Full approval could make the difference for the US COVID-19 vaccine campaign 

Right now, anyone rolling up their sleeve for a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is supposed to get a long information sheet. The document informs them that, even though the vaccine can prevent COVID-19, it’s technically not yet approved in the country.

Instead, people are getting the shot under an emergency use authorization (EUA) — a designation that let the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sign off on the lifesaving immunizations without going through the long, onerous licensing process. The shots still went through a rigorous safety review, and there’s ample evidence that they’re highly effective.

But for some people, the “emergency” tag and the fact that the shots are still unapproved is a reason to avoid getting vaccinated. New polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation released Wednesday shows that around a third of unvaccinated adults in the United States would be more likely to get vaccinated when the FDA gives a full approval to the shots. About 35 percent of adults in the United States are currently unvaccinated — a third of that group would be around 10 percent of US adults.

A 10 percent bump in the number of US adults who are vaccinated would be significant, especially as the Delta variant of the coronavirus takes hold across the country. The variant is highly contagious, and it is easily burning through communities where most people aren’t vaccinated. In Missouri, for example, counties with low vaccination rates are seeing spikes in COVID-19 hospital admissions.

Experts cautioned last summer that the emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine, even if it was the best way to beat back the pandemic, could lead to some vaccine hesitancy. The limited data they had back then looked bad — only around 8 percent of people said in 2009 they’d take a hypothetical emergency H1N1 vaccine. People proved far less reluctant to take an emergency COVID-19 vaccine, but some clearly still have reservations. And each person who avoids the COVID-19 vaccine is a weakness in the US protection against the virus.

The FDA is currently reviewing applications for full approval of both the Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, but it’s not clear when the final license for either might be released. While we wait, public health officials are still using every tool at their disposal to encourage more people to get vaccinated, like lotteries and convenient mobile clinics. Full approval will likely be a big boost for vaccination numbers, but Delta is here already — and there’s no time to waste.

Here’s what else happened this week.

Research

Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines Are Likely to Produce Long-Lasting Immunity, Study Suggests
Researchers checked the lymph nodes of people who had been vaccinated with mRNA vaccines to see how immunity developed. The findings suggest that people could be protected from COVID-19 for years. (Apoorva Mandavilli / The New York Times)

Why No One Is Sure If Delta Is Deadlier
The Delta variant of the coronavirus clearly spreads faster and is more contagious, but it’s hard to pin down any changes in how sick it can make people. (Katherine Wu / The Atlantic)

Three Studies, One Result: Vaccines Point the Way Out of the Pandemic
A set of new studies on the COVID-19 vaccines underscore their efficacy, and indicate that people may not need boosters — if the virus doesn’t continue to change. (Apoorva Mandavilli, Carl Zimmer, and Rebecca Robbins / The New York Times)

Development

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine shows promise against Delta variant in lab study
Antibodies produced by the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could still neutralize the Delta coronavirus variant in blood samples, a good sign that the shots can still handle that form of the virus. (Reuters)

Mix-and-match COVID vaccines: the case is growing, but questions remain
Combining one shot of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with a second Pfizer / BioNTech jab might give better protection than a two-dose series of the same brand, research indicates. There needs to be more research on potential side effects of mixing shots. (Dyani Lewis / Nature)

Perspectives

As the national government doled out limited amounts of oxygen, officials in Delhi grew increasingly worried. Its hospitals had built only one small oxygen-generating plant because there had previously been little need, said Manish Sisodia, Delhi’s deputy chief minister. And Delhi could store only about one day’s worth of its pandemic needs at its hospitals and in a city-owned tank.

a New York Times report traced the cascade of failures that lead to oxygen supplies running out at hospitals in India

More than numbers

To the people who have received the 3.1 billion vaccine doses distributed so far — thank you.

To the more than 182,420,108 people worldwide who have tested positive, may your road to recovery be smooth.

To the families and friends of the 3,950,309 people who have died worldwide — 604,935 of those in the US — your loved ones are not forgotten.

Stay safe, everyone.

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