U.S. health agencies announce moves to confront the flu season and plummeting child vaccination rates.
Two top U.S. health agencies have announced tangible steps in trying to confront health issues that are byproducts of the coronavirus pandemic — plummeting childhood vaccination rates and concern about the approaching flu season.
The Department of Health and Human Services is giving permission to pharmacists nationwide to administer all scheduled shots to children as young as 3 — including boosters for measles and other diseases — a step that makes immunization more convenient for parents. The flu vaccine is also an available option for children.
Protecting against the impending flu season in the United States is foremost in the minds of public health officials, who worry about the confluence of cases of flu and Covid-19 hitting hospitals this fall and winter.
And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that a high-dose flu shot aimed at better protecting people 65 and older will guard against four strains of the virus this year, rather than three.
On Wednesday, Massachusetts announced that it will require all students, ranging from six-month-olds in day care centers to those under 30, to get flu shots by Dec. 31. It is the first state to institute such a sweeping requirement for the shot, which is rarely mandated in the U.S.
This year, because restrictions imposed by the pandemic have shuttered workplaces and school health clinics where millions get their shots, officials have loosened their timing recommendations, which usually point to a window from the middle of September till the end of October. Many public health experts recommend to get the shot as soon as you reasonably can.
The new emergency rule allowing state-licensed pharmacists to give federally scheduled vaccines to children ages 3 through 18 is supposed to encourage widespread immunization as schools open during the pandemic and to resolve a patchwork of state laws that govern shots and age limits.
The state of Florida reached a grim threshold on Thursday as its death toll from the coronavirus exceeded 10,000 people, according to a New York Times database.
Florida is the fifth state to report 10,000 or more deaths. The others are New York, New Jersey, California and Texas.
It was a widely expected inflection point. Florida, as of Thursday morning, had identified more than 588,000 cases, and while the number of new cases per day has declined since mid-July, the state is still identifying more than 4,700 new cases per day, on average, in the last seven-day period ending Wednesday.
Public and private-sector efforts to navigate the continuing crisis have been closely scrutinized in the United States’s third most-populous state, where a quarter of the state’s population of more than 21 million is older than 60.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, was criticized for waiting until April 1 to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, after many states had done so. Disney World opened to visitors in July, but the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville was canceled. And last week, more than a dozen counties reopened their schools in accordance with a statewide order for all schools to offer in-person instruction by the end of the month.
The state’s most populous county, Miami-Dade, has suffered the largest number of cases, with 1 in 18 people testing positive.
Mr. DeSantis has stressed that the state’s virus crisis is largely limited to the very old. But the disease appears to be taking a relatively small but increasing toll on the young: More Floridians in the 25-44 age group died in July than had died in the previous four months of the pandemic combined, a review of Florida Department of Health data shows. Records also show the people who died from the virus in Florida among the young were disproportionately Black.
Nationwide, the pandemic has killed so many Americans that the patterns of death in nearly every state look aberrant when compared with recent history. Nationwide, 223,900 more people than usual have died from March 15 to Aug. 8, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.
The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to a coronavirus test made by a British company that gives results in about 12 minutes.
It is an antigen test, the third one of that type that the F.D.A. has authorized.
Antigen tests work by rapidly detecting fragments of virus in a sample. They are speedy, but they tend to miss more infections than do slower tests based on a technology called polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R.
In its authorization letter to LumiraDx, the British company, the F.D.A. noted that negative results from the antigen test do not rule out an infection, and that a positive test should not be used as the sole basis for treatment.
The new test, which must be administered by a health care professional, is performed using a brick-size device made by LumiraDx, and…
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