Covid-19 vaccines have proven a tremendous ally in America’s battle against the virus – but there’s more work to do.
“For the first time since the pandemic began, Covid cases are down in all 50 states,” White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said in a Tuesday briefing. “We are winning the war on the virus, and we need you to help us finish the job.”
His comments come as state leaders and public health officials express optimism about the country’s Covid-19 trends and where we could be by summer.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday the state’s seven-day positivity rate had dropped to the lowest level since the pandemic’s start. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced three new Covid-19 deaths Tuesday, the state’s lowest daily number in the pandemic.
In the past week, the US has averaged around 31,200 new Covid-19 cases – the lowest average since last June and less than half what the average was just a month ago, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
And the country averaged 614 Covid-19 deaths daily over the last week – less than a third of the 1,988-per-day average seen three months ago, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Still, among the messages of hope, officials and medical experts are offering an important reminder: It’s not over just yet.
“Cases are going down, deaths are going down, hospitalizations are going down, vaccinations are going up,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt University, told CNN on Tuesday. “If the vaccinations increased even more rapidly, you would see those other metrics, those Covid metrics, going down even more.”
“There’s still lots of people out there who haven’t come forward and rolled up their sleeves, we need them to do that,” he added. “Vaccine in the refrigerator cannot prevent disease.”
Roughly 47.9% of the US population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data as of early Wednesday. About 37.8% of the population is fully vaccinated.
The US needs to help mobilize global vaccine production to save millions of lives, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
“We have a real, real challenge and a mission to get the rest of the world vaccinated,” Fauci said Wednesday at an event hosted by Bowdoin College.
He added its necessary to mobilize global vaccine production capability, so there isn’t a two-to-three-year lag for people in lower and middle income countries to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
“Because that will literally mean a million deaths, if we wait that long – and maybe more – and that’s unacceptable,” he said.
Booster likely needed ‘within a year or so’ of vaccination, Fauci says
A Covid-19 vaccine booster, when authorized, will likely be needed within a year following initial vaccination, Fauci said in an Axios interview posted Wednesday.
“We know that the vaccine durability of the efficacy lasts at least six months, and likely considerably more, but I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so after getting the primary,” Fauci said.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, citing data he’s seen, told Axios that Pfizer vaccine recipients may need a booster “between eight and 12 months” after their second shot.
Pfizer has not finished its trials on a booster.
“I believe in one, two months, we will have enough data to speak about it with much higher scientific certainty,” Bourla said.
Fauci also said Wednesday that variant-specific boosters may not be needed.
“Instead of having to play whack-a-mole with each individual variant and develop a booster that’s variant-specific, it is likely that you could just keep boosting against the wild-type, and wind up getting a good enough response that you wouldn’t have to worry about the variants,” he said.
The wild-type is the non-mutated strain of the virus.
‘We must push further’
The pace of vaccinations has drastically slowed from just a few weeks ago, and officials say it’s crucial to keep getting more shots into arms.