Biden administration health officials are expected to recommend COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received the second shot, a source familiar with the plans confirmed to USA TODAY.
The news, which will be announced as soon as this week, comes as the delta variant rages across the country. It also comes amid anxieties about the Pfizer vaccine’s waning immunity and the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of booster vaccines for immunocompromised people.
The official spoke to USA TODAY on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
Booster shots will begin as early as mid-to-late September once the FDA formally approves vaccines. The action is expected for the Pfizer shot in the coming weeks. As long as any of the vaccines are issued under an Emergency Use Authorization, no one but the FDA can recommend boosters.
Pfizer Monday also announced that they have submitted preliminary data to the FDA that their booster vaccine “elicits antibody levels that significantly exceed those seen after the two-dose” regimen, said Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said in a news release.
– Courtney Subramanian
Also in the news:
►New York, the nation’s first major city to require at least partial vaccination for indoor activities such as dining and using gyms, will begin to require proof Tuesday. Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday expanded the list of public venues with the requirement.
►The first four days of school in Nashville, Tennessee, yielded more than 250 cases of COVID-19 — 207 of them among students — forcing more than 1,000 students and staff to quarantine. Metro Nashville Public Schools, which has more than 80,000 students, started classes Tuesday.
►CVS and Walgreens pharmacies began administering the newly authorized third coronavirus vaccine shot to individuals with immunocompromising conditions. People who completed their first two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at least 28 days ago and have a qualifying condition can schedule their booster shots.
►The U.S. administered 665,000 vaccine doses Sunday, including 404,000 newly vaccinated, White House COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar said. Among those who are eligible — ages 12 and up — nearly 70% have received at least one dose, including 72% of adults.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 36.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 622,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 207.7 million cases and 4.37 million deaths. More than 168.6 million Americans — 50.8% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Should kids wear masks in school? These states have banned mandates, despite experts’ pleas.
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Virus, politics disrupt start of school year across US
Public health, politics and education made for an uncomfortable mix in many parts of the country Monday as hundreds of thousands of K-12 students returned to school amid a major surge in coronavirus infections.
Confusion reigned in several Texas school districts after the state Supreme Court stopped mask mandates in two of the largest districts before the first day of school in Dallas. An Arizona judge upheld, at least temporarily, a mask mandate in a Phoenix district despite a new state law prohibiting such requirements. One Colorado county posted sheriff’s deputies in schools on the first day of classes as a precaution after parents protested a last-minute mask mandate.
After the coronavirus pandemic forced widespread school shutdowns and remote learning for several months, the new academic year is facing various disruptions partly created by the virus.
Some early-starting districts have already closed schools because of outbreaks, while others are trying to weather them. In South Carolina, the governor and the General Assembly are getting pressured to lift a ban on school mask mandates as infections mount.
Nowhere did Monday’s battles play out greater than in Texas, where some counties and school districts kept in place mask mandates banned by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and others rescinded them as schools reopened after Sunday’s court ruling.
The order by the state’s highest court — made up entirely of elected Republican justices — halted mask requirements that county leaders in Dallas and San Antonio, which are run by Democrats, put in place as new infections soared. Lower-court orders had allowed the two cities — as well as other jurisdictions across Texas — to impose the mandates.
Dallas school officials were among those defying the court order, and in Austin, students and parents gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion to urge Abbott to drop his opposition to the mandates. The Austin school district and Harris County, which includes Houston, also said their mask mandates for schools remained in place.
“We’re at war on behalf of moms and dads and kids against a deadly virus,” Dallas county Judge Clay Jenkins said. “I sure wish the governor would join our side in the battle.”
A conservative cardinal who has been openly opposed to COVID vaccines and once said Catholics who voted for former President Barack Obama ”collaborated with evil” is on a ventilator in a Wisconsin hospital with the coronavirus.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis, has been disdainful of measures to prevent transmission of the virus, such as wearing masks and social distancing. He also promoted the false notion that vaccines contain a microchip that gets implanted into recipients to control them.
Burke, 73, announced Tuesday via Twitter that he had tested positive for the virus. “Please pray for me as I begin my recovery,” the tweet said. “Let us trust in Divine Providence. God bless you.”
A Saturday tweet said Burke’s doctors “are encouraged by his progress.”
With a major surge of coronavirus infections hitting Florida just as the school year was about to begin, school-age students rolled up their arms for the COVID vaccine.
Vaccinations among 12-19-year-olds accounted for 20% of the doses in the state during the last two weeks, although that age group makes up only 9% of the overall population.
A total of 57,571 people between ages 12 and 19 were vaccinated in Florida during the week of July 30 to Aug. 5, and another 55,083 the following week. That’s about twice as many as the 28,537 who got the vaccine during the week of July 9-15.
“We’re encouraging everyone that’s of age to get the vaccine,” said Katherine Allen, government and community relations coordinator for Brevard Public Schools. “If you’re able to, please do so.”
— Dave Berman, Florida Today
The United States’ delta-variant surge is shifting into a deadly new phase: The number of weekly fatalities is now rising in more than three-quarters of the states.
The latest tally shows more than 4,800 deaths in a week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. That’s more than triple the figure of the relative lull in early July. And the death toll is actually worse because a large California county changed its methodology, removing hundreds of reported deaths from the rolls.
Coronavirus hospitalizations have hit pandemic highs among all ages under 50, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. And total new infections are still rising in almost every state.
“We’re seeing a lot of people get seriously ill,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s lead adviser on the pandemic, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The hospitalizations are on the brink of actually overrunning the hospitals, particularly intensive care units.”
A rural Mississippi community is overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases two weeks after the Neshoba County Fair brought thousands of people who attended shoulder-to-shoulder outdoor concerts and horse races and listened to political speeches. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves spoke at the fair July 29, telling the crowd that the CDC gave “foolish” and “harmful” advice and that Mississippians “believe in freedom.”
As of Friday, Neshoba County had the highest per-capita COVID-19 caseload in Mississippi and the 55th highest among all counties in the nation, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 case tracker. Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S. – 36% in the state, compared with 50% for the nation.
As COVID-19 hospitalizations in Escambia County in Florida climb to levels not seen so far in the pandemic and schools are back in session, the growing number of children hospitalized with the coronavirus has experts worried.
Studer Family Children’s Hospital Pediatrician-in-Chief Jason Foland said he saw a 2-week-old baby with COVID-19 go into cardiac arrest and has recently seen more children, from newborns to teenagers, who are in the intensive care unit or need critical care.
On Friday, there were 12 children being treated for COVID-19 at the county’s three major hospitals, out of a record 357 coronavirus hospitalizations. The pediatric cases are relatively low compared to the overall population, but the delta variant is causing the illness to spread very easily among people, especially vulnerable children, Foland said.
“(The parents are) scared and terrified,” he said. “They know the odds here, right, they know that statistically very few kids get complications from COVID, but now it’s their kid and now they’re really worried about it.”
– Emma Kennedy, Pensacola News Journal
Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.