Before omicron, one-third of Americans had been infected with the coronavirus, but by the end of February, that rate had climbed to nearly 60 percent — including about 75 percent of kids and 60 percent of people age 18 to 49, according to federal health data released today. The data from blood tests offers the first evidence that over half the U.S. population, or 189 million people have been infected at least once since the pandemic began — double the number reflected in official case counts. Officials cautioned, however, that the data, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, does not indicate people have protection against the virus going forward, especially against increasingly transmissible variants. The greatest increases took place in those with the lowest levels of vaccination, noting that older adults were more likely to be fully vaccinated. Separately, CDC is about to publish another study that estimates three infections for every reported case.
The approximately 19.5 million children younger than age 5 in the US remain ineligible for vaccination against COVID-19, and the FDA likely will postpone any action to authorize a vaccine for the youngest children until June, according to several sources. Moderna is expected to submit a request for Emergency Use Authorization for its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine by the end of this month, and Pfizer-BioNTech earlier this year postponed its rolling application for their vaccine to wait for data on a 3-dose primary series. Those familiar with FDA discussions said the regulator might wait until early summer to simultaneously authorize both vaccines rather than push one through before the other, thereby simplifying communication about the vaccines to the public. However, those plans could change, particularly if the current uptick in COVID-19 cases accelerates. The administration of President Joe Biden is under increasing pressure to move on authorizing a vaccine for the youngest children, from members of his own political party and parents who are eager to vaccinate their children. Notably, less than 30% of children aged 5-11—who became eligible for vaccination in November 2021—have received their primary 2-dose vaccine series, and some polls show parents of young children might be hesitant to vaccinate their younger children. The FDA has called on its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) to set a tentative meeting for June, although the topic of that meeting is not yet known.