America

U.S. States Turning Down Covid Vaccine Doses as Demand Declines

Demand for Covid vaccines continues to wane in the U.S., where states are requesting small fractions of their allotted doses from the Federal Government to save them from having to throw misused doses away. The Guardian has the story.

Reduced demand, which is contributing to a growing stockpile of doses, comes as nearly 46% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccine and about 34% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Last week, Joe Biden announced a plan to get at least one dose of vaccine administered to 70% of the nation’s adult population by July 4th – a date also floated for a full-economic and social interaction re-opening of America.

But on Saturday, hours before a pre-recorded message from Biden to a Global Citizen Vax Live event, it was reported that the nation’s vaccination rate dropped to two million shots a day – a 20% decrease from the week before…

Reports that many states are requesting that the Biden administration send them only a fraction of their allocations is a clear indication of persistent vaccine hesitancy in the U.S..

According to the Associated Press, Wisconsin health officials have asked for just 8% of the 162,680 doses that had been set aside for the state next week. Julie Willems Van Dijk, a State Health Department official, has said demand is softening and vaccinators are reducing existing inventories before ordering more doses.

Iowa health officials have requested 29% of the state’s allotment. Kansas officials asked for 9%, as the state has about 647,000 doses on hand; and Illinois officials says the state has five weeks’ worth of doses on hand and plans to cut its request, also to 9%. Similar patterns were reported by Connecticut – 26% – and South Carolina, 21%. North Carolina and Washington have reduced their requests by 40%.

But some states are maintaining full orders, including Maryland and Colorado. New York City is taking its full quota despite seeing the number of daily shots administered drop by about 40% since a mid-April peak.

Unused doses are expected to be allocated to states with higher demands.

Worth reading in full.

Stay-at-Home Lockdowns Made No Difference to Covid Deaths in U.S. States – Study

A new study from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago has analysed the impact of stay-at-home orders on infections and deaths in U.S. states and found they made no difference.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the scientific journal PNAS, found stay-at-home orders (also known as shelter-in-place orders or SIPs) were not associated with lower infections or deaths; furthermore, they were actually associated with a slight increase in infections and deaths, although this was not statistically significant. The results are summarised in the charts below, where dots above the dashed line indicate an increase and dots below a decrease. Red dots are statistically significant results.

The authors suggest that stay-at-home orders have no impact on infections or deaths because they have little to no impact on mobility. Isolating the impact of stay-at-home orders from existing mobility trends, they estimate that the orders themselves contributed a reduction in mobility of just 0.7% compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is largely, they say, because people were already reducing their mobility as much as they were able or willing to.

The mobility data (from mobile phone movement) for U.S. states, with the date of the stay-at-home order shown as a dashed line ands its removal as a dotted line, are shown below.

U.S. Regulators Expected to Approve Pfizer Vaccine for Use in 12 to 15 Year-Olds in Coming Days

Not impressed enough by the success of their vaccine rollouts, the U.K. and the U.S. – among other countries – are increasingly looking to vaccinate children against Covid. In the U.S., health regulators are expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for use in those aged 12-15 in the coming days. The Financial Times has the story.

The U.S. is set to approve BioNTech and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for use in 12 to 15 year-olds in the coming days, according to people involved in the regulatory process.

The pharmaceutical companies applied for authorisation to begin vaccinating adolescents last month after trials suggested the inoculations were 100% effective at preventing symptomatic disease among the age group.

Two people close to the process said they expected the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give its green light next week, a move that could help bring the U.S. closer to “herd immunity” and prove vital for reopening schools full-time in the autumn.

The FDA and Pfizer declined to comment.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, which was approved for those aged 16 and over last year, has been administered 131 million times, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has helped the U.S. vaccinate more than 50% of its adult population with one dose, making it one of the largest Covid inoculation campaigns in the world.

