White House COVID task force discusses rapid tests, booster shots, vaccinating children
The White House COVID-19 response team holds an Oct. 27, 2021, briefing to provide an update on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.
number of fronts in our fight against the virus. Starting with vaccinations. We know vaccines are the very best line of defense against the virus. So our top priority remains getting shots in arms. We've made tremendous progress across the past nine months. Just today, we reported 1.14 million total shots in arms Importantly this includes almost 300,000 Americans getting their first shot. These are both the single highest day totals in the past two weeks And today we will hit 400 million shots in arms since the president 1st Day in office. 400 million shots in arms in nine months. And we remain laser focused on getting more shots in arms, including booster shots following the FDA and CDC s decisions. Last week. Pfizer Moderna and J and J boosters are now available for tens of millions of eligible americans. We've worked with governors, state and local health departments, pharmacies, doctors, community health centers, rural health clinics and long term care facilities to be ready for this moment. And thanks to our planning and preparation, boosters are off to a very strong start in just the first five days since their authorization, 1.5 million Americans got the enhanced protection of a moderna or J&J booster shot and 15 million Americans now have received an additional dose a fighter Moderna or J and J. So our booster program is off to a very strong start and we're working with states pharmacies and other partners to quickly efficiently and equitably get boosters to tens of millions of eligible americans. We're also planning for the rollout of vaccinations for kids, 28 million young Americans would become eligible for protection from Covid 19 should the FDA authorized and CDC recommend the vaccine for Children ages five through 11 states have now placed their initial orders of vaccine for kids. And upon FDA authorization of the vaccine, millions of doses will be shipped immediately to tens of thousands of pediatricians, family doctors, Children's hospitals, community health centers, rural health clinics and pharmacies, providers, Parents and kids know and trust. The bottom line is that we will be ready immediately following FDA and CDC's decisions so that parents can get their kids vaccinated quickly easily and conveniently. Next, I want to highlight important progress. We're making it ramping up both the availability of testing, particularly at home testing and access to free testing. We are on track to have more than 200 million rapid at home tests available to Americans each month, starting in december. That's more than four times level of supply in late summer. And we're also on track to increase the number of places americans can access free testing two, community based locations and this week the FDA and NIH took additional steps that will make even more tests available and help reduce testing costs. First, FDA authorized another over the counter at home test The 9th test to come to market in the last 10 months giving consumers more choices. Second FDA announced that at home tests will now be able to be sold in single test packs meaning the americans will have more options and no longer have to buy to test packs. This will also make tests more affordable and accessible. 3rd to efficiently bring more tests to market. NIH is investing $70 million American rescue plan to establish an accelerated pathway to support FDA authorization of additional over the counter at home tests. Together, these actions will benefit american consumers by increasing at home testing options, adding to the number of tests on shelves and reducing prices. So from vaccinating more unvaccinated americans to getting booster shots to tens of millions to planning for vaccinations for kids aged 5-11 to increasing at home testing supply and making tests more affordable. We are making important progress. The President's plan is working and we remain focused on the execution required to move us forward on our path out of this pandemic with that. I'll hand it over to dr walensky. Thank you Jeff. Good afternoon everyone. It's good to be back with you again Today as always, I'm going to start with the data and today I want to provide you a closer look at the current state of the pandemic. Let's start with cases. As of yesterday the seven day daily average of cases was about 65,900 per day. And this represents about a 16% decrease over the previous week down from our peak in early september we are now heading in the right direction and but with cases still high, we must remain vigilant heading into the colder, drier winter months. As we look at hospitalizations, we also see week on week decreases with a 54% decrease from our peak. The week of August 28. As of yesterday, the seven day average of hospital admissions was about 5500 per day, which is a decrease of about 12% from the prior week. It's important to note that the hospitalization rate among unvaccinated adults is 12 times higher than those who are vaccinated again, demonstrating the power and importance of vaccination. While COVID-19 associated deaths have continued to decline. The seven day average of daily deaths remains greater than 1000 per day. With an average of 1100 reported yesterday. Understanding where we are in the current state of the pandemic allows us to look forward to what is on the horizon and to be clear in our efforts as many people um as possible to protect them against COVID-19. This includes protecting our Children and understanding the risk that COVID-19 poses to them, the health and well being of our nation's Children is of the utmost importance as Geoff laid out. The regulatory process is underway to make Covid 19 vaccines available for Children ages 5 to 11 and I wanted to step back and take a moment to put some of this into perspective CDCs data presented at yesterday's FDA advisory committee showed that among all Children ages 5 to 11, COVID-19 was one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States. Over the last year. