Vaccines are by far the most powerful tool available against the coronavirus, protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and dying from the virus.
Unlike many less developed countries, the US has enough doses to vaccinate everyone as well as the necessary infrastructure to support the rollout.
The problem: not everyone wants the shot.
“We do have a problem with vaccine uptake that is very serious in the United States and anything we can do to get people more comfortable to be able to accept these potentially life-saving medical products is something that we feel we are compelled to do,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48.7% of people over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated and received at least one booster dose in the US.
That is a lower rate than in other countries with similar access to vaccines. For example, 69.6% of people over the age of 12 have been boosted in the United Kingdom and 55.5% in Canada. Across the 27 European Union countries, 62.6% of adults have been boosted.
Marks was speaking to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, as it considered the approval of a new Covid-19 vaccine developed by the US biotechnology company Novavax on Tuesday.
Vaccine hesitancy was among the topics discussed in the meeting.
Asked why there is a need for another Covid-19 vaccine in the United States when three vaccines have already been authorized for use — Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, the latter a non-mRNA shot — Marks responded: “The Janssen vaccine is currently not being used as a frontline vaccine, the same way as the mRNA vaccines, which leaves the issue of vaccines for those who might not want to take an mRNA vaccine because of concerns they might have with an mRNA vaccine.”
Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine — administered as two doses three weeks apart — is made using small laboratory-built pieces of the coronavirus to stimulate immunity.
This protein-based approach is a more traditional method of vaccine development than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Has the pandemic caused mental illness in kids or made it worse?
A: The pandemic hasn’t increased mental illness in teens, but instead “unmasked symptoms” that may have otherwise been managed, according to Dr. John Walkup, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Walkup said this means only around 15% of kids who have a mental health issue are getting help.
“Then take away school, family, peer support and sports, and you force them to stay home. You know those kids are not going to do well over time,” he explained.
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CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said that people who are generally healthy, vaccinated and boosted, are at low risk of severe illness due to Covid-19.
“It’s reasonable for many people to say that, given their low risk, they are fine resuming pre-pandemic activities and are not going to restrict their travel or other activities,” she said.
Wen said people should always consider their individual risk factors such as being fully vaccinated with boosters, their own medical risk, and the number of Covid cases in their intended destination.
“There will be many people who are still choosing to be cautious. The good news is that there are also many more tools available to them that were not before in the early stages of the pandemic. There are antiviral pills, for example, that reduce the chance of severe illness even further. And, of course, making sure that they are vaccinated and up to date on boosters also lowers the risk of both severe illness and symptomatic infection,” she added.