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Five Takeaways from U.S. Senate COVID-19 Hearing

Nation’s public health leaders discuss variants, school reopenings, booster shots, and supply chains

July 20, 2021

America’s leading public health officials testified before a U.S. Senate committee hearing today, urging eligible Americans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and discussing the next steps to fight the virus.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is at a critical point, with the emergence of the delta variant threatening to reverse the positive trends in case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths. Last week, COVID-19 deaths increased 48 percent, averaging nearly 240 per day, she said.

“Each death is tragic, and even more heart-breaking when we know that the majority of these deaths could be prevented with a simple, safe, available vaccine,” Dr. Walensky said.

Here are five takeaways from the committee hearing:

  • Progress is not uniform: While about 50 percent of eligible people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties have vaccine coverage below 40 percent, leading to regional spikes in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. About 62 percent of Pennsylvanians 18 and older are fully vaccinated, according to state data
  • Local strategies for schools:  Dr. Walensky said schools and public health officials should consider community transmission rates and local vaccine coverage when considering strategies to ensure a safe start to the school year. Testing will be critical to help understand the spread of the virus and separate COVID-19 from other upper respiratory infections
  • Delta continues to spread:  The variant accounts for more than 80 percent of sequenced cases in the U.S.
  • Booster shots:  Studies are underway to evaluate the durability of the vaccine’s protection, as well as the potential need for booster shots for cancer and organ transplant patients and others who are immunosuppressed
  • Supply chains:  The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of solidifying our national supply chain for personal protective equipment and the need to continuously monitor our local, regional, and national stockpiles. The U.S. has 35 times the number of N95 respirators than it did at the outset of the pandemic, 17 times the number of gloves, and eight times the number of masks, officials said

The public health officials highlighted the outstanding efficacy of the available COVID-19 vaccines against the virus and its circulating variants, citing emerging real-world data.

“We have the tools to end this epidemic,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White’s House’s chief medical advisor. “It is up to us to utilize those tools to their maximum.”

HAP continues to monitor the latest COVID-19 public health developments and provide updates to members. HAP joins organizations across the nation urging every eligible individual to make an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are safe, effective, free, and widely available in your community. Don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider with questions about the available vaccines.

A replay of the hearing is available online.




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