A leading epidemiologist has urged the US to be prepared for a "fourth wave" of Covid-19 infections as a new variant sweeps the country.
During an interview with Fox News Sunday, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said he agreed with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky’s warning of "impending doom" last week.
"Right now I’m scared," Ms Walensky said, pointing to a substantial increase in new cases, according to Politico.
Several US states, including Florida and Michigan, are struggling to contain a variant-linked resurgence.
The national seven-day daily case average has increased continuously since March 19.
The average daily number of new infections has jumped 17 per cent from 55,591 on March 19 to 64,814 on March 31.
Dr Osterholm called Ms Walensky a "truth-teller" and said the spike was linked to the British Covid-19 variant, B.1.1.7, and the fact it "infects kids very readily".
"What she said is exactly right, scientifically, and what we're doing in terms of our response to this virus is, in fact, a major challenge right now, so I congratulate her for her honesty with the public," he said.
The US has 30.7 million active cases, with more than 554,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data.
Dr Osterholm told Fox News Sunday the country was “almost in a new pandemic".
"We are the only country in the world right now experiencing this increasing number of cases due to this variant and at the same time, opening up, not closing down," he said.
“The two basically are going to collide and we are going to see substantially increased number of cases.
"The only good news is that the current vaccines are effective against this particular variant B.1.1.7."
US might not need AstraZeneca vaccine
The US may not need AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine even if it wins regulatory approval, top infectious disease doctor Anthony Fauci says.
The vaccine, once hailed as another milestone in the fight against the pandemic, has been dogged by questions since late last year, even as it has been authorised for use by dozens of other countries.
Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the White House, said on Thursday (local time) the US had enough contracts with other vaccine makers to inoculate its entire population and possibly enough for booster shots in the fall.
Asked whether the US will use AstraZeneca doses, he said: "That's still up in the air.
"My general feeling is that given the contractual relationships that we have with a number of companies, that we have enough vaccine to fulfil all of our needs without invoking AstraZeneca."
Late last year, the drugmaker and Oxford University published data from an earlier trial with two different efficacy readings as a result of a dosing error.
Then in March, more than a dozen countries temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine after reports linked it to a rare blood clotting disorder.
His hospitalisation was days after receiving his AstraZeneca shot.
with AP and AAP
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