An infectious disease expert has warned the United States needs to change its vaccine plan or risk an impeding “Category 5” hurricane-like surge.
The stark warning came as January was declared the deadliest month of the pandemic so far in the country, with more 95,245 coronavirus deaths in the US, dwarfing December’s total of 77,486 fatalities.
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Michael Osterholm, who worked on Joe Biden’s transition team, is urging officials to start giving as many first doses of the coronavirus vaccine as possible before the US sees an unprecedented rise in cases.
“We still want to get two doses in everyone, but I think right now, in advance of this surge, we need to get as many one-doses in as many people over 65 as we possibly can, to reduce serious illness and death that is going to occur over the weeks ahead,” Dr Osterholm said on NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday.
One dose of the Moderna vaccine is about 80 per cent effective against the virus. One dose of the Pfizer vaccine is 52 per cent effective.
Both numbers are better than letting people go unvaccinated.
“So we do know that if we get a number of first doses in people, particularly 65 years of age and older, we can really do a lot to reduce the number of serious illnesses and deaths in this next big surge which is coming,” Dr Osterholm continued.
Dr Osterholm, the director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the country needs to ramp up its vaccination program, saying he expects a huge increase in cases in the coming months.
The US needs to “call an audible,” he said, as it will become burdened by new cases “in the next six to 14 weeks” given the new variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
“We are going to see something that we have not seen yet in this country,” Dr Osterholm said.
“England, for example, is hospitalising twice as many people as we ever had hospitalised at our highest number,” he continued, comparing the new cases to a category 5 hurricane.
“You and I are sitting on this beach where it’s 70 degrees (21C), perfectly blue skies, gentle breeze,” Dr Osterholm told host Chuck Todd. “But I see that hurricane 5, category 5 or higher, 450 miles (724km) offshore.
“And, you know, telling people to evacuate on that nice blue sky day is going to be hard.”
He offered some tough words to the US, saying if such a thing he predicts is going to happen, the country needs to be much faster in implementing lockdown procedures than it was at the start of the pandemic.
“We’re really good in this country at pumping the brakes after we wrap the car around the tree,” Dr Osterholm said.
“You know, what we have to do now is also anticipate this and understand that we’re going to have to change quickly,” he continued. “As fast as we’re opening restaurants, we’re likely going to be closing them in the near term.”
This article originally appeared on The US Sun and is republished here with permission