White House COVID-19 Response Team touts vaccinations, ponders boosters

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- On Thursday morning, the White House COVID-19 Response Team shared updated metrics, highlighting an increase in cases as the more transmissible Delta variant continues to spread.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said 83% of US counties have high or substantial transmission. Tuesday, there were more than 100,000 new cases While the variant has affected all 50 states, nearly half of new cases and hospitalizations have stemmed from seven states: Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Combined, those states account for about a quarter of the US population, and only Florida ranks in the top half of states by percentage of its population at least partially vaccinated.

In response to the surge, vaccinations have increased, especially in harder-hit areas. During the past 24 hours, there have been 864,000 vaccinations, the highest day in about a month, with the majority of those shots being first doses.

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"The vaccines are working against the Delta variant. They are highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. And they're also effective at reducing the overall risk of infection. In fact, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that two doses of the mRNA vaccines are 88% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 infection with the Delta variant," said US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.

While the overall focus remains on increasing vaccination rates, there is ongoing discussion surrounding booster shots for people who are immunosuppressed.

"Immunocompromised individuals are vulnerable. The reason is it is clear now from the observational data that was made that they do not make in general, with some exceptions, but in general do not make an adequate response that we feel would be adequately protected. So in this regard, it is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters. And we are now working on that, and will make that be implemented as quickly as possible because for us and for the individuals involved it is a very high priority," said NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

It's a topic of particular importance to James Rodney Tarrants of Sanford, who was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

"Now I can't even leave the floor," he said. "I think they told me I could go down to the atrium starting maybe today or something. But it is really concerning because my white blood cells is just nothing,"

Tarrants is receiving chemotherapy as part of his treatment regimen. He is fully vaccinated, though is at higher risk for severe illness should he become infected with COVID-19.

"Everybody needs to get their regular vaccination. But if this comes around, I'll be the first one holding up my hand, (saying) 'let's do it,'" said Tarrants.

Thursday, Moderna announced its vaccine remained 93% effective at preventing symptomatic disease after six months, though the data was conducted prior to the Delta variant's emergence in the United States. Furthermore, it noted promising results in response with its booster candidates to variants, including Delta.
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