GOP leaders back COVID-19 vaccines as red states struggle with shots


Business Insider 15 July, 2021 - 08:31am 33 views

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Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told the New York Times on Wednesday that it was an "enormous error for anyone to suggest that we shouldn't be taking vaccines." "Look, the politicization of vaccination is an outrage and frankly moronic," he said.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Wednesday that most vaccine skepticism was "based on conspiracy theories, unfortunately." Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Tuesday that "we need to keep preaching that getting the vaccine is important."

Romney said that President Trump "moved heaven and earth to get vaccines developed on a timely basis" and it would be "an insult to the accomplishment" if people still failed to get the shots, per the Times.

Meanwhile, many Republicans remain skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines, believing the public health campaign to be an infringement on personal liberty. On Monday, several GOP state lawmakers proposed a new law to make it illegal to "discriminate" against people who aren't vaccinated. 

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: 'The possibilities are endless'

Utah, Texas, and Kentucky, which are all red-leaning states, have below-average vaccine rates with respectively 45%, 43%, and 44% fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national average is 48.2%. 

Insider reported on Tuesday that the highest number of new cases caused by the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant are mostly in states with low vaccination rates — which on the whole are Republican.

Utah and Kentucky fit this trend with more than 80% of new infections caused by the Delta variant, according to Scripps Research, which uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Kentucky, the formerly dominant Alpha variant accounts for about 60% of new infections, and Delta 30%. The exact numbers of Delta infection may vary because not all positive tests are sequenced.

Read full article at Business Insider

Delta variant's rise plunges Europe into uncertainty — and offers a warning to the U.S.

Yahoo! Voices 15 July, 2021 - 11:11am

The swift spread of the Delta variant, however, has upended all of that wishful thinking and is offering a warning to the U.S.

Fast becoming the dominant strain of COVID-19 across Europe, Delta is wreaking havoc in Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Spain alone reported nearly 44,000 cases on Tuesday, doubling the number recorded one week ago. Trying to blunt the effect of the strain that is expected by August to account for 70 to 90 percent of all cases in the EU, countries on the continent are clamping on new restrictions to counter a mutation that is at least twice as infectious at the variety that shuttered the world in 2020.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday that patrons must now present “health passes” showing full vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter bars, cafés, restaurants, theaters or museums. Greece and Portugal have imposed similar requirements for those wishing to dine out or check into hotels. In the Netherlands, nightclubs and discos, closed for a year, opened for mere days before Prime Minister Mark Rutte ordered them shut again.

“What we thought was possible in practice turned out to be wrong after all,” Rutte explained.

In Malta — the world’s only country where over 70 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated — the government has barred all entry to people who have not been vaccinated.

Curfews are being reinstated in Spain; in Barcelona, a hotbed of the Delta variant, nightclubs that opened two weeks ago are now shuttered again. Bars, restaurants and all nonessential businesses have been ordered to close by 12:30 a.m., and further restrictions are expected to soon follow.

As in the U.S., where Delta is also now the leading strain, COVID-19 case numbers in Europe that had been dropping in the past three months are back on the rise. With just 44 percent of Europeans fully vaccinated, there remains a large swath of the population who are particularly vulnerable to infection.

“Right now if you’re under-vaccinated or unvaccinated, you’re at high risk of getting Delta when there’s so much transmission,” Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston told Yahoo News.

For tens of millions of Europeans who are awaiting their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the risks from Delta are very real. Research indicates that a single shot reduces the likelihood of contracting the virus by only 30 percent or less.

“A single dose, especially with the AstraZeneca vaccine, provides relatively little protection,” Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Yahoo News.

The suggested protocol for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is widely used across Europe, is to wait three months between doses, opening a window of opportunity for the virus to continue spreading. In response, many places are now speeding up the wait time. In Barcelona, for example, officials winnowed down the time frame between doses to just one month.

And while the Delta variant in Europe is largely affecting unvaccinated 15- to 30-year-olds, many of whom came last month to party in Spain and who may experience it as a bad cold, the upsurge in new cases presents a hazard for all. Hospital admissions are quickly rising in Spain, and the spread of the virus has the potential to infect those already vaccinated. Even the younger cohort should be worried, Hotez said, because “between 10 to 30 percent of them are getting long-haul COVID and potentially neurologic disability.”

