Biden announces boosters for all Americans, more schools mandate masks and shots, and the US keeps its land borders closed. Here’s what you should know:
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Biden decides to offer booster shots this fall, meeting criticism from some
Earlier this week the Biden administration announced that all American adults who received either of the mRNA vaccines will be eligible for booster shots eight months after receiving their second dose, pending full authorization by the FDA and review by the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee. Officials added that people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely also be eligible for boosters, but that they need more data before making that official. The news came shortly after the FDA and CDC signed off on offering third vaccine doses to immune-compromised Americans.
So far, experts have had mixed feedback on Biden’s decision. Three new studies released by the CDC suggest that the vaccines’ efficacy declines over several months, especially amid the rise of the Delta variant. But some scientists have criticized the move to offer boosters, saying the data isn’t convincing enough to warrant third shots for all Americans. And yesterday the Africa director for the WHO said that making this call when so many people in poorer countries have yet to receive a single shot makes “a mockery of vaccine equity.”
More schools introduce new mask and vaccination requirements
After more than a week of legal battles over Texas governor Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates, the Texas Education Agency weighed in yesterday, saying that the ban won’t be enforced in the state’s public school systems because of the ongoing court challenges. There will be further guidance once legal proceedings have been resolved. The agency also said it’s requiring districts tell teachers, staff, and families if there’s a confirmed Covid-19 case in a classroom or extracurricular. Before this decision, some schools in the state were coming up with their own ways to skirt Abbott’s ban, like writing masks into the dress code.
Elsewhere in the country, some school districts have also started enforcing new types of mandates. Culver City, California, recently said all eligible students must get their shots, a first for the country. And New York City has said that all high school athletes and coaches involved in high-risk sports need to get vaccinated in order to play.
The US extends closure of Canada and Mexico land borders as travel restrictions are in flux around the world
The Department of Homeland Security announced today that the United States’ land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to inessential travel until September 21, citing concerns about the Delta variant. Canada, on the other hand, opened its borders two weeks ago to fully vaccinated Americans with a negative test from less than 72 hours before arrival, making Americans the first nonessential travelers allowed in the country since the start of the pandemic. The country also recently stipulated that all passengers and workers on its commercial flights need to be vaccinated.
Figuring out how to travel safely during the pandemic continues to be a challenge for many. Recently more stories have surfaced of people testing positive for coronavirus shortly before the end of vacations in Europe, and having to extend their trips to abide by each country’s quarantine mandates. And just today Hong Kong changed its required quarantine period from 14 to 21 days for people coming from “high risk” countries, including the US.
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Are social media platforms to blame for the spread of vaccine misinformation?
Recently, the White House accused Facebook of stoking the flames of pandemic misinformation, thereby discouraging the vaccine-hesitant from getting shots and fueling the spread of Covid-19. But it’s hard to argue that any social network, even Facebook, has anything close to the impact of conservative cable news channels like Fox News on vaccine hesitancy. The issue is heavily partisan: The average vaccination rate was nearly 12 percentage points higher in counties that voted for Biden than in those that went to Trump as of early July. And nearly 60 percent of vaccine-related segments on Fox over a recent two-week period undermined vaccination efforts.