Washington | The coronavirus vaccination campaign in the United States enters a new phase on Thursday with the distribution of doses to thousands of pharmacies across the country as the number of positive cases continues to decline.
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The government is to supply one million doses to some 6,500 pharmacies, where Americans are used to getting their flu shots. They must inject the first doses on Friday.
After a chaotic start in December, states have ramped up the pace: 44.8 million doses have been given and at least 33.8 million people have received one or two doses, or about 10% of the population.
In total, around 40,000 pharmacies will be part of the program. The government has also ramped up vaccine production, opened stadium vaccination sites and started a campaign for the less privileged such as the homeless.
It is “feasible” to achieve the goal set by Joe Biden of injecting 100 million doses before the end of his first 100 days in office on April 20, said on NPR Anthony Fauci, senior medical adviser on the pandemic Of the president.
According to projections, “the peak season” of vaccination could begin in April, “when virtually everyone” can receive an injection, he also said on NBC.
The vast majority of the population could be vaccinated “in mid or late summer,” he added.
The United States is the country most affected by the pandemic both in number of deaths and cases, with more than 470,000 deaths for more than 27 million cases identified, according to the count of Johns Hopkins University.
But since the January 8 peak, positive case curves have been declining continuously, with nearly 100,000 new cases daily compared to more than 250,000 at the time. The number of hospitalizations and deaths is also decreasing.
But, due to the fragmentation of the American health system, there is still some confusion about the possibilities of getting vaccinated.
The vaccination campaign also shed light on racial and economic inequalities. In Washington, the federal capital where the African-American population is the majority, the doses were allocated disproportionately to residents of affluent and white neighborhoods, more quick to make appointments by phone or online.
The African-American and Hispanic communities, even more affected by COVID-19, are also reluctant to be vaccinated, history having shown structural racism in the American health system.
Between the vaccinated population and that already infected, around 40% of the inhabitants enjoy some immunity, according to estimates, which also contributes to the decline in new cases.
But health authorities fear the spread of variants of the coronavirus identified in Brazil, South Africa and especially the United Kingdom, against which current vaccines are less effective.
“We take seriously” the British variant, Dr Fauci told NPR, believing that it “could become dominant in the United States by the end of March”.
This B.1.1.7 variant, he explained, “spreads more efficiently and there is some evidence that it could cause more serious infections.”
He could bring up the positive cases soaring, as in Ireland where the epidemic was however contained at the end of December.
“If we can achieve effective vaccine distribution by continuing health safety measures, we hope to be able to contain its spread,” said Anthony Fauci.
In the meantime, the health authorities have reaffirmed the importance of wearing a mask.
A study made public on Wednesday showed that wearing two masks on top of each other, or a very tight-fitting mask, made it possible to reduce contamination.
And Dr Fauci pleaded for those vaccinated to continue to wear masks.
“Vaccines protect against infections with symptoms, but we don’t know their level of protection against asymptomatic infections,” he said.