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5 Things To Know About the COVID Vaccine This Week

Since the vaccine rollout began in December, more than 266 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed in the US. It’s been a busy spring: By late March, the US was giving out around 3 million shots per day, and by late April, vaccine eligibility expanded to anyone 16 and older. More than 118 million Americans have been fully vaccinated so far.

As we enter summer, the end of the pandemic in the US is starting to feel within reach. But there’s still plenty of COVID vaccine news to keep up with. We rounded up the five most important vaccine-related developments from the past week. 

Vaxxed and (mostly) un-masked

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” the CDC Director announced last week. After more than a year of strict social distancing guidelines and mask mandates, the CDC says anyone fully vaccinated can refrain from wearing a mask or practicing social distancing in most indoor settings. After initial surprise over the announcement, various states are starting to drop their own mask requirements. [CBS News

Protection for pregnant women

When Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines were first released, there was little data available about their effects on pregnant women. We’re finally starting to learn more: A new study published in JAMA says the shots shield pregnant women against COVID-19 — and most likely work against several dangerous variants. [New York Times

“Variant of concern”

As India faces a widespread COVID-19 catastrophe, a highly contagious variant that originated there is worrying neighboring countries. Last week, the WHO called the variant, known as B.1.617, a “variant of concern.” However, two new studies suggest the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should at least protect against severe cases of the virus caused by the variant. “These findings highlight the need to increase vaccination rates,” one immunologist said. [NPR

The Kids are alright

The CDC greenlit Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 last week. The biopharma giant tested its shot on more than 2,000 children in a clinical trial, and although 91 percent of recipients reported side effects, none experienced serious adverse reactions. [CNBC

Breakthrough infections

Eight fully vaccinated members of the New York Yankees, who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, recently tested positive for mild cases of COVID-19, causing much confusion. But public health officials say you shouldn’t worry, as breakthrough infections — meaning those that occur after immunization — are considered normal. Most vaccines can’t offer 100 percent protection. All COVID-19 vaccines available in the US protect against the most severe cases of the virus, which is most important. [STAT]

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