Vaccines may limit the damage from coronavirus variants

LONDON (Axios): Many public health experts are optimistic that the fourth wave of the coronavirus that the U.S. has entered won’t be as bad as the other three — but emphasize that it will still be important to take precautions.

Why it matters: A more transmissible, deadlier variant of the virus — the one that originated in the U.K. — is becoming increasingly prevalent across the country, but the extraordinary U.S. vaccination effort may blunt the worst effects of this most recent wave of cases.

Driving the news: The U.S. reported over the weekend that more than 4 million doses had been administered in a day for the first time.

Three-quarters of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC.

What they’re saying: “It’s kind of like a race between the potential for a surge and our ability to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can,” NIAID director Anthony Fauci told NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Friday. “And hopefully, if you want to make this a metaphorical race, the vaccine is going to win this one.”

“I think that there’s enough immunity in the population that you’re not going to see a true fourth wave of infection,” former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Yes, but: Experts warn that a victory over the variants is dependent on Americans maintaining precautions, like mask wearing and social distancing, while the vaccination effort continues.

Some states’ rollback of mitigation measures is working with the rise of the variant that originated in the U.K. to cause the recent spike in cases, Fauci said. “The one thing we don’t want to do is pull back prematurely.”

And in some hot spots, like Michigan, hospitalizations are rising — evidence that not everyone vulnerable to severe infections has yet been vaccinated as the virus gains steam.

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