All Americans Will Be Vaccine Eligible by May 1
A roundup of the most important Covid-19 vaccine news this week
Around the world, six vaccines have been approved for limited use and six approved for full use. This week, the European Union granted emergency use authorization to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Vaccines are being rolled out in many nations, but access to vaccines and vaccination rates vary widely around the world. Israel, with 44.2% of its population fully vaccinated, is the leader in the global rollout, followed by Seychelles and Bahrain. The United States, with 10.2% of its population fully vaccinated, is in fourth place, down from third last week. Many countries have not yet started vaccinating their populations.
This week, the Biden administration made sweeping moves to expand vaccine access to all Americans, and the number of doses administered in the United States is nearing 100 million. While vaccination in the United States and other wealthy nations is moving along steadily, the inequity of the global vaccine rollout is becoming more stark.
Biden tells states to make all Americans vaccine-eligible by May 1
On Thursday, in a primetime address from the White House to mark the first anniversary of the pandemic, President Biden directed all states, tribes, and territories to make all adult Americans eligible for the vaccine by May 1. The Biden administration has projected that it will have more than enough vaccines for all Americans by that point. He also pledged to open more vaccination sites, launch a federal program to help Americans find vaccines, and expand the number of people authorized to administer vaccines.
Biden buys 100 million more doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
On Wednesday, President Biden announced a plan to purchase 100 million additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The move means that the U.S. will have more than enough doses to vaccinate all Americans. Biden said that the additional doses are meant to help the United States stay flexible if it encounters “unexpected challenges” but noted that extra supply would be shared with the rest of the world, as Reuters reported.
New guidance from the CDC for people who are fully vaccinated
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevented announced welcome new guidance for people who are fully vaccinated this week. As my colleague Dana Smith wrote in the Coronavirus Blog on Tuesday, the updated guidance says that fully vaccinated people may socialize indoors without masks with other people who are fully vaccinated. In addition, one fully vaccinated household may socialize indoors with another household of unvaccinated people, as long as no one in the latter is at high risk of severe Covid-19.
New survey suggests no difference in vaccine hesitancy between Black and white Americans
Experts have raised concerns about vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans because of the medical racism they have endured, historically and presently. More recently, however, some have pointed out that vaccine hesitancy is not unique to Black people, even though they have been the focus of the media. On Friday, results from a new survey by NPR, PBS NewsHour, and Marist Poll show that there is only a small difference in hesitancy between Black and white Americans, with 25% of Black respondents and 28% of white respondents saying they did not plan to get vaccinated. Notably, the majority of both groups — 73% of Black people and 73% of white people — said they had already been vaccinated or were planning to do so.
Novavax confirms its vaccine works against Covid-19 and variants
On Thursday, the Maryland-based vaccine maker Novavax said its vaccine was 96.4% effective against mild, moderate, and severe disease in its Phase 3 trial of 15,000 people in the United Kingdom. It also said that data from a Phase 2b trial showed that the vaccine was 55.4% effective in South Africa, where the more transmissible B.1.351 variant makes up the majority of cases. Novavax, a relatively little-known company, received $1.6 billion through Operation Warp Speed to develop its vaccine.
Pfizer data from Israel shows vaccine prevents asymptomatic infections too
Data released on Thursday by Pfizer/BioNTech and Israel’s Ministry of Health show that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine prevented 94% of asymptomatic cases and 97% of symptomatic cases. It’s especially promising news because asymptomatic cases are a major driver of transmission. The data, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was collected during Israel’s vaccination rollout between January 7 and March 16.
Some European countries suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine due to controversial medical claims
In a move that has been criticized for lacking scientific support, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway have paused the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, citing reports of people who developed blood clots after receiving the vaccine. Officials emphasized that the move was precautionary and that there was no causal evidence to support it, as the New York Times reported. AstraZeneca says it did not see any evidence of a higher incidence of blood clots in its safety trials, and on Thursday, the European Medicine Agency stated: “There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine.”