COVID-19: Science behind vaccination development. Weekly updates with statistics and the latest news

It took Moderna 48 hours to produce a vaccination.  It took 48 years to accomplish that feat. 

As you read this account, did you or your children elect to forgo vaccinations for Polio, Tetanus, Influenza, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Rubella, Measles, Whooping Cough, Streptococcus vaccine, Mumps, Chickenpox, and Diphtheria?  What about the pain inflicted from shingles, did you get your Shingrix shot?

Understanding the science behind the rapid production of the COVID-19 vaccinations is both fascinating and critically important to understand.  Recognizing the role of women in facilitating this scientific breakthrough is vital.  The average population is ill-informed about the steps leading up to the vaccination development process.  Some are ignorantly afraid, consumed with conspiracy theories, religious bias, political bipartisanship, and a strong opinion that the vaccination was produced too quickly.  Their invalid conclusion, therefore, is that it is unsafe, ineffective, especially by not understanding that development took decades.  Half the voters who supported Trump in the last U.S. elections refuse to get vaccinated, a demographic of less-educated whites.  Many are consumed by conspiracy theories that the vaccination will result in a chip being inserted in your body so that Bill Gates will track you or that the devil will reside within your DNA.

In a New York Times article, they discuss how white Evangelical’s vaccine refusal could prolong the pandemic, impacting the need for herd immunity where at least seventy percent of the population is vaccinated.  Their objections included: “She believed it contained aborted cell tissue.”  A preacher “received a divine message that God was the ultimate healer and deliverer: The vaccine is not the savior.” Another: “she did not need the vaccine because God designed the body to heal itself if given the right nutrients.”  There are about 41 million white evangelical adults in the U.S.  According to the Pew Research Center, about 45% said in late February that they would not get vaccinated against COVID-19, making them among the least likely demographic groups to do so.  Some high-profile conservative pastors and institutional leaders have endorsed the vaccines.  Franklin Graham told his 9.6 million Facebook followers that Jesus would advocate for vaccination.  Pastor Robert Jeffress commended it from an anti-abortion perspective on Fox News. “We talk about life inside the womb as a gift from God.  Well, life outside the womb is a gift from God, too.” Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, president, tweeted a photo of himself receiving a vaccination.  Across white evangelical America, reasons not to get vaccinated have spread as quickly as the virus that public health officials hope to overcome through herd immunity.

By the end of March 2021, more than 551,000 Americans died of COVID-19.  Within my one immediate family, seven got infected from this virus, with one dying.  On March 31, 2021, 2.4 million Americans are getting vaccinated daily, yet cases and deaths are trending up again. 

On January 11, 2020, Chinese researchers published the genetic sequence of the virus. Moderna finalized the mRNA vaccine in about 48 hours.  The reality is that the science of genetic engineering started in 1972.  It is what preceded this January 2020 date that is critical in understanding how the vaccine could be developed quickly.  The vaccination topic piqued my curiosity.  What role did science and technology play in bringing the vaccine to market in under one year?  That is the subject of three books that I read recently, identified below.

On March 22, 2021, while watching The Late Show on CBS with Stephen Colbert (7 minutes 15 seconds) interviewing Walter Isaacson to discuss his newly published book The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, I decided that I needed to know more.    It is a phenomenal work, a great read, and I recommend everyone who has the slightest interest in this topic to read Isaacson’s book.  Isaacson’s book was published on March 9, 2021.  During this interview, Walter describes Jennifer’s work with CRISPR and gene editing.  With my understanding that Pfizer and Moderna used this technology to develop their vaccines to fight COVID-19, I was interested in learning more.

“Look at the halo of letters—GCACGUAGUGU—on the cover of this book. It is a snippet of the RNA that creates the part of the spike protein that binds to human cells, and these letters became part of the code used in the new vaccines.”

After additional research, I requested from the library A Crack In Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer A Doudna and Samuel H Sternberg, published August 21, 2018.

To put it mildly, I was so impressed with Jennifer and Samuel’s work that I purchased the book for my 14-year-old granddaughters.  I encouraged them to read the book and added the following comments to the inside cover of their book.

If you read this book, I believe that you will learn the following:

  • Jennifer read a chemistry book at age 12 that established an ambition to study for an undergraduate degree, Masters, and Doctorate that ultimately led to a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.  (Update: the book Jennifer read was The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James D. Watson.  See additional detail below).
  • Jennifer turned 57 on February 19, 2021.  She amassed numerous awards for her life work.
  • Jennifer is unquestionably an intellectual with deep thought, expressing cogent and rational arguments.
  • Jennifer did not do it on her own.  She stood on the shoulders of many people globally, clearly understanding the benefit of collaboration.  She published her research frequently.
  • The science was applied to horticulture, animals, fish, insects, bacteria, and eventually humans.
  • Jennifer’s book got published before the COVID virus, but her work led to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations that protect us today.
  • Jennifer attracted $500,000 investments for her team to carry out research.
  • There are many scientific and biological terms that you are unlikely to understand; I do not.  Read past them, but do not let that stop you from getting significant value from reading this book and understanding her process—words including Gene Editing, DNA, RNA, CRISPER, Cas9, GMO, and more.
  • The further you read, the more exciting and educational the book becomes.
  • One concern is if we use this technology to influence the characteristics of newborn babies, eugenics for short.  Jennifer screams aloud that human selection is unacceptable.
  • The bottom line: Reading the book will provide a way to universally understand science and government regulations controlling or limiting innovative thinking. An open mind helps.
  • As you read this book, could you be an author telling such a compelling story? (One twin has ambitions of becoming an author).
  • Remember, you can ask questions.  Try your dad, mom, or me—a pleasure to help.
  • Use Google to search “YouTube CRISPER” and other technology to learn more.

My motivation was two-fold in providing this encouragement.  When I grew up, I was not encouraged to study in any field other than engineering.  I was tested in high school and recommended by an industrial psychologist to follow a career in accounting.  While in engineering school, we had one female scholar in a class of over one hundred students.  Somehow, the thinking back in my day was, women do not have a place in science and technology.  A myth I wanted to be dispelled for my granddaughters.

After reading Jennifer’s book, I have dived into Walter Isaacson’s book.  I was blown away by his research.  He interviewed everyone that influenced Jennifer’s career, laboratory students appointed by her, competitors, scientific publishers, and business partners.  The book consists of noticeably short chapters that hold your interest with page-turning excitement—58 chapters in 476 pages, or 8.5 pages per chapter, on average.  The detail is reverting and exciting in the extreme.  Consider intellectual property patent intrigue.  Can you imagine a patent lawsuit being retried multiple times over eight years?  Jealousy and envy are terrible diseases in a competitive field, resulting in backstabbing.  Sadly, competitive relationships can become highly toxic, benefitting no one and creating a bitter relationship between former colleagues.  What about using this technology for terrorism?  What did the U.S. government invest in protecting or reversing nefarious use?  What position did religious leaders take?  How would or did politicians react to this technology?  How did the global community respond, vilify, or support?  What happens when a potential solution results in death?  What if international companies promote gene editing for newborn babies with desired characteristics?  What if the protagonist ends up being found guilty in a court of law with a heavy fine and jail time?

My mom died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2019.  Might it be possible to convert the APOE4 gene into a benign version?  The Alzheimer’s Association projects that by 2050 people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s will reach 12.7 million. The most significant protection against a person or laboratory using the technology to pursue eugenics, is lawsuits.

With Walter’s book, you do not require a doctorate or even an undergraduate degree in chemistry or biology.  Everything is explained in simple terms. It helps develop one’s understanding of the science involved with these breakthrough vaccinations.