The vaccination drive has helped reduce cases and deaths in the U.S. in recent weeks. According to the latest figures compiled by the FT, the country is reporting about 50,000 cases and 700 deaths per day – roughly the rates it experienced in October last year.

Scientists have said that to reach herd immunity… however, the U.S. would need to vaccinate more than three-quarters of its population. That would be difficult unless children were vaccinated as well.

In March, Pfizer reported the results of phase 3 clinical trials in people aged 12-15, which showed better results than for those aged 16-25. Out of 2,260 adolescents who took part in the trial, 18 were infected with Covid – all in the placebo group.

In the U.K., children as young as 12 could be vaccinated when the new school year begins in September. The fact that only very low numbers of children tested positive for Covid after schools reopened in March – many of them falsely – has not stopped the NHS from preparing to extend the vaccine rollout to schoolchildren.

The FT report on vaccine efforts in the U.S. is worth reading in full.

We Need to Hear Much More About Florida and Texas and Less About the Latest Covid Hotspots

Would that journalists and broadcasters paid as much attention to places with no restrictions doing fine as they do to the latest places experiencing a Covid surge.

All eyes are currently on India and especially Delhi where, after a year of little impact, the virus is making its nasty presence felt. But as Ivor Cummins points out, India for whatever reason has a long way to go to catch up with countries in Europe and the Americas when it comes to Covid deaths. The country is not a good comparison for the UK where the virus is endemic and substantial population immunity is now present.

If only our media would spend as much time telling the population about how Florida lifted its restrictions back in September, how South Dakota never had any, and how Texas and Mississippi reopened in full at the start of March, as they do telling us about how many people are in hospital in Delhi. The latest positive-test data for these open states is in the graph above, along with two other light-restriction states, South Carolina and Georgia. Note the conspicuous lack of surge despite being basically back to normal. What more evidence do our politicians and scientists need that the threat from the virus is overblown and does not warrant social restrictions or emergency measures? Is the Government interested in data which contradict their preferred narrative?

The Telegraph today is reporting that as of June 21st – another seven weeks away – Brits will be permitted once again to attend large events without anti-social and uneconomic distancing requirements and hug one another. Our ultra-cautious scientists are advising that these things might just be okay by then. Though in case you might have thought they would then end the seemingly endless state of emergency, they have said measures such as staggering entries to venues accommodating large groups and good ventilation will still be required. What part of normal don’t they understand?

Nor is there any indication of a move to return international travel to normal, as the country faces more limitations on travel this summer – when most of the country is vaccinated – than last summer – when nobody was. What this has to do with following the science is, as ever, unclear.

What’s strange is that even in America where parts of their own country are living free and showing that the measures aren’t needed, state governments, with popular support and backed by federal agencies, just carry on with their restrictions, lifting them only very slowly and with no obvious commitment to bringing them finally to an end. It’s as though people don’t want to know. Too much has been invested in the lockdown narrative, it seems, for people to be able to cope psychologically with the trauma of facing the truth that it is fundamentally false. Too many reputations are at risk. Too many interests coincide.

Are we doomed to live forever in this Covid state of emergency? I confess it is hard to see what will prompt governments to bring it to an end, now that we live in permanent fear of the appearance of variants and believe we must continually top up the whole world’s antibodies through rolling annual programmes of vaccinations. One of the most depressing thoughts is I find it almost impossible to imagine Boris Johnson facing the camera and announcing: “My friends, our ordeal is over. The data is clear. The virus is now one among many hazards with which we daily must live. Vaccines are available to the vulnerable, as are effective treatments, and we will continually strive to find the safest ways to protect those at risk from this and other illnesses. It is time to resume our old lives. I declare the state of emergency to be over.”

Will we ever reach a point where we no longer even think about whether some activity is “Covid secure”? Where we no longer see our fellow human beings as sources of infection? It would be good to hear much more often from the Government that this is where it believes we are headed, sooner rather than later.

American Universities Order Students to Take Covid Vaccine before Returning to Classes

A number of American universities have announced that they will require their staff and students to be vaccinated against Covid before being permitted to return to campuses this autumn. MailOnline has the story.

