Federal health officials are encouraging young people aged 12 and over who are heading to camp this summer to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as possible, saying on Friday that camps where all staff and campers are vaccinated can drop many Covid restrictions, including masks, and return to full capacity. Unvaccinated children can also go without masks most of the time when they are outside because the risk of transmission outdoors is low.
“For camps where everyone is fully vaccinated prior to the start of camp, it is safe to return to full capacity, without masking and without physical distancing,” the new guidance says.
In camps where not everyone is fully vaccinated, mask recommendations for all have been relaxed for most outdoor activities, unless the setting is crowded and involves sustained close contact. But other prevention strategies should be maintained, including physical distancing, grouping youngsters in cohorts or pods that don’t mix with one another; encouraging frequent hand washing; avoiding crowded settings and poorly ventilated indoor areas.
The guidance, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that if campers prefer to wear masks despite being fully vaccinated, camps should be supportive of their choice. Staff members and campers with compromised immune systems are urged to talk to their providers, and continue practicing precautions, like wearing masks.
Individuals are considered fully vaccinated by the C.D.C. two weeks after receiving the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
“We’re going to start to see more and more adolescents fully vaccinated by mid summer, so it is possible that camps could provide a camp experience for children who are fully vaccinated, and you could get back to the camp experience that was pre-pandemic: no masking, no distancing, and all the activities you would normally do,” said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the C.D.C. task force for community interventions and critical populations.
She noted that 2.5 million children aged 12 to 15 have received the first dose of a Pfizer vaccine in the last 18 days alone.
Individual camps will have the flexibility to determine both how they go about verifying the vaccination status of campers and how they run programs where not everyone is fully vaccinated, she said. They could mix vaccinated and unvaccinated campers or group them in separate cohorts with different rules, she said, or decide that in order “to keep non-vaccinated campers as safe as possible, they may have standard rules across the camp regardless of vaccination status.”
The guidance to campers comes after the agency’s recent recommendation that fully vaccinated people can choose to go maskless in most situations.
Though there is still no vaccine for children under the age of 12, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 earlier this month. Younger children will probably be eligible for vaccination in the fall.
Tom Rosenberg, president and chief executive of the American Camp Association, a nonprofit that accredits camps, said the new guidance was issued just in time, as many camps in the southern United States start as early as next week.
But, he said, “The reality is that the majority of camps are for kids six years old to 17, so a good portion of the kids attending camp, by virtue of their age alone, will not be vaccinated. So camps are preparing to manage another Covid summer with a layered mitigation strategy, like last year.”
Federal health officials urged camps where campers are vaccinated to continue with other precautions, including making sure there is good ventilation in indoor spaces by keeping windows open, using fans and air filters; practicing good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette; and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas frequently.
The European Medicines Agency approved on Friday the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12 to 15, in what the drug regulator called “an important step forward in the fight against the pandemic” in a statement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for that age group earlier this month after clinical trials showed it was safe.
The E.M.A.’s opinion will now be sent to the European Commission, the bloc’s administrative arm, for final approval, which it is expected to do swiftly. It will then be up to the national governments of the member countries to decide if and when to inoculate children, the regulator said.
Anticipating the vaccine’s approval, Germany announced on Thursday that it would open appointments to children in that age range starting June 7. Italy will start vaccinating people who are 16 and older next month, the commissioner in charge of vaccinations announced on Friday.
The European Union had a slow start to its vaccination campaign, with shortages of doses delaying the rollout in many member countries. The bloc’s efforts have gained pace in recent weeks, and now appear to be on track to get at least one dose to 70 percent of its adult population by the end of June.
The Pfizer vaccine has already been authorized in the bloc for those who are 16 and older. The doses for children will be the same as for adults, with two shots administered three weeks apart.
In Italy, all regions will broaden eligibility to those 16 and older starting June 3, Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, the army general in charge of Italy’s vaccination effort, told reporters on Friday.
General Figliuolo said that the country will make 20 million more doses available next month. He acknowledged that the amount isn’t enough to fully vaccinate Italy’s population of about 60 million, “but if we think about two or three months ago, we couldn’t have imagined it even in the rosiest predictions.”
For much of the year, Italy, which was severely hit by the pandemic in early 2020, has vaccinated only the elderly and the most vulnerable residents, both because of the scarcity of doses and for a number of logistical reasons. The country opened vaccinations to those 40 and older only in the last few weeks, with the exception being health care workers and teachers.
Public concern has grown about people starting to move around more, especially as summer approaches, while younger Italians have yet to receive their first shots. But not all regions have taken the same approach to vaccination: In Lazio, where Rome is situated, for example, the governor opened eligibility to all students about to take the test to receive their high school diplomas.