“Delta is everywhere in Lisbon,” said Portugal-based art director Polly O’Flynn, whose entire creative team was stricken ill after an indoor lunch in late June. “The mood feels dark.”

“The Delta variant is a result of a double mutation in the virus,” Spain-based Dr. Daniel Lopez Acuña, former director of WHO in charge of crisis management, told Yahoo News. “One mutation increases the transmissibility of this variant,” he added, while “the second mutation increases its probability of escaping or avoiding the efficacy of the vaccine.”

“Everybody is vulnerable,” said Lopez, who urged people to continue using masks and to avoid crowds, even if they’re fully vaccinated.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is urging Europeans to keep up their guard, while pushing countries to “speed up their vaccination efforts and really put an emphasis also on complete vaccination,” said Helena Gomes, who heads the ECDC’s Scientific Process and Methods division and is currently running the agency’s COVID-19 dedicated team. “Even the vaccines do not reduce the risk to zero. But if we reach a vaccine effectiveness of around 90 percent or over 90 percent with two shots, this is the most powerful tool that we actually have. So we are really stressing the need for complete vaccination.”

But while most of the continent is frantically trying to slam on the brakes, the United Kingdom, which left the European Union seven months ago, is going its own way. On Sunday, London’s Wembley Stadium was filled with 60,000 raucous soccer fans who smashed in to the Euro 2020 championship — a sight that made health officials shudder.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist and COVID-19 technical lead, tweeted during the match, “Am I supposed to be enjoying watching transmission happening in front of my eyes?… #SARSCoV2 #DeltaVariant will take advantage of unvaccinated people, in crowded settings, unmasked, screaming/shouting/singing. Devastating.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, is pushing ahead with a plan to entirely reopen his country on July 19, designated as “Freedom Day.” Protesting the move, 115 scientists, physicians, epidemiologists and public health officials published an open letter last week in the Lancet calling on Johnson to drop the plan. “We believe the government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment,” they wrote, “and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19, 2021.”

For the moment, however, Johnson’s government has given no indication that it will change course. Instead, it plans to drop all mask requirements as well as limits on crowd sizes and requirements to quarantine — although with only 52 percent fully vaccinated there, a health minister warned Britons that they may see daily cases balloon to 100,000 or more. The U.K., where 11 million are awaiting their second shots, is hustling to make more of those vaccines available in the days before Freedom Day launches.

As for the rest of Europe, French President Macron, who like the leaders of Italy and Greece is now also mandating vaccinations for health care workers, may have stumbled on the most effective means to spur holdouts to finally roll up their sleeves. In the hours after he announced that “health passes” would be required to enter French cafés, restaurants or bars, over 1.3 million French people made vaccine appointments.

While Europeans are generally taking the reversing of course without excessive grumbling, public health scientist and sociologist Richard Carpiano, professor of public policy at the University of California, Riverside, hopes that things don’t get so bad in the U.S. “We’re in a quandary. We’ve opened up, and so if there is a need to go back to mask mandates or things get bad enough that we’re having to go back into closing places down, that is going to be politically tricky. It would be a political tightrope we’d have to walk.”

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Delta variant fuels COVID surge in Mississippi: Seven children are hospitalized in ICU

Daily Mail 15 July, 2021 - 11:11am

By Ariel Zilber For and Associated Press

Seven children have been hospitalized in the intensive care unit in Mississippi where public health officials are warning that the Delta variant is fueling a surge in COVID cases statewide.

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told ABC News on Tuesday that of the seven children in the ICU, two of them are on ventilators.

'Delta Surge - be careful,' Dobbs tweeted on Tuesday.

Initially, Dobbs said that 12 children were in intensive care after contracting COVID-19, but that number was later revised to seven after a hospital corrected an earlier report.

