SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Vaccines for children, booster shots, and vaccine mandates dominated COVID-19 headlines throughout October. Back in September, President Biden received a COVID-19 booster shot, just days after the CDC endorsed an additional dose of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans aged 65 and older.
The White House is now preparing to distribute vaccines for up to 28 million children between the ages of 5 to 11, as soon as the FDA and CDC provide formal approval for the Pfizer vaccine, which could happen the first week of November. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, three weeks apart with a two-week wait for full protection to kick in, meaning the first youngsters in line will be fully covered by Christmas.
For children under five, Pfizer and Moderna are conducting studies on vaccine efficacy in children as young as 6 months old, with results expected later this year. The Biden administration noted the expansion of shots to children under 12 will not look as bleak as the first vaccine rollout 10 months ago, when limited doses and inadequate capacity led to a painstaking wait for many Americans.
Officials say the country now has ample supplies of Pfizer shots to vaccinate children who will soon be eligible, and have been working for months to ensure widespread availability of shots. About 15 million doses will be shipped to providers across the U.S. in the first week after approval, the White House said. Officials report more than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers have already signed on to dispense the vaccine to elementary school children.
Salt Lake City Schools, one of the only school districts with a mask requirement for students and staff, reported lower rates of COVID-19 compared to other districts in the county. Meanwhile, Edgemont Elementary School in Provo moved to remote learning on Oct. 9th after a high number of COVID-19 cases were discovered.
More companies, institutions, agencies, and organizations have implemented mandatory COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees and visitors, leading some to quit or accept employment termination in protest of the requirement. Washington State University fired its football coach for refusing to get the vaccine. Utah Rep. Chris Stewart boycotted Jazz games after the NBA team announced all attendees will need to be vaccinated or test negative within 72 hours of entering the venue.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students on October 1st. It’s a plan that will have all elementary through high school students vaccinated once the shot gains final approval from the U.S. government for younger age groups. On October 6th, the City of Los Angeles approved one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates, a sweeping measure that requires vaccination for anyone entering bars, restaurants, nail salons, gyms, or even a Lakers game.
However, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on October 12th that stops any entity in the state, including private businesses, from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of their employees or customers. Salt Lake County offered its employees up to $500 in bonuses to get vaccinated, their families vaccinated, and to get the flu shot.
The time to find ICU beds in Utah nearly tripled amid increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Health officials gave the green light for fully-vaccinated Americans to mix and match the brand of their original vaccines with a COVID-19 booster shot. Meanwhile, Pfizer, Merck and Co., and Roche Holding AG all began testing its own potential COVID-19 oral treatment pill as a preventative medicine aimed at warding off the virus if a close contact is infected.
Dr. Christina Porucznik, professor of public health at the University of Utah and a lead in a CDC study on COVID-19 and families with kids, joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen for an IN FOCUS discussion. She shared what her study showed about children getting sick with COVID-19, the results of their infections, whether they were more or less likely to spread the virus, whether they suffered any long-term symptoms, if there were any unusual symptoms, and how the virus moved among families.
Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Utah, talked about whether fully-vaccinated people should mix or match the brand of their COVID-19 booster shots, how mixing works scientifically with the Johnson & Johnson shot operating differently than mRNA vaccines, whether he thinks everyone who received the Johnson & Johnson shot should get a booster, and how long he expects we will need boosters.
Dr. Nels Elde, associate professor in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah discussed the Delta and Delta plus variants, some of the deadlier viruses such as Ebola and Marburg, how they were contained, whether current technologies could create a vaccine for them, other viruses that aren’t as well-known such as SADS, what worries him the most about a new and different pandemic, the genetics of the influenza virus, and his prediction on how we will live with COVID-19 in the future.
Laura Allred Hurtado, the executive director of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) explained how the pandemic influenced the art that’s being made right now, the themes she’s seeing among artists, what the museum did to keep displays active during the pandemic, some COVID-themed exhibits they’ve held, and how she thinks history will look at the art being created with the pandemic in mind.
To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Dr. Porucznik, Dr. Swaminathan, Dr. Elde, and Hurtado, click on the video at the top of the article.
Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.