By Newsweek |

Live Updates: White House Holds COVID Press Briefing Amid Continuing Delta Surge

Live Updates

The White House COVID-19 Response Team held a press briefing Thursday afternoon as the U.S. continues to see steep infection rates amid the delta surge.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the president, and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients led the briefing.

Zients announced that 175 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, up by 10 million from a month ago.

"That's a major milestone in our vaccination effort," Zients said.

An uptick in vaccination rates in the country came after the FDA announced the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in August, Walensky said. While the uptick couldn't be attributed to the approval with complete certainty, Walensky does think it has motivated some people to get the shot.

As the U.S. prepares to roll out booster shots for Americans, the definition of "fully vaccinated" may change. Fauci said that he would "not at all be surprised" if people were required to get the third dose to be considered fully vaccinated in the future, in light of booster shot data from Israel that shows decreased risk to the virus.

Because of growing concerns about COVID-19 in children, Walensky announced that the CDC would be releasing two new studies on the topic Friday. She previewed some findings from the studies during the briefing, including data that shows the rate of hospitalizations among children were nearly four times higher in U.S. states with the lowest overall vaccination rates.

"These studies demonstrated that there was not increased disease severity in children. Instead, more children have COVID-19 because there is more disease in the community," Walensky said.

Zients called on Americans who haven't gotten vaccinated to do so now.

"More vaccinations are how we end this pandemic. If you are unvaccinated our message is simple. Don't wait any longer. Do your part," Zients said.

The live updates for this event have ended.

Booster Shot Administration

The White House COVID-19 Response Team held a briefing Thursday to discuss vaccines, booster shots and the virus among children. A patient receives her booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine during an Oakland County Health Department vaccination clinic at the Southfield Pavilion on August 24, 2021 in Southfield, Michigan. Emily Elconin/Getty Images

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U.S. Doesn't Consider Emerging Mu Variant 'Immediate Threat'

As the world has begun to monitor the Mu COVID-19 variant that was added to the World Health Organization's watchlist Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the U.S. isn't considering it as an "immediate threat."

Compared to the delta variant, Mu is "not at all even close to being dominant."

While data on the variant suggests that it has the potential to evade certain antibodies and therefore diminish the effectiveness of vaccines, "the vaccines still are quite effective against variants of that type," Fauci said.

"Bottom line, we're paying attention to it. We take everything like that seriously, but we don't consider it an immediate threat right now," he continued.

Fauci Would Be 'Not At All Surpised' if Full Vaccination Requires 3 Shots

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that while the decision and recommendation for booster shots remains to the FDA and CDC, he would "not at all be surprised that the adequate full regimen for vaccination will likely be three doses."

To be fully vaccinated in the U.S., the current requirements are to receive both shots of a two-dose vaccine or a single shot vaccine like Johnson & Johnson. However, Israel, which has been rolling out booster shots, now requires three doses to consider its citizens fully vaccinated.

Fauci said that based off the data coming out of Israel regarding the benefits of a third shot, he believes that booster shots will likely result in a "strong" and "durable" immunity response. If that's the case, three doses will "very likely" be the "routine regimen" in the U.S.

Vaccination Rates Rising After FDA Approval of Pfizer

The U.S. is seeing an uptick in vaccination rates following the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in August, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.

Walensky said that the uptick couldn't be attributed to the approval with complete certainty, but she does think it has motivated some people to get the shot.

The White House COVID-19 Response Team reiterated previous calls for more people to get vaccinated.

"More vaccinations are how we end this pandemic. If you are unvaccinated our message is simple. Don't wait any longer. Do your part," Jeffrey Zients said.

U.S. Will Donate Another 200 Million Vaccine Doses By End of Year

The U.S. plans to donate another 200 million COVID vaccine doses to countries in need by the end of the year, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.

Overall, the U.S. has committed to donating 600 million doses in total, "far and away the largest contribution made by any country," Jeffrey Zients said.

When probed by a reporter during a press briefing about why the U.S. would give third shots to its citizens when many people in poorer countries haven't received one shot, Zients stated that "e can protect the American people, and contribute to the world as we are leading the world in vaccine doses donated."

Studies on COVID Booster Shots Show Infection Less Probable Among People Who Get Third Shot

Data from studies conducted on Israel's booster shot rollout shows that the risk of infection is lower among those who've received a third shot, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Compared to people with only two shots, there was a 48 to 68 percent reduction in infection risk after seven to 13 days, and a 70 to 84 percent reduction in risk after 14 to 20 days, Fauci said, citing one study.

CDC To Publish New Studies on COVID-19 in Children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will publish two new studies on COVID-19 in children Friday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced.

In a preview of the studies' findings, Walensky announced that emergency room visits and hospitalizations are lower among children who live in communities with higher vaccination rates. Additionally, the rate of hospitalizations among children was nearly four times higher in states with the lowest overall vaccination rates.

"These studies demonstrated that there was not increased disease severity in children. Instead, more children have COVID-19 because there is more disease in the community," Walensky said.

U.S. Investing Another 3 Million in Vaccine Supply Chain

The U.S. will invest an additional $3 million into the vaccine supply chain to expand manufacturing, Jeffrey Zients said.

The funding, scheduled to start going out in the coming weeks, will "enable companies that manufacture and produce vaccine inputs to add new production lines and facilities," he said.

175 Million Americans Now Fully Vaccinated, White House Says

The U.S. has now vaccinated more than 175 million Americans, up 10 million a month ago, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients said.

"That's a major milestone in our vaccination effort," Zients said.