Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Young adults are avoiding shots, threatening the U.S. recovery.,


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Credit…The New York Times

As the U.S. vaccination campaign loses steam, it’s increasingly clear that skeptical young adults are one of the biggest barriers to mass immunity.

In a federal report released last week, only about one-third of adults ages 18 to 39 reported being vaccinated, with especially low rates among those who are Black; among people 24 or younger; and among those who had lower incomes, less education and no health insurance.

The reasons are complex. Some young adults are staunchly opposed. Others are merely uninterested. Public health officials cite an overlapping mix of inertia, fear, busy schedules and misinformation. And the straightforward sales pitch for older people — a vaccine could save your life — does not always work on healthy 20-somethings.

Another huge obstacle, in some cases, are parents. Although children as young as 12 can get a shot, many guardians are worried about side effects or frightened by the newness of the shots — and have prevented their children from getting them.

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only three in 10 parents of children between the ages of 12 through 17 intended to allow them to be vaccinated immediately. Many say they will wait for long-term safety data or the prod of a school mandate.

“Isabella wants it because her friends are getting it, and she doesn’t want to wear a mask,” said Charisse, a mother of a 17-year-old in Delray Beach, Fla., who asked that her surname be withheld for family privacy. Charisse fears the shot could have an effect on her daughter’s reproductive system, a misperception that public health officials have repeatedly refuted.

“Isabella said, ‘It’s my body.’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s my body until you’re 18.'”

Some frustrated teenagers are surreptitiously getting shots on their own, with the help of sites like, which offers guides to state consent laws, links to clinics, and resources on how teenagers can engage parents.

Dr. Mobeen H. Rathore, a pediatrics professor at the University of Florida medical college in Jacksonville, recently told a patient whose mother refused consent that she couldn’t be inoculated until she turned 18.

“She got vaccinated on her birthday,” Dr. Rathore said. “She sent me a message saying that was her birthday gift to herself.”

The vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna appear to produce lasting immunity and may eliminate the need for booster shots, according to new research.

Scientists took samples from 14 people who have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and found that their immune cells were still actively training to fight the coronavirus 15 weeks after their first doses.

“The fact that the reactions continued for almost four months after vaccination — that’s a very, very good sign,” said Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis who led the study, which published in the journal Nature on Monday.

Earlier studies have found evidence of longstanding immunity in Covid-19 survivors. These new findings only add to growing evidence that immunity from mRNA vaccines alone could last for years, if not for a lifetime. (The scientists did not study the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which uses different technology.)

Some people — like older adults and immunocompromised people — may still need booster shots. But most vaccinated people may not, so long as the virus and its variants do not evolve much beyond their current forms. That, of course, could change.

But immune cells evolve, too. After an infection or a vaccination, immune cells become increasingly sophisticated and learn to recognize a diverse set of viral genetic sequences. The longer these cells have to practice, the more likely they are to be able to thwart variants of the virus that may emerge.

“Everyone always focuses on the virus evolving — this is showing that the B cells are doing the same thing,” said Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “And it’s going to be protective against ongoing evolution of the virus, which is really encouraging.”

More immunity news:

  • Results from another preliminary study suggest that mixing different brands of vaccines can provoke a strong immune response. In a British trial, volunteers produced high levels of antibodies and immune cells after getting one dose of Pfizer’s vaccine and one dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot.

  • Researchers reported that a third dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine generated a strong immune response in clinical trial volunteers. The finding indicates that the AstraZeneca vaccine could be an option should third shots end up being needed to extend immunity.

  • The Mountain West is one of the most vaccine-hesitant places in the U.S.

  • Greece is offering young people a vaccine incentive: a “freedom pass” worth about $180 to spend on tourism, culture and travel.

  • Millions of people in Brazil are missing their second shots, further complicating the pandemic fight.

  • Spain will require British tourists to present a negative Covid-19 test or proof of full vaccination in an effort to keep the Delta variant at bay. But the country will welcome visitors from the U.S., regardless of their vaccination status.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

  • Britain’s health minister resigned after photos surfaced of him embracing a senior aide — an apparent violation of social distancing guidelines.

  • Nepal refuses to acknowledge firsthand accounts from dozens of climbers on Mount Everest who contracted the coronavirus.

  • Students in Latin America are leaving school in alarming numbers as economies struggle and classrooms remain closed.

  • The pandemic appears to have worsened childhood obesity in the U.S.

  • Airline crews will restart self-defense classes as in-flight skirmishes increase.

  • Italy will no longer require masks outside, joining Spain and France as cases drop.

  • The Times analyzed one tragic night in a Delhi hospital, a microcosm of the cascading series of failures that left patients across India without access to medical oxygen.

  • Some 4,000 nonviolent federal offenders, who were sent home early in the pandemic to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, could be sent back to prison.

Two weeks ago my friend Carol and I attended a free outdoor concert of the New York Philharmonic in Bryant Park. When the concert began, my friend and I cried a little. Midway through, the orchestra played a piece by a 14-year old composer and member of the Philharmonic’s youth program. My friend and I cried a little. After the concert, I took the bus home. When I got off at my stop, I realized that I had not been out in the evening for almost 15 months. I cried a little. Tears of happiness every one.

— Susanne Singleton, New York, N.Y.

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Apoorva Mandavilli contributed to today’s newsletter.

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