Italy’s Medicine Agency is also expected to authorize the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old next Monday, a spokeswoman said, paving the way for students to return to in-person learning in September.
According to a database maintained by the Italian government, more than 19 percent of Italians are fully vaccinated, and 37 percent of the population have received a first dose, in line with the European average.
In the statement on the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 to 15, the E.M.A. said it would continue to track very rare cases of heart inflammation reported after vaccination, mostly in people younger than 30. The agency said the vaccine’s benefits outweighed the risks, and it remained unclear whether there was any possible link between the inflammation and vaccination.
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Ahead of Memorial Day a year ago, many officials in the United States had canceled parades and banned crowded gatherings. The country was on the cusp of recording 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
This year, parades and barbecues are set to take place across the country and vaccinated people are being urged to get outside and enjoy the holiday. As the national economy roars back, concerns over soaring gas prices, sold-out hotels and lifeguard shortages may be eclipsing virus fears.
“A year ago, we were at the end of the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S., and now we’re kind of at the beginning of the end,” said Dr. Dan Diekema, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa.
Hundreds of people are still dying each day, pushing the death count in the United States past 592,000 — an enormous toll that few envisioned a year ago. But the vaccinations over the past six months have proved a game-changer in the fight against Covid-19, even as challenges remain in reaching those without shots and the nation may never reach herd immunity.
About 62 percent of people 18 and older have received at least one shot; President Biden has set a goal of reaching 70 percent of adults by July 4. New cases have plunged 40 percent or more in many states around the country. The daily death rate is at its lowest level since last summer.
“If you are vaccinated, you are protected, and you can enjoy your Memorial Day,” the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said at a White House news conference this week. “If you are not vaccinated, our guidance has not changed for you. You remain at risk of infection. You still need to mask and take other precautions.”
After the C.D.C. shifted its guidance this month by saying fully vaccinated people could take off their masks in most situations, one state after another moved to ease restrictions or eliminate them altogether.
California, the most populous U.S. state, announced plans to lift capacity limits and social-distancing restrictions while still requiring masks in indoor settings for now. At the same time, other states are barreling ahead with reopening plans.
Missouri’s governor, a Republican, reopened all remaining businesses this month and directed all state workers to return to offices for in-person work. Texas went even further, banning public schools and local governments from requiring masks.
Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, also a Republican, similarly prohibited mask mandates in state office buildings.
“If somebody wants to wear a mask, that is their personal choice,” he said.
As political leaders embrace policies aimed at returning to normalcy, the vaccines are accentuating a chasm between the United States — where the shots are widely available and where doses are being offered to children — and other nations, such as Brazil and India, where the virus is still raging and vaccines are in short supply.
There are also reminders around the United States that the pandemic, and the partisan positioning around the crisis, remain far from over. The pace of vaccinations has declined sharply since mid-April, with providers administering about 1.7 million doses per day on average, about a 50 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13. As the Biden administration has shifted its vaccine strategy to more local and personalized efforts, states are trying different tactics, including offering $1 million vaccine lottery prizes and other incentives.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in remembrance of the frontline workers who died during the pandemic, only to have a top Republican leader in the State Senate demand an apology from the governor for such a move during a holiday honoring soldiers.
A year ago, President Donald J. Trump mocked Mr. Biden for appearing in public with a face mask. Some states that moved early to reopen, such as Arizona, Florida and Texas, were slammed with a surge in cases weeks later.
Dr. Diekema, the Iowa epidemiologist, said he hoped that the resurgence of the virus last summer would serve as a reminder of the risks to unvaccinated people.
He said he couldn’t imagine a year ago that more than half a million people in the United States would die because of the virus. And the toll continues to grow: Over the holiday weekend, Dr. Diekema said that he planned to be working.
“I’ll be in the hospital seeing patients with infectious diseases like Covid-19,” he said.
The German company CureVac said on Friday that its Covid-19 vaccine had passed its first interim analysis, but that it was not yet ready to share data on how well it protects against infection. The shot could be cheaper and more accessible to low-income countries that lack vaccines.
The company said that an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board found no safety concerns. But the board did not share any efficacy data, suggesting that it’s not yet clear just how much protection the vaccine provides.
“The trial will continue to collect sufficient data in order to conduct statistically significant efficacy analysis,” the company said in its statement.
The CureVac vaccine is based on mRNA technology, like the ones developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Those vaccines are in use in the United States and the European Union and have proved to be highly effective, boosting hopes that CureVac’s might provide similarly strong protection against Covid-19.
