Coronavirus update: Concern about rising cases, White house steps up vaccination goals

Photo (c) Darryl Fonseka - Getty Images

Tests suggest that vaccines work in ‘real world’ settings

Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 30,335,188 (30,267,561)

Total U.S. deaths: 550,121 (549,364)

Total global cases: 127,818,432 (127,319,002)

Total global deaths: 2,794,820 (2,785,838)

Public health officials increasingly uneasy about rising cases

U.S. health officials are on edge as new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have begun to rise again, just as millions of Americans are getting vaccinations against it. 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stepped up the concern several notches when she said she has a feeling of “impending doom” if another wave of the virus hits. Others in the medical profession share her concern.

"There's still a lot of vulnerable people out there. A lot of people are going to get sick and die unnecessarily when we're so close to the finish line," Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN.

White House steps up vaccination goals

By just about any measure, the U.S. has set records for the speed at which people are getting vaccinated against the virus. President Biden, who just weeks ago said all Americans should be eligible to receive the shot by May 1, has moved the date up to April 19.

Getting the vaccine will also be easier. About 40,000 retail pharmacies have now been enlisted in the distribution network -- up from 17,000 -- to allow the vast majority of Americans to get their shots within five miles of home.

Biden has set a goal of administering 200,000 doses of the vaccine by April 30, and that goal may be moved up. According to the Brown School of Public Health’s vaccine dashboard, the U.S. is about two-thirds of the way to reaching that goal.

Tests show vaccines work in ‘real world’ conditions

The vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech and the one developed by Moderna went through extensive clinical trials in order to win emergency use authorization (EUA). But how do they perform in a real-world setting? 

Researchers followed first responders who received either of the vaccines to find out. The CDC study found that both vaccines performed as advertised, with 90 percent of the recipients being shielded from infection despite their interaction with the public on a daily basis.

Some 11 percent of infections did not cause symptoms, though the study determined that 58 percent of the cases occurred in people whose infections were identified by testing before they developed symptoms.

Study shows ‘vaccine hesitancy’ has significantly declined

When the COVID-19 vaccines rolled out in December, there were plenty of people -- including health care professionals -- who questioned their safety and said they probably would not get vaccinated. Those doubts, however, are quickly disappearing.

As more people have rolled up their sleeves, a study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that fewer Americans are unwilling to be vaccinated. The findings show that the percentage of adults saying they would either definitely or probably not get vaccinated has fallen to 17 percent, down from 22 percent in January.

Vaccine hesitancy appeared to be highest in the South. However, the survey found declines in hesitancy in several southern states, including Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Doctors say many vaccinated people aren’t giving informed consent

In the rush to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, many vaccination recipients aren’t giving informed consent, according to Physicians for Civil Defense. Dr. Jane Orient, the group’s president, points out that the vaccines are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that they are only being administered under emergency use authorization (EUA).

The group says all vaccine recipients should sign a consent form and be given a copy of the EUA Fact Sheet. 

The fact sheet for the Moderna COVID-19 product lists symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, and it also states that the vaccine is still being studied in clinical trials.

Around the nation

  • California: Beginning in April, theme parks in the state can be open with indoor rides, but state health officials say people in line must remain outside and socially distanced. Parks that open on Thursday will be limited to no more than 15 percent of maximum capacity until there is a decline in coronavirus cases in the county that is home to the parks.

  • Pennsylvania: COVID-19 cases have moved sharply higher in the last week, increasing nearly 23 percent. While health officials are concerned, they say cases are not rising nearly as fast as last fall, when infections surged by more than 50 percent.

  • Louisiana: State health officials say there are now plenty of vaccine doses but fewer people who want to get the shot. While people were told to wait their turn two months ago when the vaccine rolled out, officials say they are now pleading with people to get vaccinated.

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