Several state university systems will require all students returning to classes and campuses this fall to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

A number of state and public institutions have made the announcement in the past week as they hope to get back to normal campus life after months of online learning.

Similar measures have been announced by some private institutions, but with the policy of requiring Covid vaccinations expanding into state and public school systems, the number of universities with the requirement has risen significantly.

Some private universities – including Brown, Cornell and Stanford – have announced similar requirements, and will be joined by California’s two state university systems, as well as several universities in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey.

Thursday’s joint announcement from the 10-campus University of California and the 23-campus California State University represented the largest of its kind in American higher education…

Including private universities, at least 80 have announced their intention to make vaccines mandatory to their students in order for them to return to campus, according to a count by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But others have said outright that they will not require their students to be vaccinated. Republican Governors in Utah, Texas, Florida and Montana have signed orders banning institutions from requiring vaccines. 

According to Forbes, it is currently unclear how state executive orders banning Covid vaccine passports – such as that recently signed in Texas – will affect universities wishing to force their students to get vaccinated. Should the bans on unvaccinated students go ahead, it is expected that some exemptions “based on sincerely held religious views and medical conditions” will apply. Forbes has published a list of institutions that have said they will require staff and students to be vaccinated before they reopen.

MailOnline‘s report is worth reading in full.

CDC Says Fully Vaccinated Americans Can Now Go Maskless Outside – but Not in Crowds

When Joe Biden became the President of the U.S., he asked Americans to wear face masks for his first 100 days in office. Thursday marks his 100th day as President, but new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that only fully vaccinated Americans can do away with face masks outdoors – and even then, only when not in crowds. The Mail has the story.

Fully vaccinated Americans can now safely go without masks outside, the CDC said on Tuesday.

“If you are fully vaccinated, things are much safer for you,” said CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky during a Tuesday White House press briefing. 

“There are many situations in which Americans do not need to wear masks if they are fully vaccinated, particularly outdoors.”

As long as they are outside, people who are fully vaccinated can now exercise, go to small gatherings or restaurants with people who are vaccinated or unvaccinated. 

It comes amid mounting evidence – finally acknowledged by the CDC on Tuesday – that outdoor transmission of coronavirus is exceedingly rare, accounting for less than 10% of cases. Those risks are mainly linked to crowded events that can turn into super-spreader events, or people who were in close range of one another. 

However, in crowded places like concerts, parades or sporting events, even vaccinated people should still wear masks, the CDC’s new guidance says. 

The guidance is merely that – advice about what the health agency has deemed safe – and is not enforceable. It’s up to states, counties and cities to issue mask mandates and other restrictions. 

Several states, including Massachusetts and Kentucky rolled back their guidelines on mask-wearing outdoors on Tuesday morning, in anticipation of the update to the guidelines. 

Unvaccinated people can shed their masks too, if they are outside exercising or at small outdoor gatherings with vaccinated friends and families.  

In order to “make a point” about the new mask-wearing guidelines, President Biden took off his mask when giving a speech at the White House on Tuesday and kept it off until he was back inside.

Worth reading in full.

Millions Are Skipping Their Second Doses of Covid Vaccines in the U.S.

A number of U.S. states recently warned that they were running out of people willing to take a Covid vaccine. New reports suggest that a fairly significant proportion of Americans who have received their first dose of a vaccine are unwilling – or believe there is no need – to take a second. Reasons include a fear of the side effects and the belief that one dose offers enough protection against Covid. The New York Times has the story.

Millions of Americans are not getting the second doses of their Covid vaccines, and their ranks are growing.

More than five million people, or nearly 8% of those who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, have missed their second doses, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is more than double the rate among people who got inoculated in the first several weeks of the nationwide vaccine campaign.

Even as the country wrestles with the problem of millions of people who are wary about getting vaccinated at all, local health authorities are confronting an emerging challenge of ensuring that those who do get inoculated are doing so fully.

