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Covid-19 booster shots to be offered in the US

Surgeon general on Covid-19 boosters: The time is now
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What we're covering here

  • Covid-19 vaccine booster shots will be offered in the US beginning Sept. 20, subject to authorization from the FDA, US health officials said.
  • The World Health Organization still recommends the world’s most vulnerable get fully vaccinated before booster shots are offered.
  • Meanwhile, New Zealand is entering a three-day lockdown after reporting one local Covid-19 case

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

Vials and syringes of the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine are seen at Culver City Fire Department on August 5 in California.

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.”

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

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.

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

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, speaks at a news conference on August 18 at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington.

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.

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

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.”

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

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 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.”

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

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.”

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

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. 

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

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 18.

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.

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.

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.

Biden: "It only makes sense to require a vaccine that stops the spread of Covid-19"

President Biden said that he is pleased to see private sector employers like AT&T, Amtrak and McDonald’s announce vaccine requirements.

On mandating vaccines, Biden said,  “let’s be clear, vaccination requirements have been around for decades.” 

He continued, “The students, healthcare professionals, our troops are typically required to receive vaccines to prevent anything from polio to smallpox to measles to mumps to rubella. In fact, the reason most people in America don’t worry about polio, smallpox, measles, mumps or rubella today is because of vaccines.” 

To employers, Biden said, “My message is simple. Do the right thing for your employees, consumers, and your businesses. Let’s remember, the key tool to keeping our economy going strong is to get people vaccinated and at work.”

Biden: The Covid-19 vaccine "can save the lives of those you love"

President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 18.

President Biden implored Americans to get the Covid-19 vaccine during a speech from the White House today in which he is expected to also discuss the need for booster shots.

“There are people who are dying and who will die who didn’t have to. So, please, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it now, do it now. It can save your life and it can save the lives of those you love,” Biden said Wednesday afternoon.

Some context: Covid-19 continues to spread across the United States — and nearly 93% of the US population lives in an area with high Covid-19 transmission, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While case rates tend to be higher in less vaccinated states, disparities in hospitalization and death rates are even larger between the least and most vaccinated states, according to a CNN analysis of federal data. 

In the 10 most vaccinated states, an average of 10 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 for every 100,000 residents, data from the US Department of Health and Human Services shows. But in the 10 least vaccinated states, hospitalization rates are nearly four times higher, with an average of 39 people hospitalized with Covid-19 for every 100,000 residents. 

NOW: Biden announces new measures to encourage vaccinations and combat Covid-19

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 18.

President Biden is delivering remarks now from the White House.

He is expected to highlight booster shots, vaccine requirements for most long-term care workers, and federal reimbursements during his speech, the White House said. 

Biden will also “issue a memorandum to the Secretary of Education directing him to use all available tools to ensure that governors and other officials are providing a safe return to in-person learning for the nation’s children,” according to a fact sheet released by the White House ahead of Biden’s speech. 

US hospitalization and death rates continue to be higher in less vaccinated states 

Covid-19 continues to spread across the United States — and nearly 93% of the US population lives in an area with high Covid-19 transmission, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While case rates tend to be higher in less vaccinated states, disparities in hospitalization and death rates are even larger between the least and most vaccinated states, according to a CNN analysis of federal data. 

A month ago, Covid-19 case rates in the 10 least vaccinated states were about 3.5 times higher than in the 10 most vaccinated states, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

But hospitalizations and deaths lag behind cases by a few weeks, and now the gap in hospitalization and death rates is even larger:

  • In the 10 most vaccinated states, an average of 10 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 for every 100,000 residents, data from the US Department of Health and Human Services shows. But in the 10 least vaccinated states, hospitalization rates are nearly four times higher, with an average of 39 people hospitalized with Covid-19 for every 100,000 residents. 
  • Covid-19 death rates over the past week in the least vaccinated states were more than 5.5 higher than in the most vaccinated states, according to JHU data. Over the past week, the 10 most vaccinated states had an average of 6 Covid-19 deaths for every 1 million residents, while the 10 least vaccinated states had an average of about 34 deaths per 1 million residents.

The 10 most vaccinated states – Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Washington and New York – have each fully vaccinated more than 58% of residents, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the 10 least vaccinated states – Alabama, Mississippi, Wyoming, Idaho, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and North Dakota – have each fully vaccinated less than 41% of their residents, below the US overall vaccination rate of about 51%. 

Biden administration will require nursing homes get staff vaccinated or lose federal funds

The federal government will direct all nursing homes to require their staff be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds, Biden administration officials tell CNN.

President Biden will announce Wednesday afternoon that he is directing 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, the officials said.

