WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Friday urged those now eligible for Covid-19 booster shots to get the added protection a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.
Opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against Covid-19, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. Biden praised the decision and aimed to set aside any unease about the vaccination, saying that he would get his own booster soon.
“It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot,” Biden said. “It’s a bear, isn’t it?”
The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.
However, Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected.
The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are health-care workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus. But Walensky disagreed and put that recommendation back in, noting that such a move aligns with an FDA booster authorization decision earlier this week. The category she included covers people who live in institutional settings that increase their risk of exposure, such as prisons or homeless shelters, as well as health care workers.
An administration official said the White House did not have input in Walensky’s decision nor was given a heads-up. Biden on Friday said “the decision is left to the scientists and the doctors. That’s what happened here.”
The panel had offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want one. But the advisers refused to go further and open boosters to otherwise healthy front-line health care workers who aren’t at risk of severe illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.
The panel voted 9 to 6 to reject that proposal. Walensky decided to disregard the advisory committee’s counsel, issuing a statement saying she had restored the recommendation.
“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Walensky said late Thursday night. “At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”
It’s rare for a CDC director to overrule the panel recommendation; experts said it has only happened once this century.
Experts say getting the unvaccinated their first shots remains the top priority, and the panel wrestled with whether the booster debate was distracting from that goal. Biden stressed that the administration’s focus remained on getting people to get their first shots and that he intended to keep rolling out “vaccination requirements wherever I can.”
“The refusal to get vaccinated have cost all of us,” the president said. “It is not hyperbole: it is literally a tragedy. Don’t let it be your tragedy.”
All three of the Covid-19 vaccines used in the US are still highly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even with the spread of the extra-contagious delta variant. But only about 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or just 55% of the population.
“We can give boosters to people, but that’s not really the answer to this pandemic,” said Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University. “Hospitals are full because people are not vaccinated. We are declining care to people who deserve care because we are full of unvaccinated Covid-positive patients.”
Thursday’s decision represented a dramatic scaling back of the Biden administration plan announced last month to dispense boosters to nearly everyone to shore up their protection. Late Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration, like the CDC panel, signed off on Pfizer boosters for a much narrower slice of the population than the White House envisioned.
The booster plan marks an important shift in the nation’s vaccination drive. Britain and Israel are already giving a third round of shots over strong objections from the World Health Organization that poor countries don’t have enough for their initial doses.
Walensky opened Thursday’s meeting by stressing that vaccinating the unvaccinated remains the top goal “here in America and around the world.”
Walensky acknowledged that the data on who really needs a booster right away “are not perfect.” “Yet collectively they form a picture for us,” she said, “and they are what we have in this moment to make a decision about the next stage in this pandemic.”
The CDC panel stressed that its recommendations will be changed if new evidence shows more people need a booster.
The CDC advisers expressed concern over the millions of Americans who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots early in the vaccine rollout. The government still hasn’t considered boosters for those brands and has no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix-and-match and give those people a Pfizer shot.
“I just don’t understand how later this afternoon we can say to people 65 and older, ‘You’re at risk for severe illness and death, but only half of you can protect yourselves right now,’” said Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University.
About 26 million Americans got their last Pfizer dose at least six months ago, about half of whom are 65 or older. It’s not clear how many more would meet the CDC panel’s booster qualifications.
CDC data show the vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness for all ages, but there is a slight drop among the oldest adults. And immunity against milder infection appears to be waning months after people’s initial immunization.
For most people, if you’re not in a group recommended for a booster, “it’s really because we think you’re well-protected,” said Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.
Public health experts not involved in Thursday’s decision said it is unlikely people seeking third doses at a drugstore or other site will be required to prove they qualify.
Even with the introduction of boosters, someone who has gotten just the first two doses would still be considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s Dr. Kathleen Dooling. That is an important question to people in parts of the country where you need to show proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant or enter other places of business.
Among people who stand to benefit from a booster, there are few risks, the CDC concluded. Serious side effects from the first two Pfizer doses are exceedingly rare, including heart inflammation that sometimes occurs in younger men. Data from Israel, which has given nearly 3 million people — mostly 60 and older — a third Pfizer dose, has uncovered no red flags.
The U.S. has already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.
Hospitals in Saskatchewan face prolonged COVID-19 crisis, modelling shows
COVID-19 patients will keep crowding hospital intensive care units (ICUs) in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan well into next year without government orders to limit public mixing, modelling data showed on Wednesday.
As the pandemic ebbed during the summer, the western farming and mining province lifted restrictions at the fastest rate in Canada along with neighbouring Alberta. Saskatchewan has since become the country’s COVID-19 hotspots, with the lowest vaccination rate among provinces, and had to hastily reimpose restrictions such as masking in indoor public places.
“I have no shame in pleading to the public, that we’ve gone so far and we just have to pull along for the next weeks and months,” said Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, who broke down with emotion during a media briefing. “It is distressing to see what is happening in our ICUs and hospitals and I’m sorry — it’s a very challenging time.”
