Via Teleconference Washington D.C. April 5 11:01 A.M. EDT
ACTING ADMINISTRATOR SLAVITT:
Good morning. Thank you for joining us. And I hope those of you who celebrate had a nice holiday.
I want to provide an update on our vaccination program, which is accelerating to meet the threat of an accelerating virus.
So, two weeks ago, the President outlined a number of steps that we're taking to significantly increase the number of safe places and trusted places Americans can go to get vaccinated and to ensure that at least 90 percent of Americans have a vaccination site within five miles of where they live by April 19th.
One of the steps the President announced was the opening of at least 12 more federally run mass vaccination sites.
Last week, we announced five new sites — in Maryland, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Missouri, and Indiana. And today, we're announcing three additional sites: The first is at the Columbia Place Mall in Columbia, South Carolina. The second is at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo, Colorado. And the third is at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, Minnesota, home of the Minnesota State Fair, of course.
These three new sites bring us closer to the President's goal. Across the country, there's already 25 existing mass vaccination sites that have a combined capability to administer over 95,000 shots per day. And that number is going to continue to grow as we bring additional sites online.
So, importantly, these new sites will advance our work to equitably distribute vaccines and reach communities that have been hurt the most by the pandemic.
As I've said here before, equity is at the center of these mass vaccination sites. Each one is located in a high-risk community, as defined by the CDC's social vulnerability index or other factors.
Now, of the more than 2.1 million shots that have been administered at these sites to date, more than 60 percent have been administered to racial and ethnic minorities. We know there's more to do on this front, and we're committed to efficiency and equity as we accelerate our vaccination program.
Now, before I turn it to Dr. Walensky, I want to take a moment to provide some highlights of the progress we're making on vaccinations overall.
We're now averaging 3.1 million shots per day over the most recent seven-day period. Over the weekend, there were more than 4 million recorded vaccinations in a single day for the first time.
As of today, nearly one in three Americans and over 40 percent of adults have at least one shot, and nearly one in four adults are fully vaccinated. Seventy-five percent of seniors have now been vaccinated, and more than fifty-five percent of seniors are fully vaccinated.
So, we're headed in the right direction. But as you heard the President say: We're not there yet. The war against COVID-19 is far from over, far from won. The worst thing we could do right now would be to mistake progress for victory. If we let our guard down now, we will see more of our fellow Americans get sick and die unnecessarily.
Each of us can act to prevent this. Our message remains the same as it's been all the way through: Do your part. Wear a mask. Socially distance. Get vaccinated when it's your turn. Period.
Do all of these things, and together, we will save lives and we will put this pandemic behind us sooner rather than later.
With that, I'm going to turn this over to Dr. Walensky and then to Dr. Fauci for some important updates.
Thank you, Andy. And good morning, everyone. I want to begin with an overview of some continued concerning data trends.
CDC's most recent data show the seven-day average of new cases is about 64,000 cases per day. This is up approximately 7 percent compared to the prior seven-day period. Hospital admissions have also increased. The most recent seven-day trend average is about 4,970 admissions per day, up about 3 percent from the previous seven-day period. Deaths have decreased to an average of approximately 800 per day. Importantly, we are now entering our fourth week of increased trends and cases.
While we are watching these increasing case counts with concern, the good news is that millions of Americans are stepping up every day to get vaccinated.
Saturday, as Andy, mentioned CDC reported that over 4 million doses of vaccine had been administered in 24 hours. To date, more than 106 million people have received at least one dose, and more than 61.4 million, or 18.5 percent, are fully vaccinated.
As the trends and data have been indicating, cases are increasing nationally, and we are seeing this occur predominantly in younger adults. This is why you've heard me so clearly share my concern. We know that these increases are due in part to more highly transmissible variants, which we are very closely monitoring.
And as more schools are reopening, it's even more important to make sure they do so safely, with strict adherence to CDC guidance, and for all of us to roll up our sleeves for a vaccine as soon as we can.
We are learning that many outbreaks in young people are related to youth sports and extracurricular activities. According to CDC guidance, these activities should be limited, but if they are not, the risks of clusters can be pervadence [sic] — can be prevented with cadence testing strategies, as are being rolled out in so many different places.
I understand that people are tired and that they are ready for this pandemic to be over, as am I. Please continue to hang in there and to continue to do the things that we know prevent the spread of the virus. If we all continue to wear a well-fitting mask, physically distance, and get vaccinated, America can and will get out of this pandemic. We can meet this moment if we keep doing our part. Everyone working together, getting vaccinated as soon as possible, is how we can turn the corner.
I want to briefly describe now a report in today's MMWR that describes what can happen when we do not follow proper mitigation strategies when everyone is not fully vaccinated.
The Illinois Department of Public Health and staff from a local public health department evaluated a COVID-19 outbreak associated with a bar in a rural area of Illinois. The bar accommodates about 100 people and held an opening event indoors, in February.
While table spacing and signs encouraged physical distancing and masking, people who attended the event reported that mask use was inconsistent and that six feet of distance was not maintained.
