News Update

Analysis: Shots are coming to little arms, but when?

A version of this story appeared in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
The US did not reopen for Easter of 2020 like President Donald Trump promised. The country failed to reach President Joe Biden’s Independence Day goals in 2021.
So maybe don’t get too set on Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s prediction that US kids could be getting vaccinated by Halloween.
But we are very much closer to vaccinated children after Pfizer — on whose board Gottlieb, a former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, now sits — announced that a smaller dose of its Covid-19 vaccine generated a “robust” response in children 5 to 11 years old.
It’s welcome news to parents and teachers dealing with outbreaks and quarantines in newly reopened schools, and to everyone else who wants to stop the spread.
There’s a lot that still needs to happen. CNN’s Jacqueline Howard lays out the next steps between Monday’s announcement and a regulatory OK here. But if their press release is to be believed, this is very good news indeed.
Why did this take so long? In July the FDA urged Pfizer and the other mRNA vaccine developer, Moderna, to greatly expand their clinical trials in children, The New York Times reported at the time.
What did the trial look like? Pfizer’s trial included 2,268 participants ages 5 to 11, according to CNN’s report.
The two-dose regimen was separated by 21 days, just like for adults, but the kids were given one-third of the dose — 10 micrograms instead of the 30 micrograms used for those 12 and older.
A month after the second dose, the kids showed a “strong immune response.”
What are the side effects? They’re in line with those for adults, according to Pfizer.
Plus, and this is extremely important, Pfizer says there were no instances of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation that has been linked with mRNA vaccines.
The takeaway, for today. This is such welcome news, for a few reasons.
Covid-19 cases are still surging in the US. There have been an average of 146,000 new cases each day for the past seven days, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kids are getting Covid. There have been nearly 500,000 cases in children under 12 in the past two weeks.
They are still much less likely to be hospitalized or die, but they are also clearly carrying the virus.
Vaccinating them will provide protection against sickness and also help stop the spread.
CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen: “So many parents are waiting for exactly this news, especially given what’s happening now with the Delta variant. There have been nearly half a million new cases in children in the last two weeks.”
This would mean another 28 million Americans would be able to get vaccinated, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Census Bureau.
And that would make 94% of all Americans eligible for vaccination.
Currently, 54.7% of the total population is fully vaccinated and 63.9% has gotten at least one dose.

Kids under 12 by the numbers

There are 48 million kids under 12 in the US, give or take, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation review of the under-12 population. Here are some more interesting tidbits from its report:
  • They’re mostly older than 5 — Nearly 58% of them — are between 5 and 12 and could become eligible to take the vaccine
  • They’re more likely to be non-White — A little less than half of US children under 12 are White. A little more than a quarter are Hispanic or Latino. About 13% are Black. Smaller percentages are Asian or multiracial.
  • They’re focused in the South — Nearly 40% of the kids under 12 live in the South, about a quarter live in the West, 21% are in the Midwest and 15% are in the Northeast.
If this is anything like the rollout for adults, there will be a crush of people falling over each other to get their kids vaccinated. And then there will be a very long period where the skeptics and holdouts are slowly convinced.
Note: The South, where the most kids live, is still, generally, the least-vaccinated region in the US, while the Northeast, where the fewest kids live, is the most vaccinated.
The South is also where the stronghold of opposition to vaccine and mask requirements seems to be located.

The view from Mississippi

CNN’s Jake Tapper conducted a maddening interview with Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves where he pointed out if that if the state were a country, it would have one of the worst Covid deaths rates by population in the world.
Tapper repeatedly asked Reeves what he’ll do differently to protect the state from the virus that has killed so many there. Reeves attacked Biden, alleging a power grab in the President’s effort to require vaccines at many companies, and argued that despite the large number of deaths, cases are now falling, but he had zero plans to change course.
Here’s one exchange of several:
TAPPER: Governor, if Mississippi were a country, you would have the second worst per capita death toll in the world. And I’m saying, are you going to do anything to try to change that?
REEVES: Jake, as I mentioned earlier, deaths, unfortunately, are a lagging indicator. Our total number of cases went from 100 to 3,600 and, over the last two weeks, has declined. They have been cut in half from 3,600 to 1,800. When you wanted me to come on …
TAPPER: So you think it — so you think this is successful?
REEVES: … three or four weeks, you wanted to talk about our number of cases. And then you want to talk about our hospitalizations. Now you want to talk about a lagging indicator, which is sad. And — and it’s true.
TAPPER: I’m trying to talk about the dead in Mississippi, is what I’m trying to talk about.
REEVES: And I — my heart breaks for all 9,000 Mississippians that have passed away.
But let’s put this in perspective, Jake. I mean the reality is, Mississippi accounts for 1% of the US population. We account for 1.1% of the total number of cases in America. And we account for 1.29% of the total number of fatalities in America.
Here a transcript of Tapper and Reeves.
It’s not just people with Covid who are dying because of Covid. CNN wrote, again, today about the difficulty ICUs are facing in the highest transmission areas.
“We are at the point where not every patient in need will get the care we might wish we could give,” said Dr. Shelly Harkins, chief medical officer of St. Peter’s Health in Helena, Montana.

Rationing of health care is happening in the US right now

Rationing is when “people who come in in cardiac arrest may not get CPR, and patients who would otherwise get hospitalized may be sent home with loved ones who are going to be scared and not have full capacity to take care of them,” said emergency physician Dr. Megan Ranney, associate dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. Read that report here.
Current stats:
  • 89,300 people are hospitalized for Covid-19 in the US.
  • 1,926 people have died from Covid-19 every day this past week, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s the highest rate since early March.

Setbacks in the economy

CNN Business and Moody’s Analytics have the Back-to-Normal Index, which tracks how the US economy is doing compared with pre-pandemic times.
After hovering in the low-90% area for months, America’s economy dropped back to 89% of its pre-Covid strength as of September 17. South Dakota is now the only state in the union that’s stronger than it was before the pandemic. Read more. Back in midsummer it was multiple states over 100%.
Louisiana is faring worst, at just 76% of pre-pandemic strength, although it is dealing with hurricane fallout. It’s followed by New York at 78%.
What’s driving things down? Some of the components in the Back-to-Normal Index, such as passenger throughput reported by the Transportation Security Administration or restaurant reservations from Open Table, show this trend: People are canceling plans to avoid exposure to the virus.
While Delta led some European countries to place new restrictions on travel from the US this month, the US is now planning to ease restrictions on foreigners coming this way, according to the White House. Proof of vaccination and a recent test will be required for those coming to the US from other countries.
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