Feb. 3, 2021 -- More than 26.4 million people in the U.S. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, surpassing the country’s 26.3 million COVID-19 cases reported during the pandemic.
The Monday afternoon milestone marks an early but hopeful moment in the race to end the pandemic, according to Bloomberg News. More than 52.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed, and 6 million people have received the second dose of their two-shot regimen, according to the latest CDC update on Tuesday.
The U.S. is now administering about 1.34 million doses each day, Bloomberg reported. Nearly 8% of Americans have received one or more dose, and almost 2% are fully vaccinated.
“That’s worth celebrating. I’m all for that win,” Paula Cannon, a professor of microbiology at the University of Southern California, told the news outlet.
The UK, United Arab Emirates and Israel have also passed the milestone of doling out more vaccines than COVID-19 cases reported.
New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and emergency department visits are also starting to decline in the U.S. At the same time, however, scientists warn that contagious coronavirus variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil could change the tide again.
“While these trends are encouraging, I want to stress that the numbers nationally are still high, and they’re as high as they’ve been at any point in the pandemic up to this point,” Jay Butler, MD, deputy director for infectious diseases for the CDC, said during a virtual meeting with the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
In addition, patients who have recovered from COVID-19 could face a “very high rate” of reinfection if the new variants become dominant, according to CNN. Public health experts in South Africa have seen a high rate of infection with the new variant, and people who previously had a COVID-19 infection didn’t seem to be protected, the news outlet reported.
“We need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can,” Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a news briefing with the White House COVID-19 Response Team on Monday.
“Viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate,” Fauci said. “And if you stop their replication by vaccinating widely and not giving the virus an open playing field to continue to respond to the pressures that you put on it, you will not get mutations.”