Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The public conversation around who's at risk as the Delta variant continues to spread in the U.S. has gone off the rails, and it's very possible that it will just get worse.

What we're watching: Even as experts and officials try to put vaccinated Americans' risk in context, the world is still gathering data on the vaccines' effectiveness. Reassuring the majority of vaccinated Americans they d0n't need to freak out could backfire if it causes those who are at risk to let down their guard.

Driving the news: Public health experts spent the weekend trying to reassure vaccinated Americans that they're not at a high risk of coronavirus infection, and certainly not of hospitalization or death.

  • But at the same time, researchers around the world are trying to determine how much the vaccines' effectiveness against severe disease wanes over time, and some countries are going ahead with booster shots for immunocompromised and elderly people.
  • Israel has recommended that immunocompromised people and those 60 and older receive a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and Germany plans to begin offering boosters to the elderly and at-risk beginning in September, AFP reports.
  • U.S. officials increasingly think that at least some Americans will need booster shots in the coming months, and Pfizer has also been publicly making the case for boosters.

Between the lines: Risk may look a lot different for vaccinated nursing home residents and older Americans, especially those who received their shots early on, than a vaccinated 20-something without any health conditions.

  • The number of nursing home cases is rising, in part because nearly 2 in 10 residents aren't vaccinated and more than 4 in 10 nursing home workers aren't.
  • But breakthrough cases are also more problematic in nursing homes, tweeted Ashish Jha, dean of Brown's School of Public Health. "[Nursing home] residents were among the first to get vaccinated," Jha wrote. "Based on Israeli data, their immunity may be waning."
  • "And second, they are vulnerable, often frail," he added. "So a breakthrough infection, which might be a nuisance for a healthy person, can be very serious for a frail person."

The scientific world is trying to gather and interpret new data in real time, and nuanced data is difficult to communicate well to an anxious and frustrated public.

  • But data about Delta's transmissibility has not been communicated well.
  • "The Biden administration's handling of the Delta surge has left Americans confused and frustrated, fueling media overreaction and political manipulation," Axios' Mike Allen wrote over the weekend.

The bottom line: The vaccines work extremely well, including against Delta, and the vaccinated are at much lower risk right now than those who aren't vaccinated.

  • But that doesn't mean no one who is vaccinated is at risk, and it also doesn't mean that anyone's risk can't change over time.

Go deeper

Sep 15, 2021 - Science

Moderna suggests booster shots, citing clinical data

A box of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Indonesia. Photo: Algi Febri Sugita/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Moderna vaccine's efficacy declines a year after it's administered, compared to protection seen in recently inoculated individuals, the vaccine maker announced Wednesday.

Driving the news: Moderna made its case for supporting booster shots, citing clinical trial data that demonstrate breakthrough infections are less common among participants approximately eight months after receiving the first dose compared to approximately 13 months.

Sep 15, 2021 - Health

1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and U.S. Census Bureau; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The U.S. has reached a grim pandemic milestone: More than 1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19, according to the latest available data.

Why it matters: The rising death toll highlights the continued effects of the Delta variant and the ongoing struggle to get Americans vaccinated.

By the numbers: The total number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the United States is 665,496 as of 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, according to reporting by Johns Hopkins University.

  • 30.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. involved individuals ages 85 and older as of Wednesday, despite only making up 2% of cases and an equal portion of the population.
Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay — Moderna suggests booster shots, citing clinical data.
  2. Health: 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising — Study: Gaps in data on Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders alarming amid COVID.
  3. Politics: Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers — Axios-Ipsos poll: 60% of voters back Biden vaccine mandates.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.