Dr. Michael Osterholm, Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair of Public Health and Director of the Center for Research and Policy on Infectious Diseases at the University of Minnesota, announced advances on COVID-19 testing in Minnesota at St. Paul, MN.
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune | Getty Images
An epidemiologist who advised President Joe Biden’s transition to the Covid-19 crisis warned on Sunday of an impending wave of infections and said the US should adjust its vaccination strategy to save lives.
“We have to give an acoustic signal, I think there is no doubt about it,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. He used a metaphor from soccer to describe the changing plans on the fly.
Osterholm said the administration should attempt to give as many initial vaccine doses as possible, especially for those over 65 years of age, before there is a potential spike in cases related to mutations overseas.
The two federally approved vaccines are given in two doses three weeks apart. Osterholm suggested that his plan might require the second dose to be delayed.
“The fact is the surge that is likely to occur with this new variant from England is going to happen in the next six to 14 weeks. And when we see that, my 45 years in the trenches tell me we’re going to do it, We will see something we have never seen in this country, “said Osterholm.
“We still want to get two doses each, but I think right now, before this surge, we need to get as many doses as possible in as many people over 65 as possible to reduce serious illness and death in the coming weeks,” added Osterholm added. He said that data supports the idea that those who get their second dose later might get better results.
The variant of coronavirus first identified in the UK has been linked to faster transmission and may be more deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the variant could be the dominant strain in the US by March.
Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He was a member of the Covid-19 Advisory Board of the Biden transition team, which disbanded when Biden was inaugurated earlier this month.
The White House did not return a request for comment on Osterholm’s statements on Sunday.
The number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations every day has fallen sharply in recent weeks, although the total remains high. The monthly death toll from the virus hit a record high in January.
On an average of seven days, the US is exposed to more than 3,000 deaths from the virus and more than 150,000 infections daily, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
Osterholm suggested that the declining number of cases and hospitalizations could create a false sense of security and that these numbers would rise again if communicable mutations became more prevalent across the country.
“You and I are sitting on this beach, which is 70 degrees, perfectly blue skies, light breezes, but I see this hurricane – Category 5 or higher – 450 miles offshore,” Osterholm told host Chuck Todd. “Telling people to evacuate on the beautiful blue sky day is going to be difficult. But I can also tell you the hurricane is coming.”
The federal vaccine rollout, which got off to a rocky start, has accelerated in recent weeks. Nearly 25 million people have received at least one vaccine dose, according to CDC data, with around 5 million receiving both doses. Biden has pledged to meet a goal of 100 million doses administered within its first 100 days.
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