COVID has become ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’; Pfizer vaccine full approval may take months: Today’s updates

All 50 states reported more COVID-19 cases in the most recent 7-day period than in the week before, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data showed.

The data marks a concerning trend for public health officials as the country enters its fourth wave of cases, with a nearly 70% spike overall in the average number of daily cases this past week compared to the week prior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the number of cases is increasing, the most concerning outbreaks continue to occur in areas with low vaccination rates, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said at a news conference Friday.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky added. The average number of hospitalizations and deaths has also increased in the past seven days, rising roughly 36% and 26%, respectively, per the CDC.

Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, said four states accounted for more than 40% of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last week, with 1 in 5 cases occurring Florida. Zients didn’t name the other three, but CDC data shows Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Louisiana with the highest case rates per 100,000 people – each averaging over 150 in the past seven days.

Cases will continue to increase in the coming weeks and will be centered in unvaccinated communities, Zients said. “If you’re unvaccinated, please get vaccinated now,” he added.

Also in the news:

►Arkansas remained the nation’s top spot for new COVID-19 cases per capita, reporting 1,342 more cases on Friday.

►Health care workers and senior citizens were the first people vaccinated on Friday in Haiti, which received its first vaccine doses this week as part of a U.S. donation to the United Nations’ COVAX program for low-income countries.

►A top official at the European Medicines Agency said a decision on whether to recommend Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine be authorized for children is expected late next week.

►Joining a growing list of medical centers across the country, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the hospital confirmed in an email Thursday.

►President Joe Biden said he hopes to know in the next several days when the U.S. will be lifting COVID-19 travel restrictions on much of Europe.

►New coronavirus cases surged to 1,308 in Tokyo on Thursday, a six-month high, as fears rise of a possible dramatic increase that could flood hospitals during the Olympics, which start in eight days.

►At least 59 residents at a homeless shelter in Northern California tested positive for the coronavirus, half of whom were vaccinated, health officials said.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 34 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 608,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 189.4 million cases and 4 million deaths. More than 160.4 million Americans – 48.2% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re reading: J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine comes with rare nerve syndrome warning. Here’s what to know about it.

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Full Pfizer vaccine approval may not come until January

COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said Friday it could be another six months before they receive a full approval for their vaccine.

In a news release, the companies said the Food and Drug Administration has granted their licensing application “priority review.” Under the law, the goal date for such a decision is in January 2022.

COVID-19 vaccines have been available since last December, but provided under an “emergency use authorization” rather than a full drug license.

Their application, initially filed in May, asks for a full license to use the vaccine in people ages 16 and up. Although their vaccine, BNT162b2, is currently authorized for those 12 and older, the companies do not have the full six months of additional data for younger adolescents.

The Food and Drug Administration has said their earlier analysis of the vaccines was thorough, but because of the urgency of the pandemic, they authorized the vaccines on an emergency basis, with only two months’ worth of data rather than the six usually required.

“The FDA recognizes that vaccines are key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic and is working as quickly as possible to review applications for full approval,” the agency said in a statement this week.

– Karen Weintraub

University of California to require COVID-19 vaccines

The University of California said Thursday that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required before the fall term begins for all students and faculty, amid rising cases in the state.

“Vaccination is by far the most effective way to prevent severe disease and death after exposure to the virus and to reduce spread of the disease to those who are not able, or not yet eligible, to receive the vaccine,” UC President Michael V. Drake said in a letter to the system’s 10 chancellors, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The announcement makes them the largest university system to mandate vaccinations. They previously proposed to mandate them only after the Food and Drug Administration fully approved a vaccine.

College students pose a high risk to efforts to control the pandemic. Last September, counties home to universities suffered many of the nation’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks. As of late May, 400 colleges and universities plan to require vaccines for students.

The announcement also comes as several counties in California have reported rising cases. Los Angeles County reported 1,000 cases daily for most of the week, and San Diego County reported 2,000 cases for the whole week.

The fourth wave of COVID is here. Will the US escape the UK’s fate?

A doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the United States has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.

No one knows what the next month or two will bring, but the example of the United Kingdom suggests the infection rate could get quite high, while hospitalizations and deaths stay relatively low.

Instead of the virus raging through entire communities, it is expected to target the unvaccinated, including children, and if rates are high enough, also the most vulnerable of the vaccinated – the elderly and the immunocompromised.

Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said it was “unlikely” to see a return of COVID to the levels experienced in January. But major outbreaks can still occur, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

“We’re going to be living in two pandemic worlds, the world that’s vaccinated and the world that’s unvaccinated,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, chief of infectious diseases at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

– Karen Weintraub

Protesters at Idaho Capitol fight hospitals’ COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Idaho Capitol on Thursday to oppose the COVID-19 employee vaccine mandates of a few state health care systems.

Kayla Dunn, organizer of Thursday’s Stop the Mandate Idaho Rally, said the protest “was not an argument over whether the ‘vaccine is good or bad,’” but a demand for bodily autonomy, according to the Idaho Statesman.

“Don’t get me wrong, evidence-based practice shows us that vaccinations do work,” another nurse said. “But it should never, ever be forced upon (us), especially since there have been no long-term studies.”

Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s, two of Idaho’s largest health systems, both announced in early July that they’d be requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of all staff members. Both hospitals said they would allow exemptions for individuals with religious objections or medical conditions; employees who don’t meet exemption criteria, however, could be terminated if they don’t get vaccinated.

– Edward Segarra

Los Angeles County to require masks indoors – regardless of vaccination status

Los Angeles County, the most populated county in the U.S., will once again require people to wear masks indoors – regardless of vaccination status – due to a recent surge in new COVID-19 cases.

The startling change, announced exactly a month after California became one of the last in the country to reopen and drop coronavirus mandates, aims to stunt an uptick in new cases combined with the spread of the highly infectious delta variant. It will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” the county‘s health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, said during a Thursday afternoon news briefing.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: CDC director says unvaccinated most affected by COVID pandemic

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