Walter interviewed many collaborators, competitors, partners, and Jennifer’s team members.  Walter references 365 people in his book.  He provides cameos of multiple people, making the biographical story more human and exciting.  The text reads like a murder mystery, not that anyone got murdered, but some of the intrigues in the competitive laboratories are both exciting and entirely unbelievable.  Who stole ideas from whom?  Why the lies?  Could it be the result of competitiveness, who was the first to make a breakthrough scientific discovery? As with any scientific or technological endeavor, one must contend with charlatans out for publicity and fame.  The repercussions can be devastating, especially for the naïve coconspirators.  

The book challenges one on many moral issues.  If a deaf couple has a baby, it will likely be born deaf.  Should the medical profession take action to ensure the child is not deaf?  If technology allows the embryo to be altered so that the child will be a regular hearing child, is that morally acceptable?  Or what if you are a black couple wanting a light-skinned child?  Could Prince Harry and Megan Markle have made use of this process with Archie?  (Recall the troubling comments made during the Oprah Winfrey interview about Royal’s concern about the couple having a dark-skinned baby.  Racism anyone?).  Or short parents wanting to give birth to a tall child?  Should we morally establish a goal of inheritable gene edits?  Eradicate sickle cell disease?

I know that I have never been involved in this industry, and I am surprised when I read about the events that have taken place over the decades, how uninformed I am. 

If my granddaughters read Jennifer’s book, I plan to purchase Walter’s book for them to read.

Walter’s book is an essential read to understand what may be possible regarding baby selection in terms of desirable traits.  We cannot stop science or the inevitable outcome of what parents may choose within the characteristics and health of their offspring.  What if society becomes a robotic clone of each other? 

Isaacson’s book is an essential read.  I would challenge that the title Code Breaker is misleading.  The book challenges one to understand developments that have taken place in recent years in terms of genetics and the potential for how it could be employed in the future. What if this technology was only affordable by the ultra-wealthy?

I was so enamored with Isaacson’s book that I will reread it.  It is worth my time to gain even more knowledge after my initial read.  Think about the effort that went into multiple laboratories to develop a COVID-19 test.  None of the labs wanted the tests to be a moneymaking venture, only a way to isolate patients with the virus.

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James D. Watson.  By identifying DNA structure, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry and won a Nobel Prize.  At the time, Watson was only twenty-four, a young scientist hungry to make his mark.  The book was first published in 1968 and republished on August 16, 2011.  I consider myself a detailed person.  With my engineering and computer background, I am used to reading technical information.  I found, in an amusing way, that Watson wrote like a raconteur.  Do I need to know which pub Watson had dinner in London and what he ate?  Watson uses this tactic to explain the process they went through on their path to their breakthrough discoveries.  I can only imagine that Watson kept a diary of what he did daily to document all this detail.  That, or he must have a phenomenal memory.  The book consists of noticeably short chapters, a few pages each, resulting in an easy and quick read.

As a reminder, Jennifer Doudna’s reading this book as a child set her career choice.  I appreciate the coincidence that the last three letters of her last name are “DNA.”

James D. Watson was born in Chicago on April 6, 1928. After graduation from the University of Chicago, he worked in genetics at Indiana University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1950.  He spent a year at the University of Copenhagen, followed by two years at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University, England.  There he met Francis Crick, and the collaboration resulted in their 1953 proposal of a structure for DNA.  After two years at Cal Tech, he joined the Harvard faculty, where he remained a biochemistry and molecular biology professor until 1976. In 1962, together with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, Dr. Watson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.  It has been recognized that Watson and his colleagues did not correctly attribute colleague Rosalind Franklin for her contributions to the discovery of the double helix structure.

In Watson’s book, he is critical of Rosalind or Rose as she was known.  In a prologue written for the re-release, he apologized for his unkind words and recognized her contribution.

My message to my granddaughters.  Reading Watson’s book will teach you that scientific breakthroughs do not happen in a blink of an eye.  It is the result of years of dedication, disappointments, persistence, and ultimately a positive outcome.  It is not necessarily a guaranteed result.

To add to our interest, we watched the 1997 movie Gattaca.  DNA sequencing is a laboratory technique used to determine the exact sequence of bases (A, C, G, and T) in a DNA molecule.  Gattaca was made up of those four letters. “A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.” Well, it is science fiction but provides food for thought of the possibilities. 

Update August 15, 2021.  I discovered another worthwhile educational video.  Netflix Explained, Season 1, “Designer DNA.” 18-minutes, released May 23, 2018.  Scientific feat or a terrifying social experiment?  Specialists in the field discuss the high stakes and ethical controversies of gene editing.  Just 18 years ago, scientists successfully mapped the human genome, identifying all the genes that make us who we are. These genes determine our eye color and our blood type. They affect our height, our risk of heart disease, how strong our bones are, and even our body odor. And sometimes they cause life-threatening diseases like cystic fibrosis and breast cancer.  Now we have the technology to edit our genes. Scientists have figured out how to reprogram an ancient bacterial immune system called “CRISPR” to track down and edit genes in any organism, allowing us to tinker with the source code of life.

The bottom line: I am disappointed at the amount of disinformation and ignorant comments I have read about these life-saving vaccinations.  Get a life.  Get vaccinated.

I extracted partial information from the weekly text detail below to create the table to rapidly see COVID developments in the USA over time.

Date COVID Cases Deaths Fully Vaccinated One-Dose Vaccination Rate/Day
April 10, 2021 31,084,962 566,238 68,202,458 114,436,039 3.1 million
April 17, 2021 31,574,340 565,260 80,609,818 127,743,096 3.9 million
April 24, 2021 31,730,950 567,352 91,175,995 137,234,889 2.28 million
May 1, 2021 32,091,429 572,190 101,407,318 144,894,586 2.36 million
May 8, 2021 32,403,159 577,041 110,874,920 150,416,559 1.75 million
May 15, 2021 32,681,787 581,573 120,258,637 155,251,852 1.82 million
May 22, 2021 32,885,010 584,975 127,778,250 161,278,336 1.76 million
May 29, 2021 33,041,551 590,212 133,532,544 166,388,129 1.38 million
June 5, 2021 33,148,701 593,377 137,455,367 169,735,441 1.01 million
June 12, 2021 33,259,537 596,572 142,095,530 172,758,350 1.09 million
June 19, 2021 33,341,986 598,713 148,459,003 176,290,249 1.36 million
June 26, 2021 33,425,231 600,859 151,615,554 178,491,147 735,800
July 3, 2021 33,514,681 602,731 156,255,896 181,650,678 1.09 million
July 10, 2021 33,631,656 604,251 158,629,431 183,542,871 599,100
July 17, 2021 33,836,677 606,190 160,686,378 185,424,899 562,000
July 24, 2021 34,312,832 608,113 162,435,276 187,579,557 500,000
July 31, 2021 34,818,278 610,264 164,184,080 190,509,183 590,000
August 7, 2021 35,530,951 613,658 165,918,256 193,764,457 650,000
August 14, 2021 36,410,213 617,787 167,699,170 197,081,471 650,000
August 21, 2021 37,396,282 624,213 169,998,983 200,421,787 750,000
August 28, 2021 38,527,411 632,786 172,646,952 203,475,192 820,000
September 4, 2021 39,668,869 643,405 175,538,025 206,461,869 840,000
September 11, 2021 40,703,234 654,409 172,899,458 208,704,230 890,000
September 18, 2021 41,754,903 668,442 180,572,171 211,097,597 720,000
September 25, 2021 42,635,447 682,646 182,958,696 212,861,380 600,000
Date COVID Cases Deaths One-Dose Booster Doses Vaccination Rate/day
October 2, 2021 43,409,950 696,603 214,597,690 3,023,065 720,000
October 10, 2021 44,105,375 708,784 216,573,911 7,284,455 930,000
October 16, 2021 44,709,010 720,228 218,318,056 10,023,131 950,000
October 23, 2021 45,235,796 731,931 219,900,525 12,037,101 680,000
Date COVID Cases Deaths One Dose Fully Vacinated Booster Doses Vaccination Rate/day
October 30, 2021 45,759,230 741,566 220,860,887 191,997,869 16,682,269 840,000
November 6, 2021 46,268,465 749,876 222,902,939 193,425,862 22,271,357 1,310,000
November 13, 2021 46,783,309 757,663 225,606,197 194,747,839 27,660,515 1,350,000
November 20, 2021 47,471,270 768,619 229,291,004 195,920,566 33,454,832 1,490,000
November 27, 2021 47,916,623 773,779 231,367,686 196,168,756 37,449,004 1,370,000

