WASHINGTON, D.C. – A top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official says surging vaccines to Michigan would not help the hard-hit state control the latest COVID-19 wave that has strained its hospitals and is raising concerns nationwide, because vaccines take two to six weeks to confer protection.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House coronavirus briefing Monday that the answer in a crisis situation like Michigan is facing is to go back to virus control basics and order lockdowns.
“The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down, to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another, to test to the extent that we have available, to contact trace,” said Walensky. “Sometimes you can't even do it at the capacity that you need. But really, what we need to do in those situations is shut things down.”
Walensky said if they tried to vaccinate their way out of what is happening in Michigan, she thinks they’d be disappointed with how long it would take to actually have an impact.
Walensky explained that at the same time, diverting vaccines away from other states where the situation isn’t as dire right now could unwittingly seed the ground for future outbreaks elsewhere.
Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has called for the federal government to surge vaccines to her state, but the White House said last week Michigan had not ordered its full allotment of available vaccines.
Whitmer has shied away from ordering lockdowns.
During the briefing, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Andy Slavitt said the federal government has sent more FEMA personnel to administer shots across Michigan and the administration is prepared to send more therapeutics to the state.
"Yeah. So, look, our job here is to follow the science,” said Slavitt. “And I think, you know, in that regard, exactly what Dr. Walensky said is important to us. We have to remember the fact that in the next two to six weeks, the variants that we've seen in Michigan – those variants are also present in other states. So, our ability to vaccinate people quickly in all – each of those states, rather than taking vaccines and shifting it to playing Whack-a-Mole, isn't the strategy that public health leaders and scientists have laid out.”
Watch the White House coronavirus briefing below: