Biden plans for booster shots nationwide

Jessica Bogert readies a Pfizer vaccine

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Jessica Bogert readies a Pfizer vaccine at Albany County’s POD on May 13.

ALBANY COUNTY — On Wednesday, President Joe Biden made the case for all Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 to get a booster shot.

The shot would be administered eight months after a person received a messenger MRA vaccine — either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech — beginning on Sept. 20.

This plan is pending final Food and Drug Administration evaluation, and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, top federal experts — Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chief Medical Advisor to the President Anthoy Fauci; and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients — went over the plan.

“Having reviewed the most current data, it is now our clinical judgment that the time to lay out a plan for COVID-19 boosters is now ...,” said Murthy. “Recent data makes clear that protection against mild and moderate disease has decreased over time. This is likely due to both waning immunity and the strength of the widespread Delta variant.”

Referring to three new reports posted by the CDC on Wednesday, Murthy went on, “Even though this new data affirms that vaccine protection remains high against the worst outcomes of COVID, we are concerned that this pattern of decline we are seeing will continue in the months ahead, which could lead to reduced protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.”

The plan, he said, is “to stay ahead of this virus by being prepared to offer COVID-19 booster shots to fully vaccinated adults 18 years and older.”

Walensky said, “Examining numerous cohorts through the end of July and early August, three points are now very clear. First, vaccine-induced protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time. Second, vaccine effectiveness against severe disease, hospitalization, and death remains relatively high. And third, vaccine effectiveness is generally decreased against the Delta variant.”

She went on, “And even though our vaccines are currently working well to prevent hospitalizations, we are seeing concerning evidence of waning vaccine effectiveness over time and against the Delta variant.”

Fauci provided the immunological basis to support a third booster mRNA immunization, making four points.

Before he went through slides to illustrate each point, Fauci summarized them: “First, antibody levels decline over time. Second, higher levels of antibody are associated with higher levels of efficacy of the vaccine.

“Third, higher levels of antibody may be required to protect against the problematic Delta variant. And finally, a booster mRNA immunization increases antibody titers by at least tenfold and likely much more.”

Finally, Zients spoke about distribution of the booster shots, saying, “We have enough vaccine supply for every American. And you’ll be able to get a booster at roughly 80,000 places across the country, including over 40,000 local pharmacies. In fact, 90 percent of Americans have a vaccine site within five miles of where they live.”

Zients also said, “Importantly, boosters will be free, regardless of immigration or health insurance status — no ID or insurance required … So, the bottom line is that we are prepared for boosters and we will hit the ground running.”

Biden made several other major points on Wednesday.

Workers in long-term care facilities who serve Medicare and Medicaid enrollees will be required to get vaccinated. Earlier in the week, Governor Andrew Cuomo had made a stipulation that all health-care workers in New York State be vaccinated.

The new federal regulations would apply to nearly 15,000 nursing-home facilities, which employ approximately 1.6 million workers and serve approximately 1.3 million nursing home residents.

“Both CDC and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data confirm a strong relationship between the increase of COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents and the rate of vaccination among nursing home workers,” says a White House fact sheet.

Emphasizing the need for students to return to in-person learning this fall, Biden issued a memorandum to the Secretary of Education, directing him to use all available tools to ensure that governors and other officials are providing a safe return to in-person learning for the nation’s children.

“Last week, at a school board meeting in Tennessee, protesters threatened doctors and nurses who were justified in making the case for masking children in schools,” Biden said at Wednesday’s White House press conference. “The intimidation and threats we’re seeing across the country are wrong.”

Finally, Biden highlighted that his administration would fully reimburse states for eligible COVID-19 emergency response costs — including emergency medical care, non-congregate sheltering, and vaccination operations — through Dec. 31, 2021.

The extension, which was ordered on Tuesday, also allows states to receive retroactive 100-percent federal reimbursement for costs associated with the safe opening and operation of facilities, such as schools, health care facilities, and child care facilities, dating back to the start of the pandemic in January 2020.


Newest numbers

The Capital Region has returned to having the worst infection rate of any of the state’s 10 regions — at 4.70 percent as a seven-day average, as of Wednesday. For a few days, Central New York had a worse rate; it is now at 4.67 percent.

Statewide, the infection rate is 3.15 percent. New York city has the lowest rate, at 3.15 percent.

Both New York State and Albany County continue to have a high rate of transmission, according to the CDC, meaning everyone — vaccinated or not — should wear masks indoors in public.

On Thursday morning, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy announced 55 new cases of COVID-19, with 398 active cases in the county, up from 395 on Wednesday.

County residents under quarantine increased to 684 from 661.

There was one new hospitalization since Wednesday, and 18 county residents are now hospitalized with the virus — a net decrease of six. There are now two patients in intensive-care units, down from three on Wednesday.

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 388. 

“We know the vaccines are protecting the vast majority of residents from the worst illnesses caused by the virus, and I’ve made vaccine equity a top priority since the beginning. That’s why we have opportunities to get the shot in every corner of Albany County over the coming days,” said McCoy in the release. “Whether you live in Albany, Colonie, Coeymans, Guilderland or the Hilltowns, we’re making it as easy as possible to do your part to get us to herd immunity and beat COVID.”

As of Thursday night, according to the state’s vaccine tracker, 65.6 percent of Albany county’s 307.117 residents had gotten at least one shot of vaccine, as had 79.0 percent of county residents 18 or older.

Statewide, 65.6 percent of all New Yorkers and 77.9 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older had gotten one shot. At the same time, 58.6 percent of all New Yorkers had completed a vaccine series while 70.2 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older had.

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