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U.S. COVID-19 vaccination, booster approval pick up as holiday season approaches

(Xinhua) 08:14, November 19, 2021

People ride scooters on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Oct. 25, 2021. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

Nearly 10 percent of 5-to-11-year-olds in the United States have received their first coronavirus vaccine dose, just two weeks into the immunization campaign for the 28 million young Americans in that age group, said White House official Jeff Zients.

NEW YORK, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Fewer Americans this year plan on taking precautions against COVID-19 when hosting or attending holiday gatherings compared with last year, signaling some return to normalcy now that 59 percent of the country is vaccinated against the virus, local media has reported.

Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center polled 2,042 adults nationwide from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1, finding that 51 percent would ask party-goers to wear masks, down from 67 percent, showed the survey published on Monday. Half of those surveyed would ask for the vaccination status of their friends and family.

But anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiment isn't necessarily to blame, Iahn Gonsenhauser, a collaborator on the survey and chief quality and patent safety officer at the Wexner Medical Center, was quoted by CNBC as saying.

Vaccinated Americans are also starting to feel more comfortable seeing each other without masks, and groups of fully immunized individuals can enjoy the holidays together "with basically no precautions in place," he said.

"I was pretty surprised to see that 51 percent were still considering asking attendees to wear masks," Gonsenhauser added. "I think that what we've seen happen is a change in the understanding and approach to risk mitigation, particularly with a significant proportion of vaccinated individuals."

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated that 228,175,638 people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, making up 68.7 percent of the whole U.S. population; fully vaccinated people stood at 195,612,365, accounting for 58.9 percent of the total. A total of 31,464,669 people, or 16.1 percent of the fully vaccinated group, have received booster shots.

FORTH AND BACK

Nearly 10 percent of 5-to-11-year-olds in the United States have received their first coronavirus vaccine dose, just two weeks into the immunization campaign for the 28 million young Americans in that age group, Jeff Zients, the White House's coronavirus coordinator, said on Wednesday.

Zients, speaking to reporters alongside the nation's top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, estimated that by the end of the day on Wednesday, 2.6 million children younger than 12 would have received their first shot.

Students of Montrara Ave. Elementary School are seen in their in-person class in Los Angeles, California, the United States, on Aug. 16, 2021. (Xinhua)

"In fact, the pace of vaccinations for kids has been accelerating. In the last week, 1.7 million kids got vaccinated -- double the prior week," he added. The CDC signed off on a pediatric vaccine for younger children on Nov. 2, and the nationwide drive to inoculate that age group was operational on Nov. 8.

In contrast, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is suspending enforcement of the Joe Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large private businesses after a federal appeals court upheld a stay on it last week.

OSHA said in a statement published on its website that while it is confident in its power to protect workers amid the pandemic, it is suspending activities related to the mandate, citing the pending litigation. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit fully blocked Biden's executive order requiring companies with over 100 workers to mandate vaccination for their employees after temporarily staying it earlier.

BOOSTERS FOR ALL ADULTS

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC are expected to recommend COVID-19 boosters for anyone who wants one and is at least six months past their initial vaccination by the end of the week. The CDC has said it's safe to mix vaccine brands.

"COVID-19 vaccines do a great job of preventing hospitalization and death, but their protection against infection starts to fade at about six months, even in young, healthy people. That's why by the end of the week, booster doses may be recommended for all adults, or at least those over 30," reported USA Today on Thursday.

There's really no downside to getting a third shot, Ted Ross, an infectious disease expert at the University of Georgia in Athens, was quoted as saying. California, New Mexico and Colorado are among the states that have already made boosters available to all adults.

Local residents come for the COVID-19 booster shots at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Los Angeles, the United States, Aug. 19, 2021. (Xinhua)

Meanwhile, Moderna has asked federal regulators to authorize booster shots of its coronavirus vaccine for all adults, a request that the FDA could grant as early as this week along with a similar request from Pfizer, reported The New York Times on Wednesday.

If the CDC also signs off, every adult who was fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot at least six months ago would not only be eligible for a booster, but could choose which vaccine. The agency's committee of independent experts is set to meet on Friday to discuss booster shots.

It would also allow U.S. President Joe Biden to fulfill his August pledge to offer booster shots to every adult, nearly two months later than the administration originally planned, though, and "amid an ongoing debate among experts over whether extra shots are necessary for younger, healthy adults," according to the report. 

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)

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