CureVac’s vaccine might have some advantages over the other mRNA vaccines. It can be stored in a refrigerator for at least three months at 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can sit for 24 hours at room temperature before it is used.
In their initial formulations, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines had to be kept in a deep freeze. Both companies have been tinkering with their recipes to make their vaccines more stable at warmer temperatures, which may broaden their use in poorer countries where freezing poses a challenge.
CureVac’s doses might also turn out to be cheaper than the others. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, released a report Wednesday from researchers at Imperial College London, estimating the costs of producing enough RNA vaccines to provide herd immunity in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers found that iIt would cost $23 billion to make 8 billion doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, $9 billion for Moderna and just $4 billion for CureVac.
Last year, the company’s vaccine had promising results when used on animals. By December they had launched their final clinical trial, recruiting 40,000 volunteers in 10 countries in Latin America and Europe. On Wednesday, CureVac indicated that further information about its vaccine trial would arrive by the end of June.
Business can offer their employees incentives to get the coronavirus vaccine without facing anti-discrimination laws, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said on Friday.
The E.E.O.C. issued guidance in December stating that employers are legally permitted to require employees to be vaccinated depending on state laws, but with so many states proposing laws that would limit their ability to require vaccines, many businesses have opted for incentives like credit cards or small stipends to get more workers vaccinated. These incentive programs raised questions around violating federal disability, anti-discrimination, and privacy laws.
In its newly updated guidance, the commission said that requesting confirmation that an employee received the coronavirus vaccine “is not a disability-related inquiry” under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but if requested that information must remain confidential.
The incentives companies can give — which the E.E.O.C. outlines as both rewards and penalties — cannot be consequential enough to be considered “coercive” since “a very large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information.” The new guidance did not provide what could be considered as “coercive.”
The Japanese government on Friday extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and eight other prefectures until at least June 20, barely one month before the city is scheduled to host the Olympic Games.
Although new coronavirus infections are declining, Japan is still recording more than 4,000 cases a day during a prolonged fourth wave that has strained medical systems in many cities. Officials said that it was necessary to continue restrictions on businesses that were enacted in April until the caseload drops further.
“The newly reported cases are on a downward trend, but they are still at a high level,” Yasutoshi Nishimura, a government minister who leads Japan’s Covid-19 response, said on Friday.
Under the emergency measures, restaurants, department stores and other major commercial businesses have been ordered to curtail their operating hours, and dining establishments are forbidden from serving alcohol.
Japan’s vaccine rollout has been among the slowest in the industrialized world, with only 2.4 percent of the population fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. This week, the country opened its first mass vaccination sites in an effort to jump-start inoculations. But the government’s current goals call for only those over 65 to be fully vaccinated by the end of July, when the Summer Games would have begun.
Amid frustration over the government’s response to the pandemic, public opposition to hosting the Olympics, which were postponed from last year, has grown. In a recent survey, 83 percent of Japanese people said that they did not want Tokyo to hold the Games. The daily Asahi Shimbun, an official Olympic partner, published an editorial this week calling on Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, to cancel the Games.
But organizers and Japanese officials have insisted that the Games will go on. On Thursday, Toshiro Muto, chief executive of the Tokyo Olympics, said, “No one on the executive board has explicitly mentioned a view that we should cancel or postpone the Games,” adding that as coronavirus cases decline, public opinion “will improve.”
Idaho’s governor, Brad Little, said on Friday that he had repealed a ban on mask mandates that a political rival, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, had issued while he was traveling out of state for a conference of the Republican Governors Association.
“Let me offer some advice as Idaho’s duly elected Governor — governing in a silo is NOT governing,” Mr. Little said in a statement announcing the reversal. “The action that took place was an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt.”
In the government equivalent of throwing a party while your parents are out of town, Ms. McGeachin, who is also a Republican and recently announced a bid to challenge Mr. Little for governor, had issued an executive order on Thursday banning mask mandates while Mr. Little had traveled briefly to Nashville.
She signed an executive order forbidding the state, municipalities and public schools from requiring masks. It said that wearing masks had done “significant physical, mental, social and economic harm,” that they failed to serve a health or safety purpose and that they “unnecessarily restrict the rights and liberties of individuals and business.”
Mr. Little said in an executive order, which was effective immediately, that the repeal would be applied retroactively to include Thursday, when Ms. McGeachin issued the ban.
Ms. McGeachin did not tell Mr. Little that she would be issuing the order ahead of time, his office said in a statement to KTVB, a television station in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Little said he would not comment beyond the statement he issued on Friday. Ms. McGeachin’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Friday.
