NEW YORK, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- U.S. federal government has admitted there is much more to do in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as 66 million Americans have not been vaccinated, while progress is being made for new vaccine boosters from Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Moderna, and the country is set to reopen to vaccinated international travelers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday updated that 217,953,275 people had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, who made up 65.6 percent of the whole U.S. population. Fully vaccinated people stood at 188,281,747, accounting for 56.7 percent of the total. Altogether 9,319,172 people, or 4.9 percent of fully vaccinated group, received booster shots.
According to The New York Times (NYT) data analysis, the 7-day average of confirmed cases of the pandemic stood at 88,287 nationwide on Thursday, with the 14-day change striking a 22-percent fall. The COVID-19-related deaths were 1,818 on Thursday, with the 14-day change realizing a 6-percent decrease.
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The latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that COVID-19 cases among U.S. children peaked in September as many schools reopened amid the Delta variant surge -- more than 6 million children have tested positive for the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, with over 1.1 million new cases recorded from Sept. 3 to 30.
Only a small proportion of young children with COVID-19 got severely ill or die, reported NBC on Thursday. Though weekly data from the CDC showed that COVID-19 deaths among children under age 15 also reached its highest level in September, only 41 children died of the virus from Sept. 4 to Oct. 2.
Vaccinations for young children could begin within weeks. Pfizer and BioNTech on Oct. 7 requested emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine for children of ages 5 to 11, and an advisory committee under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will discuss the authorization on Oct. 26. The White House has told governors to prepare for child vaccinations beginning as early as November.
On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden said that the number of unvaccinated Americans still remains "unacceptably high," but insisted that his administration's vaccine requirements for the federal workforce and private employers are "working" to ensure more individuals receive shots to protect against COVID-19.
"We're making progress nationally. Daily cases are down 47 percent, hospitalizations are down 38 percent over the past six weeks," Biden said during his remarks from the White House. "Over the past two weeks, most of the country has improved as well. Case rates are declining in 39 states and hospital rates declining in 38 states."
However, he warned, "we have to do more to vaccinate 66 million unvaccinated people in America. It's essential." The president insisted "now's not the time to let up. We have a lot more to do," adding that the United States is "in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19."
On Friday, the White House announced that international travelers fully vaccinated against the coronavirus who have been barred from entering the United States during the pandemic will be able to enter the country on Nov. 8, marking an end to restrictions that had walled off tourists and relatives seeking to visit their families.
White House spokesman Kevin Munoz posted on Twitter that the policy "is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent." U.S. airline, hotel and cruise industry stocks rose on the news, with American Airlines rising 2 percent; Marriott International, Inc. up 3.7 percent; and Carnival Corp up 1.6 percent.
The CDC considers people fully inoculated two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the single dose of the J&J vaccine. Those who have received vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization would also be considered fully vaccinated.
Also on Friday, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee advised the FDA to authorize a booster dose of the J&J coronavirus vaccine for people aged 18 and older, with a recommendation it be given at least 2 months after the first shot.
The unanimous recommendation will now be taken up by the FDA, which is expected to make a decision within days, "a decision that will clarify the path forward for the 14 million people in the United States who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, many of whom have felt left behind," reported The Washington Post.
The same committee on Thursday recommended Moderna booster shots to people aged 65 and older and other high-risk adults, in line with guidelines for Pfizer's vaccine. The FDA is not the final go-ahead, however. Next week, a CDC vaccine advisory group will decide who should get the extra J&J and Moderna shots. Enditem