The pandemic’s spread has forced Saskatchewan to fly some COVID-19 patients to Ontario for care and to cancel thousands of surgeries.
Saskatchewan’s modelling showed that severe cases will continue to overwhelm ICUs until March before beginning to decline, without a reduction in mixing, such as smaller gatherings, and greater access to vaccine booster shots. Reduced mixing should ideally last at least 28 days, Shahab said.
The provincial government, led by Premier Scott Moe, has declined to impose limits on private gatherings, however.
Canada’s daily case counts spiked in late summer, but have declined recently. Cases in Saskatchewan and Alberta have also started trending lower, however they have still recorded the highest rates of deaths among the 10 provinces in the past week, and the highest rates of active cases.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by David Gregorio)
SHA says COVID-19 protocols prevented a flu season last year – moosejawtoday.com
The Saskatchewan Health Authority says last year’s flu season was prevented thanks to masks, physical and social distancing, and increased hand washing.
Dr. Tania Diener, the COVID-19 Immunization Co-Chief at the province’s Emergency Operations Centre, says that, “We effectively didn’t have a flu season here last year.”
With restrictions slowly lifting from a population feeling the stress of isolation and public health measures, the province is uncertain about whether or not a flu season will return this winter.
Dr. Diener emphasized that, “Our hospitals are already under strain due to the number of cases of COVID-19, especially among those who are unvaccinated, due to the new Delta variant. A further influx of people sick with influenza would further strain those resources, so we’re asking everyone to get their flu vaccine again this year.”
SHA says they have enough evidence at this point to conclude that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine together is safe, and they encourage everyone able to do so to get both vaccines as soon as possible.
This year’s flu vaccine is quadrivalent, meaning it protects against four different flu variants, an improvement from last year’s, which was trivalent.
Information on this year’s flu vaccine can be found here.
Those looking to book their flu and/or COVID-19 vaccine can go to 4flu.ca.
SHA’s full press release can be found here.
Province says flu shots prevents serious illness, deaths – My Comox Valley Now
The province wants you to roll up your sleeves for another kind of vaccine as we head into flu season.
Health officials are hoping you will take their advice and get a flu shot, which is free for everyone in B.C. older than six months.
They say the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it has put on the health-care system continue to make influenza immunization a priority.
“All British Columbians should get vaccinated against influenza to protect themselves and their loved ones from serious illness, to reduce the strain on our hard-working health workers and to do our part to make sure the health system continues to be there for people who need it, where they need it and when they need it,” said health minister Adrian Dix.
“I’m grateful to all of our health-care workers, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners and others for how they help people get immunized to protect themselves and those they care about.”
Seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses will be in communities alongside COVID-19 this fall and winter.
The province says it “has the potential to escalate pressures already faced by the health-care system, particularly if the effects from COVID-19 and seasonal influenza occur are the same.”
That is why vaccines are now available and the province continues to increase vaccine accessibility through many locations and vaccine providers throughout B.C.
“This year, it’s especially important for people to get vaccinated against influenza. Last year’s low influenza rates means our immunity against influenza is lower than usual,” said provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“Getting your influenza vaccine this year is more important than ever to protect yourself, your community and our overstretched health-care system.”
Pharmacies around B.C. have played a key role in providing easy access to influenza vaccines since 2009.
This year, vaccines are available to pharmacies through a direct-distribution model.
This means pharmacies are able to order them directly from distributors, which the province says makes “influenza immunization easier and more flexible for people in B.C.”
“Pharmacists played a key role in helping people get immunized against COVID-19 earlier this year and administered the majority of influenza doses last year,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO, B.C. Pharmacy Association. “We’re proud of the role we continue to play in protecting our health-care system and keeping everyone safe.”
Flu vaccines have been available already for certain high-risk groups.
As they become available more broadly to the public throughout the province, you’re asked to check their health authority’s website or call their health-care provider or pharmacist to check for availability and to make an appointment.
Is This Crypto Investment Strategy Right For Cannabis? – Yahoo Finance
Raptors Notes: Boucher, Roster, Nurse, Tax – hoopsrumors.com
Samsungs Galaxy Z Flip 3 Bespoke Edition lets users customize their phone – MobileSyrup
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Tech14 hours ago
Facebook ‘planning to rebrand company’ with new name – Al Jazeera English
News21 hours ago
Japanese volcano spews plumes of ash, people warned away
Health18 hours ago
COVID-19 drives up demand for flu shots; N.S. to launch campaign later this week – CTV News Atlantic
Sports23 hours ago
NHL suspends Evander Kane for 21 games over COVID-19 vaccination status – Global News
News21 hours ago
At least 34 dead after floods in north India
Business24 hours ago
Sleep Country Canada buys controlling stake in Hush Blankets – CBC.ca
Health8 hours ago
Restricting travel over vaccine type could be discrimination, PAHO warns
Sports21 hours ago
Golf-Olympic gold medallist Schauffele pumped for Zozo Championship in Japan