One year after the pandemic was declared, 1 in 10 Americans have been fully vaccinated
By Christina Maxouris, Ray Sanchez, Steve Almasy and Deidre McPhillips, CNN
(CNN) -- Exactly one year after the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic and about three months since the first Americans outside of clinical trials got shots, one in 10 people in the US are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on its website that at least 33.9 million Americans are protected with either a one-dose or two-dose vaccine.
The news comes ahead of President Joe Biden's address to Americans Thursday night about the pandemic and the next chapter.
More than 29 million cases and 530,000 deaths have been reported in the US since one year ago.
The virus plunged America into grief and crisis. Several rounds of steep surges in infections prompted local and state leaders from coast to coast to order safety restrictions -- in some cases, curfews -- hoping to curb the deadly spread. Waves of Covid-19 patients crippled health care systems. Spikes in deaths drove some communities to call in mobile units to support their morgues.
"After a year of this fight, we are tired, we are lonely, we are impatient," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Thursday. "There have been too many missed family gatherings, too many lost milestones and opportunities, too many sacrifices."
"These are grandparents, parents, and children," Walensky said. "They are siblings, friends, and neighbors. They are our loved ones and our community. We join together to grieve these losses and intensify our efforts so they were not in vain."
On this day last year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a congressional hearing that "things are going to get much worse before they get better."
"But I did not in my mind think that much worse was going to be 525,000 deaths," he said Thursday on NBC's "Today" show.
Now, the country is at a pivotal point.
Case numbers, after plateauing at high levels, may be beginning to decline again, Walensky said during a White House briefing on Wednesday. Average hospital admissions and Covid-19 deaths were also down over the past week, she added.
"While these trends are starting to head in the right direction, the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths still remain too high and are somber reminders that we must remain vigilant as we work to scale up our vaccination efforts across this country," Walensky said.
Some experts have warned another possible surge could be weeks away, fueled by a highly contagious variant spreading across the country.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the US is at a "perfect-storm moment." The B.1.1.7 variant -- first reported in the United Kingdom -- has "transmission unlike I've seen any at all since this pandemic began" in some areas, particularly in Florida, Texas, and Georgia.
"And, remember, this is coming at us at the very same time we're opening up America as if there is nothing else happening," Osterholm said on CNN's "New Day."
He added, "I think the dynamics of the virus right now, I'm afraid, are going to beat us at the vaccination game."
What will help now, while the country works to boost its vaccination numbers, are the precautions that have been touted by officials for months: face masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, washing hands.
And it's especially crucial, according to experts, that Americans heed this guidance, even as more governors announce it's time to begin loosening Covid-19 restrictions and paving the way for a return to normal. Experts have highlighted we're not there just yet.
"We must continue to use proven prevention measures to slow the spread of Covid-19," Walensky added. "They are getting us closer to the end of this pandemic."
More than 2 million shots administered daily
For more than a week, the country's seven-day average of vaccine doses administered has been above two million per day.
Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla, in an open letter marking the one-year anniversary of the WHO pandemic declaration, celebrated "a sense that liberation is on the horizon," bolstered in part by "encouraging real-world data about our vaccine coming out of Israel and other countries."
But Bourla, warned, "we are not out of the woods," stressing the need to remain "vigilant in the coming months" as the company continues to research antiviral therapies, the impact of boosters on variants, and how its vaccine performs in children and those who are pregnant.
As vaccination numbers climb, more state leaders are expanding the groups of people eligible for a shot.
At least 47 states plus DC are allowing teachers and school staff to receive Covid-19 vaccines. By next Monday, teachers will be eligible in all 50 states.
In Indiana, teachers and childcare workers can get vaccinated starting Monday, according to Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the chief medical officer with the state's health department.
The state has also added several high-risk conditions to the list of eligible comorbidities, including early childhood conditions that are carried into adulthood, and Weaver added the state plans incrementally expand vaccine eligibility next to those 40-49 years old.
In Georgia, officials announced that starting March 15 eligibility will include people 55 and older as well as individuals with disabilities and certain medical conditions.
"Provided supply allows, vaccine eligibility is expected to open to all adults in April," Gov. Brian Kemp's office said in a statement.
Other states also announced expanded vaccine eligibility this week, including Alaska, which took it the furthest by making vaccines available to anyone living or working in the state who is at least 16. It's the first state to do so.
Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine is the only one available for use by people who are 16 or older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are both restricted to people 18 or older.
Guidance for fully vaccinated people will evolve
For Americans who have been fully vaccinated, new guidance released by the CDC earlier this week marks a small first step toward a return to pre-pandemic life, the agency's director and other colleagues wrote in a JAMA Viewpoint article published Wednesday.
"As vaccine supply increases, and distribution and administration systems expand and improve, more and more people will become fully vaccinated and eager to resume their prepandemic lives," Walensky and CDC officials Drs. Sarah Mbaeyi and Athalia Christie wrote.
"Giving vaccinated people the ability to safely visit their family and friends is an important step toward improved well-being and a significant benefit of vaccination," they added.
The guidance will evolve as vaccination numbers grow and more data emerges, the officials said, but while many Americans remain unvaccinated, public health precautions are still very important.
"With high levels of community transmission and the threat of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, CDC still recommends a number of prevention measures for all people, regardless of vaccination status," they wrote.
In its guidance, the agency did not update its travel recommendations: the CDC still says people should delay travel and stay home.
"What we have seen is that we have surges after people start traveling," Walensky said in the briefing.
In fact, air travel is already surging, with the Transportation Security Administration screening 955,177 travelers at US airports Wednesday -- the busiest Wednesday since the winter holidays.
Last weekend, 5.6 million travelers flew in five days, the busiest commercial airlines have been this year.
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