US top doctor says vaccination key to fighting COVID-19 variants

Despite concern over supply, Anthony Fauci says study on taking only one vaccine dose could take months to complete.

Dr Anthony Fauci says the best defence is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Amid rising concerns over emerging variant strains of COVID-19, top infectious disease doctor Anthony Fauci on Monday said the best defence is to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly as possible.

Fauci said while it is reasonable to consider studying the efficacy of giving only one dose of the Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines – in light of concerns over limited supplies – such a study would take months to complete and thus likely make its conclusions moot.

The optimal “approach would be to continue with getting as many people on their first dose as possible but also making sure that people on time get their second dose”, Fauci said during a news briefing.

“It’s an incentive to do what we have been saying all along: to vaccinate as many people as we can and to do so as quickly as we can,” he said.

Some 200,000 masks were handed out ahead of the game, but Tampa, Florida Mayor Jane Castor expressed frustration at maskless fans who celebrated the game’s outcome [Mary Holt/USA Today Sports via Reuters]

On Sunday, throngs of mostly maskless fans took to the streets and packed sports bars in Tampa, Florida to celebrate a Super Bowl win, causing concern over that the gatherings would turn into so-called super-spreader events.

“It is a little frustrating because we have worked so hard,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said on Monday during a news conference. “At this point in dealing with COVID-19, there is a level of frustration when you see that,” Castor said.

The White House coronavirus task force has said the United States is currently vaccinating an average of 1.3 million people every day, and that the majority of Americans would need to be vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID-19 infections.

In an interview with CBS aired on Sunday, US President Joe Biden, who took office on January 20, said he realised his predecessor’s administration’s handling of the pandemic was “even more dire than we thought” only after he entered the White House.

“We thought they had indicated there was a lot more vaccine available,”  Biden said. “And didn’t turn out to be the case. So that’s why we’ve ramped up every way we can,” he said.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden on a scoreboard screen delivering a message before the NFL Super Bowl 55 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Tampa, Florida [Chris O’Meara/AP Photo]

Also crucial has been the issue of reopening schools, which Biden called “a national emergency” that some 20 million American children have been learning remotely for nearly an entire year.

Biden had pledged to prioritise the reopening of schools during his first 100 days in office.

“I think it’s time for schools to reopen safely. Safely,” Biden said during the CBS interview. “You have to have fewer people in the classroom. You have to have ventilation systems that have been reworked.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday said crucial to reopening school plans is ensuring that community spread of the disease is down [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would this week release requirements to safely reopen schools.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday said crucial to reopening school plans is ensuring that community spread of the disease is down.

But the prospects of reopening schools is already fraught with problems, with teachers’ unions threatening to strike if they are compelled to return to classrooms before it is deemed safe.

Local media reported that members of the Chicago Teachers Union are expected to vote on Monday on an agreement with Chicago Public Schools that would allow them to return to classrooms.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Sunday that the district had reached a tentative agreement with the teachers.

“We are here to announce the very good news that our children will be returning to in-person learning this week,” Lightfoot said during a news conference. “These past 11 months have been a whirlwind for our entire city, pushing us to limits countless times,” she said.

If ratified, the deal will reportedly allow teachers and students to return to classrooms in the coming weeks, with younger students expected to return this week.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies