Federal regulators are expected to amend the Emergency Use Authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to allow for a third shot of coronavirus vaccine as soon as Thursday for some immunocompromised people, multiple reports said Wednesday.
An official familiar with the plan toldÂ The New York Times that the third shot covers those withÂ solid organ transplants and others whose immune systems are similarly compromised, roughly 10 million Americans.Â Â A May studyÂ from Johns Hopkins University School of MedicineÂ found that only 17% of transplant recipients had antibodies afterÂ their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with an additional 35% respondingÂ after two shots.
The reported decision comes as the delta variant surges throughout the United States.Â It accounts for about 93% of the nation’s cases among all of its iterations.
In Mississippi, which is averaging 2,700 new coronavirus infections a day, the number of patientsÂ needing intensive care andÂ ventilators has surpassed the worst of the pandemic during the winter months.
“The rate ofÂ testing positive and rate of hospitalizations that we are seeing, if we continue that trajectory within the next 5 to 7 to 10 days, I think we’re going to see failure of the hospital system of Mississippi,” saidÂ Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and COVID-19 clinical response leader at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, on Wednesday.Â
It’s not that there are no available beds in Mississippi, Jones said. There just aren’tÂ enough health care workers to appropriately staff them, he said.
On the other side of the nation in New Mexico, Albuquerque hospitals wereÂ “totally overfull” as the state enters a new wave, with nursing shortages affecting the entire system and available ICU beds tightening, said Acting state Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase and state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross.
Ross called the rapid rise of new cases nationwide and in New Mexico “quite alarming” but added:Â “We can work together to level this outâ€¦Â We know what we have to do to flatten that curve.”Â
Also in the news:
â–ºArmed with research showing COVID-19 vaccines haven’t been found to increase the riskÂ of miscarriage,Â the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionÂ WednesdayÂ urged all pregnant people to get vaccinated.
â–º The latest analysis of the Cape Canaveral sewageÂ foundÂ almost 57 times the viral levels seen in the city’s sewage when COVID-19 spiked this time last year and nearly three times as much as just a few weeks ago.Â According to experts,Â increases in wastewater viral loads are typically followed days later by an a surge inÂ cases.
â–ºMinnesota state government employees will be required to prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or agree to undergo weekly testing before they can return to the office, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday.
â–ºCalifornia Gov. Gavin NewsomÂ announced Wednesday aÂ new requirementÂ that all teachers and school employees â€”Â for public and private schools â€”Â need to be vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing, saying it was the “first state in the country” with such a mandate.
â–ºDue to a local delta variant surge, the University of Texas at San Antonio will hold most classes online for the first 3 weeks of the semester.
â–ºHawaiiâ€™s COVID infections are not coming from tourists, said Hilo Medical Center in a Facebook post. “Infections are coming from residents who traveled, which resulted in community spread,” they wrote.Â “It means WE are infecting our loved ones.”
â–ºAmtrak is joining several companies in requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or participate in weekly COVID testing, the company announced Wednesday. The mandate will apply to their more than 18,000 employees who help people travel across the country.
📈 Today’s numbers:Â The U.S.Â has had more than 36.1 millionÂ confirmed COVID-19 cases and 618,000 deaths,Â accordingÂ toÂ Johns Hopkins UniversityÂ data.Â The global totals: More than 204.7 million cases and 4.3 million deaths. More than 167 million Americans â€”Â 50.3% of the population â€”Â have been fully vaccinated,Â according toÂ theÂ CDC.
📘 What we’re reading:Â A 30-year-old Florida woman gave birth, took 2 photos with her baby, and died days later of COVID-19.Â Read the full story.
Keep refreshing this page forÂ the latest news. Want more?Â Sign up forÂ USA TODAY’s Coronavirus WatchÂ newsletterÂ to receive updates directly to your inbox andÂ join our Facebook group.
More than 25,000 workers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services must get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect patients at medical or clinical research facilities, the agency announced Thursday.
In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the first federal agency to impose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement, announced its mandate will expand beyond health care workers. Starting Friday, the requirement will apply to most Veterans Health Administration employees, volunteers and contractors who come into contact with VA patients and healthcare workers.
The HHS rule applies to contractors, trainees and volunteers at the Indian Health Service and National Institutes of Health who may have contact with patients.
Members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, who may be deployed as emergency responders, must also be vaccinated.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the vaccines â€œwill protect our federal workers, as well as the patients and people they serve.â€
â€œVaccines are the best tool we have to protect people from COVID-19, prevent the spread of the Delta variant, and save lives,â€ he said in a statement.
