The CDC announced earlier this month that the UK strain of the novel coronavirus, called B.1.1.7, is now the most widespread variant circulating in the US, as it tends to be more lethal and spreads more quickly than other strains. Meanwhile, according to the CDC, about 94.7 million people, or 28.5% of the population, are completely vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical advisor, predicted that the pandemic in the US would reach a tipping point “within a few weeks,” CNBC reported on Monday.
If the United States keeps up its vaccination rate, “literally within a few weeks, we’re going to start to see a turning around of the dynamics,” Fauci is quoted in the report as saying during a virtual event organized by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Not down to no infections,” he said. “If you’re waiting for classic measles-like herd immunity, that’s going to be a while before we get there. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have a significant diminution in the number of infections per day and a significant diminution in all of the parameters, namely hospitalizations and deaths.”
The US has currently been averaging around 3 million COVID-19 vaccine shots administered per day. According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, the country had a seven-day average of 58,164 new coronavirus cases per day as of Sunday.
According to the report, Fauci among other health officials in the US is worried that the more infectious UK strain could stymie the country’s efforts to combat the pandemic. In a little over a year, the disease has claimed the lives of more than 572,000 Americans, according to JHU.
To achieve herd immunity and eradicate the pandemic, Fauci previously said the aim is to vaccinate between 70% and 85% of the US population, which would be roughly 232 million to 281 million people.
Herd immunity, he said on Monday, however, is a “moving target,” as the US should simply concentrate on having as many Americans vaccinated as possible.
“We don’t know what the durability of the infection-induced immunity is. We don’t know if someone who got infected last winter or in the early part of 2020 is going to be safe from a protected standpoint now,” he said.
The US still has the highest number of coronavirus cases globally, with over 32.1 million cases registered since the pandemic began in early 2020, according to JHU. In addition, the United States is on the list of leaders in terms of the rate of vaccination of the population from the total number of citizens, after Israel, the UK and Chile, according to the Our World in Data Website.