Periodic Updates

Update June 16, 2021.  Pfizer had evidence the mRNA vaccine could stop the virus. The vaccine is composed of a lipid nanoparticle, a sphere of fat molecules encapsulating a strand of messenger RNA, which instructs human cells to make proteins that trigger antibodies and prime the immune system against future viral invasions.  But it would do little good unless Pfizer could rapidly take the new nanoparticle technology from lab to mass production — a feat never before accomplished — making immunizations available in America and around the world.  The company and its vaccine partner BioNTech would ultimately master the job of churning out large batches of mRNA vaccine, making it the clearest winner among drug companies to emerge from the pandemic. The company is producing vaccines in greater quantities than any other company and has secured an advantage in the quest to use next-generation mRNA technology for treatments of other diseases.  The company says it expects to make enough for 3 billion shots in 2021, twice as much as initial projections and enough of the two-dose immunization for 1.5 billion people. It has said it will make $26 billion in vaccine sales in 2021, which would make it the biggest-selling medicine ever.

Update June 27, 2021: Paddy Doherty, of County Donegal, Ireland, recently became the fifth person in the world to have cells deep inside his body altered by the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9.  Two researchers behind CRISPR won the Nobel Prize last year, including American scientist Jennifer Doudna, and it has already been used to edit blood cells removed from the body and infused back in, as well as genes in the eye.  But the trial Doherty participated in was the first time anyone’s whole body has been infused with the CRISPR tool.  It seems to have worked as planned.  In Doherty and five others with the same condition, the one-time treatment appears to have turned off a gene that was causing a fatal build-up of protein in their tissues. The three who got the lowest dose saw more than a 50% decline in their blood levels of the protein, according to a presentation Saturday morning and a publication in The New England Journal of Medicine.  Doherty and two others who got a three-times higher dose saw an 87% reduction. He thinks he was the one in the group identified as having a 96% reduction.  But if such CRISPR gene-editing continues to show as much promise, the results could herald a new era for transthyretin amyloidosis and dozens of other genetic conditions, including hemophilia, sickle cell disease, and a more common trigger for heart failure.  CRISPR/Cas9 (which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and CRISPR-associated endonuclease-9) has mostly been used as a research tool since its 2012 discovery.  Patrick Doherty had always been very active. He trekked the Himalayas and hiked trails in Spain.  The breathlessness on a hillside walk last fall wasn’t Doherty’s first sign of trouble, but it was the one that finally got him to go to the doctor.  Doherty, 65, a mechanical engineer, lost his father at age 67, and two uncles died young, too.  After months of appointments and scans, Doherty ended up with a devastating diagnosis: an inherited form of a disease called transthyretin amyloidosis with polyneuropathy. It meant clumps of proteins were slowly clogging up his heart and nerves, and after years of pain and progressive heart failure, would kill him.  So Doherty was thrilled when he found out that doctors were testing a new way to try to treat amyloidosis.

Updated July 8. 2021: New study on delta variants reveals the importance of receiving both vaccine shots, highlights challenges posed by mutations. New laboratory research on the swiftly spreading delta variant of the coronavirus is highlighting the threats posed by viral mutations, adding urgency to calls to accelerate vaccination efforts across the planet. A peer-reviewed report from scientists in France, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found that the delta variant has mutations that allow it to evade some of the neutralizing antibodies produced by vaccines or by a natural infection. A single shot of a two-dose vaccine “barely” offers any protection. But the experiments found that fully vaccinated people — with the recommended regimen of two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine — should retain significant protection against the delta variant. That echoes another report authored by a collaboration of scientists in the United States and published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Update August 13, 2021.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes extra vaccine doses for immunocompromised patients to bolster protection against the coronavirus.  Regulators took steps today to shore up the defenses of millions of vulnerable Americans against the coronavirus, authorizing extra doses of two widely used vaccines for some people with weakened immune systems.  Details about how the shots will be administered — and who exactly will be eligible for them — are expected to be hashed out on August 14, during a meeting of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisers.  The discussions have become increasingly urgent as the delta variant wreaks havoc in many parts of the country, and some studies indicate a waning of the vaccines’ protection over time.  According to the CDC, about 7 million people, are immunocompromised. Some, like transplant patients, take immune-suppressing drugs to prevent organ rejection. Others have blood cancers and other illnesses that damage the immune system. Still, others are on cancer chemotherapy. 

Update August 23, 2021.  Federal regulators granted full approval today to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — a milestone that could help increase inoculation rates and spark a wave of vaccine mandates by employers and universities amid a surge of new cases and hospitalizations fueled by the ferocious delta variant.  The Food and Drug Administration action marks the first licensing of a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has swept the United States in repeated and punishing waves since early 2020, exhausting nursing staffs, filling intensive care units, and raising fears among the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  The vaccine has been approved for two doses, three weeks apart, in people 16 and older. It remains available under emergency use authorization for adolescents ages 12 to 15.  In the end, the vaccine approval was the fastest in the agency’s history, coming less than four months after Pfizer-BioNTech filed for licensing on May 7.

Update August 31, 2021.  Another variant of COVID-19 detected in nine countries is causing concern among scientists because it is more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants of the virus.  A pre-print study that emerged last week said the C.1.2 variant, which was first detected in South Africa in May, has since been found in Botswana, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland.  There are four other variants of concern of COVID-19 among scientists—Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta—and another four variants of interest—Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda—in global circulation. Alpha, Beta, and Delta have had the most impact globally in terms of transmission and immune evasion.  But the newly discovered variant seems to have an unusually high mutation rate and more mutations of other variants of concern (VOCs), the study, led by a team of South African scientists, noted. It also noted that it is more likely to cause severe COVID-19 than other variants.

