The latest on Covid-19 vaccines in the US

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

Updated 7:58 p.m. ET, October 20, 2021
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5:14 p.m. ET, October 20, 2021

CDC advisers will meet tomorrow following the FDA's booster shot authorization 

The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized booster doses of both Covid-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Here's what happens next: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisers, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, meets tomorrow to decide on whether to recommend the FDA’s authorization for the Americans people.

Earlier today, the CDC published a final agenda for the vaccine advisory committee meeting. The panel will be discussing booster doses of Moderna and J&J vaccines, and mixing and matching of boosters. A vote is scheduled between 4:20 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. ET.

After that, the CDC director will decide whether to sign off on the advisers' guidance.

5:05 p.m. ET, October 20, 2021

FDA authorizes booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines — and says mix-and-match is OK

From CNN Health’s John Bonifield and Maggie Fox

A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine and syringes are prepared in Staten Island, New York, on April 16.
A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine and syringes are prepared in Staten Island, New York, on April 16. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized booster doses of both Covid-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Wednesday and also said any of the three authorized vaccines could be used as a booster in a “mix and match” approach.

The FDA gave emergency use authorization for boosters of Moderna’s vaccine for people fully vaccinated at least six months ago who are also at least 65, or who are at least 18 and who are high risk of severe Covid-19 or have frequent institutional or occupational exposure to Covid-19.

“The use of a single booster dose of the Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine may be administered at least 2 months after completion of the single-dose primary regimen to individuals 18 years of age and older,” the FDA added in a statement. 

“The use of each of the available COVID-19 vaccines as a heterologous (or ‘mix and match’) booster dose in eligible individuals following completion of primary vaccination with a different available COVID-19 vaccine,” the FDA said. 

“To clarify that a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine may be administered at least 6 months after completion of the primary series to individuals 18 through 64 years of age with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2,” it added.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisers, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, will meet tomorrow to decide on whether to recommend the FDA’s authorization for the Americans people, and then the CDC director will decide whether to sign off on ACIP’s guidance.

1:27 p.m. ET, October 20, 2021

New York City mayor says he does not anticipate legal issues with vaccine mandate

From CNN's Laura Ly

A health care worker prepares a Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine on May 12 in New York.
A health care worker prepares a Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine on May 12 in New York. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference Wednesday that he does not anticipate any legal issues with the latest vaccine mandate extending to all city workers. 

“I don’t anticipate legal issues. I’ve had this conversation with our corporation counsel…many times. We have seen, uniformly, courts agree and support vaccine mandates by governments, certainly by this government,” de Blasio said.

When asked about potential staffing shortages, particularly among NYPD and FDNY members who may refuse to get vaccinated, the mayor said they “obviously have contingencies in place for any gaps that we experience” and that the city’s “uniformed agency leadership feel very strongly that they will be able to handle any scenario.” 

De Blasio continued by saying that he believes many unvaccinated city workers will decide to get vaccinated due to needing a paycheck.

“What I think is obvious after a lot of conversation with the leadership of all of our uniformed agencies, is people are there to do a job and they believe in the work. Also, they’re there for a paycheck of course…and folks are not going to give that up, by and large,” de Blasio said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of people, maybe grudgingly, but a lot of people just go and get vaccinated and continue working.”

12:18 p.m. ET, October 20, 2021

Biden administration "fully supports" NYC's city worker vaccine mandate, official says

From CNN's Laura Ly

The Biden administration “fully supports” the New York City vaccination mandate for all city workers, White House Vaccinations Coordinator Dr. Bechara Choucair said during a press conference Wednesday. 

“Today’s announcement is another important step to help get New York and the country protected, and sets an example for our country. So, we at the Biden administration fully support this action. The fact is, vaccine requirements are working,” Choucair said.

Choucair said that vaccine mandates are also good for the economy and for the labor market, particularly in getting more people back to work, “as people feel safer going back to the workplace and face fewer disruptions, including childcare.” 

“We appreciate the steps you are taking in New York City, requiring your city workers to get the vaccine. These are the type of actions that will accelerate our path out of the pandemic,” Choucair said.
10:46 a.m. ET, October 20, 2021

CDC director: There's no evidence that AY 4.2 subvariant impacts effectiveness of vaccines or therapeutics

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

There’s no evidence a new sublineage of the Delta variant is having any significant effect in the United States, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday. 

While the AY 4.2 coronavirus subvariant has been identified in the United States, it’s not growing in frequency or causing clusters, Walensky told a White House Covid-19 briefing. 

“At this time, there is no evidence that the sublineage AY 4.2 impacts the effectiveness of our current vaccines or therapeutics,” she said.

"There are new variants that continue to emerge as cases continue to spread, and in particular, the AY 4.2 variant has drawn some attention in recent days. AY 4.2 is a sublineage of the Delta variant that has been recently identified in the UK, and we have on occasion identified this sublineage here in the United States, but not with recent increased frequency or clustering to date," Walensky said.

"CDC is continuing to track lineages and sublineages of Delta, and all other variants," Walensky said. "We particularly monitor for sublineages that could impact therapeutics, such as monoclonal antibodies and vaccines.”

 

10:25 a.m. ET, October 20, 2021

How soon will kids be able to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and when will they have full immunity?

