News Update

Booster shots might become available, but those not vaccinated at all are helping prolong the pandemic, doctor says


Fully vaccinated Americans wondering if or when they might need a booster dose may be closer to getting an answer.

But those already inoculated aren’t the ones fueling this Delta variant surge, said Dr. Chris T. Pernell, fellow at the American College of Preventive Medicine.

“The biggest problem isn’t people who have had two doses getting another dose,” Pernell said Tuesday. “It’s the people who haven’t even gotten one dose at this time.”

About 50.8% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech said they have submitted initial data to the US Food and Drug Administration to support the use of a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The dose elicited a significantly higher antibody response against the initial strain of coronavirus and the Delta and Beta variants compared to what was seen among people who got two doses, they said. The booster dose seemed to be equally protective against the Delta and Beta variants as against the original strain of novel coronavirus.

But “that’s actually … not answering the key question we have remaining right now,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said. “The key question is: How quickly does immunity wane after the first two doses?”

With the more transmissible Delta variant spreading, top officials in the Biden administration are coming to an agreement that most Americans should get a booster shot eight months after being fully vaccinated, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The Biden administration’s plan, which is still being developed, would involve administering third shots beginning in mid- to late September, one source told CNN, pending authorization from the FDA.

Because health care workers and nursing home patients were first to receive their shots, the administration expects they’ll be first to receive boosters as well.

Last week, the FDA authorized third doses for some people who are immunocompromised. The CDC almost immediately recommended giving those doses.

The US is ‘flying blind’ on the full extent of Covid-19 and kids

Early school year Covid-19 outbreaks have sent many students back into quarantine. One way to help students stay in classrooms is to have students – particularly those who are not vaccinated – wearing masks in school, health experts say.

“It shouldn’t be for months. It shouldn’t be forever. But right now, when people are coming back in, masking is a reasonable public health step,” said Dr. Brett Giroir, former assistant secretary for health in the Trump administration.

“I support it and encourage parents to encourage their children to do it.”

During this Delta variant surge, Covid-19 hospitalizations have soared among children. But the full extent of severe pediatric cases is unknown.

“Only 23 states and New York City actually report the number of children in hospitals,” said Giroir, a pediatrician. He said Texas and Florida are among the states where the total number of child Covid-19 hospitalizations are unknown.

“Talking about flying blind, relative to children,” Giroir said. “We need better data, and that’s got to be the basis for action.”

And because testing has gone down, the US may not be fully informed on the extent of the infection nationwide, Giroir said. He estimated the US could soon reach a true number of around 500,000 cases per day.

“That means 50 to 100 thousand Americans will get long Covid – meaning for months they’ll be in pain, they’ll be fatigued, they’ll have brain fog, because their memory centers in their brain shrink. We know that,” Giroir said.

Because Covid-19 vaccination is only available for Americans ages 12 and up, face masks play a key role in helping children avoid the Delta variant – and keeping students in school instead of quarantine, health experts say.

If students are going to be in a room together before they can all be vaccinated, it is crucial to have proper testing, ventilation and masking, Wen said.

“Why wouldn’t we want every single tool at our disposal to help to keep our children safe at this point?” she said.

Third-grade teacher Candace Ropp, left, welcomes students back for the first day of class Monday at Stanford Elementary School in Garden Grove, California.

Paul Bersebach/Orange County Register/Getty Images
Third-grade teacher Candace Ropp, left, welcomes students back for the first day of class Monday at Stanford Elementary School in Garden Grove, California.

Hospitals feeling the weight of the increase

Forty states are seeing a surge in the average number of new cases compared to the week before, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And the impact can be seen in strained health care systems.

Cases in Mississippi have continued to rise, with the latest data from the state department of health showing 7,839 new cases and 52 new deaths in the three days to August 15.

In response to the record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations, the University of Mississippi Medical Center said a second field hospital is being constructed in one of its parking garages.

The field hospital will have critical care capacity and care for up to 32 patients at a time, the medical center said.

In Texas, following a review of the rise in fatalities, the Department of State Health Services submitted a request for five mortuary trailers as “a normal part of preparedness to have these available to support local jurisdictions in case they need them,” according to DSHS Press Officer Douglas Loveday.

Texas is one of the states at odds over mask mandates. Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning school districts from requiring masks, which has caused backlash from educators and local leaders.

Texas and Florida lead the nation in pediatric hospitalizations.

The latest HHS data published Monday shows that 239 children in Texas are currently hospitalized with Covid-19. Texas has surpassed Florida, which has 170 children hospitalized with Covid-19.

CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Virginia Langmaid, Kaitlan Collins, Adrienne Broaddus, Deanna Hackney, Raja Razek and Rosa Flores contributed to this report.

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