‘The hurricane is coming’: Expert warns Biden to change up vaccine plan over variant risks

Transition adviser to US president warns more cases and deaths by spring unless more single shots administered to Americans

Gino Spocchia
Monday 01 February 2021 19:25
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An American health expert has warned the Biden administration to make changes to current vaccination plans, or see new coronavirus variants cause a surge in cases and deaths in the coming weeks.

Michael Osterholm, who served on President Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisory transition board, said on Sunday a “hurricane” was on the way, as he warned about an anticipated surge in cases by spring.

Among the concerns expressed by the top epidemiologist was the UK variant, which could be more contagious – and may potentially be more deadly – by as much as 30 per cent.

“That hurricane is coming,” Mr Osterholm told NBC’s Meet the Press. “We are going to see something like we have not seen yet in this country.”  

He went on to say that the Biden administration should start widely offering vaccinations with single doses to reduce the UK variant’s spread, with those over 65 years-old a priority for the shots.

Read more: Follow the latest news and updates from the Biden administration

Currently, there are two vaccines against Covid approved by the US Food and drug Administration (FDA), produced by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna. Both require two shots, several weeks apart.

In practice, the plan suggested by Mr Osterholm and others would provide more Americans with at least some level of protection against Covid, when cases start to surge again, as opposed to providing two shots but for fewer people.

"We still want to get two doses in everyone, but I think right now, in advance of this surge, we need to get as many one doses in as many people over 65 as we possibly can to reduce serious illness and deaths that are going to occur in the weeks ahead,” he said.

While some 31 million vaccine doses have already been administered to Americans, new Covid variants – including the UK version – are expected to add more deaths to the country’s already alarming figure.

On Sunday, that death toll surpassed 440,000, while more than 26 million Americans have caught the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.  

Mr Osterholm, who is also the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, added that the consequences would be high if the Biden administration does not administer more single doses to more people sooner rather than later.

“If we see that happen … we’re going to see something like we have not yet seen in this country … I see that hurricane category 5, 450 miles offshore,” said Mr Osterholm to NBC.

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