By Ciara Linnane
About half of the American public has heard little or nothing about the new COVID-19 bivalent booster, a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found. The new booster targets the omicron variants that have become dominant around the world.
One in five of those surveyed said they had heard “nothing at all” about the new boosters. Some 17% said they had heard “a lot” about the boosters, while 33% said they had heard “some” about the new shots. About a third said they’d already gotten the new booster or intended to do so as soon as possible.
“Intention is somewhat higher among older adults, one of the groups most at risk for serious complications of a coronavirus infection,” the authors wrote. “Almost half (45%) of adults ages 65 and older say they have gotten the bivalent booster or intend to get it ‘as soon as possible.’”
The news will likely disappoint health experts who cheered the regulatory authorization of the new boosters in August. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency-use authorization to boosters developed by Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +0.48% and by Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -0.33% and German partner BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.16% for use in people aged 12 and older who have had an initial series of a COVID vaccine, including those who have already had one or more booster doses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all adults get one of the bivalent boosters at least two months after completing a primary series of shots. So far, some 7.6 million people in the U.S. have received it, according to the CDC.
Once again, the country’s partisan divide is evident, with 6 in 10 Democrats saying they’ve already had the shot or will get it soon, compared with 1 in 8 Republicans.
“Notably, 20% of Republicans say they will ‘definitely not’ get the new COVID-19 booster dose, while a further 38% of Republicans are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated and therefore not eligible for the new updated COVID-19 booster dose,” the survey authors said.
In the U.S., known cases of COVID are continuing to ease and now stand at their lowest level since late April, although the true tally is likely higher given how many people are testing at home, where data are not being collected.
The daily average for new cases stood at 47,569 on Thursday, according to a New York Times tracker , down 26% from two weeks ago and now at the lowest level since late April. Cases are rising in 14 states and are sharply higher in several. Montana leads the count with a 75% rise in the last two weeks, followed by Washington with a 48% rise. Cases are up by double digits in Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New Jersey.
The daily average for hospitalizations was down 13% to 28,639, while the daily average for deaths was down 11% to 407.
Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• The U.K. is the only G-7 country whose economy is smaller now than before the pandemic, the Guardian reported, citing data released Friday by the Office for National Statistics. The ONS released figures showing that rather than the economy being 0.6% larger than it was in February 2020, a combination of a deeper recession during the pandemic and a weak recovery had left it 0.2% smaller. All the other major economies in the G-7 , including France and Italy, recovered strongly enough to be larger than they were in February 2020.
• Taiwan is the latest country to end mandatory COVID quarantines for people arriving from overseas, the Associated Press reported. Officials said that beginning Oct. 13, the previous weeklong quarantine requirement would be replaced with a seven-day self-monitoring period. A rapid antigen test will still be required upon arrival, but people showing no symptoms will be allowed to take public transportation.
• Germany’s health ministry is warning of a rise of COVID cases heading into the fall and is urging older people in particular to get a second booster shot, the AP reported separately. Other European countries such as France, Denmark and the Netherlands are also recording an increase in cases, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told reporters in Berlin. “We are clearly at the start of a winter wave,” he said.
• The first Chinese mRNA-based COVID vaccine has received government approval — in Indonesia, the New York Times reported. The shot, developed by Walvax Biotechnology /zigman2/quotes/207535227/delayed CN:300142 -3.85% , Suzhou Abogen Biosciences and the Chinese military, was cleared this week by Indonesia for emergency use. Countries all over the world, including Indonesia, have embraced mRNA vaccines , and they are considered among the most effective vaccines that the world has to offer. But more than two years into the pandemic, they are not yet available in China, which has relied on an increasingly draconian “ zero-COVID ” approach to keep cases and deaths from the virus low.
• Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a supporter of Russia’s war on Ukraine, has tested positive for COVID-19, the church’s press service said on Friday, Reuters reported. The church said Kirill, 75, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had canceled all his planned trips and events and had “severe symptoms” requiring bed rest and isolation. It said his condition was “satisfactory.”
Here’s what the numbers say :
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 617.3 million on Friday, while the death toll rose above 6.54 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University .
The U.S. leads the world with 96.3 million cases and 1,059,291 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 225.3 million people living in the U.S., equal to 67.9% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots. Just 109.9 million have had a booster, equal to 48.8% of the vaccinated population, and 23.9 million of those who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 36.6% of those who received a first booster.