Several experts predicted Tuesday the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the UK is likely to fuel another surge of cases in just a matter of weeks.
“It could result in more of a wave in, say, April or May than we would have expected otherwise,” Trevor Bedford, of the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said during a briefing sponsored by the center. “But I still do suspect that things will be brought under control in the summer, and there will be very little virus circulating.”
The predicted surge is why many experts highlight the need to double down on safety measures like face masks, social distancing and avoiding crowded areas. Helping to lower cases will also give the virus less of a chance to spread further and mutate, experts have said.
Vaccinating as many people as possible will also be a big help in slowing any more surges — and the vaccine arsenal may be bolstered soon.
The efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against moderate to severe/critical Covid-19 across all geographic areas was 66.9% at least 14 days after the single dose vaccination and 66.1% at least 28 days after vaccination, states the analysis for the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, independent group of FDA advisers.
The panel meets Friday and will consider the documents and make a recommendation about whether Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine should be authorized.
Still, the new, infectious variants make it “difficult to prevent a fourth wave altogether,” said Dr. Josh Schiffer, an infectious diseases specialist at Fred Hutchinson.
The group called on the FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine advisers to be quickly convened and determine whether data supports the group’s recommendations, including deferring second vaccine doses to after the coming surge.
“There is a narrow and rapidly closing window of opportunity to more effectively use vaccines and potentially prevent thousands of severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the next weeks and months,” the report said.
Officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said in recent days the US is continuing to vaccinate people with both doses and close to the recommended schedules, with Fauci telling CNN earlier this week, “science points directly toward continuing with what we know about from the clinical trial.”
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