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 8300 hospitalizations among Children aged 5-11 and there have been 745 deaths in Children less than 18. Hospitalization rates are three times higher for non hispanic, black, non hispanic african, american, indian and Alaskan native and hispanic Children compared to non hispanic white Children. Yesterday, an FDA advisory committee met and reviewed data from fighter that described covid 19 vaccine efficacy in 4500 Children ages 5 to 11. The trial showed a vaccine efficacy rate of nearly 91% in preventing COVID-19 infection in Children who did not have COVID-19 infection previously. As we anticipate authorization for vaccines for Children, I want to emphasize ways we can continue to protect our Children today, surrounding our Children with people who are vaccinated, helps protect them against covid 19. It's important that we continue to vaccinate as many adults as possible to provide protection to Children in the community, especially those who may not be eligible for vaccination themselves. We must continue to help our Children follow the prevention measures we know will keep them safe. Continuing to wear masks in schools and other indoor settings, choosing outdoor settings, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces and washing our hands often. Right now, there are over 60 million Americans eligible for vaccination who are not yet vaccinated, leaving themselves and Children around them vulnerable. If you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, I urge you to consider the many benefits of vaccination. Thank you. I'll not turn things over to Dr. Fauci. Thank you very much. Dr. Walensky in line with the discussion of the importance of getting vaccinated. That you just heard. I like to focus for the next couple of minutes on one of the reasons why it is so important. And that is if I can have the first slide, what we refer to as post covid 19 conditions now they can be divided into two general categories. One that are readily explainable by organ system damage. For example, if you have acute respiratory distress syndrome with a considerable amount of damage to lung tissue, you can expect that it is likely that your pulmonary functions would have residual negative impact on them. However, there's another syndrome, a group and constellation of signs and symptoms which are not completely explainable by readily apparent pathogenic processes. This has been referred to as long Covid. Next slide and what we see is a constellation of signs and symptoms that range from profound debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain disorder, no mia any other number of the signs and symptoms shown on this slide in combination. This has been unexplained thus far by any identifiable path of physiological process. Next slide, So let's take a look at the incidence of this. There have been a number of studies that have been published. This is just one representative, six month retrospective cohort of over 270,000 people who were infected and had covid 19. The range of individuals ranges from anywhere from 10 to more than 35% Who might have at least one symptom between three and six months following the diagnosis of COVID-19. So that's the population in general. Next slide. What about Children? It is very clear now that in certain cohorts that have been followed that the cohort study in the UK indicate that a smaller percentage than the general population which is obviously good news, namely around 4.4% experience which would come under the category of long covid. Next slide. What about the impact of vaccination in this slide recently published in the Lancet infectious diseases. People who are fully vaccinated, namely breakthrough infections. When you look at them, they're about half as likely as an unvaccinated person who then got infected to report long covid symptoms, which is again, interestingly, another reason why it is so important to get vaccinated. Next slide, we are doing studies now that have key questions and gaps, we need to know more about the epidemiology, the phenotype or presentation of a person, the spectrum, Hopefully understanding the path of physiological mechanisms which would then lead to the possibility of intervention also risk factors and finding out interesting questions whether infection triggers changes in the body that increased the risk of other conditions such as cardiovascular disease and neurological disease. So on the last slide, what we've been doing right now is putting forth a program which are referred to as recover for researching Covid to enhance recovery. It's