The new guidelines add to a series of major announcements demonstrating how America is racing towards a post-pandemic life, including authorizing vaccines for people as young as 12 and a call from the second-largest teachers’ union to reopen schools this fall. But the CDC’s decision also comes as a surprise to many, including some public health experts who had predicted that masks might be part of our lives for the long haul. Now, everyone from employers to restaurant owners to local government officials is scrambling to understand how to react, especially as there is still no system for distinguishing between those who are vaccinated and those who aren’t — and fewer than half of adults in the US (46%) are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
Critics of such “vaccine passports” point to privacy concerns and overreach by authorities, including the governors of Florida and Texas, who have signed executive orders banning them, signaling that the next phase of the vaccine culture wars is afoot.
But for the Biden administration the path back to “normalcy” is clear-cut. Writing on Twitter Thursday, the President said: “The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. The choice is yours.”
Q: My child is too young to be vaccinated. Will they still need to wear masks?
Right now, 12- to 15-year-olds can get vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine. And drug makers are also testing vaccines in younger children — in groups such as 6-9-year-olds, and 2-6-year-olds as well as infants and toddlers, Fauci said. The drug makers will soon ask the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize or approve vaccinating those younger age groups.
UK changes tack on vaccination program as cases of the B.1.617 Covid-19 variant rise rapidly
The UK government’s scientific advisers met Thursday to discuss the variant amid concerns it could jeopardize England’s plan to lift all legal limits on social contact from June 21. England enters the second phase of its plan to lift restrictions on Monday, when indoor dining can resume. Johnson said he remained “cautiously optimistic” about plans to drop restrictions but his government was “ruling nothing out.”
To tackle the spread of the variant, the UK’s vaccine minister announced that health officials will “flex” their vaccination rollout according to clinical advice. Younger people in the most-affected areas, which currently include northwest England and London, could be vaccinated sooner than scheduled, minister Nadhim Zahawi said Friday. Officials could also shorten the time gap between vaccinations, he added.
India’s Modi speaks out on the crippling second wave
“In front of us is an invisible enemy and this enemy has many faces,” Modi said Friday, adding, “because of coronavirus, we have lost a lot of our loved ones.” In a national address in April, the PM insisted the country should not go into lockdown despite a surge in cases, fueling intense criticism for Modi and his government’s preparation, subsequent handling and response to the second wave.
Cheerleading his government’s steps in tackling the surge, Modi said “India is not a country which loses hope. Neither India nor any Indian will lose hope. We will fight and win.” He announced that Covid hospitals “are being constructed quickly,” and that oxygen plants are planned in “far-flung” areas with the assistance of oxygen trains. Regarding the vaccination program, Modi asked Indians to get a dose when their turn comes, saying that more that 180 million vaccine doses have so far been administered. But with a population of 1.3 billion, that number equates to just a fraction of the population, and this week, multiple states have had to partially suspend their vaccine rollout due to shortages.
Tokyo Olympics in question as growing chorus of voices say it’s time to call off the Games
A doctor’s union in Japan also joined those voices on Friday, urging the government to stop the event. In a letter, union head Naoto Ueyama cautioned that the Games could become a superspreader event as tens of thousands of athletes, coaches, officials and journalists come to Japan from around the world. The union said even without spectators, the event could lead to the circulation of vaccine-resistant variants. “It is impossible to hold a safe and secure Olympic Games in Corona,” wrote Ueyama. Other companies have also raised concerns, with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son saying he was “afraid” both for Japan and other countries should the Tokyo Olympics go ahead as planned on July 23. Toyota, one of the leading sponsors of the Games has said it’s “concerned” with the amount of public frustration being directed at athletes.
Meanwhile the United States’ track and field team announced on Wednesday it had canceled its pre-Olympic training camp in Japan, citing uncertainty around the competition.
The youth-take up remains an important element of the overall vaccination drive. That’s because people aged 12 to 17 remain at risk for severe illness, according to Dr. Sara Oliver of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, who reports that that there have been over 1.5 million reported cases and over 13,000 hospitalizations to date among that age group.
Oliver, who briefed the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on the risks and benefits of the vaccine, says that more children and teens have been hospitalized because of Covid-19 than for flu, according to a comparison of hospitalization rates from past annual influenza epidemics. And teens and children are spreading the virus. As more adults are vaccinated, children and teens are accounting for a larger share of new infections, she said.