By Holly Yan and Madeline Holcombe, CNN
Updated: Wed, 20 Oct 2021 06:19:09 GMT
As the US tries to stave off another Covid-19 surge this winter, health experts encourage anyone who is eligible to get a booster dose of vaccine do so.
About 10.7 million people have received a booster shot, including roughly 15% of seniors ages 65 and up, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far, only the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use as a booster for certain high-risk groups who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago, the US Food and Drug Administration said.
Advisers to the FDA recently recommended booster doses for some people who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Now, the FDA is reportedly planning to allow people to mix-and-match booster shots -- in other words, get a different brand of vaccine than the brand they were originally vaccinated with.
But it will also take others getting vaccinated to help protect the most vulnerable -- and to help end this pandemic, CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen said.
"Yes, the vaccine does protect you, but (what) protects you even better is everyone around you is vaccinated," she said. "We get vaccinated as healthy people in part to protect the most vulnerable among us."
Roughly 57.1% of Americans are now fully vaccinated and for the first time in a week, the average daily pace of new vaccinations topped 250,000 according to data published Tuesday by the CDC.
The death Monday of former Secretary of State Colin Powell highlighted the need for everyone who can get vaccinated do so, Wen said.
Powell, 84, had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells which suppresses the body's immune response, as well as Parkinson's, said Peggy Cifrino, Powell's longtime chief of staff.
He was fully vaccinated and was scheduled to get a booster dose this week.
Breakthrough Covid-19 cases resulting in death, such as Powell's, are rare.
As of October 12, more than 187 million people had been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. As of that date, 7,178 breakthrough infections had been reported.
In other words, 0.004% of those fully vaccinated had a breakthrough infection resulting in death. Among them, 85% were among people age 65 and older, according to the CDC.
Who can get a booster shot now
The FDA has recommended booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for those who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago and fall into one of the following groups:
-- Those age 65 or older
-- Those ages 18 through 64 who are at high risk of severe Covid-19
-- Or those ages 18 through 64 who live or work in high-risk environments.
Vaccine advisers to the FDA recently recommended those same high-risk groups who got the Moderna vaccine instead of the Pfizer vaccine should also be able to get a booster dose. But the FDA would first have to authorize Moderna booster shots for those groups, and typically the CDC director would also have to sign off.
The US government will likely soon recommend booster shots to people as young as 40 who received either Moderna or Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, according to a source familiar with the plan. The source said there is "growing concern within the FDA" US data is beginning to show hospitalizations among people younger than 65 who have been fully vaccinated.
As for those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, FDA advisers recommended Friday all adults who got the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a booster dose at least two months after the first shot. The FDA is also considering that recommendation.
Mix-and-match booster doses may be possible soon
The FDA is planning to allow people to get a booster dose that's different from the brand of vaccine they were originally vaccinated with, according to two sources familiar with the current thinking inside the agency.
That authorization might come as soon as this week.
The National Institutes of Health presented early information from an ongoing study showing it didn't matter which vaccine people got first and which booster they got. Mixing boosters also provided a good response to the Delta variant.
Covid-19 hospitalization and death uncommon in children
Meanwhile, weekly Covid-19 cases among children continue to decline but more than 130,000 new infections were reported in the week ending on October 14, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday, calling it an "extremely high number of newly diagnosed children."
Children represented 25.5% of weekly reported Covid-19 cases, the group found. Over the past six weeks, more than 1.1 million Covid-19 cases have been diagnosed in children, but Covid-19 hospitalization and death remains uncommon, the group said.
The news comes as a new study by the CDC found the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 93% effective in preventing hospitalization due to Covid-19 among children 12 to 18 years old.
Vaccine effectiveness differed only slightly within the age group, with 91% effectiveness for children age 12 to 15 and 94% effectiveness for those age 16 to 18.
The study included 464 patients -- 179 hospitalized with Covid-19 and 285 hospitalized for other reasons -- across 19 pediatric hospitals in 16 states between June and September 2021. The majority of patients had at least one underlying condition and attended in-person school.
Most patients were from southern states, where Covid-19 transmission was high. Those who were only partially vaccinated -- either with only one dose or less than two weeks since their second -- were excluded from the analysis.
Among the 179 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in the study, 97% were unvaccinated. All of the critically ill patients were unvaccinated, including 77 patients who were admitted to an intensive care unit, 29 who received life support during hospitalization and two who died.
New Mexico under crisis standards of care
While national Covid-19 hospitalizations have recently declined, some places are still overwhelmed.
Seven states have less than 15% of ICU beds available, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.
In New Mexico, the state health department has resorted to crisis standards of care. Hospitals will have to temporarily suspend elective procedures before having to decide who should receive care.
"Because of COVID, New Mexico hospitals and health care facilities have carried an unmanageable burden," New Mexico Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. David R. Scrase said Monday in a statement.
"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."
Vaccine mandates in play for police forces
Throughout the pandemic, Covid-19 has been far deadlier for police officers than gunfire.
About 476 police officers have died from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, compared to 94 from gunfire in the same period.
Members of Seattle's police department had a Monday deadline 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.
Those who fail to turn in any verification by midnight were told to not report to work Tuesday, and the city and department "will begin the process for termination for failing to follow the vaccine mandate guidelines," Seattle police spokesperson Randy Huserik said.
Washington state has also implemented vaccine mandates for state employees.
In Chicago, 21 police officers who have not entered their information into the city's Covid-19 portal are in a no-pay status, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said in a Tuesday news conference. The city required employees to be either vaccinated or test two times a week by October 15, and then report their status by that same deadline. Those who did not report their status risked being put on unpaid leave.
"Approximately 67% of our officers and civilians are entered into the portal," Brown said. "Of the number of staff that's entered into the portal that is sworn in, and a small civilian contingent, 82% are vaccinated."
Employees who refuse to enter their name into the portal are sent to human resources for their no-pay status. Some entered their information at that point, Brown added, but if they do not and are placed in no-pay status, they are directed to the Bureau of Internal Affairs.
People in no-pay status continue to have the opportunity to enter their information into the portal, he noted. Some staff members went into no-pay status but then decided to enter their information and were allowed to do so, Brown said.