Nationwide, community transmission of COVID-19 remains high and 77.8% of Americans over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Over 190 million people have been fully vaccinated and 14.4 million have received a booster dose. In Arizona, over 8 million vaccine doses have been administered with 58.9% of Arizonans vaccinated, or 69.3% of eligible Arizonans.
This information comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID Data Tracker.
Pediatric Shots Are on The Way
On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) expert vaccination panel voted to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in children ages 5 to 11, arguing the benefits outweigh the risks. The vaccine could be available for the younger age group as soon as next week, Reuters reports. The FDA must now move to authorize the vaccine for this age group and the CDC advisory panel will meet next week to make recommendations for the administration of the vaccine. From Dr. Amanda Cohn, a pediatric vaccine expert at the CDC and a voting member of the FDA panel:
Use of this vaccine will prevent deaths, will prevent ICU admissions and will prevent significant long-term adverse outcomes in children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics applauded the Biden administration plan for vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 against COVID-19:
Parents trust us to care for their children, come to us with questions and concerns about how to keep them healthy and safe, and will turn to us during this next phase for reassurance and guidance about the COVID-19 vaccine. We are ready to do what we’ve always done: counsel our families and protect our patients.
State health officials announced that Arizona is ready to administer the Pfizer vaccine to kids in the 5 to 11 age group, according to AZCentral. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and local county health departments have recruited additional pediatric providers to be vaccinators and working with schools and local health providers to identify “easily accessible locations” for the vaccine, according to interim ADHS Director Don Herrington.
Booster shots were also authorized and encouraged by ADHS in a press release last week. The health department reiterated the CDC authorization for getting booster doses of a different vaccine type in the case of the Moderna or Johnson % Johnson vaccines. From Don Herrington:
Booster doses are sage, free, highly effective and widely available around Arizona. If you are eligible for a booster, we recommend you take advantage of this opportunity to enhance your vaccine protection and, if you wish, take advantage of the flexibility offered by this updated guidance.
Vaccine Mandates in Hospitals
A number of health workers have quit jobs at at least two Arizona hospitals, according to the Arizona Republic. Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Tucson Medical Center HealthCare say that nearly all of their workforce is fully vaccinated — 94% and 96% respectively. At both, a small number of employees were approved for exemption on either religious or health grounds, such as pregnancy. At Phoenix Children’s 20 employees quit or were terminated for failing to comply with the vaccine requirement, and at TCM the number was around 100.
Banner Health, which employees nearly 45,000 people in Arizona, announced that 90% of the workforce is already compliant with the requirement which will take effect Nov. 1. Valleywise Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael White said in an October 13 briefing that the hospital’s vaccine requirement will likely cause some employees to leave.
Congressman Paul Gosar sent a letter to the Yavapai Regional Medical Center, which is in his congressional district, admonishing the hospital for its vaccine mandate, he announced in an editorial piece in the Prescott News. According to the congressman, the mandate could “lead to the potential loss of 1,100 doctors and nurses.”
AZ AG on the Offensive Against Federal Vaccine Mandates
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has requested a temporary restraining order following a lawsuit against the Biden administration for its plan to make vaccines mandatory for businesses that employ over 100 people. According to KOLD Tucson, Brnovich told reporters in a conference call that the president is overstepping his constitutional authority, and that the lawsuit focuses on what he argues is the differential treatment of U.S. citizens and undocumented individuals who are not compelled by law to receive the vaccine.
From A.G. Brnovich’s press release on the request for a temporary restraining order:
Once a vaccine has been administered, it can never be undone. The COVID-19 vaccine mandate is one of the greatest infringements upon individual liberty, federalism and the separation of powers by any administration in our country’s history.
Brnovich was joined in his effort to delay the Biden administration vaccine mandate by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who requested a special session of the state legislature in order to fight the mandates following a threat to sue the administration, the Hill reports.
In Florida, your right to earn a living is not contingent upon whatever choices you’re making in terms of these injections.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott also made moves against the mandate by issuing an executive order last week banning them for any “entity in Texas,” although a bill that would have prevented employers from requiring the vaccine failed in the state legislature earlier this week.
Over-the-Counter COVID-19 Tests
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an effort from the Biden administration to increase access to over-the-counter tests on Monday. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will invest $70 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding in the development of more at-home COVID-19 tests in coordination with the FDA. From HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra:
Access to easy-to-use, affordable and reliable COVID tests is key to bringing peace of mind to our families, especially as we approach winter. Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we are boosting the supply of at-home tests and the number of test options for Americans nationwide.