Update September 10, 2021.  President Biden announced sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates Thursday designed to affect tens of millions of Americans, ordering all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be immunized or face weekly testing.  Biden also said that he would require most healthcare facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to vaccinate their employees, which the White House believes will cover 50,000 locations.  And the president signed an executive order compelling all federal employees to get vaccinated — without an option for those who prefer to be regularly tested instead — in an effort to create a model he hopes state governments will embrace. He is also ordering all staffers in Head Start programs, along with Defense Department and federally operated schools for Native Americans, to be vaccinated.  Taken together, the moves represent a major escalation by Biden of the pressure against those who have resisted vaccination. The announcement comes amid growing signs that the highly contagious delta variant, and the persistence of vaccine resistance, are combining to drag out the pandemic, slow the economic recovery and prevent Biden from turning his focus to other matters.  The delta variant has upended calculations on the virus, sending new infections surging to more than 150,000 a day and daily deaths to 1,500.  The American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers union, applauded the effort. “We stand in complete support of this plan and of the administration’s effort to protect as many people as possible,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.  Republican leaders in the United States are blasting President Biden’s sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates for businesses and federal workers, decrying them as unconstitutional infringements on personal liberties and promising to sue.  Republican governors from Texas to Missouri and Georgia threatened to fight back. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the mandates “an assault on private businesses” and said the state is “already working to halt this power grab.” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said he asked his state’s attorney general “to stand prepared to take all actions to oppose this administration’s unconstitutional overreach of executive power,” and South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem said, “See you in court.” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the group “will sue the administration to protect Americans and their liberties.”

Update September 23, 2021.  The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shot for people 65 and older and adults at risk of severe illness, an effort to bolster protection for the most vulnerable Americans against the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus.  In addition to older Americans, boosters should be made available to people 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe illness from the coronavirus and those “whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure” to the virus puts them at high risk of serious complications from the disease caused by the virus, the agency said.  The agency said the extra dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should be administered six months after its standard two-shot regimen.  In a rare move, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky late Thursday overruled her agency’s advisory panel and added a recommendation for boosters for people whose jobs put them at risk of infection.

Update October 27, 2021.  Election ‘distracted’ Trump team from pandemic response, Birx tells Congress, saying more than 130,000 people died unnecessarily.  “I felt like the White House had gotten somewhat complacent through the campaign season,” said Deborah Birx, whom President Donald Trump chose to steer his government’s virus response, according to interview excerpts released by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.  Birx, who sat for interviews with the subcommittee on Oct. 12 and 13, also detailed advice that she said the White House ignored late last year, including more aggressively testing younger Americans, expanding access to virus treatments and better distributing vaccine doses in long-term care facilities.  “I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30-percent-less to 40-percent-less range,” Birx said.  The White House coronavirus task force, which was chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, met only sporadically in the run-up to the election. Trump also downplayed the pandemic in public comments last fall, saying at one September 2020 campaign rally that the virus “affects virtually nobody” younger than age 18.

Update October 29, 2021.  Regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, a watershed moment celebrated by parents yearning for a return to normal life but viewed with ambivalence and outright skepticism by others worried about the potential risk of unknown side effects.  The Food and Drug Administration’s emergency action cleared the first pediatric coronavirus vaccine in the United States — a two-shot regimen administered three weeks apart. The dose, 10 micrograms, is one-third of that used for adolescents and adults. In a clinical trial of 5- to 11-year-olds, the vaccine was almost 91 percent effective at preventing covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. The vaccine’s safety was studied in about 3,100 children who received the shot and had no serious side effects, the agency said.  The issue of safety was a main focus of regulators and their advisers partly because the vaccine has been linked to rare cases of cardiac side effects in another group — male adolescents and young men. The symptoms of the side effects — myocarditis and pericarditis, which are inflammation of the heart muscle and lining, respectively — tended to be mild and treatable, doctors say.

Update November 2, 2021.  Today, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States in this age group and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible.  COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months. The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer. During a 6-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold. Vaccination, along with other preventative measures, can protect children from COVID-19 using the safe and effective vaccines already recommended for use in adolescents and adults in the United States. Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm.

Update November 19, 2021.  All American adults became eligible for coronavirus vaccine boosters on Friday (19th), ending months of confusion over complicated guidelines that had slowed their uptake and prompted unilateral moves by governors from Maine to California to make the shots available more broadly.  Federal health officials hope a straightforward boosters-for-all policy will prompt millions of more people to get the shots before they travel or gather with friends and family over the holidays. Many are concerned about the worsening picture as winter approaches. After new cases dipped to almost 69,000 on Oct. 25 — their lowest point in months — they began climbing again, with the seven-day average rising 40 percent to more than 96,000 on Thursday (18th).  The final piece of the booster-policy overhaul fell into place early Friday evening when Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accepted two unanimous recommendations from the agency’s independent experts. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said anyone 18 and older may get a booster and — to stress the urgency of increasing protection for the most vulnerable age group — anyone 50 and older should make sure they get one.

Update November 27, 2021.  A new variant of the coronavirus that causes covid-19 is raising concern around the globe.  South Africa on Thursday confirmed that scientists there had detected a variant with a high number of mutations that could make it more easily transmissible. On Friday, the World Health Organization labeled it a “variant of concern,” a classification it has given to only four other variants so far. The global health agency also gave it a Greek letter designation: omicron.  Several countries, including the United States, moved to curb flights on Friday Saturday from southern Africa, while pharmaceutical makers vowed to keep close watch on how well their vaccines hold up against the new variant.  Thus far, there is too little research to draw conclusions, with experts urging caution but not panic.  “This is the most concerning variant we’ve seen since delta,” Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said in an interview Friday. “It’s going to take a really high bar for something to take over for delta, and we don’t know whether this is going to do it.”  Although it is unknown where the variant came from, it was first detected in the southern region of Africa. On Tuesday, scientists in South Africa made data of the variant public. Noticing the distinct sequence, a virologist at Imperial College London, Tom Peacock, raised alarms about the “really awful Spike mutation profile.” In South Africa, where just 35 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated, the variant has begun to spread rapidly. A number of factors could be contributing to the rising caseload, including the nation’s low vaccination rate. Researchers are also working to determine if the mutations make the variant more easily transmissible or if it has a mechanism that allows the variant to escape a natural or vaccine-acquired immune response. Thus far, some cases have also been identified in Britain, Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, and Israel. But officials from a number of countries warn that the variant, also known as B.1.1.529, may already be spreading undetected.

Detail of COVID-19 Cases, deaths, fully vaccinated, one-shot, vaccinated by series, and rate of vaccination.

Update April 10, 2021. USA COVID-19 cases, 31,084,962, deaths 561,074.  Fully vaccinated 68,202,458, (20.5%) one-shot 114,436,039 (34.5%).  Currently, the concern is for a potential fourth wave, especially among younger adults.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 3.1 million per day

Update April 17, 2021. USA COVID-19 cases, 31,574,340, deaths 565,260.  Fully vaccinated 80,609,818, (24.3%) one-shot 127,743,096 (38.5%).  Currently, the concern is for a potential fourth wave, especially among younger adults.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 3.9 million per day.

Update April 24, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 31,730,950, deaths 567,352.  Fully vaccinated 91,175,995 (27.5%) one-shot 137,234,889 (41.3%).  Currently, the concern is a reluctance for people to get vaccinated.  Some states have more vaccinations available than people willing to get vaccinated.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 2.28 million per day.

Update May 1, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 32,091,429, deaths 572,190.  Fully vaccinated 101,407,318 (30.5%) one-shot 144,894,586 (43.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 51,134,807 Moderna 42,065,146 J&J 8,162,494.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 2.36 million per day.  Concerns that some people after receiving the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna are not returning for their second dose.

Update May 8, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 32,403,159, deaths 577,041.  Fully vaccinated 110,874,920 (33.4%) one-shot 150,416,559 (45.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 56,659,985 Moderna 45,501,811 J&J 8,665,290.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.75 million per day.  The best news is that the rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 14% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3.9%.  Our granddaughters, over the age of 12 will be vaccinated next week getting their first Pfizer dose, the only vaccination authorized for them currently.

