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Biden Meets 100 Million Vaccinations Goal Weeks Ahead of Schedule

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By Ernie Mundell and Robin Foster HealthDay Reporters

FRIDAY, March 19, 2021 (HealthDay News)

President Joe Biden said Thursday that his administration’s promise of 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days of his administration will be met Friday, more than 40 days ahead of schedule.

“I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met our goal,” Biden said during a speech on the state of the country’s vaccination campaign. He added that he would unveil a new vaccination target next week, with the United States expecting to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population by May 1, the Associated Press reported.

Ahead of Biden’s remarks, the White House announced it was finalizing plans to send a combined 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of surplus shots, the AP reported.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the details of the “loan” were still being worked out, but 2.5 million doses would go to Mexico and 1.5 million would be sent to Canada.

“Our first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population,” Psaki told reporters. But she added that “ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is a mission critical step, [and] is mission critical to ending the pandemic.”

The 100 million-dose goal was first announced on Dec. 8, days before the United States had even one authorized vaccine for COVID-19, let alone three. By the time Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 20 million shots had been given at a rate of about 1 million per day, the AP reported.

Now, an average of about 2.2 million doses each day are going into the arms of Americans. That pace will likely jump later this month with an expected surge in vaccine supply, the AP said.

Biden has moved to speed deliveries of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as to expand the number of places to get shots and people who can administer them, the AP reported.

COVID reinfection rare, but seniors more vulnerable

Reinfection with COVID-19 in people who’ve already had the illness is very rare, and most people are protected against reinfection for at least six months, a new report finds.

However, immunity appears to drop sharply in those aged 65 and older, researchers found.

Reporting Wednesday inThe Lancet, a team of Danish scientists looked at reinfection rates among 4 million people during the second surge of COVID-19 — from September through Dec. 31 — and compared this to infection rates during the first surge between March and May.

Of the 11,068 people who tested positive during the first surge, only 72 tested positive again during the second.

But age mattered.

The older age group had only about 47% protection against repeat infection, compared to younger people who seemed to have about 80% protection from reinfection, the team discovered. Less than 1% of those under 65 were reinfected, while 3.6% of people 65 and older suffered a second bout of COVID-19.

The finding does not come as a complete surprise, since people’s immune systems weaken as they age.

“Given what is at stake, the results emphasize how important it is that people adhere to measures implemented to keep themselves and others safe, even if they have already had COVID-19,” study co-author Dr. Steen Ethelberg, of the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark, said in a journal news release.

“The takeaway is that the elderly must continue to practice mitigation measures such as wearing masks and social distancing — along with getting vaccinated — even if they have been previously diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said that second bouts of COVID-19 might not be as severe as a first encounter.

“We’ve known that with other coronaviruses, reinfection is common after a several months-long period of time — which appears to be the case with SARS-CoV-2 as well — and they are generally mild,” he said.

In a commentary that accompanied the study, immunologists Dr. Rosemary Boyton and Daniel Altmann, of Imperial College London, called the variation in reinfection rates “relatively alarming.”

“Only 80% protection from reinfection in general, decreasing to 47% in people aged 65 years and older, are more concerning figures than offered by previous studies,” they wrote.”These data are all confirmation, if it were needed, that for SARS-CoV-2 the hope of protective immunity through natural infections might not be within our reach and a global vaccination program with high-efficacy vaccines is the enduring solution.”

States expand COVID vaccine eligibility

States are rapidly expanding eligibility for coronavirus vaccines as they race to meet President Joe Biden’s deadline to have shots for all American adults by May 1.

At the beginning of the vaccine rollout, COVID-19 vaccines were available only to the most vulnerable Americans and some essential workers. Now, three states — Maine, Virginia and Wisconsin — along with Washington, D.C., have said they will open eligibility to their general population by May 1, The New York Times reported. At least six other states — including Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, Montana and Utah — hope to do so this month or next.

Meanwhile, anyone aged 16 or older can now get a vaccine In Mississippi and Alaska, while Arizona and Michigan have made the vaccines available to all adults in some counties, the Times reported.

With three coronavirus vaccines now in use, Biden has set a lofty goal that many states intend to reach.

Several have already been expanding eligibility for vaccinations. In Ohio, vaccines will open to anyone 40 and up as of Friday, and to more residents with certain medical conditions, the Times reported. Indiana extended access to people 45 and older, effective immediately.

Coloradans age 50 and up will be eligible for a shot on Friday, along with anyone 16 years and older with certain medical conditions, the Times reported. And Wisconsin said on Tuesday that residents aged 16 and up with certain medical conditions would be eligible a week earlier than initially planned. On Monday, Texans age 50 and older and Georgians over 55 became eligible for vaccines.

In New York, residents aged 60 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine, and more frontline workers will become eligible on Wednesday, including government employees, building services workers and employees of nonprofit groups. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to announce how or when the state will open eligibility to all adults.

Since vaccinations began in December, the federal government has delivered more than 151 million vaccine doses to states and territories, with 115 million doses delivered into arms, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country is averaging about 2.4 million shots a day, compared with well under 1 million a day in January, the Times said.

As of Friday, 66 percent of the country’s seniors had received at least one vaccine dose, with 38.6 percent fully vaccinated.

At the same time, coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations are significantly down from the peak levels reported in January, the Times reported. But progress has slowed noticeably since the beginning of March, with continued drops in some states offset by persistent outbreaks in other parts of the country, especially the Northeast.

A global scourge

By Friday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 29.6 million while the death toll passed 539,000, according to a Times tally. On Friday, the top five states for coronavirus infections were: California with over 3.6 million cases; Texas with more than 2.7 million cases; Florida with nearly 2 million cases; New York with more than 1.7 million cases; and Illinois with over 1.2 million cases.

Curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains challenging.

In Brazil, the coronavirus case count was nearly 11.8 million by Friday, with nearly 287,000 deaths, a Johns Hopkins University tally showed. India had over 11.5 million cases and more than 159,000 deaths as of Friday, the Hopkins tally showed.

Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 121.2 million on Friday, with nearly 2.7 million deaths recorded, according to the Hopkins tally.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

SOURCES: Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Baltimore; Robert Glatter, MD, emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Associated Press; The New York Times

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