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U.S. promises to send 80M vaccine doses to other countries, is it enough?

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Dr. Natasha Kathuria, Global Outreach Doctors Board of Directors & Emergency Medicine Physician, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest on covid-19.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: We're heading toward the closing bell in roughly 44 minutes. We want to talk about COVID-19 and the latest announcement that the United States will increase its exports of COVID-19 vaccine around the world. Let's bring into the stream Dr. Natasha Kathuria, Global Outreach Doctors Board of Directors and Emergency Medicine Physician. It's good to have you here. What do you think this is going to mean? Do we have enough stockpile to make a difference with billions of people who still need to be vaccinated?

NATASHA KATHURIA: Exactly. There are billions of people who need to be vaccinated. And this is just, to some, they see it as a drop in the bucket. But this is a very important step. This is the first time that we're really putting in a massive amount of vaccines that we're doing and direct donations through the COVAX initiative. And that's really important. This is not being done as a favor from our government to certain countries. This is being done in a very equitable way. And I think that's a really good step and a really good step in the right direction to send the right message to other wealthier countries to join together with us and really put in a big effort.

Global vaccine equity is critical right now. And this is very important, but it's not just about donating vaccines themselves. It's about removing these patents, allowing for the transfer of knowledge, and really investing in manufacturing abilities. If we don't do all of these things, we're really not going to make much of a difference on a global scale.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor, let's talk about the mask mandates. The CDC lifting its guidance, yet we have states like California saying that it's not changing its mask mandate until the middle of June. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy saying that he's not changing the mask mandate for indoors. How are you viewing this? And I guess, is there any reason for states to continue to be cautious, like we're seeing in some states from New Jersey and California, at this point?

NATASHA KATHURIA: Exactly, many states are dealing with this very differently. But as we've seen on a pretty national level right now, especially in the Northeast right now, we've seen a significant drop in cases. And this is because we've had an increase in our population getting vaccinated. In New York alone, we've got about 50% of the population in New York fully vaccinated, about 40% with one dose of the vaccine. So things are really moving in the right direction.

Is it time, though, to completely let go of restrictions and allow anyone to remove their masks in certain scenarios? That's a little tough to really just remove that. We're really depending on an honor system then. There's no way to ensure that the people removing their masks are vaccinated or not. And what that's really going to do is put the burden now on those who haven't been vaccinated yet, those who are choosing not to get vaccinated, but also those who are immunocompromised may not be directed to get the vaccine yet based on chemotherapy or certain treatments they're on. So that population is going to be more at risk. So we really want people to still be cautious.

This is not the time to completely let down your guard. While things are improving and looking great, and we want to stay optimistic and we want to return to normalcy, we've got the other side of the world right now raging with COVID. New variants inevitably will come out that are going to be dangerous. And we really need to do our best to, like, really improve vaccinations nationally and globally right now.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Perhaps the greatest reason for many of us to continue to wear a mask, whether we are vaccinated or not, is to protect people 18 years and younger. When do you think or when do the scientists believe we'll be able to vaccinate children, I mean, as young as possible?

NATASHA KATHURIA: We're hoping in the coming months, you know, even by the end of the year, that we will slowly open that restriction possibly down to two years of age. That depends on how things go. We've seen an eight-year-old get vaccinated. I believe that's the youngest we've had so far in this country get the vaccine. And so, things will slowly open up as we've just seen better and better data come out with as we've moved the vaccine in younger population. So I really anticipate that by fall, by winter, we will see that significantly open up, maybe even sooner.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor at this point in the pandemic, the numbers have been declining now for quite some time. When you look at the trajectory of the cases here in the US, clearly, we are on the right track. But with all this in mind, though, what is your biggest worry right now as we head into the summer months?

NATASHA KATHURIA: My biggest worry is two things, you know. Number one is travel. People are going to travel. It's summer. Especially with the new restrictions being lifted by the CDC with masking, what that's going to bring every time we've seen a holiday, and summer is essentially a holiday in America. We've seen somewhat of a surge happen after that. And so we're very concerned that before we hit herd immunity, we're lifting a lot of restrictions. And then we may see some adverse consequences come out of that.

And also, variants. We've got COVID raging in India. I have family there. I've been following the pandemic very closely. I have family in the ICU right now. It's not looking good. There are 4,000 people dying per day in India alone. And so we're really worried that this could just lead to more variants coming out and that later coming into America, where we may not know how strong our vaccines will hold up if new, more dangerous variants continue to develop. We're hopeful it doesn't happen. But we really need to push and just do everything we can. And that's what I'm most worried about right now, is, we've got open borders. We've got people traveling. Summer comes. People want to go on vacation. It's summertime. And then bad things may happen after that.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Dr. Natasha Kathuria, first, you should know that we will keep your family in our hearts and prayers. You are the director of Global Outreach Doctors Board of Directors and Emergency Medicine Physician.