Rich countries turn to booster shots. Will the US follow suit?
Jessica DuPreez

Rich countries turn to booster shots. Will the US follow suit?

A growing number of countries are turning to booster vaccine shots as the world grapples with the Delta variant and data on the potential for waning immunity.

  • On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates joined Germany, Israel and the United Kingdom in recommending third shots for the elderly. Israel announced its booster program last week following a strong recommendation from a government-appointed team of experts, who based their findings on data suggesting significant waning immunity from infection over time
  • Not everyone is advocating the move. The World Health Organization (WHO) told CNN last month that it didn’t know whether booster vaccines will be needed, citing limited data. US regulators have also said Americans do not need a third shot — just yet. But that mood is shifting. On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said there was an effort to make vaccine boosters available to people with compromised immune systems.    
  • This comes after President Joe Biden announced a series of new steps to get Americans inoculated, including a requirement that all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated or face strict protocols. On Tuesday, meat producer Tyson Foods said all its workers had to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by November 1. Tyson’s move was notable since company mandates in the US up until now had largely focused on corporate employees. 
  • With less than half of the US population fully vaccinated, the outlook remains grim as cases surge in the country. On Tuesday, for the first time since February, more than 50,000 hospital beds across the country were occupied by Covid-19 patients, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services — with states reporting that many if not all admissions were unvaccinated patients.
  • The Delta variant is also wreaking havoc globally. In Africa, Covid-19 deaths have risen rapidly over the past month, as fatalities surged by 80% within the last four weeks, the WHO said. China’s spiraling outbreak has reached Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic, prompting citywide testing as authorities scramble to contain its first reported local infections in more than a year. Some fear the return of a stringent lockdown. Meanwhile, Thailand has built a Covid-19 hospital in Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport. 

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: Can Covid-19 affect the nervous system?

A: Covid-19 may be associated with cognitive decline and acceleration of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, according to an international consortium of researchers who are trying to understand the long-term consequences of the virus on the central nervous system.

Dr. Gabriel de Erausquin, a professor of neurology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and his colleagues studied more than 200 adults age 60 and older from Argentina who were infected with Covid-19. They found that patients who had a persistent loss of smell were more likely to experience cognitive issues. Three to six months after they were infected, more than half of the patients still struggled with forgetfulness, and about a quarter experienced additional cognitive challenges.

How sick a patient was with Covid-19 was not an indicator of whether they would experience cognitive decline. Erausquin however stressed that the research does not show that Covid-19 increases a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s, and there are some big questions that can only be answered with time.

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