The agency will follow the established process for the existing requirement that workers receive the seasonal flu vaccine and other routine vaccinations. Exemptions are allowed for medical and religious reasons.
The Defense Department previously announced plans to add the COVID-19 to the list of required inoculations for service members.
â€“ Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY
DeltaÂ isÂ clearlyÂ more contagiousÂ than previous variants, and it’s tearing its way across the South,Â said Dr. James Versalovic, the Texas Children’sÂ interim pediatrician-in-chief.
What’s not clear is whether kids are getting any sicker with delta than with other variants.
“Right now, it’s speculative,” he said.Â
He said the children he’s seeingÂ seem to have more fever and congestion than those treated during last summer’s and winter’s surges,Â he said. “We do think delta is maybe contributing to that.”
But it’s too soon to know whether they will have worse outcomes.Â
Others were less convinced that delta is any different than its predecessors.Â But the handful of public health experts USA TODAY spoke with said they think it’s crucial for everyone who can be vaccinated against COVID-19 to get the shots.
The more the virus can be slowed down, the fewer children will catch it, the experts said.
Masks are also helpful, expertsÂ said, particularly among children too young to be vaccinated. Unmasked children in close contact with each other â€“ such as in a classroomÂ â€“ couldÂ pass on the virus.Â
–Â Karen Weintraub and Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
The rapidly escalating surge in COVID-19 infections across the U.S. has caused a shortage of nurses and other front-line staff in virus hot spots that can no longer keep up with the flood of unvaccinated patients and are losing workers to burnout and lucrative out-of-state temporary gigs.
Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oregon all have more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic, and nursing staffs are badly strained. Unlike other points in the pandemic, hospitals now have more non-COVID patients for everything from car accidents to surgeries that were postponed during the outbreak.
That has put even more burden on nurses who were already fatigued after dealing with constant death among patients and illnesses in their ranks.
Nearly 70% of Florida hospitals are expecting critical staffing shortages in the next week, according to the Florida Hospital Association.
In a Honolulu hospitalâ€™s emergency department, patients have had to wait for beds for more than 24 hours on gurneys in a curtained-off section because thereâ€™s not enough staff to open more beds, nurse Patrick Switzer said.
He described being â€œin this constant state of anxiety, knowing that you donâ€™t have the tools that you need to take care of your patients because weâ€™re stretched so thin.â€
A third dose of Modernaâ€™s COVID-19 vaccine substantially improved protection for organ transplant recipients whose weak immune systems don’t always rev up enough with the standard two shots, Canadian researchers reported Wednesday.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was small but itâ€™s the most rigorous type of third-dose testing so far for this vulnerable group.
Moderna and similar vaccines provide robust protection for most people, even as the highly contagious delta variant is surging. But millions with suppressed immune systems because of transplants, cancer or other disorders don’t always get that benefit. Thereâ€™s limited evidence that an extra dose helps some of them, something France and Israel already recommend and the U.S. is considering.
Students who use phony COVID-19 vaccine cards to skirt mandates at U.S. colleges and universities are risking disastrous consequences,Â according to school officials and other experts.
Hundreds ofÂ colleges and universities now require proof of COVID-19 inoculations.Â The process to confirm vaccination at many schools can be as simple as uploading a picture of the vaccine card to the studentâ€™s portal. However, an easy click of the mouse could spell a hard road for studentsâ€™ academic futures â€“ if that card is a fake.
â€œAt a minimum, itâ€™s likely to be a federal crimeâ€¦ because when you get the vaccine card it has the CDC stamp on it,â€ Erika K. Wilson, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told USA TODAY. â€œSo, if people are buying those fake cards, it could certainly fall under that statute.â€
– Edward SegarraÂ
A group of conservative Missouri senators wants the state to intervene and prevent private businesses from requiring employees to get vaccinated, prompting pushback by the state’s chamber of commerce.
In a letter sent to Gov. Mike Parson last week, six Republicans asked him to call the legislature back to Jefferson City to pass legislation preventing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, “whether they be from the public or the private sector.”
The request comes as the virus’ delta variant continues to spread through Missouri, which has led some businesses around the state to require vaccination for workers.
“If your employer can force you to take an experimental drug, what can’t they force you to do?” the letter says. (COVID-19 vaccines have been thoroughly tested, and full approval by the Food and Drug Administration is expected soon.) “We need to step up and ensure Missouri workers can decide whether the vaccine is right for them.”
– Galen Bacharier, Springfield News-Leader
Contributing: The Associated Press