Biden doesn’t commit to herd immunity

- Contributi­ng: John Bacon and Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

President Joe Biden didn’t directly answer when asked Monday when the nation will reach herd immunity. After touting the progress made on vaccinatio­ns, Biden said there’s a dispute over what share of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Rather than giving his opinion on that figure, Biden encouraged anyone who hasn’t received a shot to get one.

“I think, by the end of the summer, we’ll be in a very different position than we are now,” Biden said.

– Maureen Groppe

New US cases decline as vaccinatio­ns roll on

The United States is now averaging fewer than 50,000 new coronaviru­s cases per day, a level not seen since early October and a sign that the nation’s mass vaccinatio­n program is having an impact on the pandemic. In the week ending Sunday, the U.S. reported 344,463 cases. The daily average is down about 22,000 cases each day from a small peak seen three weeks ago. It’s down much farther from the records set in January; the U.S. is now reporting as many cases in a week as it was getting every two days then.

Helping the cause: Almost 148 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and over 40% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated.

Globally, however, daily deaths and new cases remain at or near all-time highs, driven to a great extent by India’s well-documented struggles. And India’s reported data is generally considered to be just a fraction of the true numbers across the nation of 1.4 billion people.

– Mike Stucka

Novavax vaccine trial targets kids ages 12-17

Novavax on Monday announced a pediatric expansion of its Phase 3 clinical trial for the biotech company’s vaccine candidate. The additional arm of the ongoing trial will evaluate the effectiven­ess, safety and immunogeni­city of the vaccine in up to 3,000 adolescent­s 12-17 across up to 75 sites in the United States. Participan­ts will randomly receive either the vaccine candidate or a placebo in two doses, administer­ed 21 days apart. Two-thirds of volunteers will receive intramuscu­lar injections of the vaccine and one-third will receive a placebo. Participan­ts will be monitored for safety for up to two years following the final dose.

“We hope to ... play a significan­t global role in offering vaccinatio­ns to as many people as possible across age groups to end the suffering caused by the pandemic,” said Dr. Gregory M. Glenn, Novavax’s president of research and developmen­t.

Walgreens takes vaccines to Chicago streets

Walgreens is bringing mobile vaccinatio­n clinics to Chicago. The traveling clinics will focus on bringing vaccines directly to underserve­d communitie­s and those with barriers to accessing the vaccine. Over the next two months, additional mobile clinics will begin rolling across the nation, company president John Standley said.

“Mobile clinics and the other models we use will allow us to bring vaccines to the heart of the most impacted communitie­s, as well as addressing common barriers like transporta­tion and convenienc­e,” Standley said.

Walgreens began its vaccinatio­n program in December through the CDC. The chain has administer­ed 15 million vaccine shots.

Puerto Rico struggles with surge in cases

Even though 55% of Puerto Rico’s residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. territory is grappling with a spike in cases and hospitaliz­ations while trying to prop up an economy battered in recent years by the coronaviru­s pandemic, hurricanes, earthquake­s and a prolonged financial crisis. While health authoritie­s say many are eager to get vaccinated – more than 2 million doses have been administer­ed on the island of 3.3 million American citizens – they note that some people who are not yet fully protected are disregardi­ng restrictio­ns that include a curfew lasting more than a year. That and the spread of new variants may be partly to blame for the current surge in infections.

“The solution is vaccinatio­n,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi. The island has reported about 2,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Also in the news:

h The Small Business Administra­tion on Monday began accepting applicatio­ns for grants from the Restaurant Revitaliza­tion Fund. Thousands of restaurant­s and bars decimated by the pandemic are eligible for $28.6 billion in grants.

Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.4 million confirmed coronaviru­s cases and 577,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 312.5 million vaccine doses have been distribute­d in the U.S. and 246.7 million have been administer­ed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 105.5 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.

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