Dr. Paul Jarris, Chief Medical Advisor for MITRE Corp. and Former Vermont Health Commissionerm joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest on covid-19.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's bring in a doctor who will know more about these issues and help us understand what we face going forward. We invite into the stream the former Vermont health commissioner, Dr. Paul Jaris. He is the chief medical advisor for MITRE Corporation. We appreciate your being here.
I want to talk about something I think it was Dr. Fauci said. First, he had us all excited that most of us would have access to a vaccine perhaps by April. Now he's saying more like June. For those of us who want to take this vaccine, it's a back and forth. It plays, you know, with your heart strings. How did you react to that news?
PAUL JARIS: Well, I think it's, unfortunately, to be expected. The country put a lot of resources into developing a vaccine, much fewer into actually making sure the vaccine got in arms and that we had the immunity. The encouraging thing is, it's picking up. It's picking up considerably. We had 1.6 million vaccines given the last several days each day. So we-- 106 million, excuse me. We are really picking up. We expect to see by the end of the summer most people will have it. Certainly by the fall, we expect everyone who wants to have it will have it.
SEANA SMITH: Dr. Jaris, are we seeing the benefits of vaccines on the national numbers yet? Is that what you attribute some of this drop that we've seen recently to? And if not, then what are you attributing it to?
PAUL JARIS: Yeah, there's several different factors that are playing out. One is seasonality. We're getting later in the winter. Cases tend to go down later in the winter for respiratory illnesses. Another is that, yeah, there are more vaccines. There are more people ill. So the immunity in the population is going up slightly. So it's really, we can't be certain exactly what is going on at this time. But things are combining to improve the situation.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Are we getting any new insight into the degree of danger posed by the variants that are now being detected in the United States?
PAUL JARIS: Yeah, the important thing, of course, is to remember, let's clamp down on what's going on. Let's get vaccines for those who want them. For most of us, the vast majority, we still need to wear our masks. We need to socially distance. We need to do good handwashing. And even for people who have had the first vaccine, they need to continue to do those things until they've had their second vaccine and then for two more weeks.
We're already starting to see some people who have had their first vaccine and then get sick because they thought they could put-- lay their guard down. They took the mask off. They didn't socially distance. So we have to do all those things. And the reason is the less infection we have, then the less chance there are for variants to emerge.
But yes, we need to be concerned about variants. We have the UK variant that is now doubling about every 10 days in this country. Fortunately, the South African variant is not spreading as quickly. But that's going to be carefully watched. And there are variants popping up in this country that were developed-- that came about in this country. So we've got to watch the vaccines very closely. We've got to do the genetic analysis of these viruses so we can track what is happening.
SEANA SMITH: Well, doctor, just going a bit further there, you're saying that we should be concerned about the variants. Are you-- how worried, I guess, should we be about it triggering another massive wave when you take a look at the new variants and going off what you were just saying, the fact that we will likely see more variants in the future?
PAUL JARIS: Yeah. Well, we know we will see more variants. There'll be new variants. Some of them, of course, will spread less well and be less infectious. Others potentially, like what's happening in South Africa or even the UK, will be more infectious and perhaps more severe. So that will require much further study. We'll have to really improve the amount of genetic testing we're doing on these viruses so that we see when they emerge how fast they spread. That time will tell.
Is it worrisome? Of course. We just don't know what's going to happen. What we do know, though, is good hand washing, masks, as you just talked to 3M, and also good social distancing is necessary in the meantime. The other critically important thing is when someone is ill, we need to have them isolated. And that is a tool we built at MITRE, working with public health, which is a tool for public health to monitor individuals who are sick while they're in isolation. That way, they can be supported, and they don't leave and go to the community before they are no longer infectious. So it protects the community.
Also, we need to continue with good contact tracing, find out who has been exposed. And people who are exposed should go into quarantine. And we want to monitor them closely in quarantine. So as soon as they develop a symptom, we can get them testing, we can get them help. So, again, what we built is this tool now serving over 40 million Americans, monitored over 2.2 million Americans who have been either sick or-- and we want to make sure that we don't let our guard down as we study the variants and do the vaccines.
ADAM SHAPIRO: We are all remaining on guard. Dr. Paul Jaris, chief medical advisor for MITRE Corporation and a former Vermont health commissioner, we appreciate you joining us on Yahoo Finance.