The move represents a significant escalation in Biden’s campaign to get Americans vaccinated and the tools he is willing to use, marking the first time he has threatened to withhold federal funds in order to get people vaccinated.

“As we see the spread of Delta and the threat of Covid cases, it is really especially important that we ensure that those caring for our most vulnerable are vaccinated,” Carole Johnson, a senior official on the White House’s Covid-19 response team, told CNN in an interview.

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.

The new regulations could go into effect as early as next month, but Johnson said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will work with nursing homes, employees and their unions to ramp up staff vaccinations before the regulations go into effect.

About 1.3 million people are employed by the more than 15,000 nursing homes that participate in Medicare and Medicaid. About 40% of those workers are not vaccinated, according to CMS data.

“We have seen tremendous progress with low Covid rates within the nursing home population and I think we’re seeing signs that it is starting to tip the other direction. We don’t want to go backwards,” said Jonathan Blum, CMS’s principal deputy administrator.

Blum said CMS officials are “confident we have the legal authority” to implement the new regulation, noting that the law allows CMS to take action as it relates to the health and safety of nursing home residents.

Biden began taking an increasingly muscular approach to boosting vaccination rates last month amid a plateau in vaccinations and the rapid spread of the Delta variant, including requiring all federal workers to attest that they have been vaccinated or be regularly tested for the virus. A slew of private companies have also since announced similar requirements for their workers.

“We are on a wartime footing here. We are leaning into making sure we are taking the steps that we can to ensure the health and safety of Americans and we will continue to do so,” Johnson said. “Delta’s not waiting and so we’re not waiting.”

More than 10,000 students are in quarantine in this Florida school district

As of 7 a.m. ET today, at least 10,384 students are in quarantine across the Hillsborough County Public School District in Florida, according to a spokesperson with the schools.  That’s 4.8% of the student population. Additionally, 338 staff members are in quarantine, making up about 1.4% of the staff population. 

The quarantine numbers do not include those who are vaccinated. The school district warns these numbers are not just school transmission and that students could be in quarantine due to transmission or exposure outside of school.

Hillsborough County said the total number of positive cases are at least 1,695. Of that, 1,197 are students and 498 are staff members.

A total of 28,782 students have opted out of the mask policy. That is 14.44% of the student population but a spokesperson for the school district tells CNN that number has dwindled in the past few days.

Vaccines remain 92% to 95% effective at preventing hospitalizations, New York state data shows

The New York State Department of Health found that vaccines remained 92% to 95% effective at preventing hospitalizations among the vaccinated, according to its data and analysis on vaccine efficacy.

The study examined rates of cases and hospitalizations among vaccinated New Yorkers older than 18, compared to unvaccinated people from early May to late July, a release from the office said.

Noting that with the emergence of the Delta variant and reduction of certain Covid protocols, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, both populations experienced an increase in cases.

“However, it is important to stress that researchers found vaccines remained about 92% to 95% effective at preventing hospitalizations among the vaccinated,” the press release said.

Unvaccinated New Yorkers “were eleven times more likely to be hospitalized and eight times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated,” the release stated.

The effectiveness of the vaccines declined from about 92% to 80% in reducing cases, the study, which was published by the CDC, showed.

Ultimately medical professionals deduced that vaccines remain “a critically important method in lowering COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.”

New York is the first state to conduct this study.

Disability advocacy group sues Texas governor and state education agency over mask mandate ban  

A group of young students with disabilities and underlying medical conditions is suing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) over the mask mandate ban.  

The federal lawsuit was filed in Tuesday in US District Court for the Western District of Texas by Disability Rights Texas, a legal protection and advocacy agency. 

“Plaintiffs are students with disabilities and underlying medical conditions which carry an increased risk of serious complications or death in the event that they contract COVID-19,” the lawsuit says, noting the conditions include “Down syndrome, moderate to severe asthma, chronic lung and heart conditions, cerebral palsy, and weakened immune systems.”  

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are also under the age of 12, “rendering them ineligible to receive the vaccine under current Food and Drug Administration (‘FDA’) regulations.”  

The lawsuit says that if “school districts are unable to implement COVID-19 protocol as they each deem appropriate, parents of medically vulnerable students will have to decide whether to keep their children at home or risk placing them in an environment that presents a serious risk to their health and safety” which means “the Governor’s Executive Order and TEA’s Public Health Guidance unlawfully prevent school districts from complying with the ADA and Section 504’s requirement to provide students with disabilities access to a public school education.” 

The lawsuit asks for injunctive relief to prevent the governor and TEA from withholding state and federal education funds from school districts requiring masks.  