Update May 15, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 32,681,787, deaths 581,573.  Fully vaccinated 120,258,637 (36.2%) one-dose 155,251,852 (46.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 62,113,204 Moderna 48,745,748 J&J 9,348,976.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.82 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 20.6% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3.4%.  Our granddaughters, over the age of 12 received their first shot of Pfizer vaccination.

Update May 22, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 32,885,010, deaths 584,975.  Fully vaccinated 127,778,250 (38.5%) one-dose 161,278,336 (48.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 66,045,495 Moderna 51,727,326 J&J 9,951,785.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.76 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 20.4% daily cases for a positivity rate of 4.7%.  Now states are bribing their citizens to get vaccinated.  Ohio offering a $1 million lottery prize, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut a “shot and free beer,” vaccinations in Wisconsin at a pub for a day.  New York offers a vax and scratch lottery worth $5 million, Maryland offers $2 million and West Virginia offering saving bonds.  Krispy Kreme a free doughnut, some dispensaries—free marijuana.  Is this all to reward irresponsible behavior? Democrat Nancy Pelosi instructed all members of the House of Representatives to wear masks because Republicans refuse to get vaccinated or admit they have been vaccinated.  Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a “$2 million Vax Cash promotion”. Every Marylander 18 and over who gets vaccinated will be entered into a daily drawing to win $40,000 from the Maryland State Lottery — culminating in a $400,000 drawing on July 4.  Meanwhile, the University of Virginia and Indiana University are joining a growing list of universities requiring vaccinations.  At least 389 colleges (universities) across that country have required vaccinations for at least some students or faculty, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.  For the first time since March 2020, the 7-day average for deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. has fallen below 500, White House coronavirus response senior adviser Andy Slavitt tweeted Friday. Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s comments Friday came as the country’s seven-day average of daily new coronavirus infections fell below 30,000 for the first time in almost a year; in late March, that figure was around 66,000.

Update May 29, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,041,551, deaths 590,212.  Fully vaccinated 133,532,544 (40.2%) one-dose 166,388,129 (50.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 68,735,221 Moderna 54,244,825 J&J 10,495,883.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.38 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 22.4% daily cases for a positivity rate of 2.5%.  Abbey Bugenske (22) who lives in Cincinnati is the first winner of $1 million Vax-a-Million lotteries in Ohio’s bid to encourage more people to get vaccinated.  Abbey was one of 2.76 million Ohioans who entered the drawing.  14-year-old Joseph Costello of Englewood won a four-year scholarship to any Ohio college/university he chooses as part of the lottery.  California on Thursday became the latest state to announce huge cash prizes to incentivize vaccination against the coronavirus, offering $116.5 million in giveaways — many smaller payments as well as a final drawing for 10 winners of $1.5 million each.  California will also give out 2 million $50 “incentive cards” starting Thursday for as long as supplies last, officials said.  Anyone who receives their full vaccine regimen — two shots if applicable — can get a card.

Update June 5, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,148,701, deaths 593,377.  Fully vaccinated 137,455,367 (41.4%) one-dose 169,735,441 (51.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 70,597,177 Moderna 55,914,615 J&J 10,884,243.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.01 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 32.8% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3%.  The country’s declining Covid-19 case rates present an unrealistically optimistic perspective for half of the nation — the half that is still not vaccinated.  The adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge.  For events like Covid-19 infection, rates are usually calculated by dividing the number of cases by the number of people in the population. For example, if there are 12 cases among a population of 100 people, the rate would be 12 people per 100. The Washington Post reduced the denominator to exclude most vaccinated people. So if 20 people got vaccinated, that would mean there were 12 cases out of the remaining 80 unvaccinated people, for an adjusted rate of 15 cases per 100 people.  Data shows vaccines are about 90 percent effective in preventing cases among people who have received the shot.  Cases among vaccinated people are called breakthrough cases.  To be conservative, The Washington Post estimated that up to 15 percent of the vaccinated population could still be infected.  So, in the example above, instead of removing all 20 vaccinated people, The Post removed 17.  That would leave 12 cases among 83 people, for an adjusted rate of 14.5 cases per 100 people.  But adjustments for vaccinations show the rate among susceptible, unvaccinated people is 73 percent higher than the standard figures being publicized.  The adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge. Maine, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Washington state all have Covid-19 case spikes among the unvaccinated, with adjusted rates about double the adjusted national rate.

Update June 12, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,259,537, deaths 596,572.  Fully vaccinated 142,095,530 (42.8%) one-dose 172,758,350 (52.0%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 73,593,112 Moderna 57,194,116 J&J 11,246,809.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.09 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 11% daily cases for a positivity rate of 1.8%.  The latest CDC data shows that the gap between vaccination rates in Republican-controlled states and Democrat-controlled states is vast, and it’s only getting wider. Right now, the 10 Republican states that have fully vaccinated the smallest share of their residents are Mississippi (28 percent), Alabama (30 percent), Arkansas (32 percent), Louisiana (32 percent), Wyoming (33 percent), Tennessee (33 percent), Utah (34 percent), Idaho (34 percent), Georgia (34 percent) and Oklahoma (35 percent).  Meanwhile, the 10 Democrat states that have fully vaccinated the largest share of their residents are Vermont (60 percent), Massachusetts (57 percent), Maine (57 percent), Connecticut (56 percent), Rhode Island (54 percent), New Hampshire (53 percent), New Jersey (51 percent), Maryland (51 percent), Washington (49 percent) and New Mexico (49 percent).  The vast majority of the 100 U.S. counties with today’s highest per capita case counts (COVID infections) are in Republican conservative areas.  According to the most recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll, more than three-quarters of Democrats (76 percent) say they’ve already been vaccinated, while less than half of Republicans (49 percent) say the same.  A full 28 percent of Republicans say they will “never” get vaccinated.  The Biden administration is buying 500 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to donate to the world as the United States dramatically increases its efforts to help vaccinate more of the global population.  The first 200 million doses will be distributed this year, with the subsequent 300 million shared in the first half of next year. The doses will be distributed by Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to share doses around the globe, and they will be targeted at low- and middle-income countries.  Pfizer is selling the doses to the United States at a “not-for-profit” price.

Update June 19, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,341,986, deaths 598,713.  Fully vaccinated 148,459,003 (44.7%) one-dose 176,290,249 (53.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 77,705,677 Moderna 58,962,325 J&J 11,725,891.  Unknown 2-dose 65,110.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.36 million per day.  Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced Vermont had become the first state to vaccinate 80 percent of those eligible with at least one dose. Vermont has given out 131,473 doses per 100,000 population. By contrast, in Mississippi, only 35 percent of the overall population has received at least one dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the Mississippi vaccination rate at less than half that of Vermont, or 61,278 administered per 100,000.  Where vaccine coverage is strong, the pandemic is receding.  The new delta variant is significantly more contagious and may lead to more severe disease than the earlier variants.  The worry is that those who are hesitating to get vaccinated now will be sickened in the fall.  The announcement that a new two-dose vaccine in the United States, developed by Novavax, is 90 percent effective in a large-scale clinical trial is a reason for hope. 

Update June 26, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,425,231, deaths 600,859.  Fully vaccinated 151,615,554 (45.7%) one-dose 178,491,147 (53.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 79,671,066 Moderna 59,859,140 J&J 12,017,294.  Unknown 2-dose 68,054.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 735,800 per day.  Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who were not vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day — now down to under 300 — could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.  Vaccination rates vary enormously across states: Some states have given at least one dose to two-thirds of the people, while others have given it to slightly more than one-third.  In Wisconsin, 48% were vaccinated.

