The COVID-19 vaccination rollout has been off to a “shaky start” in the U.S., according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
But Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is optimistic about the near future. “You will see, in the next few weeks, a much bigger escalation of the capability of getting vaccine into people’s arms,” he said Tuesday during a Washington Post Live event.
Describing new cooperation, collaboration and synergy among the federal government, states and cities, Fauci said strategies underway now to improve distribution include getting pharmacies more involved, rolling out community mass vaccination centers and using mobile units to reach relatively inaccessible areas — “concentrating on the concept of equity to get, particularly, minority populations who may not have as easy access,” he said.
Addressing issues of vaccine wariness in minority communities, Fauci said, is “critical” to achieve the goal of reaching so-called herd immunity — 70% to 85% of the population vaccinated — to prevent community transmission that allows coronavirus mutations to happen.
Such emerging variant strains, he said, represent a challenge that needs to be taken seriously.
“We need to be prepared to upgrade the vaccines if it turns out that they evolve more to completely avoid the protective effect,” Fauci said.
Available COVID-19 vaccines so far are shown to be effective against the U.K. variant of the coronavirus that is now confirmed in 30 U.S. states with roughly 400 cases.
But the South African variant — B.1.351, which has been detected in Maryland and South Carolina — is concerning, Fauci said, because it does evade vaccines’ protective effect to a degree.
“So, rather than really, really, very good protection, it diminishes it somewhat, but still is within the range of protection,” Fauci said.
To stay ahead of the mutations, Fauci said the nation needs good surveillance to track them — with perhaps genome sequencing.
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