It’s just a matter of time before the highly contagious UK COVID-19 variant wreaking havoc around the world surges in the US, a leading epidemiologist warned Thursday.
“This B.1.1.7 surge is going to happen. It’s not an issue of if. It’s going to happen,” Michael Osterholm, head of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“And if you follow what’s happened in the past year, the upper Midwest and Northeast lights up first. They have the first set of cases and the southern Sunbelt states light up next,” Osterholm said.
“Even though we’re seeing a few cases in that area, mark my word, in the next six to eight weeks, we’re going to see that area light up, too. We need to get more vaccine out. That’s the key message right now,” he added.
The more transmissible and potentially deadlier variant has been found in 49 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The expert said the US should be focused on getting first vaccine doses to as many people as possible now.
Once there are more vaccines on hand in the summer, the country should dole out second doses, Osterholm added.
“I’m telling you right now … we are just beginning to surge. Denying it is not going to help us. We are walking into the mouth of this virus monster as if somehow we don’t know it’s here. And it is here,” he said.
“Now’s the time to do all the things that we must do to slow down transmission, not open up, and we got to get more vaccine out to more people,” the epidemiologist added.
His comments come a day after Pfizer said its vaccine was 100 percent effective in a study of children aged 12 to 15.