People will likely need additional Covid vaccinations or booster shots amid outbreak of new strains, ex-Obama official says

Former Obama administration official Dr. Kavita Patel told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” that the number of Covid vaccinations or booster shots people will need “depends on what we see with these strains and how much they escape the immune system.”

Moderna announced Monday that it’s working to update its Covid vaccine. The company’s researchers said that its current shot may be less effective against the South Africa strain, also known as the 501Y.V2 variant. The variant is 50% more infectious and has been detected in more than two dozen countries. 

Patel, who served in the Obama Administration as director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, told host Shepard Smith that Moderna’s vaccine announcement did not come as a surprise.

“We all suspected that this would not be our only set of shots, whatever we’re receiving this year,” said Patel. “I think it points to at least, potentially, something every several years or a booster.”

The Minnesota Department of Health announced Monday that the state has one confirmed case of the highly transmissible P.1 variant, also known as B.1.1.248. It was first detected in northern Brazil in mid-December.

The mutated strains of Covid have led to major actions to combat the spread of the virus. President Joe Biden reimposed travel bans from nearly 30 countries including the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa, to try and contain new variants. Dr. Anthony Fauci called the travel ban “prudent” on the Today Show on Monday. He added that travelers will have to show a negative Covid test before boarding a plane going to the U.S. 

Despite the new strains of Covid, Patel told host Shepard Smith that “the worst is hopefully behind us” when it comes to the pandemic. 

“It looks like we’ve kind of gone past the crest or that peak of that post-holiday surge that we were really worried about,” Patel said during a Monday evening interview. “Could we see something more dire soon to come? Very low likelihood given the fact that we do have two incredibly effective vaccines available.”

Covid cases, hospitalizations, and death rates are all lower since their peaks, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. There are 110,628 hospitalizations, the lowest it’s been in more than a month. The daily average of cases is down 31% over the past 2 weeks and at its lowest in 2 months. The daily average of deaths is 3,088, which is down slightly from a recent peak 10 days ago, but still above 3,000 per day on average for 17 consecutive days. More than 73,000 Americans have died this month, for context, that’s nearly the combined U.S. battle deaths in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Patel noted that it’s important to get the current vaccines “in people’s arms as quickly as possible” and that the Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines will “hopefully add to our armament of vaccine technology” soon.

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