America’s Covid cases have surged by half in two weeks, but scientists say there is still ‘no evidence’ that top-up jabs are needed for most Americans — despite a Moderna boss today insisting more jabs will be needed by fall.
Figures from states, counties and local health officials showed a total of 69,334 cases were recorded yesterday, up on the tally from mid-April.
The jump is being driven by the even more infectious Omicron variant BA.2.12.1 that is now behind two in five infections nationwide — up from less than one in ten a month ago.
But U.S. scientists — including Dr Paul Offit, who sits on a top vaccines advisory panel — told DailyMail.com today that despite the rise they ‘just don’t see the need’ for Americans under 50 years old to get a top-up dose yet.
The comments were in stark contrast to Moderna’s CEO Steve Bancel, however, who today declared ‘educated people realize there is waning immunity’ and that boosters will be needed by the fall.
The vaccine-maker is currently working on an Omicron-specific jab that they say will be ready to roll out come September. Pfizer claimed earlier this year it would have a jab against the variant by March, but this has been pushed back.
Covid deaths are also on the rise, ticking up 54 percent in two weeks after 664 were registered yesterday. The U.S. is currently averaging about 380 a day on average, which is no higher than mid-April when 440 were being recorded every 24 hours.
The number of patients suffering from the disease in hospitals has also risen 18 percent in two weeks to 17,532, although this figure includes many who are not seriously ill with the disease.
The US yesterday recorded 69,334 Covid cases, marking out a 50 percent surge in infections on two weeks ago. Cases are ticking up in the country driven by the even more infectious Omicron variant BA.2.12.1, which is dominant in New York and New Jersey and has spread to every corner of the nation
The above map shows the change in Covid cases yesterday compared to two weeks ago. It reveals only four states – Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma and Washington – are currently registering a rise in infections
The above graph shows the number of Covid deaths registered in the US since the pandemic began. These are also rising
Dr Paul Offit, (left) from the FDA’s vaccine advisory panel, told DailyMail.com that despite the rising cases he just did not see the need for Covid boosters to be offered to people younger than 50 years. It came as Stephane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, said people will need boosters this fall because of waning immunity
Just under half of states are now reporting cases, hospitalizations and deaths on a weekly basis rather than every day, making it difficult to track the outbreak across the country.
But data shows cases are consistently pointing upwards amid the spread of the more infectious variant of Omicron, which has now reached every corner of the U.S.
Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising, but experts suggest this is because there is more Covid in the community leading to more people testing positive for the disease when they have been admitted for a separate disease, such as a fall. There is no evidence that the variant triggers more severe disease than the older version.
Covid vaccines may be needed every year, FDA chiefs suggest
Covid vaccines may be needed every year, a trio of top officials at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said.
Writing an opinion piece the journal JAMA, they warned society was heading to a ‘new normal’ that may well include ‘annual Covid vaccination’.
They added that the jab may also need to be updated annually, to protect against new variants.
America already rolls out annual vaccinations against the flu every year to people aged six months and older.
There are growing signs it is now considering the same style roll out for the Covid jab.
Many scientists are calling on the FDA not to approve the jab for people aged 50 years old and younger, however, saying there is currently ‘no evidence’ that their immunity needs to be topped up.
Booster doses were approved for all people aged 12 years and over last year as Omicron burst onto the scene.
But official data shows only 47 percent of this group have got their third dose. Uptake is lowest among 12 to 17-year-olds where only a quarter are boosted.
Only four states — Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma and Washington — are currently registering a drop in Covid cases compared to the same time two weeks ago.
Cases are surging fastest in Missouri (up 186 percent in a week), Indiana (up 149 percent) and Hawaii (up 146 percent).
But scientists today called for calm over the surge, saying there was no evidence yet that top-up shots were needed to bolster immunity among people aged 50 years and younger.
Dr Offit, who sits on a jabs advisory panel at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told DailyMail.com: ‘Right now it looks like protection against serious illness for the most part [among under-50s] is holding up.
‘If the goal was to protect against mild illness, then you are talking about giving frequent boosters.
‘But the only reasonable goal is to protect against serious disease.’
He added: ‘I just don’t see the need [for boosters] right now.’
Dr Monica Ghandi, a top infectious diseases expert from the University of California, San Francisco, agreed saying there was no sign yet that most Americans needed top-up shots.
Dr Ghandi, who previously refused to get her 12 and 14-year-old sons their first booster, told DailyMail.com: ‘We should not need yearly boosters for Covid.
‘Most likely, those who are vulnerable (older, immunocompromised) may need a yearly shot to increase their antibodies, but this should not be true of the majority of the population.
‘There is no evidence that the majority of the population will [need more vaccines].’
She said most people would be able to rely on cellular immunity — or B-cells — to protect against severe disease from Covid and other variants.
‘Antibody-producing B-cells have been shown to recognize the virus, including its variants,’ she said.
‘Although we do not know how long these memory B cells will last, survivors of the 1918 influenza pandemic were able to produce antibodies from memory B cells when their blood was exposed to the same strain nine decades later.’
First boosters are currently being offered to everyone over the age of 12 in the U.S., while second boosters are available to all those more than 50 years old.
But uptake has lagged, with official data showing only 49.5 percent of those eligible have come forward for their top-up doses. It is lowest among 12 to 17-year-olds, where just a quarter have been boosted.
It came as Moderna’s Mr Bancel admitted that in the U.S. there had not been a ‘big uptake’ of its third and then fourth booster dose.
But he told CNBC’s SquawkBox: ‘What we hope for people’s health is that people who are high risk… those people who want to get protected and people who follow the news and are educated realize that there is waning immunity, and that if they don’t want to get sick and they want to have a normal life — they need to get the booster.
He added: ‘I am hoping that people will do what they have been doing for decades regarding flu.’
Asked about the updated Covid shot they are manufacturing to target the Omicron variant, he said: ‘We believe in the science that the Omicron booster will end up being the right choice and provide the only clinical data that we will have or any company will have to provide protection for the fall.
‘If the FDA chooses to pick a new strain at the end of June I don’t think any manufacturer will be ready to make that in time.’
The leading vaccine manufacturer’s Dr Paul Burton revealed this week that it was now testing a shot against Omicron likely to be ‘even more superior’ than its current jab — with ‘large amounts’ set to be available as soon as this September.
All Covid vaccines are currently based on the original Wuhan virus, amid hesitancy among manufacturers to spend months making a new jab in case another variant emerges. If approved, Moderna’s shot would be the first to target the Omicron variant.
Moderna has also submitted a request for its vaccine to be approved among children aged six months to five years old. If this gets the green-light, it will make the U.S. the first country in the world to inoculate children younger than two years.
Studies found the jab was about 37 per cent effective against infection among two to five-year-olds, and 51 per cent effective for those aged under two years.