I'm more excited about the future than I have been in the entire pandemic. Over 50% of all Americans have now had their first shot. The case count continues to drop, and honestly, it's falling faster than I expected.
Most states are fully reopened at this point, and the fact we're still dropping in case count really shows how effective the vaccines are. Covid is ending, and if you're vaccinated, you should start to live your life again.
This week's study showed people who are vaccinated have a substantial reduction in spread even when they are infected. California is going to reopen on June 15th, and that is the correct decision.
This week the UK released more data on the spread of the variant 1617.2. While it continues to increase in case count, this data also showed why I'm not worried about it.
1617.2 appears to be the most infectious variant we've encountered, even more contagious than 117. As a result in unvaccinated populations in the UK, it's spreading like wildfire. This is likely why it hit India so hard.
However, the data shows that fully vaccinated people are nearly as immune as if it was the standard variant. The UK has chosen to prioritize the first dose vs. two doses, which appears problematic. Those with only one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine have much weaker immunity. Additionally, the data is showing that the mRNA vaccines continue to be highly effective against 1617.
The scary part is that the new, more infectious variants are terrifying for those isolated countries [Taiwan, Australia] or don't have vaccines yet. After an incredible effort to keep Covid out in recent weeks, Taiwan is dealing with its' first real outbreak.
Worse still, it appears they never set up wide-scale testing ability, so they are struggling to contain the new infections. Their inoculated immunity is low, and almost no one has had it to date. If 1617 manages to get any sort of foothold, it could be a dire situation for them.
As the overall case count continues to drop in the US, I expect that we may have some flares of infections in the states that are behind in vaccinations. Those states are mainly in the south and Wyoming. I think the continued use of things like lotteries or free beer is the right decision. We need as many people vaccinated as fast as possible.
The current situation is reminiscent of 117. The UK showed us how dangerous it was due to its extensive testing and sequencing program. As a result, we redoubled our efforts to vaccinate and got ahead of it. With 1617 I think we'll be fine, but it's still important to vaccinate as many people as possible.
We had more bad news about the Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, this week. For vulnerable people, they are now recommending a third dose to boost immunity even further. The Chinese have never released efficacy data for this vaccine. This will not do anything to quell the reasonable skepticism of it.
Another study this week showed that immunity from US-approved vaccines lasts at least a year in most people. Seriously the vaccines we have are some of the best ever created.
As of today, almost 12% of the world is vaccinated, and eta to 70% is next March. It's hard to comprehend how incredible that is; it's billions of people across the world who will get their shots. There's a real chance we can hit 70% 1-3 months before next March. Moderna also released results showing their vaccine is as effective in 12-18-year-olds.
Dr. Wachter is the chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine. He is someone I have closely followed through the pandemic. This week he announced that he is starting to eat indoors in SF, and when he does it, you know that it's safe.
Over the coming weeks, the US is going to fully reopen. Each of us will get to decide our risk tolerance and our appetite for rejoining the world. There will be challenging moments. There will be moments that might scare you, but we all must start to move on.
In the end, humans are social beings. Our interactions with those around us help make us who we are. Over the last few weeks, I've traveled to see my family and attended a wedding. It's been so amazing to see my family and old friends and make new ones.
Covid is ending. The vaccines are a feat of human ingenuity. The US is now one of the safest places globally and will only get better over the coming weeks.
I look forward to seeing more of you in person. As always, please reach out if you want to chat [or grab a drink!].