Restaurants, gyms and other businesses in massachusetts are allowed to operate at 40 percent capacity. That’S up from 25.. The governor cited the recent declines in cases and hospitalizations, but today the director of the cdc warned against any state relaxing too many restrictions i’m asking everyone to. Please keep your guard up. The continued proliferation of variants remains of great concern and is a threat that could reverse the recent positive trends we are seeing. New research finds the more contagious uk variant is spreading quickly in the us doubling cases around every 10 days and as for the south african variant, another new study found the astrazeneca vaccine, which has not yet been approved. Here has only a 10 percent efficacy rate at preventing mild to moderate disease. South africa has hold its role out of the vaccine as a result, and astrazeneca is working on a new product targeting that strain which they expect to complete sometime. This fall, moderna and pfizer are working on boosters for the south african variant as well, but as the virus continues to mutate and spread, will it be soon enough i’m joined now by william hennage, an associate professor of epidemiology at harvard’s chan, school of public health and He’S, a member of the school’s center for communicable disease dynamics bill hennige thanks so much for joining me. Hi jim thanks for having me the headline, your op ed in the washington post, caught a lot of people’s attention. It read.

Virus variants have us back where we were a year ago. You didn’t mean to suggest, or you did don’t suggest. That means hundreds of thousands more deaths. You mean that just like a year ago, we’re not really sure how serious this might be. Is that not correct that’s? Absolutely correct? Yes, um. As you probably know, the people who write the articles don’t write the headlines um the references. A year ago we were looking at reports of a virus that was emerging from china and we didn’t know yet exactly how serious it was and now we’re in a very similar situation, where we’ve got at least three so called variants, maybe more, which are beginning to Make themselves known, they’re, emerging and we’re learning more about them every day. By the way, i was not blaming you for the headline, but just so to be clear. So what do we know? What are the early indicators about the variance? What do we know? Well, the early indicator is the one which was originally detected in the uk, which is b117 i’m trying to give them their technical names, because you never want to associate a virus with a particular region. But b117 is certainly more transmissible than the viruses that we’ve gotten used to over the last year about 50 percent uh, more transmissible, maybe a little bit more, maybe a little bit less, and it seems increasingly evident that it may be more dangerous as well and that’s Been found in 33 states that i’m, aware of so far and it’s it’s spreading extremely widely, and i think we can reasonably expect it to be the dominant lineage in much of the country within a few months when you say it’s, more deadly isn’t it more deadly By definition, if it’s more transferable, even if it’s exactly as deadly as the unmutated version – is no it’s actually more deadly per infection – or it seems to be, my numbers are pretty, the numbers are pretty small early on it was.

We were confident that it wasn’t a lot more dangerous, but, as time has gone on and we’ve collected more data, we can see that it appears to be at least somewhat more dangerous per infection. I want to emphasize. You know sars cody 2 in covet 19 is not particularly dangerous in younger age groups at least, but still this is something which is likely to make a difference and it’s going to make a difference to the numbers that we see going forward. Well, since i don’t know the number of the south african variant you’ll, excuse me if i refer to it as the south african variant beyond the the astrazeneca vaccine, apparently not working virtually at all, i’ve read that it prior infection does not protect you from infection there. So it seems to me those two pieces of news are pretty troubling ones. Are they not they’re not as worrying as what troubling, as you might think, so you know the number for that. One is b1 351 but i’m going to leave that there and we’re just going to talk about it. Now, as because i can’t keep saying that all the time um, the astrazeneca numbers are based on very very few cases very few, but astrazeneca’s trials in general have suffered from being split up into lots of subgroups which make it difficult to interpret them. The evidence that you’re, referring to or you’re saying, people were equally likely to be infected if they were previously infected and so on and so forth needs to account for the fact that if you’ve been infected already you’re, not a random draw from the population, you may You probably have other risk factors, so i think we just want to watch that one really really closely um and you know before we get too worried about it.

We need to learn a little bit more, but even if we shouldn’t worry quite as much it’s that that prior infection, not protecting you. Despite what you said bill further reason why the grossly irresponsible senator rand paul should be wearing a mask when he’s with his colleagues and out in public rather than just walking around with that macho no mask senatorial face. Is that not correct? That is correct? It is unfortunately grossly irresponsible. Real men wear masks, uh that’s right. You know who said that the first time that i heard liz cheney said with a photograph of her father dick cheney long before she got in trouble with her. Fellow republicans. You know uh um. I read you say somewhere that our surveillance program for variants in the u.s is way behind what’s going on in the uk. I assume that’s because of underfunding like so much of public health, but if i’m wrong. Let me know what the reason is: what’s, the consequence of us being so far behind places like uh the uk that’s. A great question i mean the first thing to say is yeah underfunding plays a role it’s. Also, the fact that the united states has a fragmented system so, for instance, in the uk you can have people who are doing a single centralized test and they will take a sub they’ll, take a fraction of that and send it off to be sequenced, whereas here The testing is done by private companies.

You, you, then have to persuade to share the you know the rna with go, get it sequenced. What the consequence is is that we really there are large parts of the country where we’re pretty much flying blind in terms of knowing exactly which lineages are circulating, and one of the things which has been impressive elsewhere is in a relatively short period of time. They’Ve been able to stand up, studies which combine standard, epidemiological information from case counts and so on, with the more fancy modern population, genomic methods for detecting increased spread and they’ve been able to put them together. That would be quite difficult here, at least for much of the country, even if i think it’s possible for those places to be well sampled and where it appears that has been done. It is showing that b117 is increasing, like it did elsewhere. I want to play a little bit of what dr fauci had to say about the variance here. He is the two things that we can do is a make sure we adhere to the public health measures b, get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can that’s the best defense against the evolution of variants. So until we can answer the questions that you raise in your washington, post, op ed, it seems to me this is a race between the vaccine and the variance the mutations and, if i’m right about that should states like massachusetts, which i read over the weekend had Thousands and thousands of appointments for first doses ungrabbed at places like gillette, should we be expanding our eligibility to get the vaccine out to as many groups of people as fast as we possibly can? Well, i think in general it’s we don’t want to let a dose of vaccine go wasted, but there’s been a lot of thought that has been put into the prioritization of exactly who’s getting vaccines in which order in massachusetts and it’s i’ve not been a part of It but from everybody i know who has been a part of it: it’s been a really good conversation and it’s very good to be thinking about things in that way.

Right now, i think we do want to be accelerating vaccination as much as we can. I do think we want to prioritize people who are vulnerable or people who are likely to be infected for through their work, but then the large, the quicker we can get a significant fraction vaccinated. Like dr fanchy said, that is the best defense we have against these variants bill hennige. We appreciate your time. Thank you so much for joining us.

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