“Students with disabilities need in-person schooling more than other student groups, but they must be able to receive instruction and services safely. Many of these students have underlying health conditions and are at high risk for illness and even death due to COVID-19,” Disability Rights Texas said in a news release announcing the lawsuit.  

CNN contacted Abbott’s office and TEA for comment on the lawsuit, but did not immediately hear back.  

New York City mayor says he doesn't anticipate requiring proof of vaccination for students in the fall

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that he does not anticipate the city requiring proof of vaccination for students returning to school in the fall, but that conversations about mandating vaccines for teachers and school staff are ongoing.

“We do not anticipate students having to show proof. We obviously want to know who’s vaccinated and we want to encourage everyone who is not vaccinated to get vaccinated,” de Blasio said.

 “We’ve had conversations with unions representing our school staff of all kinds on the different ways to keep schools safe, but there’s nothing that’s been decided beyond what we’ve announced publicly and if we have anything new to say, obviously, we’re going to be talking about it,” de Blasio added.

To date, over 56% of New York City residents aged 12 to 17 have gotten at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose – a figure that amounts to almost 300,000 kids, the mayor said.

Dr. Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for Disease Control at the New York City Health Department, reiterated Wednesday that the city had great success in keeping Covid-19 transmission rates low with in-person schooling last year.

“We were able to keep rates of transmission among children and among staff at some of the lowest levels there are in the city,” Varma said. “Of course things are going to be different this year. The virus has changed, it has become a bit more dangerous…at the same time, we have a very strong level of defense, which is vaccination.”

Varma also said that last year, the majority of infections in schools were introduced by adults.

“Last year, in our analysis, we found that the majority of infections that were introduced into schools and resulted in transmission were first introduced by adults, so I think that by really pushing as hard as we can on vaccination for those who are eligible, we’re going to be able to keep our schools safe for kids there,” Varma said.

Additionally, a new “Vax to School” ad campaign will be launched by the city in at least eight languages to encourage parents and eligible kids to get vaccinated before the school year starts. De Blasio said city workers have made about 250,000 phone calls to NYC parents so far, providing information on vaccination.

It's "conceivable" that Covid-19 booster shots will help reduce transmission, Fauci says

It is “conceivable” that the planned rollout of Covid-19 booster shots could help reduce the spread of disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday.

“Transmissibility is a bit more tricky than looking at a clinical phenomenon, such as infection, seriousness of disease and hospitalization,” Fauci said during a virtual White House coronavirus briefing.

Data shows a booster shot prompts the body to produce a new batch of antibodies, Fauci said. These catch the virus as it tries to enter the body, and could stop the virus from multiplying in the nose and throat after someone breathes it in.

“The increase with a boost is really quite striking – multiple-fold increase – that it is conceivable that that would be important in lowering the level of virus in the nasopharynx, which could have an impact on transmission. I certainly hope that’s the case,” Fauci said. 

“If it is, then you could really get multiple benefits from doing this. You can get benefits for disease, severity of disease, and then ultimately infection and transmission. But the bottom line with full transparency – we don’t know that right now,” he added.

Surgeon general: White House is not jumping ahead of the FDA and CDC process for boosters

The White House’s plan to offer coronavirus booster shots to vaccinated adults starting Sept. 20 still depends on whether the US Food and Drug Administration authorizes boosters and whether the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends those boosters, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Wednesday.

“I want to be very clear: We are not skipping the very important FDA and ACIP process here. They have an incredibly important role to play in evaluating safety and making recommendations for vaccines. We respect that, we honor that and that will be a part of this process as well,” Murthy told a White House briefing.

“The reason that we are not waiting for many more weeks to announce this, it falls into two buckets. One is transparency. We had told the public when we see a signal in the data we will tell them when we are concerned, when we think boosters may be required down the line. We are fulfilling that promise today,” Murthy said.

“The second reason is we also want to ensure that people and states and localities and the public more broadly can plan. You can’t turn on a booster effort with the flip of a switch. You have to lay the groundwork,” he continued.

Booster shots are like giving extra life jackets to people who already have them, WHO official says 

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies programme, said on Wednesday that giving Covid-19 booster shots is like handing out extra life jackets to people who already have them.

Regardless of what agreement science comes to on benefits from booster doses, “the reality is, right now, today, if we think about this in terms of an analogy, we’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets. While we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket,” Ryan said during a news briefing in Geneva. 

“That’s the reality,” he continued. “Science is not certain on this. There is clearly more data to collect. But the fundamental ethical reality is we’re handing out second life jackets while leaving millions and millions of people without anything to protect them.” 

“Data consistently demonstrate a reduction of vaccine effectiveness against infection over time,” CDC director says

Three separate studies demonstrate how protection against Covid-19 infection that vaccines provide may decline over time, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a White House virtual briefing on Wednesday. 