The reasons vary for why people are missing their second shots. In interviews, some said they feared the side effects, which can include flu-like symptoms. Others said they felt that they were sufficiently protected with a single shot.

Those attitudes were expected, but another hurdle has been surprisingly prevalent. A number of vaccine providers have cancelled second-dose appointments because they ran out of supply or didn’t have the right brand in stock.

Walgreens, one of the biggest vaccine providers, sent some people who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get their second doses at pharmacies that only had the other vaccine on hand.

Several Walgreens customers said in interviews that they scrambled, in some cases with help from pharmacy staff, to find somewhere to get the correct second dose. Others, presumably, simply gave up.

Many states anticipated that vaccine hesitancy rates would increase as the rollout progressed and are now implementing a number of schemes to try to ensure that uptake remains high.

In Arkansas and Illinois, health officials have directed teams to call, text or send letters to people to remind them to get their second shots. In Pennsylvania, officials are trying to ensure that college students can get their second shots after they leave campus for the summer. South Carolina has allocated several thousand doses specifically for people who are overdue for their second shot.

Worth reading in full.

More People Died in U.S. States Which Locked Down Than Those Which Did Not – Here’s Why

Last week I wrote that U.S. states which locked down over the winter had a higher Covid death toll on average than those which did not.

Some people argued that I should have only looked at deaths over the winter rather than in total for it to be a fair comparison. I disagree. That would mean places which had a high death toll in spring would look better just because they had already been hit hard, lost a lot of people, and built up some immunity. Also, in lockdown theory, lockdowns only defer deaths, they don’t prevent them, so any state which didn’t lock down in winter should have suffered then any deaths deferred by earlier measures. Thus the fairest comparison for understanding whether lockdowns are necessary to prevent a catastrophic death toll – the central claim at stake – is the total number of deaths, not just those in one season.

Today I’m updating the figures. At the same time I’ve done a fresh review of the measures different states took (using these two handy websites which have collected them all together) to ensure I’m putting each state in the correct category.

Nineteen states issued an actual stay-at-home order this winter. While most of these (except for Oregon and New Mexico) were advisory, they all made clear that people should stay at home as much as possible and were accompanied by other severe restrictions such as business closures and bans on gatherings. A further 14 states, though not issuing a stay-at-home order, imposed similar strong restrictions that served the same basic purpose. These I’ve classified as the winter lockdown states (they include Washington, D.C.).

The other group of states imposed much lighter restrictions, such as business capacity limits (often around 50%) or gathering limits (such as 50) but did not issue a stay-at-home order, close businesses or ban private gatherings. There are 18 of these – the 11 I included last time, plus seven I’d overlooked, including Arizona and Mississippi. These two states in particular are up in the top six states states for Covid deaths per million so I was concerned this would shift the average for the no-lockdown states above the lockdown states. However, the no-lockdown states still come out lower (albeit with a smaller gap) – 1,730 vs 1,736. (Death and population data from Worldometer.)

As noted before, we shouldn’t get too hung up on the precise numbers here, which will be affected by various factors such as the population density and demographics of the state and the precise way the state counts Covid deaths. The important point is the big picture: the fact that in one big country with lots of different regions responding to an epidemic in different ways, there was no obvious relationship between interventions and outcomes. In particular, those which didn’t lock down did not suffer “hundreds of thousands” more deaths (or the population-size equivalent) than those which did, contrary to what all the mathematical models predicted. Their epidemics peaked and declined in the same way as lockdown states.

This point becomes even clearer when we focus in on the six states which kept restrictions to a minimum this winter – Florida, Georgia, South Dakota, South Carolina, Utah and Nebraska. These states had 1,629 Covid deaths per million on average, well below the 1,736 average of the lockdown states.

If Lockdowns are Needed, Why Did More People Die in U.S. States Which Locked Down Than Those Which Did Not?