The evaluation found 46 COVID-19 cases linked to this event. Of those, 26 were patrons, 3 were bar staff. Seventeen secondary cases occurred among contacts of people who attended the opening and got COVID-19; 12 were household contacts, 3 were long-term care facility contacts, and 2 were school-related contacts.
Transmission associated with this opening event also resulted in eight households with infections, a school closure affecting 650 children, and the hospitalization of a long-term care facility resident.
As we work to get more people vaccinated and as community businesses begin to reopen, these findings underscore the vast impact of a single event affecting communities, schools, families, and fragile elderly. And it emphasizes the impressive transmissibility of this virus and the continued need for layer prevention strategies, including reducing the number of people indoors, improving building ventilation, and utilizing outdoor spaces as the weather allows.
I finally want to highlight today that CDC has updated its guidance for cleaning and disinfecting facilities and homes to reflect the science on transmission.
People can be affected with the virus that causes COVID-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. However, evidence has demonstrated that the risk by this route of infection — of transmission is actually low.
Cleaning with household cleaners containing soap or detergent will physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but reduces the risk of infection by removing them. Disinfecting uses a chemical product, which is a process that kills the germs on the surfaces. In most situations, regular cleaning of surfaces with soap and detergent, not necessarily disinfecting those surfaces, is enough to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Disinfection is only recommended in indoor settings — schools and homes — where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours.
Also, in most cases, fogging, fumigation, and wide-area or electrostatic spraying is not recommended as a primary method of disinfection and has several safety risks to consider.
The risk of surface transmission can also be reduced by wearing masks consistently and correctly, washing your hands, and by following CDC and OSHA guidance to maintain healthy facilities.
The main way people are infected with COVID-19 is through close person-to-person contact, typically between people who are physically near each other, within about six feet. Additional details on this updated guidance is now posted on our CDC website.
I want to end, again, by sharing my confidence that widespread vaccination will bring us to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and with my enthusiasm for how quickly this is happening, and also, my strong support that we all keep taking the necessary steps to stay safe and healthy until we get there.
We are vaccinating at a rate of 3 million people on average every day. This is the spirit of the American people that will help us see this through together.
Thank you. I'll now turn things over to Dr. Fauci.
Thank you very much, Dr. Walensky. I'd like to spend the next couple of minutes addressing a frequently asked question and concern regarding the impact of COVID-19 disease in pregnant women — on the women themselves and on their fetus.
So, clearly, COVID-19 and pregnancy is associated, as I'm going to show you in a moment, with adverse outcomes for mother and baby. And one asks the question: What about the safety and importance of vaccination in that setting?
A few months ago, in November 2020 MMWR, the CDC did an analysis of about 400,000 women with symptomatic COVID-19. And though the numbers were small, it became clear then that there was very likely an increased risk among pregnant women versus non-pregnant women for adverse outcomes of the pregnancy itself and for them as pregnant women if they contracted the disease, COVID-19, as shown by the risk ratios on this slide.
In the Canadian Medical Association Journal of just literally a few weeks ago, they did a meta-analysis of 42 studies involving almost 450,000 pregnant women. And if you look at the odds ratio, they're comparing infection in pregnancy associated with non-infection in pregnancy. The adverse events — such as stillbirth of the baby, preeclampsia, preterm birth — were really quite impressive, particularly when COVID-19 was severe in the pregnant mother — taking a look at the odds ratio of preeclampsia and pre-term birth.
Now, the vaccine data in pregnancy is limited thus far, in the sense of specifically looking at safety concerns with a study designed to do so, which are actually in progress right now.
But what do we know? We know that the use of adenovirus-based vaccines for other diseases were not associated with adverse pregnancy-related outcomes. Although those specific studies have not been done with the mRNA, because women were not included in those clinical trials, observational data from vaccinated pregnant individuals are currently being collected both by the company and by the CDC. And no specific safety signals have been observed thus far among pregnant vaccine recipients.
If you look at the recommendation from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, although they don't specifically recommend vaccination in pregnant women, they make a very important statement that all pregnant individuals who choose to receive the vaccine must be allowed to do so in alignment with state and local vaccination allocation plans.
And the question is, what about the safety associated with this? As I mentioned, as of a few days ago, there have been close to 70,000 v-safe participants that were pregnant at the time they received the vaccination. And the CDC is currently enrolling participants to analyze the data and better understand how vaccination affects pregnant women.
Final slide, next.
So one looks at: What about the effect of vaccination? Well, in a study recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, in 131 reproductive-age vaccine recipients, it became very clear that vaccine-induced, robust immune responses in pregnant women — similar to that in non-pregnant woman — not only was the immunogenicity but the reactogenicity was similar.
And importantly, and very favorably, there was immune transfer to the neonates, which occurred both via the placenta in utero as well as through breast milk. So in other words, things look very good for the association between vaccination and protecting pregnant women from adverse outcomes from themselves and their fetus.
Back to you, Andy.
ACTING ADMINISTRATOR SLAVITT:
Thank you. Thank you Dr. Fauci, Dr. Walensky. All right, let's go to questions, please.
[ ... ]
Read the full trancsript HERE.
You can visit a collection of all White House posts by clicking HERE.