One of the studies, conducted in New York, found that vaccine effectiveness against new Covid-19 diagnoses declined from 92% to 80% over time from May 3 through July 25, based on the state’s vaccine records.

“This allowed New York to study vaccine effectiveness against infection over time for more than 10 million New Yorkers of all ages,” Walensky said, adding that the data will be published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) today.

Another study, conducted by the Mayo Clinic, analyzed vaccine effectiveness for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines among more than 80,000 people across all ages using data through July 16, Walensky said, adding, “Like we saw in the New York data, vaccine effectiveness against infection declined over time.”

The Mayo Clinic study found that effectiveness fell from 76% to 42% among those who received the Pfizer vaccine and from 86% to 76% among those who received the Moderna vaccine. “These data are currently available on a pre-print server,” Walensky said.

A third study, to be published today in the CDC’s MMWR, found that vaccine effectiveness against Covid-19 infection among nursing home residents declined from 75% in March to 53% in August, Walensky said.

“Taken together, you can see that while the exact percentage of vaccine effectiveness over time differs depending on the cohort and setting studied, the data consistently demonstrate a reduction of vaccine effectiveness against infection over time,” Walensky said. “Despite waning vaccine effectiveness against infection, data analyzed through July continue to demonstrate a stable and highly effective protection against severe illness and hospitalization for people who are vaccinated.”

Getting a booster "will be just as easy and convenient" as getting vaccinated for Covid-19 

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters at Wednesday’s Covid-19 briefing that getting a booster shot will be just as easy as getting the first shot.

“I want to be clear, the President’s whole of government vaccination effort is ready to get every American who needs one a booster shot,” Zients told reporters, adding, “Thanks to the aggressive actions we have taken to establish our vaccination program, it will be just as easy and convenient to get a booster shot as it is to get the first shot today. We have enough vaccine supply for every American.”

Zients pointed to the more than 80,000 vaccination sites available to Americans across the country, including 40,000 local pharmacies, pledging, “boosters will be free, regardless of immigration or health insurance status, no ID or insurance required.”

Vaccinated Americans should pursue a vaccination eight months after their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, per Zients, who told reporters Wednesday the administration will “continue working closely with states, healthcare providers, pharmacies, and national and community-based organizations to ensure Americans know they should get a booster shot eight months after their second shot, and we will be laser focused on getting boosters to long-term care facilities to make sure residents and staff get their shots and are safe and protected.” 

Administration’s Covid-19 booster shot plan prioritizes vulnerable populations, surgeon general says

The federal government’s Covid-19 booster shot plan prioritizes the most vulnerable populations, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said on Wednesday, even though the Biden administration has not explicitly said it would limit who can get the additional vaccination when it’s rolled out later this fall. 

The White House Covid-19 response team announced that adults should get a booster shot eight months after they receive the second dose of the vaccine and plans to begin rolling out the booster shots in September.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond asked why the booster shot was not limited to older and more at-risk Americans.

“When we look at the data, we see a reduction in protection against mild to moderate disease across age groups and that was an important part of why we make this recommendation for all adults,” Murthy responded during a press briefing.

He continued, “We want to protect all adults in our country from the worst effects of Covid-19. But our plan does prioritize the most vulnerable. If you look at how we began vaccinating people … we prioritized health care workers, long-term care facility residents and the elderly. And those are exactly the same populations that we will be starting with.”

Here's who is is eligible for a Covid-19 booster shot

Health officials announced that some fully vaccinated US adults will be eligible to receive a Covid-19 booster dose starting in September, during a White House update.

Here are key things to know about the booster dose roll-out and requirements:

  • Who is eligible for the booster shot? Fully vaccinated adults (18 years and older) who received two doses of an mRNA vaccine will be eligible.
  • When will people be able to receive an extra dose? Booster doses will be available starting Sept. 20, 2021.
  • How long after your initial vaccination do you have to wait? The booster dose will be administered to qualifying adults eights months after their second Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine. For example, if you received your second vaccine dose on Feb. 1, 2021, you would be eligible for a booster Oct. 1, 2021.
  • What about people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said that he anticipates that those who received the J&J vaccine will also need a booster shot, but added that more data should come in the following weeks.

Health officials said the rollout ensures that vulnerable populations — who were first to get initial doses of the vaccine — will be eligible first for the booster shot. This includes health care providers, nursing home residents and other seniors.

Murthy noted that the current roll-out plan is pending on “FDA conducting an independent evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Modern mRNA  vaccines. And the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices issuing booster dose recommendations ,based on a thorough review of the evidence.”

