The top US infectious disease expert has said that based on recent seven-day averages, coronavirus infections may be about to hit a plateau in the United States.
“Well, obviously we’re still in a very serious situation,” Dr Anthony Fauci said at a White House news briefing on Thursday. “To have over 400,000 deaths is something that is, unfortunately, historic in the very bad sense.”
“However, when you look more recently on the seven-day average of cases,” he added, “right now, it looks like it might actually be plateauing.”
The newly sworn-in president of the United States, Joe Biden, has pledged to make ramping up the pace of vaccinations one of the top priorities of his administration.
He is aiming to deliver 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the first 100 days in office, which Fauci has previously said “is absolutely a doable thing”.
During the news briefing on Thursday, Fauci said that the new administration is also seeking to increase production of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as well as the Johnson & Johnson candidate, which he said could be presented soon to US regulators for approval.
About 17.5 million doses of vaccine have been administered so far in the US, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, below the number that former President Donald Trump’s administration hoped would have been given by the end of 2020.
Fauci added that if 70-80 percent of Americans are immunised by late September, some degree of normalcy can be returned to the country in the following months.
Fauci also said the coronavirus vaccine can be modified to take account of new mutations of the virus and that, while the South Africa variant is concerning, it does not appear to be in the US.
“Bottom line: We’re paying very close attention to it for our alternative plans if we have to ever modify the vaccine,” he said. “But right now, from the reports we have … it appears that the vaccines will still be effective against them.”