(NEW YORK) — The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.
More than 682,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.7 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The average number of daily deaths in the U.S. has risen about 20% in the last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S. is continuing to sink on the list of global vaccination rates, currently ranking No. 45, according to data compiled by The Financial Times. Just 64.3% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the CDC.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Sep 24, 6:23 am
CDC endorses Pfizer boosters for older and high-risk Americans
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed an independent advisory panel’s recommendation for seniors and other medically vulnerable Americans to get a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, six months after their second dose.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, also partially overruled her agency’s advisory panel in a notable departure by adding a recommendation for a third dose for people who are considered high risk due to where they work, such as nurses and teachers — a group which the panel rejected in its recommendation. Some panelists said that without further data, they weren’t comfortable with automatically including younger people because of their jobs.
In a statement announcing her decision late Thursday, Walensky pointed to the benefit versus risk analysis she had weighed, and data rapidly evolving.
“In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good,” Walensky said. “While today’s action was an initial step related to booster shots, it will not distract from our most important focus of primary vaccination in the United States and around the world.”
With Walensky’s final sign-off, booster shots will now quickly become available for millions more Americans at pharmacies, doctors’ offices and other sites that offer the Pfizer vaccine as soon as Friday.
Sep 23, 8:40 pm
Leaving nurses out of booster recommendation ‘unconscionable,’ union charges
The nation’s largest union of registered nurses pushed back against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel’s vote on COVID-19 booster shots, calling not including front-line workers like nurses in its recommendations “unconscionable.”
National Nurses United is urging CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to bypass what the advisory panel, ACIP, recommended and add nurses and other health care workers to the list of eligible booster recipients.
“Nurses and other health care workers were among the first to be vaccinated because of their high risk of exposure to the virus,” Deborah Burger, the union’s president, said in a statement. “Why leave them out of booster shots?”
“It is unconscionable that ACIP would not vote to keep us safer from death, severe Covid, and long Covid,” Burger continued. “We must do everything possible to ensure that the health of our nurses and other health care workers will not be put even more at risk.”
ACIP voted Thursday to recommend a third Pfizer dose for people aged 65 and older, as well as those as young as 18 if they have an underlying medical condition.
In its authorization Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration did agree to make the shots available to front-line workers. But ACIP said there was not yet enough data to support providing booster shots automatically to young people because of their jobs.
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