Despite an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned during a Monday press briefing that she remains “deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic.”
Walensky, citing the latest data from the agency, said that the recent declines in COVID-19 cases have leveled off at roughly 70,000 cases per day.
“You know, the goal is not to sort of open up travel, open up all of, you know, things because people — you know, we’re scaling up vaccination. The goal in those first 100 days has always been to sort of make sure that we are in a place to be out of this pandemic,” Walensky said. “At 70,000 cases per day, we’re not in that place right now.
So while we may have, you know, guidance at the individual level, as Dr. Fauci has suggested, I think we all need to keep our eye on the fact that we’re not out of the woods here yet.”
According to the CDC, the most recent seven-day average of cases — approximately 67,200 — represents an increase of a little over 2% compared to the prior seven days. Similarly, the most recent seven-day average of deaths increased more than 2% from the previous seven days to nearly 2,000 deaths per day.
“With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” she added. “I understand the temptation to do this. Seventy thousand cases a day seemed good compared to where we were just a few months ago. But we cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day, 2,000 daily deaths. “
While Walensky noted that the CDC is “actively working” on guidance regarding when it will be safe for Americans to begin activities like travel again, she stressed that between the current level of cases and the risk of spreading variants, the United States could “completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained” if it reopens too quickly.
“These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close, she said. “We have the ability to stop a potential fourth surge of cases in this country. Please stay strong in your conviction. Continue wearing you well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work.”
Walensky said that vaccination is the key to getting the U.S. out of the pandemic and that in order to get there, many more Americans need to be vaccinated.
On Sunday, Walensky signed off on a recommendation from the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine should be used for emergency use for individuals ages 18 and older.
“The Janssen vaccine is a much-needed addition to our toolbox and increases the number of vaccine doses available, and makes it possible for more people to get vaccinated and protected from COVID-19,” Walensky said Monday.
|JNJ||JOHNSON & JOHNSON||159.32||+0.86||+0.54%|
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is the third for the United States, following previous emergency use approvals for vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna. Unlike the other two available vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s requires a single dose and does not need to be kept in a freezer.
According to an analysis by the FDA, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was about 67% effective in preventing moderate to severe cases within 14 days after dosing and 66% effective against severe to critical cases after 28 days. In addition, the vaccine was approximately 77% effective in preventing severe or critical COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 85% effective in preventing severe or critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination.
Meanwhile, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 95% and 94.1% effective, respectively.
The ACIP does not state a preference for a particular COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, the group of independent health experts encourages individuals to receive any of the vaccines available as early as possible.
According to the latest CDC data, more than 76 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States, with nearly 50 million Americans receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Deliveries of Johnson & Johnson’s initial supply of 3.9 million vaccine doses to state health departments, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers and community vaccination centers across the country are expected as early as Tuesday.
Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels told FOX Business on Monday that the company expects to deliver enough single-shot vaccines by the end of March to vaccinate more than 20 million Americans, and 100 million by the end of June. The company is also on track to produce 1 billion doses for global distribution by the end of 2021.