Just when many were celebrating our “independence” from the coronavirus over the summer, a new variant came along, Delta, that was more transmissible and thus more dangerous. Could it happen again? Could another variant come and keep this pandemic going indefinitely? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke with Bloomberg about this risk, and issued a warning, as well as advice about the new COVID pill and mixing and matching the vaccine brands for your boosters. Read on for 5 essential life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
“There are many variants out there,” said Dr. Fauci. “The Delta variant has a characteristic that it is so easy and efficiently transmitted from person to person, which is good for the virus, but bad for us, that it is actually crowded out all the other variants. However, the question you asked”—will there be more variants to worry about—”is a very relevant question. As long as you have virus freely circulating in the environment in society, jumping from person to person, that virus, by the fact that it continually replicates, gives itself ample opportunity to mutate. And when you give it ample opportunity to mutate sooner or later, you will get an accumulation of mutations that will lead to another variant. So that’s the reason why we say the best way to prevent the future emergence of variants that might be problematic. The best way to do that is the don’t give the virus the opportunity to freely spread.”
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“We have now I think something like 68 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated,” said Dr. Fauci. “And the negative part of that is that, that not only is that dangerous in the sense for themselves, their health, the health of their families, but the fact that they’re allowing by even if they get infected and don’t get any symptoms, the fact that the virus can enter in them replicate and then spread to someone else that you’re propagating the outbreak, you’re propagating the dynamics of the outbreak. And you’re actually giving the virus the opportunity to continue to mutate and evolve into a variant. So it’s up to us. There’s a lot that we can do to prevent the emergence of future variants. And one of the most important and effective things we can do is to get as many people vaccinated as you possibly can and as quickly and as expeditiously as you possibly can.”
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Merck this week announced they had developed a COVID pill that could cut your risk of horpitalizion in half after infection. Dr. Facui argues it’s better not to get infected at all. “The pill is to treat someone who’s been infected very recently within a few days,” he says, calling it “a direct antiviral agent that is taken orally. And the question was, if we give it within a few days of someone getting infected, can you prevent them from going on and progressing to need hospitalizations or death as an endpoint of the study, as it turned out, there were about 1,500 people in this study. And when they got to about 700 plus they look at the data intermittently and the people that look at the data, the data and safety monitoring board said, the data are impressive enough.” He said the data was “encouraging” but still needed to be studied.
“When people say, well, well, if you have a pill that looks promising, why should you get vaccinated that in so many respects is a false narrative because the vaccine prevents you from getting infected, prevents you from getting clinical disease. And we know that we have highly effective and safe vaccines. So even if you have a pill that gives you 50% greater chance of not going to the hospital or even dying, it is always something that’s common sense when you say it, it is always, always better not to get infected then to get infected and having to get treatment that goes for any disease, certainly for COVID-19.”
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With no booster yet granted even emergency approval for those who got Moderna or J&J, some are wondering if they can take another brand—one different from their original dose. Dr. Fauci said studies are going on to see if it’s OK; for now, wait. “What it is is you take the three products that we know are available for vaccines that we’re giving now in this country, Pfizer Moderna and J&J and what the study does, it gets individuals who’ve been given the classic dose, which is two doses for the Moderna and one dose for J&J. And then what you do is you use as the booster—either Moderna against each of those three, J&J against each of those three, and then Pfizer against each of those three to determine just what we’ve mentioned before, the safety, the human of genicity and the ultimate efficacy of those kinds of mix and match to answer the question….They will examine the safety, the immunogenicity, which means its ability to induce a particular immune response and whether or not they will give out an approval that you can use this product with that product, et cetera.”
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Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.