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Doctor: We need to be vaccinating 'several times' the amount we're currently doing

Dr. Sejal Hathi, Physician & Clinical Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital & Host of “Civic Rx” Podcast, joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break down the latest coronavirus developments, as the U.S. death toll continues to rise.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Yesterday was historic for more than one reason. While the Capitol was under attack, we saw another record day in the coronavirus pandemic with the daily death total reaching a new high-- more than 3,800. The total case count in the country has now reached more than 21.3 million. We've got Dr. Sejal Hathi, physician and clinical fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and host of "Civic Rx" podcast here with us now.

So, doctor, I want to know if you think that days like yesterday are going to make everyone essentially forget that we even have a pandemic going on right now. We already have pandemic fatigue. And political chaos on top of that is not great. So I'm wondering if you think that we're really going to kind of take our eye off the ball, so to speak.

SEJAL HATHI: Well, Kristin, I really hope not because you're absolutely right that yesterday and every day this past week, we've hit new records. Unfortunately, hospitalizations exceeded 130,000 yesterday, with many states achieving single state records. More than a full 2/3 of states have COVID-19 patients occupying more than 10% of their beds. And more than 3,000, almost 4,000, patients are dying every single day.

So, while yesterday's mob at the Capitol was horrific, a true insurrection, I really hope that it doesn't distract from the fact that we are living through the worst pandemic this country has seen in a century. And we're failing at vaccinating the number of people we do to-- we need to achieve herd immunity by June, which is, of course, what the Trump administration foreshadowed as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, on that point of vaccines, the rollout is messy, I guess I will call it. We are way below where we said we wanted to be. Why is it that we-- and I have to say that the United States is not alone in this. France and Holland also well behind where they want to be, actually even much farther behind the United States. France only vaccinated less than 20,000 people since they approved the vaccines. Why are we seeing it be so inefficient and not as good or as high as we want it to be, at least in terms of the numbers?

SEJAL HATHI: Yeah, you're absolutely right. I would say that in the absence of both UAE and Israel, which have done a great job comparatively of distributing the vaccine, most countries around the world are struggling. And here in the United States, that is, in no small part, due, once again, to a failure of federal leadership on every level. And we saw this from the summer when the administration declined an offer from Pfizer, one of the two chief vaccine producers, to secure up to 500 million additional vaccine doses, in addition to the 100 they had already agreed to purchase.

Now we know, of course, Pfizer may not be able to deliver more than 100 million doses before June. But it's also a matter of, we simply don't have a national strategy. And so, states are being forced to fend for themselves and determine not only who should get the vaccine, but also when they should get the vaccine, where they should get it, and who should be administering it. What's more, once they have these vaccines in place, they're struggling to distribute them to hospitals and healthcare centers.

We saw that in New York City, 32% of the vaccine doses that had been distributed to that state were languishing, not being used. And so, we really need to understand, we need a blueprint, we need a strategy for each of the states and each of the regions. And we need more funding. I mean, it's just-- it's ridiculous that states have a mere fraction of the money that they need in order to-- and the staff that they need in order to distribute these vaccines.

And I would say that that traces, again, back to the top of the food chain. So, hopefully, we see a difference once Vice President Joe Biden becomes the new president of the United States. He said that he will move heaven and earth to get 100 million Americans vaccinated by his first 100 days. But right now, we are vaccinating 500,000 Americans a day. And we need to be doing several times that amount to achieve, again, herd immunity, 80% of the population vaccinated by mid to late year.