The White House said that an average of 2.5 million Americans are receiving COVID-19 vaccine doses per day, with this weekend marking the first time the number crept over 3 million for two consecutive days. Andy Slavitt, the White House COVID-19 response team’s senior advisor, said that in total, about 81 million Americans, or nearly one in 3, have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with about 44 million now fully vaccinated.
Slavitt also announced that a new federal mass vaccination site would be opening in Washington, the 22nd such facility in the U.S. but the first for the state. Slavitt made the announcement during Monday’s White House COVID-19 briefing and said the federally-run sites have been administering about 100,000 shots per day, and that over 60% of the jabs have gone to people of color.
The rapid pace of vaccinations however will not be enough to ward off the emerging threats of new variants, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned. She said she considers the current leveling off of new cases and hospital admissions to “be very concerning.”
In California, Walensky said, the newly identified B.1427 and B.1429 account for 52% of cases, while making up 41% of illnesses in California, and 25% in Arizona. On the East Coast, the B.117 variant, which was originally detected in the U.K., now accounts for up to 9% of cases in New Jersey, and 8% in Florida, where Spring Breakers have been flouting prevention measures.
“Believe me, I get it. We all want to return to everyday activities and spend time with family, friends and loved ones but we must find the fortitude to hang in there for just a little bit longer,” Walensky said, adding that the nation is at a “fork in the road.”
“We as a country must decide what path we are going to take,” she warned, adding that until more of the population is vaccinated “do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The briefing was held hours after AstraZeneca published promising results from a clinical trial largely based in the U.S. that found its vaccine to be 78.9% efficient in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci highlighted that the Phase 3 trial included about 60% of participants that had comorbidities, which are associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19.
In the trial, which included more than 32,000 participants ages 18 and older, there were zero instances of severe or critical disease among the vaccine arm. There was also “no evidence or disproportionate risk of thrombosis or events characterized by thrombosis” among the vaccine group.
AstraZeneca is expected to file for Emergency Use Authorization with the FDA in the coming weeks.