Biden COVID Advisor Says Poor Preparation, Changing Virus Could Slow Vaccine Effort

Biden COVID Advisor Says Poor Preparation, Changing Virus Could Slow Vaccine Effort

THURSDAY, Jan. 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to re-energize the nation's response to COVID-19, but one of his top pandemic advisors says that effort could be hamstrung by both the virus and the failings of the previous administration.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said he's particularly worried about new coronavirus variants that could cause cases to surge and potentially evade the immune protection afforded by COVID-19 vaccines.

On top of that, the new Biden administration will need to fix a very shaky system for distributing existing and upcoming COVID-19 vaccines, one that has led to a severe lag in getting shots into people's arms, Osterholm said during an HD Live! interview.

"I am extremely worried about the U.K. variant," Osterholm said, noting that it is associated with much higher transmission. "I think over the course of the next six to 12 weeks, we could see the darkest days of this pandemic in this country, with that variant being responsible for greatly increased transmission."

Osterholm also is worried about new variants reported from South Africa and Brazil, which might "actually have mutations that may in fact compromise the protection we get from the antibody from a vaccine."

"At this point, we don't have any compelling evidence that has happened, but there's enough circumstantial evidence to make us very concerned that there could be some lesser impact from the vaccines because of that particular variant," Osterholm said.

If these variants do dodge vaccine immunity, researchers "may very well end up finding ourselves thinking about altering these vaccines somewhat, much like we do with influenza vaccines each year, to try to adjust to these new variants if in fact that continues to be a problem," Osterholm said.