Covid-19 booster shots to be offered in the US

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:38 PM ET, Wed August 18, 2021
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7:30 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

Johnson & Johnson says it will share data soon on possible Covid-19 vaccine booster

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Vials and syringes of the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine are seen at Culver City Fire Department on August 5 in California.
Vials and syringes of the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine are seen at Culver City Fire Department on August 5 in California. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it would release more information soon on the question of boosting its one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

US officials said earlier Wednesday they were making plans to offer booster doses of vaccine starting in September to people who got Moderna’s and Pfizer’s two-dose shots, pending authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

J&J’s Janssen vaccine became available months after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were deployed, and federal officials said there wasn’t enough data yet to say anything to the millions of Americans who got the Janssen shot.

The company said it’s working on it.

“We are engaging with the U.S. FDA, CDC and other health authorities and will share new data shortly regarding boosting with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine,” J&J said in a statement.

In July, Johnson & Johnson shared data demonstrating that our single-shot Covid-19 vaccine generated strong, persistent immune activity against the rapidly spreading Delta variant and other highly prevalent SARS-CoV-2 viral variants. Interim results from a Phase 1/2a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed that the durability of the immune response was strong, with no waning for at least eight months, the length of time that had been evaluated to date,” it said. “Ensuring long-term and durable protection against hospitalization and death are critical in curbing the Covid-19 pandemic.”

6:53 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine for children is high priority for Biden administration, US surgeon general says

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

A Covid-19 vaccine for children is a high priority for the Biden administration and the US Food and Drug Administration will evaluate the data quickly once it is provided by the companies that make them, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Wednesday.

“From the FDA perspective, from our perspective as an administration, this is [an] extraordinarily high priority,” Murthy said in an MSNBC interview.

Covid-19 vaccines are authorized for children 12 and older in the US. Clinical trials of the vaccines in children under 12 are still ongoing.

“Now we've got to get the data from the companies. They've got to finish their trials, so that we can evaluate it,” Murthy said. “We can't evaluate it before we have it.” 

“The timeline really depends on how quickly the companies are able to do the trials and get that data to the FDA,” Murthy noted.

6:40 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

Washington governor announces Covid-19 vaccination mandate for teachers and school workers

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, speaks at a news conference on August 18 at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, speaks at a news conference on August 18 at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Everyone who works in schools and colleges in Washington state will have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by Oct. 18, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday.

“We won’t gamble with the health of our children, our educators and school staff, nor the health of the communities they serve,” Inslee said.

School employees who refuse to be vaccinated without a medical or religious exemption will be fired, according to the governor.

“This is not some suggestion or whimsical idea we’re floating. This is a job requirement,” he said. “By October 5, we will know who has started their vaccination and who has not.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said about 70% of teachers are currently vaccinated, with a lower percentage of non-teaching staff like bus drivers. Inslee said individual schools will not be able to opt-out. 

Inslee also announced that the current statewide indoor mask mandate will be expanded to include people who are fully vaccinated. The new mask rule goes into effect on Monday.

6:18 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

California to require proof of vaccination or negative Covid-19 test for large indoor events

From CNN's Sarah Moon

California will require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test result within 72 hours for all indoor gatherings with 1,000 or more attendees starting Sept. 20, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced in a news release Wednesday.

These measures were already in place for indoor gatherings with 5,000 or more individuals after the state reopened on June 15.

“Beyond dropping the requirement from 5,000 to 1,000 individuals, self-attestation to verify a person’s vaccination status will no longer be accepted,” CDPH said in the release.

"The Delta variant has proven to be highly transmissible, making it easier to spread in large crowds where people are near each other for long periods of time,” CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón said in a statement. “By requiring individuals to be vaccinated, or test negative for Covid-19 at large events, we are decreasing the risk of infection, hospitalization and death.”


6:05 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

Education secretary outlines steps to help students return to in-person instruction safely

From CNN's Liz Stark

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks to press after a visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, on August 17 in New York.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks to press after a visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, on August 17 in New York. (Brittainy Newman/AP)

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona outlined steps his department could take to facilitate students’ safe return to in-person instruction, including potential actions against states found to be violating students’ rights. 

“I want to emphasize this department’s commitment to protecting the rights of every student in the nation. The department has the authority to investigate any state educational agency whose policies or actions may infringe on the rights of every student to access public education equally,” Cardona wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, President Joe Biden instructed the education secretary to “assess all available tools” to make sure that governors allow students to safely return to the classroom “without compromising their health or the health of their families or communities.”  

This includes the “consideration of whether to take steps toward the initiation of possible enforcement actions under applicable laws,” the White House memo stated.

The moves mark another escalation in the battle between the White House and state officials over school mask guidance as the Delta variant surges and kids return to schools.

