Full approval for Pfizer’s shot
On Monday morning, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 16 years and older.
It is the first vaccine to exceed emergency status in the US, and officials hope it will convince some of the 85 million unvaccinated Americans who qualify for injections but have not received them.
Data from 44,000 participants in clinical trials in the United States, European Union, Turkey, South Africa and South America showed that the vaccine was 91 percent effective at preventing infection. To date, more than 92 million Americans — 54 percent of those who are fully vaccinated — have received Pfizer injections; most of the rest received Moderna’s vaccine.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine remains authorized for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15, while Pfizer collects the data needed for full approval. The approval of the vaccine for children under the age of 12 may take at least several more months.
The decision is expected to accelerate the pace of vaccine mandates from government agencies, universities, companies and other organizations.
the Pentagon said Monday that all military personnel on active duty should receive a Covid-19 vaccine. There are over a million active duty members; 64 percent are fully vaccinated.
New York City announced that all 148,000 employees of the Ministry of Education should have at least one dose of vaccine by September 27.
New Jersey announced an even broader education vaccination rule for employees of private and charter schools.
President Biden, who has demanded that all federal employees and contractors be vaccinated or tested regularly on site, urged corporate, state and local leaders to follow suit. “Do what I did last month. Require your employees to be vaccinated or meet strict requirements,” he said in a national speech.
Some experts also hope the approval could convince those on the fence. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three in 10 unvaccinated people said they were more likely to receive an injection that was fully approved.
dr. Thomas Dobbs, the chief health officer for Mississippi, said the FDA action would help “let go of this false claim that the vaccines are an ‘experimental’ thing.”
Others were less optimistic. “I think that’s a negligibly small number of people in real life,” said Alison Buttenheim, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on vaccine hesitancy.
More important, she said, would be the effect of demands, “Mandates simplify things for people.”
Fewer nurses, fewer beds
As the Delta variant pushes cases to the skies, hospitals are filling up: About one in four ICUs across the country have at least 95 percent of the beds occupied, according to a Times analysis.
“It’s like a war zone. We’re just overwhelmed with patients and have nowhere to house them,” said Cyndy O’Brien, an emergency room nurse and patient care coordinator at Singing River, a small health system on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
One day she arrived for work and saw people stretched out in their cars as three ambulances with critically ill patients stopped in the parking lot.
Understanding Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the US
- Vaccine Rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies increasingly require vaccines for employees. Such mandates are permitted by law and have been confirmed in court proceedings.
- 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.
- 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. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for educators. 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 City. Evidence of vaccination is required from employees and customers for indoor meals, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement will not begin until September 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system must have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. 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.
The problem is not just physical capacity. More than a year after the pandemic, hospitals are facing a serious shortage of nurses, with potentially fatal consequences. Nearly 30 percent of Singing River’s 500 beds are empty due to 169 unfilled nursing positions.
Mississippi, which has the most new cases per capita in the US, has 2,000 fewer registered nurses than at the start of the year, according to the State Hospital Association.
Across the country, more than 1,200 nurses died from the virus during the pandemic. With the United States experiencing a fourth wave of infections, many nurses are angry, exhausted and traumatized.
Thousands have taken early retirement, left the profession or opted for less stressful nursing jobs in schools, summer camps and private doctor’s offices.
“We’re exhausted, both physically and emotionally,” O’Brien said, swallowing his tears.
What else do we follow
What are you doing
Last year my son was safely tucked away at home learning online. This year, he’s in class five days a week, even as cases are on the rise in our community. He is vaccinated and good at wearing the mask, but we are still concerned. And we are angry that schools are not doing more to protect children. Our strategy is to get through it and have as much fun as possible outside of school. It gets stressful. — Chrissy Gilbert, 50, Columbus, Ohio
On Friday, for the next edition of “Our Changing Lives”, we plan to focus on the school year. We would love to hear from you. We may post your response in a future newsletter.
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