Update July 3, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,514,681, deaths 602,731.  Fully vaccinated 156,255,896 (47.1%) one-dose 181,650,678 (54.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 82,684,230 Moderna 61,148,426 J&J 12,352,133.  Unknown 2-dose 71,107.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.09 million per day, a 52% increase over the week before.  CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a Thursday White House briefing that preliminary data reviewed by her agency suggests 99.5% of the people who died from Covid-19 over the past six months were unvaccinated, a stunning statistic in support of her assertion that nearly every virus-linked death is now preventable.  Several states and the District of Columbia have reached the 70 percent target, and more should follow soon.  Many states, particularly in the South and Midwest, are still far from reaching the threshold.  Infections and hospitalizations have been rising in many places with low vaccination rates.  Local officials are sounding the alarm over an increase in Covid-19 infections just as the nation prepares to celebrate a Fourth of July holiday that many hoped would mark the start of the resumption of normal life.  With July 4th holiday coming up and eventually kids going back to school, we have to be concerned that this would be a trend that could continue.  And if it does, it would appear that we may be in the beginning of the third surge of Covid-19 here in the state of Arkansas,” he said.  More than 90% of active virus cases are people who have not been vaccinated, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during the briefing.

Update July 10, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,631,656, deaths 604,251.  Fully vaccinated 158,629,431 (47.8%) one-dose 183,542,871 (55.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 84,127,283 Moderna 61,840,480 J&J 12,587,850.  Unknown 2-dose 73,818.  National vaccination rates have slowed considerably from their mid-April peak of 3.3 million doses administered daily, on average.  In the last week, an average of 599,100 doses per day was administered, a 45% decrease over the week before. The vaccination campaign has slowed, and the delta variant is spreading rapidly.  New infections, which had started to plateau about a month ago, are going up slightly nationally.  Surges are likely driven by pockets of dangerously low vaccination rates.  The number of people catching the virus has risen in more than half of the states over the past two weeks. And 18 states have greater numbers of new infections now compared with four weeks ago, including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma, where new daily cases have doubled. In the last week, an average of 593,800 doses per day was administered, a 47% decrease over the week before.

Update July 17, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,836,677, deaths 606,190.  Fully vaccinated 160,686,378 (48.4%) one-dose 185,424,899 (55.9%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 85,373,703 Moderna 62,435,576 J&J 12,799,762.  Unknown 2-dose 77,337.  A doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the United States has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.  Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the seven-day average of coronavirus infections soared nearly 70 percent in just one week, to about 26,300 cases a day. The seven-day average for hospitalizations has increased, too, climbing about 36 percent from the previous seven-day period, she said.  Florida emerged as a national hot spot, accounting for 1 in 5 cases in the past week. Four states were responsible for more than 40 percent of cases in the past week, health officials said. And 10 percent of counties have moved into “high transmission risk.”  More than 97 percent of hospitalizations are among those who are unvaccinated, Walensky said, and almost all covid-19 deaths — which climbed 26 percent in the past week — are among people who have not received a shot.  The delta variant has become the dominant strain worldwide and is responsible for the majority of U.S. cases, said Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Update July 24, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 34,312,832, deaths 608,113.  Fully vaccinated 162,435,276 (48.9%) one-dose 187,579,557 (56.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 86,495,061 Moderna 62,870,544 J&J 12,987,754.  Unknown 2-dose 81,917.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 0.50 million per day, down from a peak of 3.3 million doses administered per day in April.   Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a stark warning Thursday about the spread of the delta strain of COVID-19, saying the variant is one of the “most infectious respiratory viruses” scientists know of.  People infected with the variant appear to carry a viral load that is more than 1,000 times that of those infected with earlier forms of the virus, allowing the virus to spread rapidly among unvaccinated people, scientists have found.  The dire message comes amid urgency from public health officials that Americans get vaccinated.  The daily average of confirmed coronavirus cases has roughly quadrupled during July, from about 13,000 per day at the start of the month to 43,243 now.  The CDC said earlier this week that cases of the delta strain now make up about 83% of new infections in the U.S., and a majority of deaths from the disease are among unvaccinated people.  The strain is much more transmissible than the alpha strain, or the initial version of COVID-19, and has led to surging case numbers in every state in the nation.  The number of new cases has risen almost 250% since the beginning of July, and states with low vaccination rates, including Florida, Texas, and Missouri, are experiencing some of the worst outbreaks three states with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40 percent of all cases nationwide.  Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Alabama have more than doubled this month, with 213 patients in intensive care units, up from 79 on July 1.

Update July 31, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 34,818,278, deaths 610,264.  Fully vaccinated 164,184,080 (49.5%) one-dose 190,509,183 (57.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 87,580,002 Moderna 63,322,317 J&J 13,195,772.  Unknown 2-dose 85,989.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.59 million per day, down from a peak of 3.3 million doses administered per day in April.  It is time to shift how people think about the pandemic.  The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal federal health document that argues officials must “acknowledge the war has changed.”  It captures the struggle of the nation’s top public health agency to persuade the public to embrace vaccination and prevention measures, including mask-wearing, as cases surge across the United States and new research suggests vaccinated people can spread the virus.  One thing is finally grabbing the attention of millions of unvaccinated Americans — the invasion of the hyper-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The document strikes an urgent note, to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.  Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant.  There is a higher risk among older age groups for hospitalization and death relative to younger people, regardless of vaccination status.  Estimates suggest that there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 164 million vaccinated Americans.

Update August 7, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 35,530,951, deaths 613,658.  Fully vaccinated 165,918,256 (50.0%) one-dose 193,764,457 (58.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 88,685,831 Moderna 63,726,330 J&J 13,415,537.  Unknown 2-dose 90,558.  In the past week new daily cases rose 40.4%, deaths rose 49.1% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 29.5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.65 million per day.  Dr. Anthony Fauci has a sobering prediction: “Things are going to get worse.”  The White House chief medical advisor made those remarks amid rising Covid cases nationwide, due largely to the virus’s newly dominant and more transmissible delta variant.  Though it’s tough to imagine a situation direr than the country’s current surge, “we’re looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we’re seeing the cases go up,” Fauci said.  Delta has run rampant through the U.S. in recent weeks, surpassing last summer’s peak of new daily cases and hitting the country’s relatively large population of unvaccinated people — 50% as of Thursday afternoon — particularly hard.  So long as a virus can spread, it can mutate and create more dangerous variants. And while the Covid vaccines in use appear to work well against current variants, “there could be a variant that’s lingering out there that can push aside delta,” Fauci said.  Most of the virus’s current ability to spread across the U.S. — which has a plentiful vaccine supply — is due to America’s large population of unvaccinated people. About 30% of the adult population in the U.S. has not received at least one dose, and roughly 33% of eligible children ages 12 -17 have yet to receive a shot.  New data from the CDC has also raised concerns about breakthrough cases, where vaccinated people can occasionally transmit the delta variant to other people.

Update August 14, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 36,410,213, deaths 617,787.  Fully vaccinated 167,699,170 (50.5%) one-dose 197,081,471 (59.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 89,857,077 Moderna 64,113,369 J&J 13,634,118.  Unknown 2-dose 94,606.  In the past week new daily cases rose 20.8%, deaths rose 26.8% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 22.6%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.65 million per day.  The highly transmissible coronavirus variant called delta is now the dominant strain in the United States.  Modeling shows that the variant now accounts for more than 90 percent of new infections, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has described the delta variant as a very different virus than the one that took hold last year, capable of generating infections even among vaccinated people, though those are likely to be far less severe.  “The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it,” she said in July.  The CDC said that the variant may cause infections that are more severe than previous versions, and that vaccinated people can spread it.  Walensky has described delta as “one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”  The good news, Walensky has said, is that all three coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States offer strong protection against severe disease and death from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Preliminary data from several states over the past several months suggests that 99.5 percent of covid-19-related deaths occurred among unvaccinated people, she has said.

