THURSDAY, April 29, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Over 100 American colleges will require that students get coronavirus vaccines if they want to be on campus in the fall, a new survey shows.
More than 660,000 cases have been linked to universities since the start of the pandemic, with one-third of those reported since Jan. 1, The New York Times reported.
And COVID-19 outbreaks still plague some campuses, even as students have become eligible for vaccines. Salve Regina University in Rhode Island canceled all in-person events for at least a week after more than 30 students tested positive in seven days, the Times reported. Meanwhile, Wayne State University in Detroit suspended in-person classes and on-campus activities in early April.
Schools including DePaul University, Emory University and Wesleyan University are requiring all students to be vaccinated, the Times survey found. Others have said they are requiring athletes or those who live on campus to get a shot. Most are allowing medical, religious and other exemptions, the survey found.
Although private colleges constitute the majority of schools with vaccine mandates, some public universities have also moved to require the shots, the Times said.
Students and employees of the University of Maryland will be required to get vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall, said Chancellor Jay Perman. He said he was particularly concerned about the B.1.1.7 variant, which he described in his announcement last week as more contagious, the newspaper reported.
"That's what we're preparing for, more infectious, more harmful variants that we think could be circulating on our campuses come fall," Perman said.
At least two dozen colleges, including those in California's public university system, said that they would require shots once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives full approval for the three coronavirus vaccines currently approved for emergency use in the United States, the Times reported.
Many schools that are not requiring vaccinations are instead offering incentives to encourage students to get their shots. Baylor University in Texas and Calvin University in Michigan have both announced that students who have been inoculated can skip mandatory COVID-19 testing, the newspaper said.
The University of Wyoming is offering vaccinated students and staff members a chance to participate in a weekly drawing for prizes such as tickets to football or basketball games and Apple products, the Times reported. Employees who are fully vaccinated are eligible for a personal day off.
US to Share 60 million vaccine doses with other countries
As coronavirus cases surge around the world, the White House said this week that the United States will share up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine with other countries.
The announcement came as India's health system showed signs of collapse amid a soaring case count. The AstraZeneca vaccine will be shipped out once it clears federal safety reviews, the Times reported.
Biden Administration officials noted that the move will not affect the United States' national vaccination drive.
"We do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against COVID," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a media briefing, the Washington Post reported.
The latest decision represents a shift for the White House, which has been reluctant to make extra doses of coronavirus vaccine available in large amounts.
Unlike the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, AstraZeneca's vaccine has not yet been granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and U.S. officials would not say which countries will receive it once it is approved, the Times reported.
Jen Psaki said about 10 million doses could be released "in the coming weeks" if the FDA determines that the vaccine meets "our own bar and our own guidelines," and that another 50 million doses are in various stages of production, the Times reported.
Although many countries are desperate for vaccines, AstraZeneca's shots may not be their first choice, as the vaccine has faced concerns about rare blood clots and its effectiveness against variants, the Post reported.
The European Union (EU) is suing the company for missed delivery targets, and South Africa stopped using the vaccine after a small trial found it was not effective against the dominant variant in the country. The EU also temporarily paused distribution of the vaccine while it investigated the blood clots associated with it, before ultimately resuming injections.
In a statement, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca said the company would not comment on specifics, but that "the doses are part of AstraZeneca's supply commitments to the U.S. government. Decisions to send U.S. supply to other countries are made by the U.S. government," the Times reported.
Millions of Americans have missed their second COVID shot
More than 5 million Americans have missed the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, new government data shows.
The number of vaccine recipients who missed their second dose now stands at nearly 8%, more than double the rate seen among people who got inoculated during the first several weeks of the national vaccine campaign, the Times reported.
Already, millions of people are wary about getting vaccinated at all, and now local health authorities are struggling to make sure that those who get their first shot also get their second.
"I'm very worried, because you need that second dose," Dr. Paul Offit, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's vaccine advisory panel, told the Times.
Why the missed second shots?
Some said they feared the side effects, which can include flu-like symptoms, while others said they felt they were sufficiently protected with a single shot. But a surprising hurdle has also surfaced: A number of vaccine providers have canceled second-dose appointments because they ran out of supply or didn't have the right brand in stock, the Times reported. Walgreens, one of the biggest vaccine providers in the United States, sent some people who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get their second doses at pharmacies that only had the other vaccine on hand, the newspaper said. Several Walgreens customers said they scrambled to get the correct second dose, but others likely gave up, the newspaper added.
Public health officials had worried from the start that it would be hard to get everyone to come back for their second shot, and now some state officials are scrambling to keep the tally of partly vaccinated people from swelling.
Compared with the two-dose regimen, a single shot triggers a weaker immune response and may leave some people more susceptible to dangerous virus variants, the Times said. And though a single dose provides some protection against COVID-19, it's not clear how long that protection will last.
While millions of Americans have missed their second shots, the overall rates of follow-through, with some 92 percent getting fully vaccinated, are strong by historical standards, the Times noted. As of Thursday, 142.7 million Americans had received their first shot, while 98 million have gotten their second, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 32.2 million on Thursday, while the death toll topped 574,000, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, 149.7 million cases had been reported by Thursday, with over 3.1 million people dead from COVID-19.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
SOURCES: The New York Times; Washington Post