But officials continue to warn that unvaccinated people remain vulnerable to the virus, especially dangerous variants that could delay national progress against the pandemic if it becomes mainstream.
Nationally, 64% of adults have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and about 53% are fully vaccinated, but the Biden administration’s goal of 70% of adults with at least one dose of vaccine by July 4 will be insufficient at the current rate. More than a dozen states achieved that goal this week, according to the CDC.
Barriers to access based on economic criteria, vaccine reluctance and misinformation have been cited as contributing factors to the slowdown in vaccination rates in the United States from previous highs.
“That kind of doubt about vaccine safety, doubting the need for vaccines… it’s very, very dangerous, and a lot of people hear that,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said.
As authorities attempt to speed up the vaccination rate, recent data confirms that vaccines are among the best tools to tackle variants that could otherwise exacerbate the pandemic.
Two doses of Pfizer / BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine appear to offer good protection against some of the disturbing new variants in circulation, including the B.1.617.2 or Delta variant first seen in India, researchers reported Thursday.
“New variants will continue to emerge as the pandemic persists,” the researchers said, noting that there was no evidence that the variants have largely escaped such vaccine protections.
“Therefore, increasing the proportion of the population immunized with current safe and effective licensed vaccines remains a key strategy to minimize the emergence of new variants and end the Covid-19 pandemic. “
FDA discussion on childhood vaccination continues
As vaccines are shown to be effective in adults, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday discussed the need for additional measures for the potential vaccination of children aged 11 and under.
Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is authorized for use in persons 12 years of age and older. Moderna’s vaccine is approved for people 18 years of age and older, although the company has asked the FDA to allow its use in children as young as 12 years old. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is approved for people 18 years of age and older.
A member of an FDA vaccine advisory group has spoken out strongly against extending the emergency use authorization to coronavirus vaccines for children under 12, saying more security data is required.
“Before you start immunizing millions of adolescents and children, it’s important to know the consequences,” said Dr. Cody Meissner, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Tufts University School of Medicine, who advocated for more extensive testing.
Meissner spoke to CNN on Thursday and said he was particularly concerned about recent reports of a possible link between Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, in young people.
“We need a vaccine for teens and children,” Meissner told CNN. “But I think we also want to be sure that the benefit outweighs the risk. “
Meissner also praised the success of vaccinations so far against the pandemic, saying, “These vaccines are equivalent to our achievements in space.”
FDA adviser Dr Paul Offit told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he was “confident there was unanimity” among advisers on the importance of having a Covid-19 vaccine for children despite disagreement over how potential vaccines are researched and licensed.
“I definitely think we would have a vaccine by the start of next year, and I hope we will have a vaccine for 6 to 12 year olds by the end of the year,” Offit said.
“If we got past the pandemic – if everything is behind us – then it won’t be a problem, but we haven’t got past the pandemic,” Offit added. “The variants are still there and are becoming more contagious. I think when winter comes you will see this virus reappear again, so we still need a vaccine. “
No more relaxed Covid-19 restrictions
Masks should no longer be worn in areas outside of public transport by people fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to new guidelines released by the CDC on Thursday.
For those who are not vaccinated, the CDC advises continuing to adhere to the mask.
“While those who are fully vaccinated can resume many activities without wearing a mask, the travel environment presents a unique set of circumstances based on the number and close interaction of travelers (vaccinated and unvaccinated),” said the CDC.
Other cities and states this week reduced Covid-19 restrictions in light of improving news.
Philadelphia ended its indoor mask tenure on Friday as well as the last 11 p.m. restaurant calls, according to a city statement.
“For nearly fifteen months, the City of Philadelphia has put in place restrictions to protect itself, and I have no doubt that these restrictions have saved countless lives,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “But Friday will be a day we’ve all been looking forward to: getting back to doing the things we love. With more than two-thirds of adults already vaccinated, we can finally do the things we failed to do last year. “
In New Hampshire, the state’s coronavirus state of emergency will expire on Friday night and Gov. Chris Sununu has said he will not be renewing it. A public health incident status will remain in place, Sununu said, allowing health care providers and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate additional Covid-19 efforts.
“This is about vaccination,” Sununu said in a briefing Thursday. “We have a very high vaccination rate both with our healthcare staff and the residents themselves, which is great and we will continue to encourage that. ”
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Maggie Fox, Lauren Mascarenhas and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.