an initiative that seeks to understand prevent and treat the long term effects and it is a medical cohort study. And hopefully over the coming months to a year we will give us more information made public as to this very perplexing symptom complex back to you, Jeff. Thank you doctors, let's open it up for a few questions kevin. Okay thanks Jeff reminder. One question per person first. Let's go to Joyce frieden at med page today. Uh Yeah. Hi thanks for taking my question. Um with the advent of all these increasing numbers of at home tests um can you speak to the issues around accuracy in terms of false negatives and false positives. Has that been getting better? Yeah, I'm gonna see if dr Zielinski or Dr Fauci have anything to add. But my understanding is the accuracy of the antigen test is quite high. When people do receive a positive test. Their recommended to go get a pcr test to have that confirmation of the antigen test. But the antigen testing has proven to be quite sensitive Dr Fauci dr walensky anything to add. No, I think you said it very well. Uh we are having more tests. I think the thing that's really important is the investment that's being made so that we can have now on average about 200 million tests per month available, which I think will be very very important as part of the armamentarium that we use to get control of this. So the testing situation is certainly going in the right direction with regard to the availability of tests. Next question. Mhm Mhm josh Wingrove at Bloomberg. Mhm Hi there, thank you for this. Can you give us an update on the OSHA rule or if you have any visibility on when that will kick in and uh linked to that. Whether you would consider the supply chain crunch in the determination of when to begin that some of the transport companies and whatnot are saying that compliance with this will exacerbate their labor shortage. And I wonder if you have any response to folks saying that. Thank you. So on OSHA uh you know, the team has been working over at labor to develop the emergency temporary standard that covers employees with over 100 employees to ensure that workers are fully vaccinated or undergoing testing on a regular at least one time per week basis that's obviously critical to help stop the spread in the workplace as one of the final steps in the process. The agency department of labor has submitted the texts of the emergency temporary standard to the Office of management and budget. And while we don't have a specific time uh, to provide today, josh, the rule will be finalized soon. Uh but we know businesses are already acting and we've seen, you know, major companies and small businesses and other organizations step up each and every day with vaccination requirements. Your second question was about these mandates, uh, the federal mandates and and could they cause disruption to the economy or to the supply chain? You know, to be clear the requirements for federal workers and contractors will not cause disruption. And I think the first part of that is these vaccination requirements as we've talked about before work. First adopters have seen Very strong compliance 99% at United Airlines, 99% at Houston Methodist, the health system, which was one of the early movers, 99 5% at Rutgers University. And just yesterday, Tyson's food Announced that they're at 96% of their workers who have gotten vaccinated was still days to go before their deadline next week. The other piece of this is that vaccination requirements for federal workers and contractors, there's still weeks until we reach those deadlines. And it's important remember that those deadlines um, are not cliffs. The federal worker deadline is This 22 November and the federal contractor deadline is not until December six. But even once we hit those deadlines we expect federal agencies and contractors will follow their standard HR processes and that for any of the probably relatively small percent of employees that are not in compliance. They'll go through education counseling, accommodations. Uh and that enforcement, so these processes play out across weeks, not days. Um and so to be clear, we're creating flexibility within the system. We're offering people multiple opportunities to get vaccinated. There is not a cliff here. And the purpose I think most importantly, is to get people vaccinated and protected not to punish them. So we do not expect any disruptions. Next question please. Cheyenne Haslett at abc news. Yeah, thank you. Given the concerns expressed about the potential for unknown side effects at yesterday's meeting. Um and given that cases are falling as you mentioned, Dr Lynskey should there still be as much urgency to get kids vaccinated? Dr walensky. Thank you shine. So, you know, I think there's urgency because we're seeing disease and Children. We've seen deaths in Children. Um and we've seen long covid as dr Fauci demonstrated in Children. Um Certainly we have seen cases come down before and the way to prevent surges again is to get more and more people vaccinated and make sure that we have protection. So I will look forward to the discussion of the advisory committee on immunization practices next week. Wonderful to clarify one thing from the prior question from josh. I think I misspoke and said that the deadline for federal contractors Was the correct deadline is December eight. If I misspoke and said the six, that was a mistake