Covid anxiety persists as Pfizer and US government deliver different messages



The decisions have already become a hot political topic as fall approaches, with Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, for example, banning mask terms in public schools earlier this year, while officials in charge of the California Health announced Friday that they will continue to require students and teachers to wear face covers indoors even though new CDC guidelines say teachers and students who are vaccinated do not need to wear masks inside school buildings.

The new CDC guidelines come as many parents are still worried about the risks of Covid-19 variants, as well as many unknowns about the long-term effects of Covid infections in children.

As school districts brace for the uncertainty of another semester with many unvaccinated children, Pfizer sent a wake-up call across the country by announcing on Thursday that it sees its immunity waning from its vaccine against the coronavirus and that he would seek emergency use clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration in August for a booster dose. In an unusual rebuke, the FDA and CDC released a joint statement hours after Pfizer’s missive saying the boosters were not yet needed, and officials in the Biden administration sought to amplify that message on Friday.
A very small number of children up to the age of 18 have died from Covid-19 in the United States – 391 out of more than 606,000 deaths, according to CDC data. But there is great discomfort among parents since only children aged 12 and over are currently eligible to be vaccinated. There have been notable outbreaks at summer camps this year, including infections among more than 125 campers and adults who attended a summer camp run by a church in South Texas. And the risk of new variants remains a serious concern in communities with high numbers of unvaccinated people.
Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, expressed concerns about the lack of studies on the long-term effects of Covid-19 in children during an interview with ” The Lead ”by CNN Friday afternoon. He noted that data on children is often presented in terms of deaths and hospitalizations, figures he acknowledged are “relatively low” in this population.

“We need clarification on the percentage of children who have debilitating effects from Covid, particularly neurological effects in the developing brain,” Hotez told CNN’s Pamela Brown. “We need the pediatric neurological societies to really take a more in-depth look at this.… We tend to use very blunt instruments when we’re talking about teenage or child deaths, and just hospitalizations. There is so much more. of dimensions to Covid than that. “

New confusion over booster injections

This week’s Pfizer announcement not only sparked further confusion over when booster shots might be needed for adults, but also created a potential opportunity for vaccine campaigners looking to undermine the confidence of the public in injections.

In April, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla suggested that “there will probably be a need for a third dose, somewhere between six and 12 months” after the first round. On Thursday, the company confirmed its prediction in an official statement, citing a recent statement from the Israeli Ministry of Health that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine declined after six months, as well as unpublished data from the company’s ongoing studies.

Pfizer made an important caveat that was largely lost in the shock of its announcement, confirming that the vaccine’s protection against “serious illness has remained high throughout the six months.” The decline in efficacy has manifested itself in an increase in symptomatic illnesses, the company said, while also highlighting the emergence of new dangerous variants as a reason to get clearance for a recall.

But the fuzzy reasoning behind Pfizer’s statement, which was delivered without clear clinical evidence for its underlying claim, was met with the strongly contradictory statement from major U.S. regulators.

“Americans who have been fully immunized do not need a booster at this time,” the CDC and FDA said in their rare joint statement. “The FDA, CDC, and NIH (the National Institutes of Health) are in a rigorous, scientific process to determine if or when a recall might be necessary.”

The message from government agencies was clear: the decision was not up to Pfizer.

“This process takes into account laboratory data, clinical trial data and cohort data – which may include data from specific drug companies, but is not based exclusively on that data,” they said in the statement. .

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday night, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, took issue with the idea that Americans were getting a “mixed message” and said it was important to them to trust their government agencies. when and if they might need a reminder.

“We respect what the drug company is doing, but the American public should take advice from the CDC and the FDA,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The bottom line in all of this is that the effectiveness (of the vaccine) against serious illness – especially hospitalization which can lead to death in some people – was still very good.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday afternoon that the decision on when a recall might be needed “will be driven by data and by science.”

“We wanted to make it clear that this is not something the American people need to plan at this time,” Psaki said.

As worrying as Pfizer’s claim may have been to some, the public clash between the pharmaceutical giant and major U.S. government agencies could portend something worse.

Public and private institutions have spoken widely with one voice during the development and distribution of vaccines, a useful tool for public health officials who strive to dispel hesitation as they advance this campaign to unprecedented mass vaccination.

But signals of a split between the two could inflict a devastating setback on this project, providing fodder for anti-vaccination agitators.

When asked at the briefing whether the administration would push for the coordination of such announcements – to prevent another similar back-and-forth – Psaki appeared to betray some frustration with Pfizer’s actions.

“This is a private sector company. I cannot speak to the origin or the motivation of their announcement. You should ask them that,” Psaki said. “But the role we can play, on the part of the US government, is to provide accurate information and public health information, which we ventured to do fairly quickly last night in response to the announcement.”

A huge challenge in the regional vaccine division

As school districts look to the fall semester, Biden’s team is redoubling their efforts to deploy trusted messengers in communities with low immunization, but the challenge is monumental given the political polarization in this country and the unfortunate fact that masks and vaccines remain a divisive territory.
An analysis from Georgetown University this week highlighted the political challenge of changing the mindset of those who remain unvaccinated by showing the huge groups of unvaccinated people in the southern United States. A growing number of studies have shown that immunization coverage maps bear a striking resemblance to the 2020 election results map, which means that it can be very difficult for the Biden administration to change its attitude towards it. acceptance of vaccines in these regions.
A * very * unlikely leader of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign

The CDC’s guidelines on schools will likely be part of that debate, just like last year when President Donald Trump was in power.

The CDC stressed on Friday that schools should continue to use safety precautions, including masking and physical distancing, while encouraging those who are eligible to be vaccinated, such as offering vaccines on-site and providing time off. sickness paid to employees to be vaccinated.

Fully immunized teachers and students do not need to wear masks, according to guidelines, but the CDC still wants unvaccinated children to be masked indoors and that schools continue to physically distance themselves if everyone else is not vaccinated.

Schools that wish to begin phasing out pandemic precautions must do so with caution, the CDC said, removing them one at a time – if levels of community transmission are low – while continuing a robust testing regime. to monitor the increase in spread before removing the next security measure.

Dr Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital and associate professor at Brown University, noted that she was a supporter of opening schools even before vaccines were on the scene. But now she is concerned that “states that have low immunization rates are also states that are less likely to implement non-pharmaceutical interventions.”

“They’ll be less likely to say kids should hide in school,” Ranney said Friday on CNN’s “Inside Politics”. “They will therefore create their communities, not only for the spread of the virus among children, but also within the community at large. Because these children will then spread Covid to their parents and grandparents and to school. extracurricular This is what worries me even more than whether we can open schools or not.



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