COVID-19 continues to spread, and America continues to try to find our way out of this pandemic. Now, some Americans are looking to COVID-19 vaccine shots for children for some kind of hope. Here’s what you need to know about booster shots, vaccines for kids, and our overall COVID-19 outlook.
Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Nevada’s overall outlook appears fairly stable. Hospitalizations and infections are slightly higher, but still well below our summertime and early autumn peaks. Clark County has experienced an uptick in infections, but Washoe County and most rural areas are now trending lower. And finally, over 53% of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate ticked up a bit to 1.01, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to 101 new infections. White Pine (0.49), Lander (0.69), Nye (0.76), Elko (0.80), Douglas (0.84), Carson City (0.88), Humboldt (0.90), Churchill (0.92), Pershing (0.92), Mineral (0.93), and Lyon (0.96) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Washoe (1.01), Clark (1.04), and Lincoln (1.19) Counties suffer more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 21.1 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Pershing County is only reporting 8.5 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Mineral (15.9), Douglas (18.7), Nye (19.0), Clark (19.1), Washoe (22.0!), Carson City (22.7!), White Pine (23.9!), Storey (24.3!), Lander (25.8!), Eureka (28.2!), Lyon (30.3!), Esmeralda (32.7!), Elko (39.5!), Churchill (51.6!!), Humboldt (112.9????!!!!), and Lincoln (124.0????!!!!) Counties are all reporting over 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day.
According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 data tracker, Nevada’s 14-day test positivity average based on “new positives as a percentage of new test encounters” ticked lower to 6.60%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has inched higher to 8.78%. According to the Scripps Institute’s Outbreak.info, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant: Delta and its sub lineages account for at least 95% of new cases in the last 30 days, at least 93% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 80% of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since February.
If you are 65+ or have a health condition that makes you more susceptible to the more serious side effects of COVID19 don’t delay, get your booster shot today!
I just got my booster this morning & the entire process took no more than 20 minutes!! pic.twitter.com/LRnniD68oZ
— Mayor Daniel Corona (@DanielCoronaNV) November 1, 2021
This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations are up again. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 624 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 69 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 693 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 7,677 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about 11 COVID-19 deaths per day.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 4,397,970 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,666,863 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,957,385 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 63.5% of Nevadans (and more specifically, about 74.7% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 76.6% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,635,320 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 53.1% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 62.4% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 64.4% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I got my own COVID-19 vaccine booster shot last weekend, so I’ll have a special column up soon explaining my own booster experience.)
Booster Update: They’re happening.
Like nearly everything else COVID-related in America, COVID-19 vaccine booster shots have fallen prey to partisan polarization and political punditry. Depending on which pundits you follow most closely on Twitter, boosters are either some damning admission of failure, the only way to salvation, or just another political partisanship test. Today, we’re tossing aside all the media punditry and instead focusing on the actual scientific data.
According to a study of over 728,000 Israeli patients by Israel’s Clalit Research Institute and Harvard University that The Lancet published last week, fully vaccinated patients who took a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine experienced a 92% reduction of risk of severe COVID-19, a 93% reduction of risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19, and an 81% reduction of risk of death due to COVID-19. Keep in mind that these reductions of risk come off the already highly effective original two-dose Pfizer regimen, so this new Israeli data show that the Pfizer booster takes vaccinated patients from an incredibly low risk of life-threatening disease to an infinitesimally low risk of life-threatening disease.
At Monday’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director and Chief Medical Advisor for President Joe Biden, presented this data and recent Israeli data highlighting Moderna booster shots’ efficacy. Following Fauci’s presentation, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients touted the Biden administration’s progress on boosters and sought to reassure Americans that boosters are not getting in the way of their overall vaccination goals.
According to Zients, “On boosters, just over the past two days, about 2 million Americans rolled up their sleeves and got the enhanced protection of a booster shot. By day’s end, about 20 million Americans will have gotten an additional Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J [Johnson & Johnson, or Janssen] dose. So, our boosters program is off to a very strong start and continues to accelerate.”
