Race Between COVID Variants and Vaccines

Day 359: Stay Safe Minnesota

According to health experts, there’s a tough race between Covid-19 vaccinations and a contagious variant that’s rapidly spreading across the US, threatening another dangerous surge — and the eased restrictions only further complicate things.

According to health experts, there is a concern that the race between Covid-19 vaccinations and a contagious variant that’s rapidly spreading across the US is threatening another dangerous surge — and the eased restrictions only further complicate things, writes Christina Maxouris in the CNN Health.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health told CNN “It’s going to be a close call. We are vaccinating really well, that’s the good news. These variants are spreading pretty quickly across the country, that’s the bad news.”

“To me, I think the vaccine should win out. Here’s the big but: What Texas, Mississippi, other states are doing to relax and get rid of the mask orders and kind of act like everything is back to normal, that is definitely coming down on the side of the variants.”

According to Johns Hopkins University data, “in 15 states, new Covid-19 cases reported over the week that ended on Tuesday were at least 10% higher than a week ago. In two of those states — Minnesota and Michigan — cases were more than 40% higher than a week before, according to the data.”

In a recent Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told that more sequencing from current 10,000 to 14,000 per week is needed to keep on top of the spread of concerning new variants.

“We’re now doing somewhere between 10,000 and 14,000 sequences a week. Right now, we really would like to be up at the 25,000 range.”

US is reportedly far behind in the genomic sequencing than other countries, such as the UK. ‘The CDC said this means there’s not a clear picture of the spread of variants. The CDC has forecast that the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant will be the dominant version of the virus across the US by the end of March,” CNN reports.

Dr Wallensky reportedly told “the agency needs the money allocated in the American Rescue Plan to step up sequencing capability. The additional $1.75 billion is in fact essential to help fund jurisdictions for next genome sequencing capacity. Not all jurisdictions have this capacity and we really do need to be able to scale this up across the country.”

“Equipment is also needed to sequence samples, and trained staff are essential.We need to develop a work force, so that people understand how to do genomic epidemiology. That is not standard application. That is not what people standardly know and so we need to develop that work force.”

According to CDC, two coronavirus strains first detected in California are now officially “variants of concern“. “The variants may be about 20% more transmissible, the CDC said, citing early research. Some Covid-19 treatments may also be less effective against the strains. Still, the CDC didn’t say that vaccines would stop working against them.”

On Friday, Dr Anthony said in an interview with CNN “Of concern is that there are about 50% increase in transmission with this particular variant that has been documented in the UK and there’s likely an increase in severity of disease if infected with this variant.”

The way we can counter 1.1.7, which is a growing threat in our country, is to do two things: To get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible with the vaccine that we know works against this variant and, finally, to implement the public health measures that we talk about all the time and that was on Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky’s slide — masking, physical distancing, and avoiding congregant settings, particularly indoors.

Dr Anthony said in an interview with CNN
COVID-19 Vaccination Watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of Mar 21, 9 a.m.) 156,734,555 doses have been distributed and 124,481,412 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of Mar 19) a total of 2,202,673 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of Mar 21) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 505,224 (out of 7,949,000 tested) with 6,782 deaths.