US officials on vaccines: We don't have to "choose between America and the world"

The US just announced plans to begin booster shots next month, but the World Health Organization has said it still recommends the world’s most vulnerable get fully vaccinated before booster shots are offered.

Asked about the US’s booster shot plan in regards to global vaccination efforts, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said the US has a responsibility to do both.

“I do not accept the idea that we have to choose between America and the world. We clearly see our responsibility to both,” he said.

Murthy continued:

“When we see data that is giving us essentially indications that protection is starting to diminish in terms of mild and moderate disease when we recognize that if this trajectory continues, that people who are well protected today may see more vulnerability in the future, we have to act. The science tells us that. Our clinical judgment tells us that, and that was a collective decision of the top public health and medical experts in this administration. 

“Again, we will do everything possible to protect people in our country. That’s why we’re announcing this booster plan, but we will also continue to accelerate our efforts to vaccinate the rest of the world,” he added.

Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, agreed, saying both global vaccine efforts and protecting Americans are “critical.”

“During the coming months, when we talk about booster shots, we expect to give about 100 million boosters in the United States and at the same time we will be donating more than 200 million — twice that number — additional doses, to other countries on our way to donating more than 600 million vaccines,” he said.

#Boosters##

200 million Americans will have received a first vaccine dose by days end, White House says

Two hundred million Americans will have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine once the vaccination numbers from Wednesday are reported, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced. 

Zients touted the increase in the vaccination rate both broadly, and specifically among adolescents as they return to school, as a milestone with nearly seven million Americans receiving their first dose over the past two weeks.

That number is the highest two-week total of first doses administered since the beginning of June, he said, and is accompanied by a 75% increase in the average daily number of 12 to 15-year-olds getting vaccinated.

Despite that, Zients warned that cases continue to rise thanks to the Delta variant, especially in communities with a lower vaccination rate. 

“We continue to see a rise in cases driven by the more transmissible Delta variant, with cases concentrated in communities with lower vaccination rates. So this remains a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Zients said. 

The whole of government response to Covid-19 now sees surge response teams working with 16 states to help them respond to any outbreaks, Zients added. 

Booster shots will be free regardless of if you have insurance, White House official says

Booster Covid-19 vaccines will be free, regardless of immigration or health insurance status, Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said on Wednesday. The official also noted people will not need to bring an ID.

He said because of actions taken to establish the vaccination program, it will be “just as easy and convenient to get a booster shot as it is to get a first shot.”

When they are eligible, people will be able to get a third dose at about 80,000 places across the country, including 40,000 local pharmacies, Zients said, adding the US has enough vaccine supply for every American.

“In fact, 90% of Americans have a vaccine site within five miles of where they live,” Zients said.

Surgeon general: "The time to lay out a plan for Covid-19 boosters is now"

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy outlined the White House’s plan to provide Covid-19 booster shots for fully vaccinated Americans. Qualified, fully vaccinated adults will be eligible for their booster shots beginning Sept. 20, he said.

The official said that after reviewing the most current data, they’ve assessed the time to lay out the plan for boosters “is now.”

“The Covid-19 vaccines that are authorized in the United States have been remarkably effective, even against the widespread Delta variant. But we know even highly effective vaccines become less effective over time. Our goal has been to determine when that time might come for the Covid-19 vaccines so we can make a plan to take proactive steps to extend and enhance the protection the vaccines are giving us. Having reviewed the most current data, it is now our clinical judgment, that the time to lay out a plan for Covid-19 boosters is now,” Murthy said during an press briefing from the White House Covid-19 response team.

Murthy noted that recent data has shown that vaccine induced protection “against mild and moderate disease has decreased over time.”

“This is likely due to both waning immunity and the strength of the widespread Delta variant. Even though this new data affirms that vaccine protection remains high against the worst outcomes of Covid, we are concerned that this pattern of decline we’re seeing will continue in the months ahead which could lead to reduced protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death,” Murthy added.

Due to those concerns, Murthy said that Covid-19 booster shots will be available for fully vaccinated adults, 18 years and older. Fully vaccinated adults would be eligible for the booster shot eight months after they received their second does of Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines.

“This plan is pending the FDA conducting an independent evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Modern mRNA  vaccines. And the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices issuing booster dose recommendations ,based on a thorough review of the evidence. The plan ensures that people who were  fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination rollout will be eligible for a booster first. This includes our most vulnerable populations like our health care providers, nursing home residents and other seniors,” Murthy added.

The US surgeon general noted that booster shots will also likely be needed for people who initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but that they are awaiting more data.

Studies on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines show these 3 main points

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of Centers for Dise