The first Johnson & Johnson is being administered, some states are starting to open prematurely, and new variants require vigilance. Here’s what you need to know:
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Vaccinations in the US increase as the first injections of Johnson & Johnson are given
It’s been a good week in the vaccine news. Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use, and the the first doses have been administered shortly after. Johnson & Johnson had some difficulty in speeding up manufacturing, but on Tuesday, President Biden announced that a competing drug maker, Merck, help make the clichés in its factories. With this boost, the White House predicts that there will be enough vaccines for every American adult by the end of May.
Because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose and can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, some have praised it as a good option to send to harder to reach and more rural communities. While the vaccine has proven very effective, some lawmakers have expressed concern that this may create the feeling that there is a two-level distribution system. That said, so far, rurality has proven to be an asset in vaccine distribution in states like North Dakota, who administered more than 90% of his doses week after week.
States try to navigate the many unknowns of the reopening
From Thursday, more than 20 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. As more and more people are vaccinated, the country is entering a strange gray area, where individuals and states argue over how much, if at all, it is acceptable to return to pre-pandemic life. It seems pretty clear that all approved vaccines stop some infections and transmissions, but we don’t know exactly how many. Either way, experts agree: it’s too early to declare victory.
Nonetheless, this week, several states rolled back major pandemic restrictions. In Texas and Mississippi, Governors Abbott and Reeves key provisions canceled, including their statewide mask mandates, decisions President Biden called “Neanderthal thinking.” The governor of Alabama announced Thursday that his state will follow suit and lift his mask mandate At the beginning of April. And Connecticut will do away with with many of its Covid-19 restrictions later this month, though mask wear is still mandatory.
Experts call for vigilance as we strive to understand new virus variants
To end this pandemic, we must understand how this virus changes and evolves within and between people. The last few months have brought this to light as more variants or Sars-CoV-2 have been identified and made headlines. Many of these are not necessarily alarming. In one recent interview with WIRED, for example, Anthony Fauci said that a new variant first identified in New York City is unlikely to cause major problems.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be watching some of these mutations closely. Brazil, where a new variant appears to be spreading rapidly, recorded its highest single-day death toll on Tuesday. Experts say this is all the more reason to remain vigilant, even after vaccination. “Please hear me clearly,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said earlier this week: “At this level of cases with variants spreading, we risk completely losing the hard-earned ground that we have gained.”
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