Vaccination campaign to focus on hesitant as Biden aims for 70% of adults to have a shot by July 4: Live COVID-19 updates

John Bacon, Jorge L. Ortiz and Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY
·9 min read

To reach his new goal of having 70% of American adults receive at least one vaccine dose by July 4th, President Joe Biden on Tuesday outlined a plan that includes making vaccinations more convenient and convincing those who are hesitant to get the shots.

Biden also said he’s aiming for 160 million Americans to be fully vaccinated by Independence Day – an increase of 54 million over the current total. That figure will be easier to reach once adolescents ages 12-15 become eligible, and the president said his administration will be “ready to move immediately’’ once the FDA grants authorization for those inoculations, which could happen as early as next week.

Almost 148 million Americans, including 56% of those 18 and older, have had at least one vaccine dose, and nearly one-third of the population has been fully vaccinated. But with surveys showing about 25% don’t intend to get the shots, Biden acknowledged, “Now we’re going to have to bring the vaccine to people who are less eager.’’

He unveiled a new number – 438829 – where people can text their ZIP code and get a reply with information on the closest vaccination sites, said most of the government’s 40,000 pharmacy partners would start providing shots for walk-ins without an appointment and mentioned upcoming incentives of grocery store discounts and sporting-event tickets for those willing to get vaccinated.

Toward the end of his presentation at the White House, Biden made an appeal to the American public to help reach the goals he set out.

“We need you. We need you to bring it home. Get vaccinated,’’ he said. “In two months, let’s celebrate our independence as a nation and our independence from this virus. We can do this. We will do this.’’

Also in the news:

►President Joe Biden wants 70% of U.S. adults to have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot by July 4, a goal he is set to announce Tuesday along with new steps to vaccinate harder-to-reach populations and preparations for vaccinating teenagers. Currently, 56.3% of American adults have received at least one dose.

►Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican who tested positive in July, lifted the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration effective Tuesday, citing data that shows declining new cases and hospitalizations.

►The Indiana State Fair will return with some changes this summer, a year after the pandemic forced its cancellation, fair officials announced Tuesday.

►New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a "Shot and Beer" program entitling state residents of drinking age who get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine this month to a free beer at one of 13 craft breweries across the state.

►South Korean officials say North Korea has told Asia’s soccer governing body it would not participate in World Cup qualifiers scheduled to be played in South Korea next month because of coronavirus concerns.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 578,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 153.7 million cases and 3.2 million deaths. More than 318.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 247.7 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 106 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.

📘 What we're reading: I was wrong about the COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s what I learned.

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Pfizer will seek vaccine OK for toddlers and other children

Amid reports that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will get the OK to be used on adolescents age 12-15 by next week, the company has its eyes set on younger age groups.

Pfizer will pursue the FDA's emergency use authorization for the vaccine for children as young as 2 years of age in September and as young as 6 months later in the year, CEO Albert Bourla told investors Tuesday.

The September requests would be submitted for two cohorts, one covering children 5-12 and the other one for those 2-5. Bourla also said the company will seek full approval -- rather than just EUA -- for its widely used vaccine for people 16 and older.

Use it or lose it: Vaccine doses to be reallocated to states with bigger demand

The Biden administration will begin allocating vaccine doses away from states with lower demand to those where demand remains high, an administration official said Tuesday.

The rush for vaccination has ebbed across much of the nation, with some states turning down all or part of their weekly dose allotments. The federal government will now shift some of those doses to areas where appointments remain difficult to get.

Governors were informed of the change by the White House on Tuesday. The official spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity before the expected public announcement later today.

The United States is reporting first-dose vaccine jabs at less than half the pace of just a few weeks ago, a USA TODAY analysis of CDC data shows. The government reported administering 6.54 million first doses in the week ending Monday, down sharply from 14 million reported in the week ending April 13. On Monday alone, the country reported about 471,000 first doses, the lowest number since Feb. 23, when an ice storm had snarled supplies.

More than 147 million Americans, or 44% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose. Herd immunity has been estimated to require vaccination of 70% or more of the population. More than a quarter of all Americans say they don't want the vaccine, surveys indicate.

The good news: Some experts say it may not take "herd immunity" to see a dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases, that another 30 to 40 million first shots could be enough for the United States to reach a vaccine tipping point and containment of the pandemic.

The U.S. is now averaging fewer than 50,000 new coronavirus cases per day, a level not seen since early October and a sign that the vaccination program already is having an impact on the pandemic.

EU expects enough vaccine for 70% of adults in July

A quarter of all European Union residents have received a first dose as the 27-nation bloc's vaccine effort gains momentum after a slow, controversial start, said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, in a message posted on Twitter.

Struggles to obtain solid commitments for vaccine purchases left Europe far behind vaccination campaigns in the U.S and Britain.

“Vaccination is gaining speed across the EU: we have just passed 150 million vaccinations,” vod der Leyen tweeted in multiple languages. “We’ll have enough doses for vaccinating 70% of EU adults in July.”

True 'herd immunity' may not be necessary

It may not take true "herd immunity" to see a dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases, some experts say.

While cases are rising in some states, nationwide they're falling. Perhaps most important, they're dropping quickly in highly vaccinated age groups.

Among Americans 65 and older, who are most vulnerable to the disease, 70% are fully vaccinated. They are 94% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than people of the same age who are not vaccinated, a CDC report last week showed.

"When you’re at 50% or so (vaccinated), you have a significant amount of downward pressure on cases," said Dr. Robert Wachter, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco.

"Half the people who are being potentially exposed to the virus no longer can get it. That’s a very big deal." Read more here.

Elizabeth Weise

Travel restrictions from India go into effect today

The U.S. will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday following a deadly coronavirus surge that has smashed records and left the country in despair.

India has become the first country in the world to report more than 400,000 daily cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as the spike threatens global efforts to tamp down the pandemic and return to pre-COVID life.

The country's official count of total coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system. Here's what we know.

As the crisis in India became more urgent last week, the White House said the U.S. could share as many as 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with other nations once it receives federal approval in the coming months. And the U.S. Agency for International Development began flying emergency supplies to India, including oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests and 100,000 N95 masks to help the country protect its front-line health workers.

FDA set to OK Pfizer vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15

The Food and Drug Administration will soon authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15, who could be eligible to receive the shots as early as next week.

The highly anticipated decision, which is likely to be supported by the CDC, would allow most middle and high school students to get vaccinated before summer camps and the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The current age requirement for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 16, and it's 18 for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots. Those two companies are also testing their vaccines on children under 18.

Besides appeasing parents eager to get their adolescents vaccinated against the coronavirus, the FDA's authorization would expand the pool of Americans eligible to get inoculated at a time when the U.S. vaccination campaign is starting to flag in the face of hesitancy and outright refusal by some people.

In a recent trial, Pfizer-BioNTech showed in 2,260 adolescents ages 12-15 that its two-dose vaccine was extremely safe and entirely effective. Of the 16 adolescents infected by COVID-19 in the trial, all had received the placebo, none the active vaccine.

– Karen Weintraub

Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19: 70% adults with a vaccine shot by July 4; doses reallocated