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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The new coronavirus vaccine data released yesterday by the CDC confirms what other recent research has been saying: The coronavirus vaccines' effectiveness against infection has decreased over time.

Between the lines: There's little to no data that the vaccines' effectiveness against hospitalization will eventually follow suit.

Driving the news: The CDC released three new studies focusing on the vaccines' effectiveness, particularly in light of the Delta variant.

  • One looked at Pfizer and Moderna's effectiveness against infections among nursing home residents over time, and found that it dropped from 75% pre-Delta to 53% when Delta became dominant. It didn't differentiate between asymptomatic, symptomatic and severe infections.
  • Another used data from 21 hospitals to estimate the mRNA vaccines' effectiveness against hospitalization over time, and found there was no significant change in effectiveness from mid-March to mid-July.
  • The third, using New York state data, found that all three vaccines' effectiveness against infection dropped from 92% in early May to 80% at the end of July, but the effectiveness against hospitalization remained relatively stable.

Reality check: This is all good news for most vaccinated people — your vaccines will keep you alive and out of the hospital.

  • It's not so great for some vulnerable populations, particularly nursing home residents, who may be less protected than they'd thought.
  • "Additional evaluations are needed to understand whether protection against severe disease in nursing home residents is also declining over time," the nursing home study warns.
  • Residents' risk level is compounded by the high rate of unvaccinated nursing home employees.

Be smart: The Biden administration's worst nightmare is finding out about declining effectiveness by a spike in real-world death rates in a few months. They've instead decided to get ahead of the virus by boosting most people's level of protection, starting with the most vulnerable.

What we're watching: Recent Israeli data suggests that vaccine effectiveness against severe disease has fallen over time among adults 65 and older who haven't received a booster shot.

  • We need way more data to know if the trend is real. It's still entirely possible the vaccines remain effective against severe disease well into the future — at least for the younger population — meaning the U.S. jumped the gun on extra shots.
  • But if it is an accurate foreshadowing of how the vaccines will work in the U.S., the Biden administration's decision will likely save American lives — which is the ultimate point of the booster decision.

Go deeper

19 hours ago - World

Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

President Biden will convene world leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to push them to do more to end the pandemic — though he's also facing criticism for prioritizing boosters at home.

Why it matters: There is still no functional plan in place to vaccinate the world, and past summits of this sort have flopped. The White House hopes that this virtual gathering will produce ambitious promises, accountability measures to track progress, and ultimately help achieve a 70% global vaccination rate this time next year.

Sep 20, 2021 - Health

Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers from around the world to enter the U.S. beginning in November.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as President Biden seeks commitments from countries to donate vaccines to the global COVAX initiative. He is expected to host a COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week, and many of the countries attending have expressed frustration with the travel ban.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Biden to get booster shot on camera — Pfizer vaccine safe, effective in children, company says — The booster vaccine discussion is far from over.
  2. Health: Study: Pandemic cut U.S. life expectancy by more than 9 million years — U.S. death toll surpasses 1918 flu fatalities — Chicago has highest case rates in city worker neighborhoods.
  3. Politics: Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home — Rep. Tim Ryan tests positive — Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers.
  4. Education: D.C. schools to require teachers, staff to receive vaccine without testing option — More schools using "test-to-stay" strategy to minimize quarantines.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.