Update August 21, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 37,396,282, deaths 624,213.  Fully vaccinated 169,998,983 (51.2%) one-dose 200,421,787 (60.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 91,440,711 Moderna 64,576,676 J&J 13,887,110.  Unknown 2-dose 94,486.  In the past week new daily cases rose 11.1%, deaths rose 43.4% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 11.2%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.75 million per day.  The United States on Wednesday became the latest country to embrace the widespread use of coronavirus vaccine booster shots, citing new data that shows the vaccines’ effectiveness waning over time.  The Biden administration said it plans to make booster shots available to Americans starting the week of Sept. 20, pending reviews by federal health agencies. Officials said those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can receive a booster shot eight months after the date when they got their second vaccine dose. Officials said they are waiting for additional data before setting a plan for people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Update August 28, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 38,527,411, deaths 632,786.  Fully vaccinated 172,646,952 (52%) one-dose 203,475,192 (61.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 93,259,507 Moderna 65,206,722 J&J 14,083,866.  Unknown 2-dose 96,857.  In the past week new daily cases rose 10.9%, deaths rose 34.9% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5.8%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.82 million per day.  More than 100,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in the United States, a level not seen since Jan. 30 — when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available — as the country grapples with the delta variant’s spread.  Hospitalizations are highest across the South, where every state in the region has a higher portion of its population currently hospitalized with covid-19 than the national level. More than 17,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in Florida, which has the most such hospitalizations of any state, followed by Texas, which has more than 14,000.  Amid a raging debate over mask requirements in schools, current pediatric hospitalizations for covid-19 have reached 2,100 nationally, topping 2,000 for the first time since August 2020.  New coronavirus cases are being reported across the country at levels similar to those seen in January.  About 151,000 new daily cases were being reported on average on Jan. 30; on Wednesday, that figure was 148,000.

Update September 4, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 39,668,869, deaths 643,405.  Fully vaccinated 175,538,025 (52.9%) one-dose 206,461,869 (62.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 95,227,588 Moderna 65,942,167 J&J 14,268,555.  Unknown 2-dose 99,715.  In the past week new daily cases rose 4.9%, deaths rose 28.7% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 1.1%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.84 million per day.  Nationally, covid-19 deaths have climbed steadily in recent weeks, hitting a seven-day average of about 1,500 a day Thursday, after falling to the low 200s in early July — the latest handiwork of a contagious variant that has exploited the return to everyday activities by tens of millions of Americans, many of them unvaccinated. Top federal health officials have warned the White House that the Biden administration’s plan to begin offering booster shots to most Americans later this month may have to be limited initially, with third shots made available only to people who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to people familiar with the matter.  Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients on Thursday that their agencies may not be able to approve a more expansive coronavirus booster plan that they, along with other top doctors across the administration, endorsed last month.  Woodcock and Walensky told Zients they may be able to approve and recommend booster shots only for people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.  Americans were told they should plan to get a third shot eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Biden said people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would probably need a booster shot as well, but officials would need more time to analyze data.  Now, Woodcock and Walensky, who have faced criticism for endorsing a plan before FDA approval, have warned that their agencies may need more time to make a determination about recommending boosters for people who received the Moderna vaccine. The FDA has only partial data on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters.

Update September 11, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 40,703,234, deaths 654,409.  Fully vaccinated 177,899,458 (53.6%) one-dose 208,704,230 (62.9%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 96,782,513 Moderna 66,608,458 J&J 14,406,820.  Unknown 2-dose 101,667.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10.8%, deaths rose 4.9% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 0.8%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.89 million per day.  Fights about wearing masks in schools intensified Friday, as the United States reported a record number of infections among children in recent weeks after schools reopened.  In Florida, an appeals court sided with Gov. Ron DeSantis to reinstate a school mask ban, while the Education Department said it is investigating whether the state was violating the rights of students with disabilities by preventing school districts from requiring masks. In Texas, attorney general Ken Paxton filed lawsuits against six school districts for defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s order regarding mask mandates, adding that he expects to file more suits against noncompliant districts.  Nationally, Republican leaders blasted President Biden’s sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates for businesses and federal workers, decrying them as unconstitutional infringements on personal liberties and promising to sue.  Unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die of covid-19 than those who were fully vaccinated this spring and summer, according to one of three major studies published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Update September 18, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 41,754,903, deaths 668,442.  Fully vaccinated 180,572,171 (54.4%) one-dose 211,097,597 (63.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 98,509,241 Moderna 67,388,413 J&J 14,570,912.  Unknown 2-dose 103,605.  In the past week new daily cases rose 1.7%, deaths rose 24.2% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.72 million per day.  Expert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously Friday to recommend that the agency authorize a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine six months after vaccination for people 65 years and older and for anyone at risk for severe illness.  The raw number of deaths is horrifying – roughly equal to the populations of Las Vegas, Detroit, or Oklahoma City. So too is the proportion of Americans who have succumbed to the virus: 1 in 500.  It is a public health catastrophe that has taken loved ones from hundreds of thousands of families.

Update September 25, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 42,635,447, deaths 682,646.  Fully vaccinated 182,958,696 (55.1%) one-dose 212,861,380 (64.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 100,115,440 Moderna 68,051,592 J&J 14,685,582.  Unknown 2-dose 106,136.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 17.8%, deaths rose 1.4% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7.6%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.60 million per day.  More people have died of covid-19 in the United States than are estimated to have died of influenza during the 1918 pandemic. More than 682,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have been reported since Feb. 29, 2020.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is roughly how many died of influenza in the United States from 1918 to 1919 — along with more than 49 million killed globally during the “deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.” (The coronavirus has killed nearly 4.7 million people globally.)

Update October 2, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 43,409,950, deaths 696,603.  Fully vaccinated 214,597,690 (64.6%) booster-dose 3,023,065.  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 101,414,770 Moderna 68,524,278 J&J 14,804,442.  Unknown 2-dose 108,926.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10.9%, deaths fell 6.2% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 9.3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.72 million per day.  Pharmaceutical giant Merck announced that in an international clinical trial, its drug, molnupiravir, reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly half among higher-risk people diagnosed with mild or moderate illnesses. The company said it would seek regulatory approval as soon as possible, meaning the United States could have its first anti-coronavirus pill in a matter of months.  Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said in a news release they would apply for emergency use authorization for the drug.

Update October 9, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 44,105,375, deaths 708,784.  Fully vaccinated 216,573,911 (65.2%) booster-dose 7,284,455.  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 102,879,624 Moderna 69,003,393 J&J 14,923,459.  Unknown 2-dose 111,445.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10.4%, deaths fell 8.3% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7.9%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.93 million per day.  At least 120,000 American children lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19, according to a study published Thursday in the medical journal Pediatric which examined the fifteen-month period between April 2020 through June 2021. The study’s lead author told NPR that the number is closer to 175,000 today.  “This means that for every four COVID-19 deaths, one child was left behind without a mother, father and/or a grandparent who provided for that child’s home needs and nurture — needs such as love, security, and daily care,” Dr. Susan Hillis, the lead author, and a researcher and epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview with NPR.  Black and Hispanic children were particularly hard hit. They account for more than half of the children who lost a primary caregiver to the pandemic, even though their racial groups represent just 40% of the total population.

