COVID-19 variants: Fauci urges vaccination to protect against Delta variant from India

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that more than 6 percent of the sequenced COVID-19 infections in the U.S. trace to the highly transmissible Delta variant that was first found in India.

The Delta variant, known by the scientific name B.1.617.2, has spread from where it was first discovered in India to 60 countries, including the U.K., where it has become the dominant strain making up more than 60 percent of cases.

Fauci warned the Delta variant is “essentially taking over” the U.K. as its transmissibility “appears to be greater” than the Alpha strain, also known as B.1.1.7, that had been the most prevalent in the country after it was first discovered.

What this means: The Alpha strain, that was originally found in the U.K., became the dominant strain in the U.S. by April, which suggests the Delta strain could follow.

“We cannot let that happen in the United States,” Fauci said during a press briefing, calling on people to get vaccinated, including the second dose, to combat the spread of the variant.

Evidence for second dose: Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine “appear to be effective” against the Delta variant.

But three weeks after the first dose of the vaccines, both were 33 percent effective against symptomatic infections from the Delta strain.

Pfizer starting test of COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Tuesday that they will begin to test the effectiveness of their coronavirus vaccine in children younger than 12.

According to Reuters, the companies will conduct a study among nearly 4,500 children across more than 90 clinical sites located in the United States, Poland, Spain and Finland. The study will also follow a specific dosing regimen for certain age groups.

The companies plan to give children between the ages of 5 and 11 a dose of 10 micrograms and children and infants ages 6 months to 5 years a dose of 3 micrograms, the news outlet reported.

In March, Pfizer and BioNTech found their COVID-19 vaccine to be 100 percent effective in children ages 12 to 15. In a clinical trial of 2,260 adolescents, the vaccine was found to generate robust antibody responses.

White House: ‘Small fraction’ of COVID-19 vaccine doses will be unused

White House officials on Tuesday said they were not concerned about the potential for states to have unused Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses go to waste, adding that the federal government is working on strategies to extend the vaccine’s shelf life.

“Our first goal and our first opportunity is that every dose that’s been ordered by a governor in a state gets used,” White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters.

“There is a very very small fraction of doses that have been sent out to states that will ultimately not be used. These will be fractional amounts. And really, will not have any significant bearing on our ability to commit to distribute vaccines globally,” Slavitt said.

Context: Slavitt was responding to a question about Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), who issued an urgent plea Monday evening for vaccine providers to distribute as many doses as possible as quickly as possible.

DeWine said the state has 200,000 doses that will expire by June 23, and he does not have legal options for sending the vaccine elsewhere, either to other states or other countries.

Study: Older Americans saw larger declines in COVID-19 cases, deaths after vaccines became available

Older Americans experienced larger declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths after the vaccine became available compared to those aged 18 to 49, according to a CDC study.

The study published on Tuesday examined the downward trend in cases, emergency department visits, hospital admissions and deaths among those 65 and older since before the vaccine was authorized in December.

The ratio of cases, emergency department visits, hospital admissions and deaths among those 65 and older compared to 18- to 49-year-olds decreased across the board since the time period when vaccines were not available.

At the same time, a higher portion of the older population, 82 percent, had received at least one dose of a vaccine by May 1, compared to 42 percent of 18- to 49-year-olds.

Conclusions: The CDC concluded that the difference among the age groups shows the effectiveness of the vaccines after the population with a higher rate of vaccinations saw a greater decline in cases, hospitalizations and fatalities.

“From November 29, 2020, to May 1, 2021, COVID-19 incidence, ED visits, hospital admissions, and deaths declined more in older adults, who had higher vaccination coverage, than in younger adults, who had lower coverage,” the study reads.



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