The two officials, who were elected separately, recently went three weeks without speaking, according to The Idaho Statesman. Ms. McGeachin has consistently criticized Mr. Little’s measures to contain the virus, decrying restrictions as government overreach.
“The effects of the executive branch’s unilateral decisions will impact us for years,” Ms. McGeachin wrote in a guest essay in The Idaho Statesman this month.
Idaho did not have a statewide mask mandate, but an executive order effective May 21 required masks at long-term care facilities and said they were “strongly recommended” for others.
Mr. Little used an executive action to require social distancing and implement a brief stay-at-home order in March 2020, among other measures.
Mr. Little, who is in his first term, has not announced if he is running for re-election next year, but observers in the state believe he is likely to enter the race. It would set up a Republican race with the same contours as many others across the United States: Ms. McGeachin would be angling for President Trump’s base, while Mr. Little would represent a more moderate wing of the Republican Party.
Idaho has recorded around 192,000 coronavirus cases and at least 2,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
A new poll suggests that the United States could be on track to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the adult population against Covid-19 by this summer.
In the latest survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 62 percent of respondents said that they had received at least one dose of a vaccine, up from 56 percent in April. At the same time, about a third of those categorized as “wait and see” reported that they had already made vaccine appointments or planned to do so imminently.
Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and a vaccine expert, found the results encouraging.
“I think there are many people who were on the fence who were worried about things moving too rapidly and about possible side effects, but those concerns are being allayed as they see more of their friends and acquaintances celebrating getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Schaffner, who was not involved in the monthly survey.
“They’re getting that growing sense of comfort and reassurance that ‘people like me’ are getting vaccinated,” which, he said, was essential to instilling confidence in the vaccines.
The two demographic groups reporting the greatest increase in vaccination rates from April to May were Latino adults (from 47 percent to 57 percent) and adults without college degrees (from 48 percent to 55 percent).
The survey found that 40 percent of parents said that their child had either gotten at least one dose or would be getting one soon. But parents of younger children were more guarded, with only about a quarter expressing a willingness to get their children vaccinated as soon as the shots are authorized for them.
The finding suggests that efforts to protect as many young students as possible from Covid-19 by the start of the school year could face barriers.
While public health experts welcomed the continuing improvement in vaccination rates, they noted that it meant the pool of the most willing adults was shrinking.
President Biden set a goal of 70 percent vaccine coverage for adults by July 4. Dr. Schaffner said he thought the goal was possible. “We have to work harder,” he said.
Britain’s drug regulator on Friday approved the use of the single-dose shots manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, the fourth coronavirus vaccine to be authorized in the country.
The authorization comes amid growing concerns about the spread in Britain of a coronavirus variant first detected in India. The number of cases of the variant, known as B.1.617.2, has doubled in a week, according to public data, and as of Thursday, nearly 7,000 cases had been detected.
“This fourth approved vaccine adds to our armory,” the British health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Twitter. “When you’re eligible, get your jab.” Britain has also authorized the use of the vaccines manufactured by Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech.
More than 58 percent of Britain’s population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 36 percent has been fully vaccinated. Britain opened vaccination to adults 30 and older this week, but most of the vaccination campaign’s efforts have in recent weeks focused on second injections.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is 85 percent effective against severe illness from Covid-19, according to the British regulator.
The approval in Britain comes a day after Mexico gave emergency authorization to the same vaccine.
The Mexican government has previously authorized the vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, as well as Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinovac and CanSino.
In other news around the world:
The regional government of Madrid announced on Friday that it would use AstraZeneca’s vaccine for second doses for people under 60, going against a recommendation by Spain’s central government to switch to Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for the second shot. While European Union regulators have said AstraZeneca’s vaccine is safe, it has continued to create tension in Spain, one of the countries that suspended its use briefly in March after reports of blood clots.
The Indian government is in talks with Pfizer to obtain 50 million doses of the company’s coronavirus vaccine starting this summer, but is still considering the drug manufacturer’s demand for indemnity from costs related to severe side effects, officials have said.
Hong Kong on Thursday recorded no new coronavirus cases for the first time in seven months, a promising sign in the Chinese territory’s efforts to quash a wave of infections that began in November. The city has gone more than a month without recording more than 15 daily cases, increasing calls for the authorities to relax social-distancing measures.
Vietnam ordered religious establishments to suspend large gatherings after a cluster of infections was linked to a Protestant congregation in Ho Chi Minh City, part of a nationwide surge in cases. Of more than 6,300 total cases recorded in the Southeast Asian nation since the start of the pandemic, half have come in the past month, the state-run Vietnam News Agency reported.