Update October 16, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 44,709,010, deaths 720,228.  Fully vaccinated 218,318,056 (65.8%) booster-dose 10,023,131.  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 104,091,511 Moderna 69,407,846 J&J 15,041,965, Unknown 2-dose 113,847.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 13.7%, deaths fell 8.4% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7.4%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.95 million per day.  An independent advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday unanimously recommended a booster dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for people 65 and older and for adults who are at high risk of severe illness because of underlying conditions or exposure on the job.  The recommendation will now be considered by FDA officials, who are expected to reach a decision on the Moderna booster within days. An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that makes recommendations on how vaccines should be used is scheduled to meet Wednesday.  Moderna presented studies of about 350 people who were given a booster dose six months after their initial shots.  Vaccination rates against COVID-19 in the United States have risen by more than 20 percentage points after multiple institutions adopted vaccine requirements, while case numbers and deaths from the virus are down.

Update October 23, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 45,235,796, deaths 731,931.  Fully vaccinated 219,900,525 (66.2%) booster-dose 12,037,101.  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 105,146,362 Moderna 69,765,141 J&J 15,151,881, Unknown 2-dose 116,169.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 13.3%, deaths fell 5.2% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 8.4%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.68 million per day.  The green light from Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, means that eligible Americans at risk of severe disease can choose any of the three boosters now authorized in the United States regardless of their original shot.  Tens of millions of Americans can sign up to get Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters beginning yesterday.  The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe — as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given.  The availability of boosters will be particularly welcome to the 15 million recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, many of whom have been particularly fearful of breakthrough infections given that shot’s lower level of protection compared with the messenger RNA vaccines.

The number of persons in the USA potentially eligible for a booster dose, in millions, on October 22, 2021.

Age Group Pfizer Moderna J&J Total
18-29 4.7 3.0 2.4 10.1
30-49 11.9 8.3 4.5 24.7
50-64 13.2 10.1 4.0 27.3
65+ 17.3 17.7 1.9 36.9
Total 47.1 39.1 12.9 99.7

Update October 30, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 45,759,230, deaths 741,566.  Fully vaccinated 191,997,869 (57.8%) booster-dose 16,682,269 (8.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 106,315,307 Moderna 70,291,347 J&J 15,273,490, Unknown 2-dose 117,725.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 1.5%, deaths fell 9.7% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 5.5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.84 million per day. Health officials on Friday offered more evidence that vaccinations offer better protection against COVID-19 than immunity from a prior infection.  Unvaccinated people who had been infected months earlier were 5 times more likely to get COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people who didn’t have a prior infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in a new study.  The study looked at data from nearly 190 hospitals in nine states. The researchers counted about 7,000 adult patients who were hospitalized this year with respiratory illnesses or symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.  About 6,000 of them had been fully vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines three to six months before they wound up in hospitals. The other 1,000 were unvaccinated but had been infected with COVID-19 three to six months earlier.  About 5% of the vaccinated patients tested positive for the coronavirus vs. about 9% of the unvaccinated group.  The study echoes some earlier research, including studies that found higher levels of infection-fighting antibodies in vaccinated patients.

Update November 6, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 46,268,465, deaths 749,876.  Fully vaccinated 193,425,862 (58.3%) booster-dose 22,271,357 (11.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 107,094,043 Moderna 70,779,636 J&J 15,431,868, Unknown 2-dose 120,315.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 14,961,889 Moderna 7,125,069 J&J 175,497 Unknown 8,902. In the past week, new daily rose 0.6%, deaths fell 14% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 4%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.31 million per day.  Pfizer Inc. said yesterday that its experimental antiviral pill, paxlovid, for COVID-19 cut rates of hospitalization and death by nearly 90% as the drugmaker joins the race to bring the first easy-to-use medication against the coronavirus to the U.S. market.  Currently, all COVID-19 treatments used in the U.S. require an IV or injection. Competitor Merck’s COVID-19 pill molnupiravir, is already under review at the Food and Drug Administration after showing strong initial results, and on Thursday the United Kingdom became the first country to OK it.  Researchers worldwide have been racing to find a pill against COVID-19 that can be taken at home to ease symptoms, speed recovery, and reduce the crushing burden on hospitals and doctors.  The number of people getting COVID-19 vaccine boosters in the U.S. is now far outpacing the number getting their first shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Update November 13, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 46,783,309, deaths 757,663.  Fully vaccinated 194,747,893 (58.7%) booster-dose 27,660,515 (14.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 107,858,398 Moderna 71,186,943 J&J 15,580,406, Unknown 2-dose 122,092.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 17,077,765 Moderna 10,283,624 J&J 291,110 Unknown 8,016. In the past week, new daily rose 8%, deaths fell 8% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 2%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.35 million per day.  Anxious about a surge of coronavirus infections enveloping Europe as cases tick up in the United States, senior health officials in the Biden administration are pressing urgently to offer vaccine booster shots to all adults. But support for the renewed push is not unanimous.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky has expressed caution about making extra shots so broadly available now, according to several officials familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. As a result, tension is rising among officials over how quickly to proceed and who should get the shots.  The debate comes at a critical time for the Biden administration, with top advisers growing increasingly fearful the country could slide backward into a fifth pandemic wave amid colder weather and declining vaccine protection.

Update November 20, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 47,471,270, deaths 768,619.  Fully vaccinated 195,920,566 (59%) booster-dose 33,454,832 (17.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 108,533,298 Moderna 71,543,150 J&J 15,719,927, Unknown 2-dose 124,191.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 19,477,683 Moderna 13,555,019 J&J 412,992 Unknown 9,138. In the past week, new daily rose 24%, deaths rose 12% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 7%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.49 million per day.  Nearly 10 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds in the United States have received their first coronavirus vaccine dose, just two weeks into the immunization campaign for the 28 million young Americans in that age group, Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, said Wednesday.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on a pediatric vaccine for younger children Nov. 2, and the nationwide drive to inoculate that age group was operational Nov. 8.

Update November 27, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 47,916,623, deaths 773,779.  Fully vaccinated 196,168,756 (59.1%) booster-dose 37,499,004 (19.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 108,683,233 Moderna 71,588,162 J&J 15,770,340, Unknown 2-dose 127,021.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 21,244,804 Moderna 15,753,167 J&J 491,148 Unknown 9,885. In the past week, new daily fell 22%, deaths fell 28% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.37 million per day.  On Thursday, top South African health officials held a news conference announcing the discovery of the more contagious variant, saying they began researching the possibility of a new mutation when they discovered a fast-growing cluster of cases in Gauteng, the country’s biggest province.  Officials say they are still trying to determine the origins of the variant — which is known as B.1.1.52 omicron— and that other cases have been discovered in Botswana and Hong Kong.  “Unfortunately, we have new detected a new variant, which is a reason for concern in South Africa. What we have done is to act very quickly,” Tulio de Oliveira, a scientist in South Africa, said at the news conference. “We are trying to identify what we are facing. The main message today is that we have to know the enemy that we fight.”  News of the latest variants arrives as Europe is already applying new lockdowns and travel restrictions for unvaccinated residents in an attempt to contain the latest surge of the virus. Reported deaths in Europe reached nearly 4,200 a day last week — twice the number since the end of September, according to the World Health Organization, which counts 53 countries as part of Europe.

About the Author

John Barry

This is my website where I share my experiences, travels, opinions, and thoughts.

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