“While we did see a reduction in the protection of the Covid-19 vaccine against the Delta variant, it’s still two-thirds reduction of risk,” lead author Ashley Fowlkes, an epidemiologist for CDC Covid-19 Emergency Response, told CNN on Tuesday.
The study’s reliance on regular, weekly testing makes it possible to capture a more complete picture of Covid-19 infections in a group, since people with mild or no symptoms may be less likely to get tested overall. In the official vaccine trials, efficacy was calculated against symptomatic Covid-19 — not all infections.
Still, the authors warn there is some uncertainty in these estimates, in part because they found relatively few infections in the first place. During the months when Delta was predominant, researchers found 19 infections among 488 unvaccinated people, and 24 infections among 2,352 fully vaccinated people.
The study’s authors are planning future analyses comparing the different Covid-19 vaccines as well as the types of symptoms experienced by vaccinated and unvaccinated people who become infected.
“It’s still a very powerful vaccine,” Fowlkes added, especially when it comes to more severe outcomes. “But we are also looking towards continuing to use masks for a little bit longer.”
Separately, a new study out of Los Angeles County reaffirms that fully vaccinated people are far less likely than unvaccinated people to be hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit, require mechanical ventilation or die from Covid-19.
Fauci: Covid could be ‘under control’ by spring
Mississippi reported 111 new Covid-19-related deaths on Tuesday, a one-day record, said state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. Some 87% of new deaths are among the unvaccinated and more than 50% are over the age of 65, he said. Gov. Tate Reeves said more than 1,000 health care workers have arrived to help with hospital staffing shortages.
“Getting boots on the ground this quickly is a step in the right direction,” he said.
Florida, too, reported a record high average of about 212 Covid-19 deaths each day last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Anthony Fauci urged the public to get vaccinated and said if the “overwhelming majority” of the population does so the US could have the pandemic “under control” by spring 2022.
“We hope we’ll be there … but there’s no guarantee because it’s up to us,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the President’s chief medical adviser, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday.
It isn’t yet clear to health experts what proportion of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach a level of protection that could sustain a return to normalcy, like safely going to restaurants and theaters, Fauci said. So the best way forward is to vaccinate as many people as possible, he said.
“This is one of those situations where I think defining what it means to be in control of the pandemic is really important,” Gupta said Tuesday.
“If we have more people vaccinated, it’s likely we will decouple hospitalizations from cases, and maybe that will be a definition of control. (If) people aren’t getting that sick anymore, ending up in the hospital, the virus starts to slowly not have places to circulate, that will be a definition of control. I think we’re going to see waves of this for some time,” he added.
FDA’s approval opens door for mandates
“I do think that the approval the FDA announced yesterday for the Pfizer vaccine is a milestone in our vaccination efforts and it reaffirms what we have been seeing for months,” US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN. “Which is that the vaccines are highly effective, they’ve a very strong safety profile and they’re what we need to get through this pandemic.”
There are still nearly 80 million people eligible to be vaccinated who have not done so.
“I do think there will be a modest increase, but, look, we have a long way to go to fill this gap,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “I think having the full approval will certainly convince some, but it’s just one of a dozen fake talking points put out there by the disinformation campaign. And, I think a number of people are just going to revert to one of the other ones.”
The FDA’s approval also opens the door for businesses and government bodies to mandate vaccinations, and some have already begun to do so.
Now that the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, the next focus is authorizing a Covid vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. That could come by the end of the year under an updated emergency use authorization, officials have said.
If and when that authorization comes, at least 28 million additional children — representing about 9% of the US population — would become eligible to receive the vaccine, according to a CNN analysis of federal data.
If vaccination trends among the 5 to 11 age group are consistent with those from the 12 to 15 age group, about 7 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 may receive their first vaccine dose within a month and more than 9 million within two months. This would bump the overall vaccination rate in the US up by about 2 percentage points in one month and 3 percentage points in two months.
About 54% of parents with children under the age of 12 said that they “agree” or “strongly agree” that they would vaccinate their children against Covid-19 “when a vaccine is authorized and available for their age,” according to a survey by The Rockefeller Foundation conducted by the RAND Corporation.
Florida Covid-19 deaths at all-time high as new cases continue to surge
Florida last week reported more Covid-19 deaths than at any time in the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and hospitalizations are also higher than ever.
The state broke its January record for new daily cases about two weeks ago, and that number has continued to rise to the current average of about 21,534 a day.
Just weeks into the start of the school year for many Florida districts, more than 14,000 Covid-19 cases — among 11,851 students and 2,610 employees — have been reported throughout the state’s 15 largest school districts since the start of the school year, according to a CNN analysis.
The Orange County school board on Tuesday evening enacted a 60-day mask mandate for all students and staff starting Monday, with only medical reasons accepted for exemptions.
St. Johns School District, which includes St. Augustine, on Tuesday announced a mask mandate for all employees and visitors to its schools, but not for its students, for the next 30 days, as Covid-19 cases surge in the area.
CNN’s Kara Devlin, Jennifer Henderson, Jacqueline Howard, Virginia Langmaid, Gregory Lemos, Eric Levenson, Laura Ly, Lauren Mascarenhas, Deidre McPhillips and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.