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Less than a month ago, the United States seemed to be shaking off the shackles of the coronavirus pandemic. A sense of achievement was in the air. At a Fourth of July celebration, President Joe Biden said America was roaring back to life and “closer than ever” to declaring its independence from the virus.
A growing number of countries are turning to booster vaccine shots as the world grapples with the Delta variant and data on the potential for waning immunity.
- On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates joined Germany, Israel and the United Kingdom in recommending third shots for the elderly. Israel announced its booster program last week following a strong recommendation from a government-appointed team of experts, who based their findings on data suggesting significant waning immunity from infection over time.
- Not everyone is advocating the move. The World Health Organization (WHO) told CNN last month that it didn’t know whether booster vaccines will be needed, citing limited data. US regulators have also said Americans do not need a third shot – just yet. But that mood is shifting. On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said there was an effort to make vaccine boosters available to people with compromised immune systems.
- This comes after President Joe Biden announced a series of new steps to get Americans inoculated, including a requirement that all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated or face strict protocols. On Tuesday, meat producer Tyson Foods said all its workers had to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by November 1. Tyson’s move was notable since company mandates in the US up until now had largely focused on corporate employees.
- With less than half of the US population fully vaccinated, the outlook remains grim as cases surge in the country. On Tuesday, for the first time since February, more than 50,000 hospital beds across the country were occupied by Covid-19 patients, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services – with states reporting that many if not all admissions were unvaccinated patients.
- The Delta variant is also wreaking havoc globally. In Africa, Covid-19 deaths have risen rapidly over the past month, as fatalities surged by 80% within the last four weeks, the WHO said. China’s spiraling outbreak has reached Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic, prompting citywide testing as authorities scramble to contain its first reported local infections in more than a year. Some fear the return of a stringent lockdown. Meanwhile, Thailand has built a Covid-19 hospital in Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Can Covid-19 affect the nervous system?
A: Covid-19 may be associated with cognitive decline and acceleration of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, according to an international consortium of researchers who are trying to understand the long-term consequences of the virus on the central nervous system.
“It’s possible a person could be infected just before or just after vaccination and still get sick.”
But after a person is fully vaccinated – two weeks after their final dose – there is reduced risk of spreading Covid-19, the CDC says. Research shows vaccinated people who still get breakthrough infections have less detectable virus (viral load) than unvaccinated people who get infected.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
TOP 3 READS OF THE WEEK
This is what vaccine inequality looks like
Around half of all Americans are now fully vaccinated. In Africa, that figure stands at just 1.5%. Larry Madowo, a Kenyan journalist and CNN correspondent based in Nairobi, shared his experience of that acute inequality. Here’s an excerpt:
Every time I see a call from home, my heart sinks. I always fear that they’re ringing to say that my grandmother has died. She has been on a ventilator for four weeks and my anxiety is near breaking point. The dreaded call could come at any time: Covid-19. Again.
Even at 96, my Kenyan grandmother was among hundreds of millions in the developing world who was not vaccinated until recently because rich nations have hoarded most of the available shots. Though I’m more than 60 years younger than her, I was fully inoculated by April because I was living in the United States, where anybody over 12 can get a vaccine if they want one.
The acute shortage of doses for the world’s poorest people has been called “vaccine apartheid,” “greed” and a “catastrophic moral failure.” Yet the public shaming has made little real difference, and Africa has received the fewest vaccines in the globe so far. Public health authorities have warned that during a global pandemic nobody is safe until everybody is safe. And vaccine inequity means that new virus strains could emerge in Africa and spread quickly to the rest of the world, rendering any mass vaccination gains elsewhere ineffective.
Europe tried to boost vaccine take-up with carrots. Now it’s breaking out the sticks
As the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations in Europe also shows signs of a slowdown, leaders are racing to find answers to a key dilemma of the rollout’s next phase: how to convince reluctant citizens to roll up their sleeves, Tara John writes.
From cash payments to phone data, football stadium tours to free grilled meat, officials have offered up a range of carrots to entice people to get shots. Now, as the Delta variant rips across the continent, threatening to spark another round of lockdowns at the height of summer, some leaders are bringing out the sticks.
France has passed a law that requires a “health pass” showing proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test in order to enter restaurants, bars and for travel on long-distance trains and planes, starting in August. Greece, facing a spike in infections that is threatening the revival of its crucial tourism industry, went a step further in mid-July, barring the unvaccinated from indoor restaurants, bars, cafes and movie theaters; it also ordered mandatory shots for healthcare workers. And Italy, which mandated vaccines for health care and pharmacy workers in April, has announced that it too will impose similar restrictions on indoor venues for residents without proof of immunity.
Australia once reveled in being the ‘lucky country’ on Covid-19. Now Aussies ‘feel like prisoners’
A postcard of kangaroos lounging among gumtrees arrives in our letterbox in London, addressed to my 4-year-old daughter. “My darling,” it says. “How are you? Are you enjoying school? Do you have friends? Your brother is one year old now. I hope you can come and see me in Australia one day. I love you and think of you often – from ‘Nana in Australia.’”
“Nana in Australia” is the pixelated face on my laptop, the voice cutting out on my phone. She lives on the other side of the world, in a place where Covid-19 doesn’t exist, or at least not to the degree that it has ravaged the United Kingdom with a terrifying ferocity, Sheena McKenzie writes.
For much of 2020, Australia’s success in controlling the virus was the envy of the world. By March of that year, as Italian hospitals drowned in cases and the UK dithered about restrictions, Australia decisively closed its borders – and the tactic initially paid off.
The tragedy of Covid victims who said no to the vaccine
Put your mask back on. Yes, even if you’re vaccinated.
The change in CDC guidance recommending vaccinated Americans wear a mask indoors in areas with high Covid-19 transmission is a sign that the Delta variant has once again transformed the pandemic landscape and the public health measures aimed at fighting the virus.
“We’re not changing the science,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN. “The virus changed, and the science evolved with the changing virus.”
Before Tuesday, the CDC advised only unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors. But that guidance was updated in light of new scientific data from several states and other countries indicating that, in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after their shots may be contagious and spread the virus to others.
What’s the new guidance?
- Children and adults in K-12 schools should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Period.
- Vaccinated Americans should wear masks indoors if they are in high or substantial transmission areas.
- The CDC wants local leaders in high transmission areas to support vaccination and universal masking.
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For the past year and a half, the pandemic has kept many older adults apart from their loved ones. But now that people are getting vaccinated, many older Americans are finally reuniting with their friends and family. On today’s episode, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks with doctors about ways we can support the older adults in our lives through the pandemic and beyond. Listen Now.