Next up: Vaccines for children
Last night, the CDC formally approved Pfizer vaccine shots for children aged 5-11, following the FDA’s endorsement of smaller Pfizer doses for younger children. At Monday’s briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky previewed why this is happening: “In the clinical trial, there were only three cases of COVID-19 in the over 1,300 children who received the vaccine and 16 cases in the 660 children who received placebo. Similar to what we saw in the adult trials, the vaccination efficacy was nearly 91% in preventing COVID-19. The FDA Advisory Committee also reviewed safety data from an additional 2,000 children who received the vaccine and found no severe adverse events and reported post-vaccine symptoms, including soreness at the site, headaches, muscle aches, and low-grade fevers that were very similar to the adult population. With the safety and effective — efficacy results, the FDA authorized the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on Friday.”
Meanwhile, Zients stated that the Biden administration has already begun to move 15 million child-safe COVID-19 vaccine doses to health care providers across the country. According to Zients, “Overall, more than 20,000 pediatricians, family doctors, pharmacies, and other providers parents know and trust are getting ready to administer vaccines. […] Following CDC’s decision, parents will be able to visit Vaccines.gov and filter for locations offering vaccinations for children ages 5 through 11 so they can easily find a site nearby and schedule an appointment.” Then during today’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, Zients reaffirmed, “Starting the week of November 8, the children’s vaccine program will be fully up and running.”
Also during today’s briefing, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy sought to get ahead of the next wave of the anti-vaccine Influencer Infodemic: “This vaccine will help protect our children from COVID-19.” He continued, “Many parents are already seeing inaccurate claims on social media and text threads. […] Please seek answers from credible sources.”
“The safety of our children is of the utmost importance to me, and I believe these vaccines are essential to protecting our children.”
– CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, at the November 3 White House COVID-19 Briefing
Dr. Walensky soon cleared the air on any remaining confusion over “natural immunity” rumors: “We absolutely recommend that children who were previously infected get vaccinated. We don’t know how long that lasts or how strong that will be [for every individual patient].” Basically like adult patients, there’s no guarantee that any one child who previously survived a COVID-19 infection has anything approaching bulletproof protection against reinfection without vaccination.
Looking back at the bigger picture, Dr. Walensky used today’s briefing to further reassure parents that these vaccines are safe and beneficial: “We have followed the scientific process. We have done due diligence. The safety of our children is of the utmost importance to me, and I believe these vaccines are essential to protecting our children.”
You're only supposed to order doses you can reasonably expect to administer, and there was (and remains) some initial uncertainty about when first doses would be available. Which meant booking appointments and scheduling providers for dates we could be confident it would be here.
— Daniel “Giblets!” Summers, MD (@WFKARS) November 3, 2021
Dr. Walensky pointed to students’ return to in-person school and stated that more vaccinations mean more safe learning spaces: “We are reminded of the importance of providing a healthy environment where children can succeed.” And regarding family members protecting one another via vaccination, Dr. Walensky stated, “This prevents children from bringing the virus home to family members who are more vulnerable. […] Vaccination helps to reduce community transmission and protect the most vulnerable.”
While the federal government promises to be ready for a November 8 launch of vaccination for younger children (5-11), the different formulation and smaller needles mean that children’s vaccinations may not be running up to full speed as quickly as the booster rollout was, as boosters mainly rely upon pre-existing supply of vaccine doses and needles for adults and teenagers. Closer to home, Nevada Health Response currently has 233 health care providers on track to begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations for children following the CDC’s formal approval, and state health officials are promising to bring more child-safe vaccination sites online in the days ahead. Check Immunize Nevada for the latest information on where to go for children’s vaccinations.
Finally, some odds and ends
Nevada’s larger mask rule for publicly accessible indoor spaces continues to be updated weekly based on two weeks’ worth of CDC COVID-19 transmission data. Esmeralda County is currently the only Nevada county without the universal masking rule, but Esmeralda is back up to high transmission this week. If Esmeralda doesn’t drop below substantial level next week, then Esmeralda County will once again have to operate under the mask mandate late next week.
After a volatile summer, Nevada’s vaccination rate is back on the rebound. According to CDC data, our seven-day moving average of daily vaccine doses administered has jumped to 9,609. This still marks a 88.86% increase from our July 10 record low at 5,088, and this marks a 16.97% jump above our previous August 23 high of 8,215. It’s possible that we’re seeing another rebound at least partially due to already vaccinated patients seeking booster shots, and we’ll have to keep an eye on this once younger children start to get vaccinated.
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check Immunize Nevada for more information on vaccine availability in your area, check Nevada Health Response for testing in your area, and check Nevada 211 for more health care resources. If you’re in need of additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square. And for goodness sake, please maintain best practices to help stop the spread.
The cover photo is a screenshot taken by me.