“I’ve been on Zoom calls for the last two weeks about how we’re going to manage this,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Sunday. “The big wall is about to hit us again and these are the new variants.”
“This could be really, very dire for our country as we head into the spring,” Hotez said of the variants. “Now, we’re in a race. We’re in a race to see how quickly we can vaccinate the American people.”
What we know about variants and vaccines
But Covid-19 variants have also complicated things for some vaccines. Here’s what we do know.
Early data released Sunday suggested two doses of the vaccine provided only “minimal protection” against mild and moderate Covid-19 from the variant. The vaccine’s efficacy against severe Covid-19, hospitalization and death were not assessed.
An AstraZeneca spokesperson said in a statement, “We do believe our vaccine will still protect against severe disease” from the variant and added that “neutralising antibody activity is equivalent to other COVID-19 vaccines that have demonstrated activity against more severe disease, particularly when the dosing interval is optimised to 8-12 weeks.”
Concerns over Super Bowl parties
Officials have continued to remind Americans it’s not just vaccines that will play a role in helping slow the pandemic in the coming months. It’s also the public health measures that have proved effective in curbing the spread of the virus: masks, social distancing, avoiding gatherings and regular hand washing.
“I would caution everybody: please remember to continue to practice those behaviors and not get Covid fatigue,” Clarke added. “Continue to mask, continue to distance, continue to avoid crowds.”
What it will take to reopen schools
Mitigation measures will play an especially key role in helping schools safely reopen, two officials said Sunday, as the CDC is expected to soon release guidelines on how schools can open during the pandemic.
Schools’ safe reopening is “a simple question but with a complicated answer, because it really depends on the level of infection in the community,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC on Sunday.
For one, communities should work to get teachers quickly vaccinated, Fauci said. And there should also be a focus on getting schools what they need to reopen, including masks and proper ventilation, among other measures.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, told CBS that when it comes to reopening schools, “the prerequisite is putting in place mitigation steps in the schools.”
He noted that when people wore masks and stayed socially distant, there was “very little transmission within the classroom.”
And while it would be good to prioritize teachers for vaccines, he said, “I don’t think it’s necessarily a prerequisite. I think schools have demonstrated that they can open safely if they’ve taken precautions in the classroom.”
Their recommendation comes amid an ongoing struggle in many parts of the country on how to safely resume classes.
CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht, Amanda Sealy, Sharif Paget and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.