The seven-day average of Covid-19 vaccines administered in the United States has dipped below 2 million per day for the first time since early March — a sign of the continued decline in demand for coronavirus immunizations.
According to data published Saturday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the seven-day average of doses administered now sits at 1.98 million. The last time the daily average was below 2 million was March 2.
It’s an indicator that vaccinations are gradually slowing, even though the US remains far short of the levels of immunization needed to reach herd immunity.
About 113 million people, or at least a third of the population, have been fully vaccinated, per CDC data. About 45.6% of the population, or 151 million people, have received at least one dose of a vaccine. But experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have estimated 70-85% would need to be immune to possibly reach herd immunity.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky addressed flagging vaccine administrations earlier in the week, telling CNN the slow down was expected.
“We knew that we would have a lot of supply by the end of April, early May,” she said, “but we also knew that this would be the time that we had people who were more hesitant, that people wouldn’t be rushing to be getting a vaccine.”
The dip in demand has already led to the closures of some mass vaccination sites, and more continue to follow suit: Officials announced Wednesday that one such site at Oakland Coliseum in California would close this month after a “rapid reduction” in vaccine appointments.
And on Thursday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced the National Guard was scaling back its involvement at mass vaccination sites, citing reduced demand (though he also said the state is “in a good place on the vaccine front”).
“We have hard work ahead of us,” Walensky said this week. “We know what we need to do, but we really do need to reach people one at a time in the communities and understand why they might be hesitant.”
CDC director acknowledges possibility of vaccine boosters
“We want to hope for the best, and prepare for the worst,” Walensky told actress Jennifer Garner in an interview streamed on Instagram.
Researchers at the CDC are looking into whether a booster specific to variants that are already in the US will be needed as well as if protection from the virus fades over time, Walensky said.
“We are doing the studies on boosters to see if we will need them, and that is six months, one year, two years — we don’t really know,” Walensky said. “But we want to be prepared for them should we need them.”
If the US does need them, officials have processes already in place to get them out.
“The vision would be that we would do it in the same way that we do flu vaccine,” she said. “We hope we don’t have to do it every season, but we’re preparing in case we do.”
Expanding vaccine authorization
Meanwhile, vaccine manufacturers are preparing for the long haul.
Pfizer/BioNTech, whose vaccine currently has an emergency use authorization, announced the initiation of its application to the US Food and Drug Administration for full FDA approval for people ages 16 and older.
This would be the first Covid-19 vaccine to be assessed for full approval from the FDA.
“We are proud of the tremendous progress we’ve made since December in delivering vaccines to millions of Americans, in collaboration with the U.S. Government,” Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the FDA to complete this rolling submission and support their review, with the goal of securing full regulatory approval of the vaccine in the coming months.”
The FDA is already poised to authorize the company’s vaccine in children and teens ages 12 to 15 by early next week, a federal government official told CNN.
The vaccine also has been undergoing a safety and efficacy study in children ages 6 months to 11 years, and the company said it expects to submit for FDA emergency use authorization for children ages 2 to 11 in September.
Conflict over asking about vaccination status
Health experts have hailed vaccination as the ticket back to a sense of normalcy, but officials have come up against conflicts over who can monitor vaccination decisions.
Wyoming is the latest state to prohibit state agencies from asking people whether they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Under a directive signed Friday by Gov. Mark Gordon, the state boards and agencies are ordered to “provide full access to state spaces and state services, regardless of a constituent’s COVID-19 vaccination status.”
“Vaccine passport programs have the potential to politicize a decision that should not be politicized,” Gordon said in a written statement. The press release notes that the governor has been vaccinated and encourages the residents of his state to voluntarily be vaccinated.
Unlike a similar order signed by the governor of Florida, the Wyoming directive is only mandatory for the state government.
However, it says local governments and private businesses “are encouraged” to follow Gordon’s directive.
Florida’s law prohibits businesses from asking whether employees or customers have been vaccinated.
The CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. said Thursday it could cause the company to suspend Florida departures and move its ships elsewhere.
“At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from, and we can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida,” CEO Frank Del Rio said during the company’s quarterly earnings call.
“In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
CDC warns of airborne risk
On Friday, the CDC updated its explanations on how coronavirus is transmitted to stress that inhalation is the main way the virus is spread and placing less emphasis on the risk of picking it up from surfaces.
“COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. People who are closer than 6 feet from the infected person are most likely to get infected,” the agency says on its updated website. The CDC also updated its scientific brief on how the virus spreads.
“This is not new guidance. This is the beginning of how, perhaps, guidance will begin to evolve,” Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDC’s Covid-19 response, told CNN.
It doesn’t change what people need to do, but might help the public better understand how the virus spreads, Brooks said.
The guidance remains the same — wear a mask when near other people or inside and sharing air with others, keep a distance from others when possible and wash hands frequently.