Citing increased hospitalization rates of teenagers with COVID-19 in March and April, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky urged parents to vaccinate their teens to protect them from an illness that can be severe even among young people.
“I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the numbers of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation,” Walensky said in a statement that was released Friday alongside a new study looking at trends in hospitalization among adolescents with the disease.
“Much of this suffering can be prevented,” Walensky added, urging “parents, relatives, and close friends to join me and talk with teens” about the importance of prevention strategies and to encourage vaccination.
The study showed that nearly one-third of those teenagers hospitalized with COVID-19 during a surge of cases early this year required intensive care, and 5 percent required mechanical ventilation.
While most COVID-19 hospitalizations occur in older adults, severe disease that requires hospitalization has been shown to occur in all age groups. COVID-19 hospitalization rates among adolescents declined in January and February 2021, the report said, but increased during March and April, even as hospitalization rates stabilized for those 65 and older, likely because of their higher rates of vaccination.
On May 10, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds.
Calif. awards lottery prizes to generate more vaccinations
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Governor Gavin Newsom played game-show host Friday in a drawing for 15 winners of $50,000 prizes for getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“If you’re on the fence, if you’re just a little bit hesitant or you just were unwilling in the past but all the sudden you think, ‘Wait a sec, I could really use $50,000,’ we’re doing all of this to encourage that and to get you to think anew and hopefully act anew,” Newsom said at the California State Lottery headquarters, where he was flanked by a machine used to randomly choose winners and a Wheel of Fortune-style colored wheel for show.
It was the first in a series of drawings for $16.5 million in prize money aimed at encouraging Californians to get their shots ahead of June 15, when the state plans to lift almost all virus-related restrictions. So far, 67 percent of eligible people age 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The state’s goal is to fully vaccinate at least 75 percent of people.
Newsom announced the prize money last week, warning the state’s vaccination rates were about to go off a cliff without an intervention. State officials said vaccine rates had dropped at the time by 18 percent from the week before.
In the week since Californians became eligible to win money, vaccinations were down 4 percent from the prior week, Newsom spokeswoman Erin Mellon said. One million vaccinations were given in the past week, she said.
Fauci presses China for researchers’ medical records
Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases specialist, has urged Beijing to release the medical records of three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology as speculation continues to grow around the possibility of the coronavirus having leaked from a Chinese lab.
“I would like to see the medical records of the three people who are reported to have got sick in 2019,” Fauci told the Financial Times in an interview published Friday. “Did they really get sick, and if so, what did they get sick with?”
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared to be referring to a Wall Street Journal article, citing an intelligence report, that said three researchers at the institute had fallen ill with COVID-like symptoms in the fall of 2019, or before the first infections were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The director of the institute, the first laboratory in China’s mainland to have received the highest level of biosecurity clearance, has called the report a “lie.” The Washington Post recently documented instances of activities at the institute that appeared to contradict what officials had told the World Health Organization and the public.
Fauci also asked for the medical records of six miners who became sick after entering a bat cave in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan in 2012. The cave was reportedly the home of a coronavirus, which was collected and studied at the institute.
“It is entirely conceivable that the origins of SARS-CoV-2 was in that cave and either started spreading naturally or went through the lab,” Fauci told the Financial Times.
Many scientists, including Fauci, believe the coronavirus probably jumped to humans through an intermediate animal host. But interest in the possibility that the virus leaked from a lab has moved away from the fringes after President Biden asked US intelligence agencies to take a closer look at how the pandemic began.
France to welcome vaccinated US visitors
PARIS — France rolled out a long-anticipated plan for the resumption of international leisure travel to the country on Friday, marking a major step toward a degree of normality after a more than one year-long suspension of trans-Atlantic tourism.
Fully vaccinated American travelers will be able to return to France starting next Wednesday, the French Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday, but they will need to show a negative PCR or antigen test conducted shortly before departure.
It was not immediately clear how US travelers will need to prove that they are fully vaccinated.
Vaccinated Americans are allowed back into the country because of the significant drop in coronavirus cases in the United States over the last months and a vaccination rate that exceeds the EU’s. Nonessential travelers from countries with raging outbreaks, including Brazil and India, will remain banned from entering France, even if they are vaccinated.
But the French plans still impose tougher restrictions on American travelers than on tourists from some other countries, including Australia and Israel, where the coronavirus is deemed to be under control. From those countries, unvaccinated tourists will be allowed to enter France for nonessential reasons, too. Vaccinated EU travelers will be able to enter without having to show a negative test.
Countries’ classification remains subject to short-term changes, with Friday’s announcement being based on data from Wednesday. This means that Americans could still see restrictions relaxed or toughened in the coming weeks.
President Emmanuel Macron had previously already suggested that vaccinated Americans would be allowed back into the country in June, and US interest in bookings is on the rise, according to French tourism officials.
Researchers: Prior virus infection reduces risk of reinfection
Previous coronavirus infection reduces the risk of catching it again for up to 10 months, according to a new study by researchers at University College London.
The study tracked the status of more than 2,000 care-home residents and staff in Britain, who were tested on a monthly and weekly basis. It found that a prior bout of COVID-19 reduced the risk of reinfection by 85 percent in residents and 60 percent in staff members.
The findings were published Thursday in the Lancet Healthy Longevity journal. The authors said the results suggest that previous infection “provides a high degree of protection” against second infection.
Among those who contracted the virus again, none required hospital treatment.