From CNN's Maggie Fox

White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients outlined the administration’s plans to deploy Covid-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, contingent on approval by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a number of operations geared specifically towards vaccinating children. 

“We expect the FDA and CDC’s decision on Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 in the next couple of weeks. We know millions of parents have been waiting for Covid-19 vaccine for kids in this age group, and should the FDA and CDC authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms,” Zients told reporters during Wednesday’s Covid briefing. 

The FDA has already scheduled a meeting of its independent advisers, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee or VRBPAC, for Oct. 26 to discuss the data. VRBPAC, which includes several pediatricians, will listen to what both Pfizer and the FDA have to say about what studies show and will also hear public input.

The FDA could act quickly after the VRBPAC meeting – in hours, even – and then vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is made up of different experts.

ACIP has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday and Wednesday Nov. 2-3 to discuss the question. The CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, will then decide whether kids should get the vaccine based on this input.

It could take five weeks after the first dose for kids' to have full immunity:

Just as with adults, Pfizer is testing and proposing a two-dose series for kids. So that would mean two doses of vaccine given three weeks apart. And as with adults, immunity isn't immediate, even after the second dose. People have been considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose and the same will go for kids.

So at the very earliest, children would be advised to continue taking precautions for five weeks after they get the first dose of vaccine. That means wearing masks, keeping a physical distance from others and avoiding crowded indoor spaces when possible.

As for boosters, it's far too soon to ask about them. It took several months of gathering real-world data before Pfizer asked FDA to authorize boosters in adults.

10:25 a.m. ET, October 20, 2021

Unvaccinated people are 18 times more likely to end up in hospital with Covid-19, CDC director says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

People who haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 are more than 18 times more likely to end up in the hospital with Covid-19 than vaccinated people, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.

A new CDC data tool shows the value of vaccinating people against the virus, Walensky told a White House briefing. She showed some graphs generated by the new tool and said unvaccinated people were more than 11 times more likely to die.

“In August, as we were experiencing the peak of the Delta surge, 16 jurisdictions provided data on cases and deaths stratified by vaccination status. Unvaccinated people had 6.1 times greater risk of testing positive for Covid-19 shown on the left, and 11.3 times greater risk of dying from Covid-19, shown on the right, when compared to those who are fully vaccinated, shown by the light blue line at the bottom,” she added.

“For the week ending August 28, 2021, the hospitalization rate in fully vaccinated people was 4.5 per 100,000, shown by the green line, while the hospitalization rate in unvaccinated people was 83.6 per 100,000, shown by the blue line — an 18.5 fold increase in hospitalizations for those who are unvaccinated," she said.

But Walensky said the number of cases and deaths was improving very slightly. “As of yesterday, the seven day daily average of cases was about 75,500 cases per day, which represents a decrease of about 16% over the prior week. The seven day average of hospital admissions was about 6,000 per day — also, a decrease of about 11% from the prior week. And the seven day average of daily deaths were about, 1,200 per day, a decrease of about 3% from the previous week.”

 

10:12 a.m. ET, October 20, 2021

Getting young kids vaccinated will "play a major role" in slowing Covid-19 spread, Fauci says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Getting most children vaccinated against Covid-19 will "play a major role" in slowing the spread of disease and pushing the nation closer to herd immunity, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday. 

About 28 million children ages 5 to 11 will soon become eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19 if the US Food and Drug Administration authorizes shots for this age group and if the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it.  

“In the era of Delta, children get infected as readily as adults do. And they transmit the infection as readily as adults do. We may not appreciate that, because about 50% of the infections in children are asymptomatic,” Fauci told a White House Covid-19 briefing.

"If we can get the overwhelming majority of those 28 million children vaccinated, I think that would play a major role in diminishing the spread of infection in the community," said Fauci, who is chief medical adviser to President Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

"That's one of the reasons why we want to do as best as we can to get those children from 5 to 11 vaccinated."

 

9:49 a.m. ET, October 20, 2021

White House plans education campaign for parents on coronavirus vaccines for young kids

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The White House plans to launch a nationwide public education campaign for parents of children ages 5 to 11 about the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines —including sending letters to parents and hosting forums, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Wednesday.  

"We're preparing a national public education campaign that will meet parents where they are with information about the vaccines," Murthy told a White House briefing.

The campaign is part of a larger program preparing for the anticipated authorization of a coronavirus vaccine for young children by the US Food and Drug Administration and sign off by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We will work with schools to send letters home to parents. We will convene doctors and health clinics and support them in delivering vaccinations as soon as they have conversations with families," Murthy said.

"We will provide faith leaders with materials and toolkits that they can distribute to their congregations. We will create forums for parents to ask questions to health experts," Murthy said. "With all of this, we will make sure that we are reaching parents in their language and through the people they trust." 

Murthy mentioned that he is the parent of a 5-year-old. "One of the barriers and challenges we will face to getting vaccines to children is a similar barrier we face with adults, which is that there's a profound amount of misinformation that is circulating about vaccines. And that's why we're making sure that it's trusted messengers with scientific credibility who go out there and talk about these vaccines," Murthy said. 

"But it is our collective responsibility — whether we're in government, in the media, whether we're individuals — to help prevent the flow and spread of misinformation online," Murthy said. "We have a role to play in ensuring that parents have accurate information, and that's going to be really one of the keys to making sure that they can get the vaccine and ultimately protect their children.”