More evidence suggests vaccines protect against delta variant; Pfizer booster shot extends protection: Live COVID-19 updates

A booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech strongly extends protection, a new study from the companies shows, as case rates in the U.S. have been rising for weeks and the rate of hospitalizations has started to tick up. 

The study comes as another, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found a single dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines “barely inhibited” the delta variant, which first arose in India. However, a second dose “generated a neutralizing response in 95% of individuals,” even if it was a little less potent than against earlier versions of the virus.

“On the one hand we have seen the success of our vaccination programs over the last eight months… and yet on the other hand we are starting to see some new and concerning trends,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.

Because the authorized vaccines largely protect against hospitalization and death from the delta variant, this trend has largely been driven in unvaccinated populations, she said.

Populations like Springfield, Missouri, who on Tuesday reported that hospitalizations in the city tripled in the last month.

“99.5% of COVID deaths over a 6 month period are unvaccinated,” Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer of Mercy Springfield, said on Twitter. “So if you’re vaccinated there is a light at the end of a tunnel. If you’re unvaccinated that’s probably a train.”

Also in the news:

►All of Maryland’s reported coronavirus deaths last month were made up of unvaccinated people, as well as most of the new cases and hospitalizations, the state reported Tuesday.

►Cases have increased over 160% in Los Angeles County over the last week, though vaccinated people remain well protected, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health said. 

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►Trinity Health, one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the U.S., is requiring all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help stop the spread and protect patients, staff and their communities. Trinity is one of the first hospital groups to mandate vaccinations.

►Australian authorities are further tightening restrictions in Sydney after reporting 44 new community cases, the largest number since a coronavirus outbreak began there last month. The city of more than 5 million is already in lockdown.

►Arizona on Thursday reached a coronavirus milestone with 50% of its population, or nearly 3.6 million people, having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.79 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 606,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 185.5 million cases and more than 4 million deaths. More than 158.28 million Americans — 47.7% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: As COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to fall, several states have spent millions of dollars on lottery prizes to encourage unvaccinated Americans to get their shot. Did it work?

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Iowa to stop reporting COVID activity data daily

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s pandemic reporting website is no longer updating daily as the state continues “to transition to COVID-19 pandemic recovery,” according to state’s memo.

State officials outlined the changes in a memo to local public health authorities on June 24. The changes to coronavirus.Iowa.gov went into effect Wednesday.

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All positive and negative tests will continue to be reported, along with demographic data including county of residence, age, gender, race and ethnicity. The positive case analysis, hospitalization analysis, the Regional Medical Coordination Center dashboard and death analysis dedicated pages are still live. 

The changes come as case counts continue to hover around where they were in April 2020, near the beginning of the pandemic and before the coronavirus swept over the state. On Wednesday, 85 people were reported hospitalized in Iowa with COVID-19, an uptick from the recent low of 46 reported on June 24, but far from the November spike that saw more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in a single day.

In March, the Oklahoma State Department of Health adjusted the level of information previously reported in its daily updates. Oklahoma residents can’t see much of the information previously provided over the past year; gender and age of victims are no longer available, but deaths are still being reported, along with their general location.

– Nick Coltrain, Des Moines Register

Vaccine hesitancy not the sole reason for low rates of vaccination in Black and Latino communities

Black and Latino communities often have low vaccination rates, and the reason is often directed towards vaccine hesitancy. A study by CommuniVax shows the reason is more nuanced.

The medical anthropologists who contributed to the study shared in The Conversation that many people in these communities are not “vaccine hesitant” but rather “vaccine impeded.”

Those involved in the study reported feeling excluded from the vaccine because of a lack of access. Challenges included finding transportation, internet access and general information on how to get the vaccine.

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Some, the study suggests, were ambivalent about the vaccine because they felt that the shot had the same threat level as getting infected with COVID-19. They thought that both could lead to illness or complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 63.4% of adults have gotten at least one shot, well below President Joe Biden’s July 4 goal of 70%. About 20 percent of Americans are either refusing to get vaccinated or remain unsure, according to the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

– Steven Vargas

Contributing: The Associated Press.

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