A prisoner at the Bolivar County Correctional Facility reacts as he receives a COVID-19 vaccination administered by medical workers in Cleveland, Mississippi on April 28

Medical workers with Delta Health Center wait to vaccinate people at a pop-up vaccination clinic in this rural Delta community on April 27, 2021 in Hollandale, Mississippi. Mississippi has the lowest vaccination rate in the country with just one out of three adults fully inoculated 

'Please be safe and if you are 12 or older - please protect yourself,' he said.

Mississippi has the lowest vaccination rate in the country. 

With just 33.4 percent of residents fully vaccinated, COVID-19 infections have spiked in Mississippi by 57 percent from an average of 192 cases recorded on June 28 to an average of 303 per day on July 12. 

Children are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19, yet they represent nearly 14 percent of the nation's coronavirus cases.

The state has seen a rise in the number of hospitalizations in recent weeks

COVID-19 infections have spiked in Mississippi by 57 percent from an average of 192 cases recorded on June 28 to an average of 303 per day on July 12

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 325,000 Mississippians have contracted COVID-19. Nearly 7,500 have died

State health officials report nearly 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks

At least 296 have died from COVID-19 in the United States alone, and more than 15,000 have been hospitalized, according to a tally by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In May, the US authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 and up.

Moderna has said that its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12 but has not received FDA authorization for teenagers yet. 

It is not clear how old the children who fell ill in Mississippi were or whether or not they were eligible for the vaccine.

The state has seen an alarming increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent days.

On June 21, 91 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mississippi. On Sunday, that number had risen to 228 people, according to health officials, who blame the Delta variant.

The variant has now become the predominant strain of coronavirus.

The uptick in cases has prompted the Mississippi State Department of Health to block comments on its Facebook posts that relate to COVID-19 because of a 'rise of misinformation' about the virus and vaccinations, a health official said.

'The comments section of our Facebook page has increasingly come to be dominated by misinformation about COVID-19,' state health department spokesperson Liz Sharlot said in a statement.

Sharlot said allowing the comments that 'mislead the public about the safety, importance and effectiveness of vaccination' is 'directly contrary' to the state's public health mission, which includes encouraging members of the public to be vaccinated against the virus, which has been recently making a resurgence in the state.

Only about 31 percent of Mississippians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a statistic that ranks near the bottom of US states.

The Department of Health posts multiple times each day on its Facebook page about COVID-19.

Posts include information on numbers of new coronavirus cases in the state, details on pop-up vaccination clinics and transportation services to vaccination clinics for homebound residents.

Sharlot said the comments will be back when the department has 'the resources to effectively curb misleading, harmful and off-topic commentary that disserves the public.'

Federal regulators have said the vaccines are safe and offer strong protection against contracting the potentially life-threatening disease.

Mississippi health officials announced on Friday that they are recommending that people 65 and older and those with chronic underlying medical conditions refrain from attending indoor mass social gatherings in the coming weeks because of a rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

State officials have also advised in the last week that vulnerable people should avoid indoor mass gatherings whether or not they are vaccinated, through at least July 26, and that people who are not vaccinated should wear a mask when in public settings.

The number of COVID-19 cases has started to surge nationwide after months of decline, with the number of new cases per day doubling over the past three weeks.

Doctors and public health officials have said that the surge, in 43 out of the country's 50 states, comes amid a rise in the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and stagnating vaccination numbers.

Health experts warn that the worrying increase in cases is linked to the Indian 'Delta' variant, which accounts for as many 97 percent of infections in some states.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data updated last week shows that the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, makes up 51.7 percent of all new infections - making it the dominant form of the virus in the United States.

The Delta variant has been detected in all 50 states and accounts for more than 80 percent of new infections in Midwestern states such as Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, where vaccination rates are lagging.

In the United States, 59 percent of adults are fully vaccinated while 68 percent have at least one shot, according to CDC data.

Dr. Chris Pernell, a fellow at the American College of Preventative Medicine, called it a 'pandemic of the unvaccinated' in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

'This is primarily a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And we need to be very clear about that message,' Dr. Pernell said.

She also hit out at states like Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, and Utah that have blocked COVID-19 vaccine requirements in schools.

'To flat out prohibit COVID-19 vaccination is not in anyone's best interest. When states make that move, they get in the way of good and effective public health,' she said.  

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