A team of advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to wrap up a two-day meeting Thursday on booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines, just hours after the Food and Drug Administration authorized their use for senior citizens and those at elevated risk of severe disease.
The FDA authorized booster doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer
and German partner BioNTech
for Americans 65 and older and younger people with underlying health conditions and those in jobs that put them at high risk for COVID-19, the Associated Press reported.
The ruling represents a drastically scaled back version of the Biden administration’s sweeping plan to give third doses to nearly all American adults to shore up their protection amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
The CDC will now make its own recommendations on exactly who should get the extra shots and on what timeline. In their first day of discussions, some experts were so perplexed by the questions surrounding the rationale for boosters that they suggested putting off a decision for a month in hopes of more evidence.
The uncertainties were yet another reminder that the science surrounding boosters is more complicated than the Biden administration suggested when the president and his top aides rolled out their plan at the White House last month.
The U.S. is now averaging 2,075 COVID deaths a day, according to a New York Times tracker, the highest daily toll since late February. Hospitalizations are averaging 91,189 a day, and new cases are averaging 130,592 a day, levels last seen in winter. Most new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people.
Alaska has replaced West Virginia as the state with the highest number of new cases measured on a per capita basis, the tracker shows. Alaska is averaging 117 new cases a day per 100,000 people, the highest such level in the nation. Alaska has vaccinated 50% of its population, below the national average of 54.9%, according to a CDC tracker.
On Wednesday, the state activated “crisis standards of care,” a move that allows hospitals to ration care that may lead some patients to receive substandard treatment. Emergency-room patients are being forced to wait hours in their cars as hospitals are overwhelmed and healthcare workers are exhausted, the Times reported, citing comments from Jared Kosin, head of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.
Elsewhere, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has expressed dismay at the U.K. government’s pandemic travel restrictions, which only recognize vaccines administered in a few countries, as AFP reported.
The restrictions will not recognize vaccines locally administered in the African Union — even though some of those shots came from the U.K.
“If you send us vaccines and you say, ‘We don’t recognize those vaccines’, it sends a very challenging message for us,” said John Nkengasong, head of the Africa centers.
Africa is facing challenges from a shortage of supply, as well as vaccine hesitation and that is “a message that creates confusion within our population … creating more reticence, reluctance for people to receive vaccines,” he told a weekly news conference. From Oct. 4, travelers from countries that are now on a U.K. “red list” will be required to quarantine in government-approved hotels, even if they are vaccinated.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country should be aiming for a vaccination rate of 90% to end restrictions, Reuters reported. New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 last year and remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the delta variant in August led to a nationwide lockdown.
Russia reported 820 COVID deaths in a single day on Thursday, matching a record set on Aug. 26, Reuters reported separately. Moscow recorded 3,445 new infections in the past 24 hours, the most reported in a single day since July 31 following a case surge over the summer, authorities said. There were 21,438 cases recorded nationwide, they said.
U.S. Olympians planning to take part in the Winter Games in Beijing next February will need to be vaccinated, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced Thursday, as the Guardian reported. Athletes who want to use the USOPC’s training centers and facilities must be vaccinated by Nov. 1.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 230 million on Thursday, while the death toll rose to 4.72 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 42.5 million cases and 681,199 deaths.
India is second by cases after the U.S. at 33.6 million and has suffered 446,050 deaths. Brazil has the second highest death toll at 592,316 and 21.3 million cases.
In Europe, Russia has most fatalities at 197,834, followed by the U.K. at 135,961.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 108,080 confirmed cases and 4,809 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.