Dr. Sara Andrabi, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest headlines on the coronavirus pandemic.
- I want to bring in an expert on this. Dr. Sarah Andrabi, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. What I did not hear the CEO from Moderna say is anything about ramping up supply. I mean the City of New York, according to the mayor, could vaccinate 500,000 people a week but we ain't got the vaccine. So what good is being able to vaccinate it if you don't have the supply?
DR. SARA ANDRABI: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, guys, so much for having me on the show. There have been challenges to translating vaccines into vaccinations and even with the supply itself. And that's a problem because some of the mutations can lead to variants that make the virus more M like we've heard of from the UK and from South Africa. The good news is the US has adequate vaccines in the pipeline. So the federal government just purchased 400 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which is enough to vaccinate 200 million people, because both of those vaccines require two shots.
Johnson & Johnson hopefully is going to seek FDA authorization for its vaccine by March. And there's a vaccine by AstraZeneca that isn't far behind. So right now, our hospitalizations have taken a small decrease and we haven't had an extensive spread of the variant like the UK and South Africa have seen. So the virus, you could argue the virus is that a little bit of a weaker point when you look at our country. So this is really the time to pounce on it and get ahead of it. But continue what we're doing with social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing masks, and getting the vaccine when you can.
- To that point, Doctor, I know some experts are very worried about some of the states that are reopening slowly in light of the fact that the UK strain is supposed to be the predominant one in the US by March. What are your concerns about that? Should we consider starting to reopen, knowing that the vaccine is on the way or do we need to stay sort of in lockdown mode?
DR. SARA ANDRABI: Yeah I think being cautious right now is key. The reason we're starting to see some of that plateau or decrease in hospitalizations is because of the efforts we've been putting in place. And this is not the time to take our foot off the brake, so to speak. I'm hopeful as already we have seen changes being put in play to help combat the spread. We've heard of mask mandates in federal facilities. President Biden is also implementing travel restrictions with places that have had the more contagious variant. He's also promised to centralized support to local governments to help with the vaccine distribution. And I think that's just the beginning. And I hope we're going to see more mandates come from the administration to help curb the spread of this disease.
Doctor, what additional mandates would you like to hear from the Biden Administration?
DR. SARA ANDRABI: I think having stricter mask mandates, and also empowering the local governments to act on these. Because many times we're getting conflicting messages in our local leadership in terms of what's actually being enforced at the ground level. So I would love to see that. I think a more centralized response in terms of improving the resources that we give to local governments would be key to help translate vaccines into vaccinations as well.
- I might have a response to this. But is California lifting its stay at home order too soon. I mean, it seems like telling people to get out of the lifeboats and get back on the Titanic.
DR. SARA ANDRABI: Yeah. And I get that this has been a challenging time for everybody. People are people are exhausted. People are tired. We've been fighting this pandemic for about a year. And I get that it's tough to stay home. But again, I would caution against that. This is not the time. We're starting to see a change. I mean in LA County alone, I heard there was maybe like 15,000 deaths. And what's even more devastating is that 5,000 of those deaths have been just since December 30 in the past month.
- Hey, Doctor, when we talk about the new variant, what that could mean for the trajectory of this virus over the next two months, is that a done deal or do you still have hope that we could take into account some of the measures that you laid out, what Biden Administration has already done, what you hope it's going to do over the next few weeks so that's not inevitable and we won't see another massive wave?
DR. SARA ANDRABI: Yeah, I mean as like with most things with science and with this pandemic, the only constant is change I would argue, and the most recent data now suggest that the COVID variant does have a certain degree of virulence. UK is known to be the leaders in the realm of genomic sequencing, so and they're way ahead of us in terms of that. So if they're concerned, I think we should be concerned too. We've already seen folks infected with the mutated virus in 23 US different states when I checked yesterday. And although we've seen a decrease in hospitalizations, this new strain could, because of how easily it can be transmitted, be a cause for concern. I mean the virus likely mutated in a weakened host. So every person who is infected is another chance for the virus to mutate again. So we are in a race against this variant and it's up to us to stay ahead of it.
- Doctor Sara Andrabi is assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Thank you very much and of course Angela Khemlani, thank you too.