Vaccine racial disparity gap narrows; 400K Americans got booster shots last weekend: COVID-19 updates

·10 min read

The gap in racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates is closing, according to new survey data released Tuesday.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found 73% of Hispanic adults, 71% of white adults and 70% of Black adults in the U.S. had already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The numbers were "very, very encouraging to see," Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who is leading the White House's effort on health equity, said during a news conference.

Earlier in the nation's vaccination efforts, data showed a much wider gap among vaccination rates between different racial and ethnic groups, driven by barriers to access and misconceptions, Nunez-Smith said. The new data is "the result of intentional work to address those barriers, to address those concerns," she said.

The survey also found among those with the lowest vaccination rates were white, evangelical Christians, rural residents, Republicans and the uninsured under age 65.

Among U.S. adults who received the vaccine more recently, fear of the delta variant and associated hospitalizations and deaths was the biggest motivating factor, the survey found. Vaccine mandates and FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine played a more minor role.

Also in the news:

►Pfizer and BioNTech said Tuesday that they have submitted data from a clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 to the Food and Drug Administration. The companies plan to submit a request for emergency use authorization of the vaccine in young children after data showed it is safe and effective at one-third the dose used in adolescents and adults.

►LeBron James' vaccination status is no longer a mystery. The four-time NBA MVP revealed Tuesday at the Los Angeles Lakers preseason media day that he has received the COVID-19 vaccine.

►Delaware Gov. John Carney on Tuesday announced all teachers and school staff in Delaware will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.

►Wegmans pharmacies are now offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by appointment only.

►The rising number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has placed a new burden on northeast Ohio hospitals. Leaders from a number of hospitals in the area said they were facing a shortage of beds and lengthy wait times for emergency care.

►Rapid COVID-19 tests are in short supply across California, forcing some testing facilities to turn away those seeking a quick test, even workers who need the tests as part of regular screening mandates.

►A statewide eviction moratorium ends in California on Friday, but officials are rushing to make sure tenants with unpaid rent know they can still stay in their homes after that date if they've already applied for assistance from the state.

►French President Emmanuel Macron announced psychology appointments in France will be funded by the government starting next year, following a surge in depression amid the COVID-19 pandemic. State health care systems in Britain, Germany and some other countries already fund therapy sessions.

📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 43 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 690,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 232 million cases and 4.7 million deaths. More than 183 million Americans – 55% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we're reading: Monoclonal antibody treatment, while also safe and effective against COVID-19, provides protection that is temporary, less adaptable, harder to access and far more costly for taxpayers, and sometimes, patients themselves. So why do some people resist vaccines but embrace monoclonal antibodies? Read more here.

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400K Americans got booster shots last weekend

More than 400,000 Americans got Pfizer booster shots last weekend through local pharmacies in the opening days of the U.S effort to provide more protection for vulnerable populations.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said an additional 1 million people have scheduled booster shots for the coming weeks. He added: "We’re off to a very strong start with the booster campaign."

As many as 25 million people qualify for the third dose of the Pfizer shot, which was authorized last week for those 65 or older, those with pre-existing conditions or facing an elevated risk at their workplace.

U.S. officials say their primary focus is ensuring the roughly 25% of eligible Americans who have yet to get their first shot do so. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says a major priority is the vaccination rate among pregnant people, which stands at 30% nationally and at 15% among Black pregnant people.

– The Associated Press

New York expands health care workforce amid COVID vaccine mandate

Fearing a staff shortage at hospitals and nursing homes, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order late Monday to expand the pool of eligible workers as a mandate took effect to require COVID-19 vaccines for all health care employees.

The executive order will allow retirees to more easily reenter the workforce and expands the pool of staff who can administer COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. The state will also set up a monitoring center headed by the Department of Health to address any specific staffing shortages, and Hochul said she is still contemplating bringing in the National Guard if need be to assist at facilities.

While a small percentage of the 650,000 workers appear to have rejected the mandate, Hochul released data Tuesday that showed the mandate led to a surge in the vaccine rates at health care facilities.

The percentage of nursing home staff receiving at least one vaccine dose jumped to 92% on Monday evening, up from 70% on Aug. 15, her office said. Meanwhile, 89% of adult care facilities staff had gotten at least one dose, up 76% on Aug. 15, and 84% of hospital staff was fully vaccinated as of Sept. 22 — an increase from 77% in early August.

