The U.S. hit an encouraging milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic this week — the number of vaccine doses administered is now higher than the total number of positive cases since the start of the pandemic.
As of Feb. 3, more than 33,878,250 doses have been administered, with 27,154,956 Americans receiving at least one dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s two-dose regimen, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another 6,436,931 Americans have now received two doses, making them fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The number of first doses has now surpassed the case total since the start of the pandemic, which hit 26,277,125 on Wednesday.
In the last few weeks since President Joe Biden took office, the vaccination rate has gone up significantly, in part to meet his goal of administering 100 million doses during his first 100 days. On average, around 1.3 million vaccine doses are administered a day.
Meanwhile, after months of record-breaking numbers of daily infections, new cases are finally on the decline, dropping 30% over the last two weeks to an average of 141,146 a day, according to The New York Times. Still, that number is more than double the case totals from the past spike over the summer, and five times that of the initial rise in infections at the start of the pandemic.
And with three new, faster-spreading strains of the virus now present in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, warned Americans not to get “complacent” and to continue following safety precautions like social distancing and mask-wearing.
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Fauci is also urging people to get vaccinated to stop more COVID-19 mutations from emerging.
“You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the country,” he said in a press briefing on Monday. “And the reason for that is … viruses cannot mutate if they don’t replicate. 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.”
The makers of Pfizer and Moderna have said that their vaccines will be effective against the newly emerging COVID-19 strains, but the effectiveness may be slightly diminished, particularly with the strain that first emerged in South Africa.
Fauci also said that people who have already had COVID-19 still should get the vaccine, particularly with the South Africa strain.
“If it becomes dominant, the experience of our colleagues in South Africa indicate that even if you’ve been infected with the original virus that there is a very high rate of reinfection to the point where previous infection does not seem to protect you against reinfection,” Fauci said on CNN.