U.S. should expedite AstraZeneca vaccine authorization before new Covid variants spread, Dr. Peter Hotez says

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Dr. Peter Hotez told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” that people in the U.S. should not become complacent because of dropping Covid cases, especially amid new reports of a new variant, B.1.526, spreading in New York.

“We’re all high fiving ourselves because the numbers are going down, and I am saying that we are in the eye of the hurricane, and the next big wave is coming,” said Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Average daily cases of coronavirus in the U.S. have dropped about 57%, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. Some states, however, are not seeing as sharp of a decline. Vermont is only down 22% in average daily cases, New York down about 45%, Oregon nearly 47%, and Florida is down 48% in daily average cases. Hotez singled Florida out for the prevalence of a highly transmissible Covid variant in the state that was first found in the U.K.

“The one state that really intrigues me, not necessarily in a good way, is Florida, because we are hearing that about 10% of the virus isolates coming out of Florida is that B.117 variant that came out of the United Kingdom,” said Hotez in a Wednesday evening interview.

Hotez urged that now is the time the U.S. should really be making a push to vaccinate, especially before more Covid variants spread. While AstraZeneca reported that it expects its vaccine to be authorized in the U.S. in April, Hotez said, “I think sometimes we have to think about calling the audible” and should authorize it sooner. 

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