All Americans age 16 or older are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday.
According to The Hill, granting eligibility for all adults in the country marks a giant step towards containing the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 131 million people, or half of U.S. adults, have already been inoculated with at least one dose of the vaccine and says that the U.S. is administering 3.2 million doses daily, up from 2.5 million shots per day last month.
This announcement meets President Joe Biden’s April 19 vaccine deadline he set two weeks ago, reports The New York Times.
“It’s truly historic that we have already reached this milestone,” said Dr. Nandita Mani, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Washington Medical Center. Healthcare experts note that the expansion of eligibility comes as all 50 states stopped administering the Johnson & Johnson one-shot COVID-19 vaccine after reports of a rare but serious issue with blood clotting caused by the drug surfaced recently.
Federal officials recommended a pause last week, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, said Sunday that regulators could make a decision Friday on whether dispensing the vaccine should be resumed. According to the Times, Fauci said that he expects that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will return but with warnings or restrictions to its use.
Healthcare experts warn that the pause may have exacerbated vaccine hesitancy among Americans, and that it is still critical to observe cautionary protocols to prevent infections from COVID-19. The U.S. is still seeing a whopping 67,000 cases daily, according to the Times, a number infectious disease specialists call unacceptable.
“Seventy thousand cases a day is not acceptable,” Professor Barry Bloom, a noted global health expert and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told the Times. He said that while vaccination will surely help reduce the staggering number of cases, people still need to wear masks and follow social distancing rules.
But, according to The Hill, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine blip may have the opposite effect and bolster public confidence in the government and its regulatory efforts.
“So, I would think, at the end of the day, it could actually diminish hesitancy,” said Fauci. “The very fact you have two organizations, the CDC and the FDA, looking so carefully at this, making safety the primary concern, in my mind, confirms or underscores the situation that we take safety very seriously.”
Public health officials have said that the only way to contain the pandemic is to ensure mass inoculations so that the vast majority of Americans have vaccine-induced immunity to COVID-19. The announcement that all adults are now eligible to get their vaccine will bring us closer to that goal and to the chance of returning to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Fauci told NPR last December that he predicts the United States could achieve early stages of herd immunity against COVID-19 by late spring or early summer.
“I would say that 50% would have to get vaccinated to have an impact,” he said. “But I would say that 75 to 85% would have to get vaccinated if you want to have that blanket of herd immunity.”
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