Last week: Cardona sent letters to the Republican governors of Florida and Texas, expressing concern about their states’ mask policies and sharply voicing support for educators there. The Education Department has sent similar warnings to six additional states over their school mask prohibitions, Cardona noted Wednesday.

In Wednesday’s blog post, Cardona pointed to how the Education Department “may initiate a directed investigation if facts indicate a potential violation of the rights of students as a result of state policies and actions.” 

The department could also respond to complaints from parents and other members of the public about “students who may experience discrimination as a result of states not allowing local school districts to reduce virus transmission risk through masking requirements and other mitigation measures.”

5:25 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

Los Angeles City Council approves Covid-19 vaccine mandate for city employees

From CNN's Sarah Moon

In a new ordinance unanimously approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council, all city employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 20.

“This is the right thing to do, plain and simple,” said council president Nury Martinez in a statement. “We are the largest employer in the City of Los Angeles and we need to set an example. How can we urge Angelenos to get vaccinated if we won’t demand that of our own employees? No resident should be nervous that the city worker helping them is unvaccinated and may get them sick.”

City employees who need a medical or religious exemption will have the option to petition for one by Sept. 7, according to a release from Martinez’s office.

The petitions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and employees who receive an exemption will be subject to weekly Covid-19 testing.

The vaccine mandate will also apply to those beginning employment for the City of Los Angeles, the release said.

“We have some of the most hard-working and dedicated employees anywhere — people who stepped up to save lives during the most challenging year of our lives, without ever losing sight of their work to make our city stronger, safer, and more equitable," said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. "The Delta variant continues to spread, and it is more important than ever that people get vaccinated as soon as they can. As the council president and I said last month, this requirement will help protect the health and safety of those who keep our city running and the Angelenos who rely on the services they provide every day.”


5:08 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

Biden announces plan to require nursing homes get staff vaccinated or risk losing federal funds

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

President Biden today formally announced his plan to require all staff to get vaccinated at nursing homes which receive federal funds.

"If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting Covid from unvaccinated employees," said Biden, adding that 130,000 nursing home residents have perished so far as a result of Covid-19. 

"I'm using the power of the federal government as a payer of health care costs to ensure to reduce those risks to our most vulnerable senior," he continued. "These steps are all about keeping people safe and out of harm's way."

CNN reported earlier today that Biden would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to draw up new regulations making employee vaccination a condition for nursing homes to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, representing a significant escalation in the administration's campaign to get Americans vaccinated.

The move comes as the more transmissible Delta variant now accounts for 99% of Covid-19 cases in the United States and as data shows a link between low vaccination rates in certain nursing homes and rising coronavirus cases among residents.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond contributed reporting to this post. 

5:20 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

Biden directs education secretary to use federal authorities against governors who block school mask mandates

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 18.
President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 18. (Susan Walsh/AP)

President Biden criticized governors who are "trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators" over the use of masks in schools, calling the actions "wrong" and "unacceptable."

"Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in school. They're setting a dangerous tone," he said. "This isn't about politics, it's about keeping our children safe. It's about taking on the virus together, united. I've made it clear that I'll stand with those who are trying to do the right thing," Biden added.

Biden announced that he is directing Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to use "all of his oversight authorities and legal action, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators," as they attempt to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Biden continued, "If you aren't going to fight Covid-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who's trying. You know, we're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children."

Biden said that if a governor is threatening to withhold pay from an educator, federal resources from the American Rescue Plan can be used to pay the salary, "100%."

"The CDC, says masks are critical, especially for those who are not yet vaccinated like our children under the age of 12. So let's put politics aside. Let's follow the educators and the scientists, who know a lot more about how to teach our children and keep them safe than any politician. This administration is always going to take the side of our children," the President said.

The comments were Biden’s latest against governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas who have blocked mask mandates, although he did not do so by name.

Biden thanked officials who were standing up to their state and local officials and said he was not going to “sit by as Governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.”

CNN's Allie Malloy contributed reporting to this post.

4:52 p.m. ET, August 18, 2021

Biden: Boosters are "the best way to protect ourselves from new variants"

President Biden appealed directly to vaccinated Americans, reassuring them that they are well protected, but also encouraging them to get their booster shots eight months after their second dose in accordance with the roll out plan his administration announced earlier this morning.

"It's the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that could arrive," Biden said of the boosters.

Fully vaccinated Americans who received a two-shot mRNA vaccine, like those made by Moderna and Pfizer, earlier this year can start getting booster doses on Sept. 20, US officials announced today. Each person should get their booster shot eight months after their second shot.

Officials Americans who got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson will likely also need booster shots, but more data on the topic is expected in the coming weeks.

Remember: The administration of the booster shots are subject to the authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration and sign off from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC experts told US clinicians yesterday timing of a booster dose of coronavirus vaccine has not yet been determined.