December eight. Is the deadline for federal contractors. Next question please? Meg Tyrell at CNBC. Yeah thank you. Um I have a question about sort of Last Mile assistance overseas. There's been an increasing amount of discussion about the fact that it could be useful for the U. S. To help not just in donating doses of vaccine but also help with administration of those doses. Um Andy Slavitt has been talking about potentially the troops from Afghanistan being deployed to places like Haiti and Africa. Can you talk a little bit about what the U. S. Is already doing in terms of assistance with last mile in other countries and are any plans to increase that assistance? So meg you're. It's a good question. And I want to start by Reminding people of what the US is doing on vaccine supply. We've already sent over 200 million doses to over 100 countries and have committed to sharing donating 1.2 billion doses in total across the next Period of time. By the end of this time next year we will have donated more than 1.2 billion doses. You're right to point out that vaccines are not the same thing as vaccinations and making sure as we did when we came into office when there was vaccine supply ramping up but shots weren't getting into arms. That we are helping countries that need it to make sure the shots get into arms and people are protected and us I'd other agencies across the U. S. Government UNICEF and other organizations are helping to do just that. So while we continue to ramp up supply across the world through the US leading the way having donated now more vaccines to the world and all other countries combined, we do need to continue to focus and make sure that those vaccines become vaccinations and shots and arms dr yeah I might chime in. So CDC is working in over 60 countries and have been for many years where we collaborate deeply with the ministries of Health. We have longstanding of personnel on the ground. We have trusted personnel in the communities in many of these countries and most of these countries. And so that is going to really be able to help leverage our vaccination efforts in those countries. Um in terms of vaccine surveillance in terms of vaccine efficacy studies, vaccine confidence as well as making sure that there are adequate safety systems and all of these countries and absolutely getting vaccines and arms as trusted people already. So without work is already underway in many, many countries. Okay, thanks doctor let's see why don't we take one more question Kevin go to Sabrina Siddiqui at the Wall Street Journal. I thank you as always for doing the briefing. Um you know there are some recent surveys suggesting that it's just over a third of americans who plan to vaccinate their Children right away. So can you always talked about public education campaign, but can you give some more specifics on how you plan to address vaccine? Hesitancy among parents? And do you have any updates on timing for other covid vaccines for Children? Specifically those under the age of five? So Dr. Fauci, you want to take the second part of the question. Any update on kids under 5? Yeah, Those studies are ongoing right now, not only with uh fighter but also Moderna which has a study called Kid Cove, which is for younger Children, the teen cove whether for those who are of the teenage level, we don't have enough data now to present it for a regulatory approach. But right now the data are being collected and analyzed. So we will be able to answer the question. I believe within a reasonable period of time regarding the safety and the immunogenicity Among those lower than five years old. So in terms of confidence and families that have questions, I think there are many, many families across the country awaiting the opportunity to get kids 5-11 vaccinated. And at the same time there are, as you point out, some families that have outstanding questions as we've seen with adults, confidence grows over time. At the start of the vaccination program Last December, only 34 Percent of adults were eager to get the shot. And today nearly 80 of adults those over 18 have at least their first shot. So if if the vaccine is authorized and recommended, um, we are we will be ready. We've talked about being ready with supply and tens of thousands of locations across the country, but we'll also make it for convenient four an easy for parents to get their questions answered. Uh, were building partnerships with the Children's Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The surgeon general DR Vivek Murphy is setting up the partnerships leadership, sorry, the parents leadership corps, a group of well known medical experts including pediatricians and family doctors, doctors, trusted parents and others outside stakeholders who will amplify accurate information online and in media appearances. You know, we've learned throughout that. What matters most is local trusted messengers that in this instance parents and kids can turn to to get their questions answered. And we'll also be out with a full range of channels of media, including robust paid media campaigns across television, radio, print, social and digital. So, uh, we will be ready to answer questions and and build confidence through local efforts and national efforts. And the bottom line is we expect more and more kids to get vaccinated across time. Thank you for today and we look forward to the next briefing mm hmm