The basics of boosters
The Biden administration, concerned that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are losing potency against the Delta variant, said today it wants vaccinated people to get booster shots — but not quite yet.
Here are the basics:
People who have received a full vaccination course are eligible eight months after their second dose.
Program begins September 20, subject to FDA approval
Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients may also need a booster, but officials are still reviewing the data.
As with the first round of vaccines, health professionals, nursing home residents and other older adults will be the first.
Access to vaccines remains free regardless of health insurance or immigration status.
As we told you yesterday, breakthrough infections seem to be more common than scientists initially thought. And while the vaccines hold their own when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths, federal officials worry that protections could be dwindling — especially among at-risk groups.
“We are concerned that this pattern of decline we are seeing will continue in the coming months, which could lead to reduced protection against major illness, hospitalization and death,” said Dr. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy during a White House press conference. .
The CDC released three studies on Wednesday that showed declining protection against infection, reports our colleague Apoorva Mandavilli. That decrease could be the result of a reduced potency of the vaccine, a decrease in precautions such as wearing masks, the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant – or all three.
Together, the new studies indicate that mRNA vaccines have an effectiveness of about 55 percent against infections, 80 percent against symptomatic infections and 90 percent or more against hospitalizations, noted Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University.
A study of nursing home residents found that the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing infections dropped to 53 percent, from about 75 percent after the emergence of the Delta variant. It has not evaluated the protection of the vaccines against serious diseases.
The WHO has asked rich countries to postpone the distribution of booster shots until the end of September, as many people in developing countries are still waiting for their first doses. There is also concern that variants even more potent than Delta could emerge in countries with low vaccination coverage.
Some experts immediately opposed the Biden administration’s decision, arguing that the data only showed that some older adults and people with weakened immune systems needed extra protection.
“We will be better protected by vaccinating the unvaccinated here and around the world,” said Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at the Bellevue Hospital Center and a former pandemic advisor to the administration.
Jeff Zies, the White House pandemic coordinator, said the government was on track to donate more than 600 million doses of vaccines to other countries.
“We’re both going to do it,” he said. “We’re both going to protect the American people and we’re going to do more and more to help vaccinate the world.”
A look at Texas
Yesterday we reported that Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, had tested positive for the coronavirus. His office said he was on monoclonal antibody treatment, which may help patients at risk of becoming very ill, even though he had no symptoms.
The announcement came less than a day after Abbott appeared at a busy indoor political event where he and other attendees were not wearing masks. His office has said he has been fully vaccinated, and NBC News reported that Abbott “told people he had received a third booster dose.”
Understand the State of Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the US
- Mask Rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in July that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places in areas with outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. Find out where CDC guidelines apply and where states have their own masking policies. The battle over masks has become controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- Vaccine rules. . . and Buselessness. Private companies are increasingly mandating coronavirus vaccines for employees, taking different approaches. Such mandates are permitted by law and have been confirmed in court proceedings.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are demanding that students be vaccinated against Covid-19. Nearly all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- schools. On August 11, California announced that teachers and staff at both public and private schools should be vaccinated or tested regularly, the first state in the nation to do so. A survey published in August found that many U.S. parents of school-aged children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students, but were more in favor of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff who have not received their injections.
- Hospitals and Medical Centers. Many hospitals and major health systems require workers to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, citing the increasing caseload fueled by the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination coverage in their communities, even within their workforce.
- New York. On August 3, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced proof of vaccination would be required from employees and customers for indoor meals, gyms, performances and other indoor settings, becoming the first U.S. city to require vaccines for a wide variety of activities. . City hospital employees should also receive a vaccine or be tested weekly. Similar rules apply to employees in New York State.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced it would aim to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “by mid-September.” President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
Today we’re going to use Times data to take a closer look at Texas.
The number of cases is rising. Texas has averaged more than 15,000 new cases per day since Tuesday, a 44 percent increase over the past 14 days.
Deaths also rise. The state records an average of 99 deaths per day from the coronavirus, a 127 percent increase over the past 14 days. That’s still slower than in previous waves, as a majority of the state’s oldest and most vulnerable residents have now been vaccinated.
Hospitals are almost overwhelmed, as we reported last week. Available intensive care beds have declined in Austin and other cities, and hospital admissions have increased 65 percent in the past 14 days.
Texas’ vaccination rates delay behind that of many other states. Only 45 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.
“We are entering the worst increase in numbers,” said Dr. Mark Casanova, a palliative care specialist in Dallas and a member of the Texas Medical Association’s Covid-19 Task Force, told The Texas Tribune. “This is the fourth round of what should have been a three-round fight.”
Abbott maintains its ban on mask mandates. On Sunday, the Supreme Court sided with the state and ruled that schools should not require masks.
What else do we follow
What are you doing
Safety comes first in my profession. As a school bus driver, I make sure our windows are down or cracked at least an inch when the weather is bad. No student enters my bus steps without a well-fitting mask. I bought an automatic hand sanitizer that every student uses when they board. The bus is mopped daily. No, I am not paid to continue. Yes, I spend my own money on additional items. But our children deserve education. They deserve that adults take that extra step to ensure their safety. — Holly Dooley, Indianapolis
Let us know how you are coping with the pandemic. Drop us a comment here, and we can include it in an upcoming newsletter.
Sign up here to receive the briefing by email.