On Dec. 30, the United Kingdom became the first country to approve for use a vaccine developed jointly by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. This approval in the U.K. comes as the country faces an outbreak of a new, more easily spread strain of the virus. It remains to be seen whether the vaccine will receive approval in the United States — the Food and Drug Administration will likely not make a decision on the vaccine until February.
If the vaccine received approval in the United States, it would be the third to be approved, following those developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna. Unlike the other two, which showed to be over 90% effective, this vaccine was only shown to have an efficacy of 70%. However, the AstraZeneca/Oxford has the added benefit of being comparatively easy to produce and transport.
This latest vaccination news comes as nations race to inoculate as much of their populations as is possible as the virus continues to infect hundreds of thousands every day. In the U.S., while the number of new daily reported cases has fallen from over 200,000 per day reported in mid-December, new daily cases remain still extremely high — nearly 180,000 new cases were confirmed in the U.S. on Dec. 29. That same day, over 3,200 Americans died from the illness, one of the worst daily totals since the outbreak began.
Using data from state and local health departments, 24/7 Wall St. compiled and reviewed county-level COVID-19 data. We compared the average of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending Dec. 29 to the average in the previous week to determine the county in each state where the virus is spreading the fastest, adjusted for the population. Though the number of new daily cases has been falling nationwide and in most states, all but six states have at least one county or county equivalent in which cases have grown at a faster rate over the past week compared to the week before. We excluded counties with populations of fewer than 5,000 people as well as those with fewer than 20 reported new cases in the past 14 days.
Nationwide, the number of new daily cases per 100,000 residents fell by 10, from roughly 68 per 100,000 in the week ending Dec. 22 to 65 per 100,000 in the week ending Dec. 29. In 21 states, at least one county reported a weekly increase of at least 30 cases per 100,000. In eight states, the county with the largest increase in cases reported a weekly surge of more than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. These are the states where the spread of the virus is declining the fastest, and where it is still getting worse.