And research across the country Laboratories.
“Even with this effort,” said Walsky, “we need to treat every case as if it is just a version in this epidemic.”
The strains that have emerged from South Africa, Brazil and the United Kingdom present a formidable challenge, said infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, who also advised Biden on the epidemic during infection. “This, for me, is one of the most humble moments in my scientific career of 45 years. I’m sure I know less about SARS-CoV-2 today than it did six months ago. The more I learn , The less I know., “He said.
Adding to the difficulty, every new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate; Over time, small mutations can change in ways that change the behavior of the virus, giving rise to additional adaptations.
The CDC partnered with commercial laboratories and universities earlier this month to obtain at least 6,000 samples a week, which experts say is a complete test of how the virus is spreading and what strains exist. Need to understand the extent. In early January it was said that America needs to analyze 10,000 positive test samples in a day.
“We are doing some indexing and are also working with the CDC. The CDC has expanded its capacity, and therefore our state lab is much more tied up with the network of state laboratories that work with the CDC, ”said Jinlene Cha, deputy secretary of public health services for the Maryland Department of Health Act of.
Emerging variants have not shifted the state’s vaccination targets. “We have not yet made any specific changes to our overall strategy: the goal is simply to get as many vaccines and to vaccinate as many people as possible and to prioritize those who are most at risk.”
Meanwhile, federal health officials are urging people to wear masks religiously. But currently only 37 states have masked regulations.
Variants have also inspired vaccine developers to begin work on booster shots to enhance protection against the latest strains. Modern has already begun testing humans for one “with an abundance of caution” while others, including Pfizer, say they are researching the effects of strains on their shots.
The FDA’s top vaccine regulator, Peter Marks, said on Friday that the agency was working on guidelines to quickly modify existing Kovid-19 vaccines and evaluate the safety and efficacy of those tweaks in the face of new virus variants.
During an event organized by the American Medical Association on Friday, Marks said, “The agency is working closely with industrial partners. We need to look at how we will have to switch to a different sequence.” Vaccines will potentially be “very well-organized” compared to their initial development and may include clinical trials with only a few hundred people. The agency has so far required Kovid-19 vaccine developers to conduct late-stage trials with at least 30,000 participants.
An executive at J&J argued during a call with investors on Friday morning that the company’s data reflected how the epidemic has evolved since last fall, when Pfizer and Modern published the results of their Phase III trial . Mathai Mammen, J&J’s head of global research and development at the pharmaceutical arm, said, “Because a large number of these variants are moving around … you actually compare our 72 percent in the United States to 94 percent in a different time.” Cannot do. ” , Janssen.
The J&J results reflect the difficult new reality facing the country’s epidemic response.
“This is a wake-up call for all of us,” top federal infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci said in a White House press talk on Friday, calling for shots to protect the government and vaccine manufacturers from different strains Must be “agile” to accommodate. ” .
This quick action is not limited to manufacturing a converted vaccine, but rather switching production lines, churning out updated shots, authorizing them for use, and distributing them to millions. This could be a Herlian act on top of an already existing vaccine rollout across the country.
Obama’s health official, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt, said congressional funding would be important for those relief packages. “We want to speed up our efforts in sequencing, which I believe should be a shared bipartisan perspective, we can do that,” he said at the White House briefing. “We need Congress to pass the US rescue plan quickly.”
Meanwhile, common sense public health measures are important. Osterholm predicts a case increase in the US over the next six to 14 weeks, driven by more infectious strains and a general epidemic fatigue that is loosening public health measures at the worst. “We’re really good at applying brakes after wrapping cars on trees,” he said.
Rachel Raubin, David Lim and Brian Alley contributed to this report.