Stephen Hanse, who represents nursing homes statewide as president of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living, said many employers are giving staff who chose not to get vaccinated an unpaid leave of absence. "There’s such a workforce crisis that the providers don’t want to sever that relationship," Hanse said.

Vaccine mandate deadlines were also taking effect this week in California, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

– Joseph Spector, New York State Team

Ohio state employees could earn up to $1K for getting vaccine

State employees could earn up to $1,000 for getting a COVID-19 shot because of a new "bonus" incentive Ohio officials announced this week.

State employees have been eligible for $100 for getting an initial shot since late July. Now, employees will be eligible for an additional $300 if 65% of an agency's active employees where they work have received at least the first dose by Oct. 15. They'll get another $600 if 85% of active employees have received one dose by Nov. 15.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said "there's room for improvement" for vaccinating the state's workforce – more than 50,500 employees. He noted that a number of state workers interact with the public. Read more here.

– Jackie Borchardt, The Columbus Dispatch

Global vaccinations continue to fall

Global vaccine administration has continued to fall, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security warned in a newsletter Tuesday. Globally, some 44.7% of people are partially vaccinated and 32.9% are fully vaccinated. Africa is quite far behind the global vaccination rate, with about 4.2% of people fully vaccinated, the organization said.

Reports of COVID-19 cases and deaths have also fallen substantially in the world in the last month, Johns Hopkins University data shows. Compared with the week ending Aug. 26, the week ending Monday has 30% fewer cases and 21.2% fewer deaths, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

– Mike Stucka

$825M to be distributed to community mental health centers

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced Tuesday it was distributing $825 million in grants to 231 community mental health centers across the country as Americans continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement Act of 2021, SAMHSA said.

From August 2020 through February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, and the percentage of those reporting an unmet mental health care need increased from 9.2% to 11.7%, according to CDC data.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our ability to ensure timely access to treatment services and recovery supports. This funding will help CMHCs address local needs, which have become even more urgent in the past year," Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, head of SAMHSA, said in a press release.

At-home COVID-19 tests hard to find as Biden mandate looms

The Biden administration will spend nearly $2 billion on coronavirus home tests in tandem with a vaccinate-or-test mandate for corporate America.

But experts say the administration’s purchase of 280 million non-laboratory tests won’t be enough to meet testing needs as private employers, K-12 schools and a delta variant-driven testing surge make it harder to find timely tests.

"We’re hitting a crisis and the tests the president is going to be purchasing are not nearly sufficient," said Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard epidemiologist who has advocated broader use of home tests as a public health measure. Read more here.

– Ken Alltucker

Appeals panel says NYC teacher vaccine mandate can go ahead

A three-judge federal panel ruled late Monday that New York City's COVID-19 vaccine requirement for its teachers can take effect.

The ruling comes after a judge last week temporarily blocked the mandate from going into place Monday so that the group of teachers challenging the requirement could have their argument heard.

The ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows the requirement to be put back into place, but lawyers for the teachers group said they will seek relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had issued the requirement of the city's teachers and educational staff. Teachers have until the end of this week to get vaccinated, he said.

California prison staff required to vaccinate, judge orders

A federal judge on Monday ordered that all employees entering California prisons be vaccinated or have a religious or medical exemption, as he tries to head off an outbreak like the one that killed 28 inmates and a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison last year.

More than 50,000 California inmates have been infected and at least 240 have died since the start of the pandemic.

"All agree that a mandatory staff vaccination policy would lower the risk of preventable death and serious medical consequences among incarcerated persons," wrote U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar. "And no one has identified any remedy that will produce anything close to the same benefit."

New Boston Celtics coach starts tenure with COVID-19

This isn’t exactly how Ime Udoka drew things up to kick off his tenure as the new head coach of the Boston Celtics. While the team’s players were on hand for an in-person media day Monday, Udoka had to partake in the event virtually after contracting a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

Udoka, who is vaccinated, said he was mostly asymptomatic aside from a slight headache at the outset of having the virus. Udoka was in his 10th day of isolation and he hopes to be with the Celtics on Tuesday when they begin training camp practices.

"In general, it’s been a little bit of a whirlwind summer being gone a lot," said Udoka, who was an assistant on the U.S. men’s basketball team for the Olympics. "Obviously to the Olympics for a while and then this happening within the last 10 or so days. Really relied on the staff and our previous relationship to hit the ground running." Read more here.

– Greg Dudek, The Brockton Enterprise

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Racial disparity gap closing over COVID vaccines: Updates

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