Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
They lost their jobs to vaccine mandates.,
This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.
Moderna said its Covid vaccine is safe and produces a powerful immune response in children ages 6 to 11.
Unvaccinated children and some people from countries with low rates of vaccination will be exempted from new U.S. travel rules.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said that Covid vaccinations for children 5 and up could begin next month.
They lost their jobs to vaccine mandates
Last week we told you about the Big Quit and the mass resignations happening across the U.S. as workers, empowered by pandemic-related circumstances, seek better opportunities.
Experts also predicted another wave of mass resignations this fall, as vaccine mandates went into effect. But so far, it has failed to materialize. Most workers put aside their concerns and lined up to get their shots — many at the 11th hour.
Still, a sizable and unwavering group has quit or been fired to avoid getting vaccinated. Some said vaccines are too new or too risky; others cited their religious faith, or objected to being forced by the government or their employer. Misinformation, of course, has played a major role.
Our colleague Sarah Maslin Nir recently spoke to New Yorkers who refused to get a shot and lost their jobs.
Josephine Valdez, a public school paraprofessional
When Valdez packed up her classroom on her final day, Oct. 1, her students became distressed.
“The kids, they were telling me not to leave, to just go get the vaccine,” said Valdez, who has moved back in with her parents. “I had to explain to them, the government doesn’t own my body.”
Valdez is now tutoring an elementary school student whose parents removed their daughter from public school because they opposed the mask requirement for children.
Ayse Ustares, school social worker
Ustares said she had refused to get vaccinated because she had been sick with Covid-19 and believes she now has natural immunity. (Studies have shown that vaccination strengthens immunity in those who’ve had a previous infection.) She’s now on unpaid leave from the Education Department because she has not complied with the state’s mandate.
“What’s the biggest fear in America?” she said. “Money. They think: ‘Hit people in the wallet.’ So many of my friends caved, they were just like me, but now they are coerced into taking the shot, just so they can make their mortgage payment. I have already let go of the fear.”
Ustares is exploring opening a gymnasium that would help children develop motor skills, she said. In her view, mandatory vaccination is a step toward other choices being taken away.
“It is not going to stop here,” she said. “The more we comply, the more they are going to take.”
Douglas Kariman, nurse
Kariman is a Baptist Christian and cited his opposition to abortion in refusing the vaccines, which — like many common over-the-counter medicines — were tested or developed using research from fetal cells collected decades ago.
Some have called into question the high number of religious exemptions at some institutions, like the Los Angeles Police Department. At one health care network in Arkansas, so many employees requested religious exemptions that they were asked to sign a form stating that their faith also prevented them from using 30 common medicines, including Benadryl and Tums, that were developed using research from fetal cells, according to reports.
Kariman, who remains employed pending a suit against New York’s mandate rules, said he knows how dangerous the coronavirus is.
“I’m not one of these anti-vaxxers as a whole saying, ‘It’s fake.’ It’s not fake,” he said. “I feel very strongly you can get sick and you can die from this. I took care of people who died from this.”
According to C.D.C. data, unvaccinated people are 4.5 times more likely to contract the coronavirus, and 11 times more likely to die from Covid-19.
Conflicted over boosters
Tens of millions of Americans are eligible for booster shots after a series of scientific panels advising federal agencies endorsed the supplementary doses.
But the recommendations — even those approved unanimously — mask significant dissent and disquiet among scientists and other experts, our colleague Apoorva Mandavilli reported.
“At times, it feels like they’re all going to vote ‘no,’ because that’s the tone of the discussion,” Apoorva told us, describing her hours listening to discussions at C.D.C. and F.D.A. advisory meetings. “But then the vote comes around, and they all vote ‘yes.'”
Limited data show that, with the exception of adults over age 65, the vast majority of vaccinated Americans are already well protected against severe illness and death from Covid.
But as federal agencies exerted pressure, the scientists also had to consider widespread confusion and concerns about pandemic psychology.
Some said they felt they had to vote in favor of booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines because they had already recommended boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Others felt compelled to vote for the shots because of the way the federal agencies framed the questions. Some scientists said they were simply overruled.
And a few worried about confusing the public further by dissenting — while also worrying that the decision to approve boosters could make hesitant Americans less likely to get a first dose.
“These advisers are so worried that in recommending boosters, they’re really undermining the vaccines because they’re giving the message that vaccines with two doses don’t give enough protection,” Apoorva said. “That’s really not the case for the vast majority of people.”
What else we’re following
New Zealand health authorities are working with the country’s street gangs as they attempt to reach an ambitious 90 percent vaccination target.
A study found that AstraZeneca’s vaccine comes with a slightly higher risk of a neurological syndrome, but it’s not worse than the risk from Covid.
Virus cases in Eastern Europe surpassed 20 million, Reuters reports.
China is the only country in the world still trying to completely eradicate the virus within its borders.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced a plan to offer unvaccinated police officers who lost their jobs $5,000 to move to the state and join the police force, The Washington Post reports.
Ohio recorded more deaths than births in 2020 for the first time in the state’s history, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Scientific American explored the race to update and test vaccines for future variants.
The Wall Street Journal looked at life in Portugal, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and recently lifted many restrictions.
The singer Ed Sheeran tested positive for the coronavirus, shortly before he is scheduled to perform on “Saturday Night Live.”
What you’re doing
I am a veterinarian and spent all of Covid working. After vaccinations were available I assumed all the staff would be vaccinated, but I was very wrong. My workplace has elected to forgo any vaccination or testing requirements for the staff. Ironically, they were so worried about the unvaccinated staff quitting, but it turned out that I found the lack of adherence to science and public health to be incompatible with my job. Combine that with my continued exposure to unvaccinated staff, and the fact that my older parents provide child care to my young children. I finally decided I could not continue to work under those conditions and expose those I love. So … I quit.
— Karin Connor, Livermore, Calif.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.