The F.D.A. boosts boosters.,
Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The F.D.A. boosts boosters.
This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.
Credit…The New York Times
California is mandating Covid-19 vaccines for indoor health care workers, largely removing a testing alternative.
Italians and tourists visiting the country must now show a “Green Pass” for indoor dining and more.
Average virus cases reached a six-month high in the U.S., with more than 100,000 infections, fueled by the Delta variant.
The F.D.A. is accelerating efforts to authorize extra doses of the coronavirus vaccines for immunocompromised Americans. Experts say it’s a safer alternative than patients seeking shots on their own, as many now do.
It’s not just immunocompromised people who would benefit: According to recent research, coronavirus infections in patients with weaker immune systems may end up giving rise to more transmissible or virulent variants.
To allow immunocompromised individuals to get extra shots, the F.D.A. may modify the emergency authorizations of at least two of the vaccines, if data from the C.D.C. supports such a move, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.
The regulatory modification is expected this month, and it could also be a first step toward booster shots for other potentially vulnerable Americans — a more controversial strategy that the Biden administration is now considering, despite an outcry from the World Health Organization.
Separately, data from a clinical trial in South Africa suggested that a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was highly effective in preventing severe illness and death from the Delta and Beta variants of the virus — even without booster shots.
Researchers evaluated one dose of the vaccine in nearly 500,000 health care workers who are at high risk of Covid-19. It had an efficacy of up to 95 percent against death from the Delta variant, and up to 71 percent against hospitalization, the researchers reported. The vaccine did slightly worse against the Beta variant, which is thought to be more adept at sidestepping the immune response than Delta.
Ed Yong on the pandemic’s future
The coronavirus is once again grabbing headlines. But sometimes, especially on summer Fridays, I like to take a break from the barrage of heavy virus news.
As part of an occasional interview series that will run in this newsletter, I’ll be speaking with some of the most prominent people of the pandemic, asking them to reflect on the last 18 months and look at what’s ahead.
First up, I talked with Ed Yong, a science journalist at The Atlantic, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting for his work on the pandemic. (His responses have been condensed and lightly edited.)
Before the coronavirus, you wrote about possible pandemics. How accurate were you about what would unfold?
I think the basic theses that we were unprepared, and a pandemic during a Donald Trump presidency would be catastrophic, were correct. The reality, sadly, bears out the predictions. I also talked about how our health care system is overstretched — how we rely on fragile supply chains. And I talked about the overconfidence that some countries have when they haven’t seen a large pandemic for a while.
But there were also things that I didn’t talk about, and these issues have been crucial over the last year. Things like the role of misinformation and the staggering inequalities that Covid has clearly exposed.
As a science reporter, I think I saw pandemic preparedness as a science and health story. But what I learned last year is that it is obviously so much more than that. Covid is an omni-crisis. It touches on every aspect of society, and it exposes societal failings and vulnerabilities everywhere.
Overall, how well has the media covered the pandemic?
It’s really hard to say because we all know that the media isn’t a monolith. So I think you saw great heroic efforts, and you saw work that made things worse — that’s just our industry.
A lot of what I’ve written about the pandemic has argued that our failures are almost always as systemic as they are individual. So what Covid is great at doing is revealing flaws in entire institutions and entire systems — and the same is true for the media and for journalism. The Atlantic did good work, and I could do the best work that I was capable of because I had a newsroom and editors who gave me time and a mandate to do the big stories that would help really make sense of this crisis for our readers. And that’s a very privileged position in journalism. So criticism doesn’t just fall on individual journalists. It falls on the kind of ecosystem that we have all created and have allowed to flourish.
What do you think the pandemic will look like over the next year?
My sense is that we’re in for a period of time that is going to be confusing and uncertain in slightly different ways than last year was. In May of last year, I wrote a piece about America’s patchwork pandemic — about how the spread of Covid is so patchy around the country that people in one state have radically different experiences with one another. And I think that dynamic is only going to be accentuated over the next year.
So some people are vaccinated, some people are not. Some people live in heavily vaccinated communities, some people don’t. Most people who have been vaccinated will be incredibly well protected, some people will not. There’s just going to be an enormous amount of variation. A lot of people hoped that the advent of vaccines would be like a global off switch for the pandemic, and it’s just going to be messier and more protracted than that.
What about the pandemic has you most worried?
The legacy of it. I remain very worried about the long-term impacts of the pandemic, and I worry that they will get forgotten. There are still who knows how many long haulers out there who are still suffering from the long-term effects of Covid, and there are nowhere near enough services for them.
Similarly, we don’t have the mental health infrastructure to support people who will go through the psychological ramifications of the pandemic and the horrors of last year. Our health care system is going to be weaker because a lot of health care workers have quit, some of them have died, and others are burned out and traumatized. We’ll have massively expanded inequalities in terms of gender, race, and ability.
Even in the miracle situation, when everyone, let’s say, gets vaccinated tomorrow around the world, and it actually disappears — everything we’ve experienced has already been bad enough. And it’s going to leave scars that we’ll have to deal with for decades. And it worries me that we will forget to do any of that work because people want so badly to not think about pandemic anymore.
Nursing homes in the U.S. are confronting fresh Covid outbreaks, fueling calls for vaccine mandates.
China said it will provide 2 billion vaccine doses to the world.
The leader of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was hurt during a protest against vaccine rules.
United Airlines will require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
What else we’re following
An Arkansas judge temporarily blocked the state’s ban on mask mandates.
The pandemic has deepened global hunger, with poorer countries sinking further into crisis.
New Jersey will require students to wear masks.
Opinion: The epidemiologist Celine Gounder answered questions on the Delta variant on “The Ezra Klein Show.”
On today’s episode of “The Daily,” unvaccinated Americans explained their hesitancy.
How do you talk to unvaccinated friends? Here’s some advice.
Covid at the Olympics: 29 new positive tests were reported on Friday as Japan reached 1 million cases.
What you’re doing
I’m a nurse practitioner and vaccinated. I wear a mask both at work and when I’m in public. I have friends and colleagues who are both vaccinated and not vaccinated, and masked and not masked. My 8-year-old grandson just tested positive. My granddaughter will probably be positive soon. Their parents are teachers. I am done being polite with my words. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Think about someone other than yourself and shut your mouth about your rights. What are your responsibilities?
— Diane Wright, Connecticut
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