One of the great things about America is that it has 50 states that can set their own policy across a broad range of areas, including on public health and lockdowns. This has allowed some to resist the stampede to impose swingeing restrictions on normal life in the hope of limiting transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and this provides us with a valuable control group in the great lockdown experiment that can give us an idea what might have happened if we hadn’t made some intervention or other.

During the autumn and winter a new surge in Covid infections prompted most US states, like most Western countries, to reimpose restrictions. But a few resisted. Eleven states did not impose a stay-at-home order and left people at liberty to leave their homes whenever they wished. Of these, four – Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and South Dakota – did not impose any restrictions at all and treated it pretty much like any other winter.

Although there are various differences between states that might have affected Covid outcomes, because they all form part of one country there are enough similarities to make comparisons useful. In particular, if lockdowns are effective and necessary to prevent hundreds of thousands of extra deaths (or the equivalent for the size of the population), then those states which didn’t lock down should have a far worse death toll. If the death tolls are not much worse, but about the same (or better), then lockdowns cannot be having a large impact on preventing Covid deaths.

In the chart above I have used data from Worldometer to plot the current total Covid deaths per million for each state. I have coloured the 11 states which did not lock down (i.e., impose a stay-at-home order) this winter in red. I have also calculated the average for the two groups of states, those which did not lock down over the winter and those which did, and coloured them in yellow.

As you can see, states which did not lock down over the winter, far from having many times more Covid deaths, have actually had fewer – 1,671 vs 1,736 deaths per million. There may be demographic or other reasons that some states have a higher or lower number of deaths than others so we shouldn’t read too much into the precise differences. But even so, if lockdowns are supposed to suppress the virus to low levels and thus prevent ‘hundreds of thousands’ of deaths (or the population equivalent), then how is this possible? The only conclusion is that lockdowns do not work as intended and do not suppress the virus.

This conclusion is reinforced by looking at the death tolls in the four states which imposed no restrictions at all over the winter, the average of which is 1,716 deaths per million, which is still below that of those which imposed lockdowns (1,736). Florida reopened in the autumn, Georgia and South Carolina in the spring of 2020, and South Dakota never closed. Yet overall they have suffered fewer Covid deaths per million than the states which imposed stay-at-home lockdowns this winter.

Those academic teams which produce models predicting doom for places which don’t impose the measures they recommend should be challenged to apply their models to these states and hindcast the last winter. Any model which cannot accurately reproduce the known outcomes for these states should be calibrated until it can. Otherwise, if it can’t get the answer right for the past, why should we trust it for the future?

The modelling teams at Warwick, Imperial and LSHTM can be found on Twitter (as can LSHTM’s Adam Kucharski) if anyone feels like putting these questions to them.

Meanwhile in Texas…

While go-slow BoJo talks about keeping masks and social distancing in place for another year (at least) and bringing in vaccine passports for large events (just for starters), this was the scene in Texas today, tweeted by Sam Gannon, a sports reporter for KDFW Fox 4. A packed stadium for a baseball game, no vaccine passport required, not a mask in sight.

Texas ended all restrictions and mask requirements at the beginning of March and since then has seen positive cases drop to their lowest level since last summer.

Doubtless Covid is still around and they will see it return at some point to a greater or lesser extent. But Texans no longer live in fear of it or allow their lives to be governed by often fruitless efforts to avoid it. Texas, like a number of other states, has decided that the risk as a society is manageable, and as individuals they have decided it is a risk worth taking to be free and live their lives. The land of the free and the home of the brave indeed.

How long will countries like the UK be able to keep up the draconian emergency measures when their people see Americans back to living normal lives and no medical catastrophe unfolding? When will we have a report from SAGE on the experience of states in America like Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi that have lifted restrictions? When will the Government’s modellers show us how accurately their models predicted the outcomes in those states?

How long until our Government ministers and MPs start questioning the self-serving advice they’re getting from scientific advisers up to their necks in lockdownism and start standing up for freedom?