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Covid-19 herd immunity is a difficult target, experts warn, but vaccinating this age group could be key to protecting us this fall

Vaccinations could soon open up for children 12 to 15 years old, a development that could be key to protecting the United States against Covid-19 as overall vaccination rates slow.

“High school kids, in particular, are known to be just about as susceptible and just about as good at passing along this virus as other young adults,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on ABC’s Good Morning America Wednesday. “It will be really great to be able then to get that immunization schedule going well in advance of September.”

The FDA will likely authorize Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for that age group by early next week, a federal official told CNN. When that happens, the US will be “ready to move immediately” to vaccinate adolescents, White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said.

Experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci have estimated between 70% to 85% of the US population needs to be immune to the virus — through vaccination or previous infection — to control its spread. The US may depend on the vaccination of high school students by the fall to get there, he said.

If the US doesn’t reach 80% of Americans immunized, the nation could be at risk for another surge in the fall, vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said that national immunization goal set by the Biden administration is getting harder to reach because of the slowing down in vaccination levels.

And though the progress on immunizations will likely drop the death toll dramatically, Reiner said that the US will have to stay vigilant to avoid surges in the fall.

Moving from mass vaccination to local pharmacies

An important part of the plan to vaccinate adolescents rests on using local resources like pediatrician offices, Slavitt said.

The plan also aligns with the larger strategy to make vaccinations more accessible by moving away from mass vaccination sites to walk-in appointments at local pharmacies.

For example, California officials said the massive Covid-19 vaccination site at the famed Oakland Coliseum will close this month after a “rapid reduction” in appointments over the past couple of weeks.

The announcement follows the decision to also close Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, once lauded by Mayor Eric Garcetti as the largest mass vaccination site in the US, later this month as officials shift efforts to smaller, community-focused routes.

Meanwhile, CVS will be offering walk-in and same-day vaccination appointments at more than 8,300 pharmacy locations, the company told CNN on Wednesday.

Super Bowl tickets for vaccinated fans

As more of the US builds immunity against the virus, large-scale entertainment venues are opening up.

Walt Disney World said it will phase out of on-site temperature check for staff and guests this month.

“We will continue to follow the guidance of health and safety leaders going forward and most importantly encourage people to get vaccinated,” it said.

And cruise ships, an early hotspot for coronavirus outbreaks, may now begin simulated voyages with volunteer passengers, per an order from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The guidelines are a new phase in the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, released in October as a phased approach for preventing Covid-19 transmission aboard cruise ships and eventually resuming passenger cruises.

Some events even are incentivizing vaccinations.

The National Football League has announced a plan for vaccinated fans to win free tickets to the next Super Bowl. The NFL says the winners, who have shared “their story on why they got vaccinated or will soon get vaccinated,” will receive a pair of Super Bowl LVI tickets. The league has 50 tickets allocated to give away.

And on Wednesday, the City of Chicago announced a monthly concert series held exclusively for residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

US’s global responsibility to ensure the world does not “suffer and die” from Covid-19

The Biden administration announced its support Wednesday to ease patent rules on Covid-19 vaccines, which could increase their global supply as countries like India wrestle with massive outbreaks.

“If we stick together, if we work together, if we help work and collaborate with countries around the world, I do believe we will turn this pandemic around,” US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy said.

Countries like the US, which has an ample supply of vaccine resources, are obligated to aid vaccination programs I the rest of the world, Fauci said.

“I believe we have a moral obligation,” he said, “to make sure that the rest of the world does not suffer and die, as it were, from something we can help them with and help them prevent.”

Fauci said he would be fine with waiving patent protections for vaccines, among other options.

“We’ve got to get to the end game. And the end game is the equitable distribution of vaccines, so however we get there. It’s fine with me. We just need to get there,” Fauci said.

Article Topic Follows: Health

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