COVID-19 is approaching the second leading cause of death in the US.

Dr. Cedric Dark, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine and a Board Member of Doctors for America, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss the latest developments in the coronavirus.

Video transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: We have a very sad milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, as the death toll is now approaching 500,000 deaths. However, we have good news. 600 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine will arrive this summer, July to be exact. So let’s talk more with Dr. Cedric Dark, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and a member of the board of Doctors for America. Dr., it’s always good to have you here with us. We have this sad reminder here of what is really going on in this ongoing pandemic, with this really high death toll.

I hope you can remind everyone at home where we are in this pandemic right now. It feels like everyone is tired. They are trying to move on. And they think this is behind us.

CEDRIC DARKNESS: I think the word he used, “tired”, is a very keyword that I have heard a lot from many of my colleagues across the country. We just feel tired in the medical space. But as we approach nearly half a million people dying from this disease, we are talking about something that is now practically on the order of at least the third leading cause of death in the United States, approaching the second leading cause of death. in America, that is cancer. All cancers combined are just over half a million deaths in the US, which is pretty remarkable when you think about it.

So yes, it is something very exhausting. But there is a little light at the end of the tunnel. We have seen the case count begin to decline. Hopefully that is due to vaccines being rolled out in the country. And maybe we’ll get over this soon.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, as I mentioned in the introduction here, we will have 600 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine by July. So, in your opinion, when will we have herd immunity in the United States?

CEDRIC DARKNESS: So that is something very difficult to understand. I think I’ve heard a lot of experts talk about when it could happen. Some say maybe as early as Easter if you look at the most optimistic scenarios, assuming that many people who have been infected are asymptomatic and already have some natural immunity, compared to the fact that we could be starting from scratch and just trying to vaccinate. a lot of people who have no immunity. I did some simple math today and tried to figure out when we could expect it to happen.

The good news is that if we have 600 million doses, we have enough for every American to get their two-dose vaccine throughout the year. And that would be great. And at the rate that we are going with about 1.5 to 1.6 million vaccines a day, we may need about 180 days to vaccinate everyone. It could take twice as long if we consider that two doses are needed. And that could put us between August of this year or until February of next year, depending on how fast we can produce, how fast we can vaccinate people.

In the meantime, what every American should do is stay the course, with social distancing, with masks. And when the opportunity arises, do it on the arm. Take your vaccine.

KRISTIN MYERS: Okay, quick math here. 180 days from now or even a couple of days ago puts us in August, add some time. So at the earliest, I know you’re saying if everything goes according to plan. So for the fall, let’s say September, we have all those people vaccinated. Once everyone is vaccinated or approximately 300 million people are vaccinated in this country, can we continue to live normally? Can we just say, hey, for Halloween this year, life will be great if we vaccinate everyone?

CEDRIC DARKNESS: Sorry to put a shock absorber. I think we’ll have to wait and see a bit, number one, because we still have to figure out how long immunity lasts from vaccines, how long immunity lasts from natural infection, to determine whether or not people need a booster shot. Will this turn into something like when you need an annual vaccine like we do with our flu shots or will it be something like measles, mumps, rubella, once you’re vaccinated against that, that lasts almost the entire lifetime? So we don’t know those bits of information yet.

So that’s something we’ll have to see what the data shows over time. So people have to be patient and wait for us to reach a point where we achieve herd immunity, hopefully around the end of the year or early next. And then once we have done this in our country, we have to make sure that this happens in other parts of the world as well. Because if we forget about the developing world, then all it will take is someone to fly from one country to another to make this kind of thing happen again, especially if that immunity wanes over time.

KRISTIN MYERS: I’m very glad you mentioned that global stage and that global piece. Then as you touched it, very quickly here, how do you manage while people get vaccinated or even after you vaccinate yourself? You still have to wear a mask and stay relatively isolated, correct?

CEDRIC DARKNESS: Yes. But I have spoken with several of my medical colleagues. And one of our greatest hopes for the next few months is that we will be able to see our family again, and especially our parents, because most of us have not done so for at least a year. During our spring break coming up in March, I hope I can see my parents, whom I haven’t seen since maybe sometime in 2019, honestly, in person, because they have both been vaccinated. My mom has been vaccinated with her two injections. My father should get the next one, I think maybe the first week of March or so.

Both myself and my wife are vaccinated. We only have one six year old who is not yet vaccinated because it is not approved for children yet. But I think at this point, myself and most of the people I know are willing to go see his family again once everyone who can be vaccinated is vaccinated.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Dr. Cedric Dark, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and a member of the Physicians for America board. Thank you as always for joining us.

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