(CNN) – As Americans face a discouraging rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with rates for children and adults under 50 reaching their highest levels yet, officials hope that full approval of the vaccines could encourage more people. to get vaccinated.
Full US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is “imminent,” a senior federal official told CNN last week. Once that happens, it could help allay the concerns of those who hesitate to get vaccinated, as all three vaccines available in the US have been distributed under emergency use authorization.
The approval could also help businesses, schools and states set vaccination mandates, experts have said. Such mandates could help stifle the growing number of cases, especially in states that are experiencing a lack of available ICU beds.
The number of vaccine doses administered daily has increased primarily over the past week, with three days topping one million reported doses, according to data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, the daily average of new cases reported is around 147,000, and experts have warned that it could exceed 200,000 on the current trajectory.
More than half of the total U.S. population, 51.5% or about 170 million people, were fully vaccinated as of Sunday, data from the United States showed. CDC, while 60.7% have received at least one dose. A total of 25 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents.
But in many states with lower vaccination rates, hospitals have been overwhelmed by an increase in COVID-19 patients.
In Mississippi, where 36.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, Gov. Tate Reeves said Sunday that an active duty COVID-19 response military team of 23 was deployed to Jackson to provide supplemental medical personnel. in hospitals. A second team is expected to arrive in Tupelo in the next week.
An increase in cases among school-age children after returning to face-to-face classes has also concerned health officials, with thousands of children in quarantine in the last week due to the Covid-19 outbreaks. Experts have emphasized that to protect those under 12 who cannot yet get vaccinated, it is important to ensure that those who are eligible receive the vaccine. Another key prevention method is wearing a mask.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS “Face the Nation” on Sunday that warning signs of what could happen across the country in the coming weeks have already been seen in the southern US.
“Schools open earlier in the south, in a context where there is still much [la variante delta] and the infection is reaching schools, and it is proving difficult to control in schools, “explained Gottlieb.” Delta is a very contagious variant, so I think it is a harbinger of the challenges that we will face nationally as schools to reopen. “
How to keep schools open and children safe
As districts continue to return to face-to-face learning, a debate is brewing among districts, parents, and local officials about how to make going back to the classroom safer.
In Texas and Florida, governors have threatened to withdraw funds from districts that create mask-wearing mandates, but several local school boards are going ahead and telling students to wear a mask.
In Texas, where the problem is working its way through the courts, one district managed to waive official orders by making the mask-wearing mandate part of its school uniform policy.
In Florida, nearly 20,000 students and staff members had to self-quarantine after more than 6,000 covid cases were identified among the state’s 15 largest school districts since the start of school, according to a CNN analysis conducted last week. . Among them, there were 4,641 students and 1,547 employees who tested positive. That doesn’t include the state’s two largest school districts, Miami-Dade and Broward.
While the number of cases has risen amid back to school, Gottlieb said it’s difficult to assess whether that’s because the delta variant itself is more aggressive in children or simply because we’re exposing more children to the virus.
He said schools should follow the example of some districts in North Dakota, where schools are testing close contacts every few days to make sure asymptomatic cases don’t go undiagnosed.
“Children’s close contacts need to be tested right away to make sure there are no other asymptomatic cases that haven’t been diagnosed, and then they need to be tested at some kind of interval, maybe three days and five days to make sure. that an outbreak has not been triggered at the school, “Gottlieb told CBS.
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy echoed the importance of keeping children safe amid the increase in pediatric cases.
“It is our moral responsibility as a society to do everything we can to protect our children,” he told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “First of all, vaccinating all of us as adults is important. Children who are too young to get vaccinated depend on those around them to protect them from the virus.”
Vaccine boosters under consideration
While vaccination rates still lag in the U.S., those already vaccinated are weighing the need for booster shots.
Beginning September 20, those who are eight months away from their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine will be eligible to receive a booster, if cleared by the FDA and recommended by the CDC.
And those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely need a booster, too, according to Murthy.
“We think J&J recipients will probably need a booster, but we are waiting for some data from the company on a second dose,” Murthy said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
So far, only Pfizer has submitted initial data on the boosters to the FDA; the company said Phase 3 results evaluating the third dose are expected shortly.
At the same time it is considering reinforcements, the FDA is also working with Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to achieve full approval, a process known as the Biological License Application (BLA).
The Pfizer / BioNTech submission has been accepted for priority review by the FDA. Once they receive approval, the companies said, they also plan to seek approval of a booster dose for people 16 and older.
Moderna has begun submitting data for full approval of its two-dose vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson has not yet submitted data for full approval, but hopes to do so, CNN previously reported.
CNN’s Nadia Kounang and Gregory Lemos contributed to this report.