As the US tries to bring Covid-19 under control before a potential winter spike, health experts are encouraging vulnerable people to get a booster vaccine dose. So far, about 15% of seniors have done so.
Overall, about 10.7 million people have received a booster shot — and more than half were people over 65, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The US Food and Drug Administration has recommended booster doses for people who are most vulnerable, including those 65 and older, those at high risk of severe disease and those who live or work in high-risk environments.
Pfizer was given emergency use authorization for a booster dose last month for certain people who are at least six months out from their initial two doses. And the nation’s health advisers are now looking at approving EUA for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters.
“(The extremely vulnerable) are recommended to get a booster shot,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. “But even with a booster, they might not prevent severe outcomes and this is the reason why we have to be vaccinated.”
Strong immune protection from vaccination is the best way to stave off infection and control the pandemic. But the effort to increase protection with boosters is happening as the nation is still struggling to entice a substantial percentage of the population to be fully vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said the vast majority of the US will need to be vaccinated to control the spread of the virus, but that number is only now at around 57% of the total population.
On Monday, there was heightened focus on the importance of vaccinations after news that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had died due to Covid-19 complications.
Powell, 84, had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, as well as Parkinson’s, Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime chief of staff, told CNN. He was fully vaccinated and was scheduled to get a booster dose this week, but his health condition put him at greater risk.
Powell’s death should not be taken as a sign that the vaccines are insufficient, Wen said, but rather as evidence that more of the population needs to be vaccinated to protect those who are older and medically fragile.
“Yes, the vaccine does protect you, but it protects you even better is everyone around you is vaccinated,” Wen said. “We get vaccinated as healthy people in part to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
And breakthrough cases, like that of Powell, are rare but expected, as no vaccine is 100% effective.
A total of 7,178 breakthrough cases that have resulted in death have been reported to the CDC through October 12. By that time, more than 187 million people in the US were fully vaccinated. That’s one out of every 26,000 fully vaccinated people that has died of Covid-19, or 0.004%.
Of those breakthrough cases resulting in death, 85% were among people age 65 and older and 57% were among men, according to the CDC.
For those looking to strengthen their immune response with a booster dose, mixing and matching vaccines may soon become an option.
People familiar with the FDA’s planning told the New York Times the agency is planning to allow people to receive a different Covid-19 vaccine as a booster shot than the one they initially received.
According to the Times, the FDA might note that getting the same vaccine as a booster is preferable, but it would not recommend one shot over the other.
New Mexico under crisis standards of care
Covid-19 hospitalizations have been on the decline nationally, but some regions are still overwhelmed.
Seven states have less than 15% of ICU beds available, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. Those states are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.
In New Mexico, the department of health has had to enact crisis standards of care.
According to a press release from the NMDH, hospitals will now have to temporarily suspend non-medically necessary procedures before having to decide who should receive care.
“Because of COVID, New Mexico hospitals and health care facilities have carried an unmanageable burden. Today, the state is offering clarity and support as providers seek to make difficult choices about how to allocate scarce — and precious — health care resources,” said DOH Acting Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D. “The goals, as always, remain the same: to save as many New Mexican lives as possible, and to help sustain the health care providers who have sustained our communities throughout this entire pandemic.”
On Monday, state health officials announced 1,895 new cases bringing the total number of cases in the state since the pandemic began to 265,632. There are currently 300 patients in the hospital being treated for Covid-19.
Vaccine mandates implemented for police departments
To increase vaccinations — and, in turn, control spread — many employers have begun mandating vaccinations for their employees.
In Washington state, members of Seattle’s police department had until the end of Monday to be vaccinated or receive an exemption.
As of Monday night, 91% of the police force had shown proof of vaccination and 7% presented exemptions, leaving only 2% of the department having not submitted their vaccination status.
“For officers who haven’t turned in any verification paperwork by midnight tonight, they are not to report for work tomorrow and the City and department will begin the process for termination for failing to follow the vaccine mandate guidelines,” SPD spokesperson Randy Huserik told CNN.
The state has also implemented vaccine mandates for state employees, and some are choosing to leave their jobs instead of complying
In videos uploaded by a YouTube conservative radio host in the Seattle area, two state troopers were among those state employees citing Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccination mandate as the reason for their leave.
One of them, 17-year veteran Sgt. Richard Thompson, can be seen inside his patrol car signing off from his duties and saying, “Due to my personal choice to take a moral stand against, for medical freedom and personal choice, I will be signing out of service for the last time today.”
Separately, Washington State University announced that head football coach Nick Rolovich, as well as assistant football coaches Ricky Logo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzmann and Mark Weber, are no longer able to coach because of not complying with the state’s vaccine mandate.
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