Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Boosters begin, and how to persuade the vaccine hesitant.


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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.


Credit…The New York Times

Daily Covid deaths rose to a new high in Russia, where vaccine hesitancy remains common.

Yemen, devastated by war, now faces a Covid surge, a nonprofit says.

South Korea hit a record number of infections after a long holiday.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

Rolling out boosters

President Biden said today that coronavirus booster shots for certain categories of people who received the Pfizer vaccine will begin immediately. He urged those eligible to get one quickly to fortify their protection from the dangerous Delta variant.

In the early hours of Friday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., officially endorsed Pfizer boosters for older adults, many people with underlying health conditions and frontline workers — like teachers and nurses — whose jobs put them at a higher risk of contracting the disease.

In doing so, she overruled a split decision by her agency’s panel of scientific advisers that had refused to endorse booster shots for frontline workers. That highly unusual move aligned C.D.C. policy with the F.D.A.’s endorsements.

Asked about boosters for people who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which encompasses about half of vaccinated Americans, Biden urged patience.

“You’re going to see that in the near term, we’re probably going to open this up anyway,” he said, referring to the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. “We’re also looking to the time when we’re going to be able to expand the booster shots, basically across the board. So I would just say, it’d be better to wait your turn in line, wait your turn to get there.”

Moderna has applied to the F.D.A. for authorization of a booster shot, and authorization could arrive in the coming weeks.

After weeks of planning, U.S. pharmacies and states are making Pfizer boosters available.

Tara Parker-Pope has answers to common questions about booster shots.

Persuasion 101

Dr. Arnaud Gagneur is a neonatologist who devised a successful prepandemic method of speaking with mothers who were hesitant about vaccinating their children against Covid.

So when his sister-in-law discovered that her son didn’t want to be vaccinated, she turned to Gagneur.

“First I waited for him to call me, and that’s important because I didn’t want to tell him what he should do, I just wanted to answer his questions,” Gagneur told me. After they connected, he thanked his nephew for his willingness to have an open discussion, told him he would respect his decision whatever the outcome and was transparent about what he believed.

“I was very clear that I was in favor of immunization, that I think it’s the best way to protect ourselves and others, and maybe, to resolve the pandemic,” he said. “But I said to him, ‘I want to understand why you don’t think the same thing. What is your point of view?'”

Gagneur said it’s important at the beginning to avoid trying to convince or correct people — or attempt to win the argument. Instead, listen to the person’s concerns: His nephew was worried that the vaccine technology was new and insufficiently tested. And he thought because he was a young man, there was only a small chance he’d fall ill.

Gagneur listened and repeated back his nephew’s concerns, in a technique called reflective listening.

“This part is very important because it’s a way to express empathy, and build a powerful trusting relationship,” he said.

Gagneur then asked a critical question: “Can I give you some information about the safety of the vaccine, the side effects and about Covid disease?” Asking permission to introduce new information is crucial, Gagneur said, because if the person agrees he or she is more likely to listen.

After his nephew consented, Gagneur walked him through the science, explaining the decades-long history of the technology behind some of the vaccines, and how side effects are measured through clinical trials with tens of thousands of volunteers.

Afterward, his nephew said he was more confident in the shot, but asked: “Why do you think I should get the vaccine?”

Gagneur flipped the script and asked him the same question. Travel, his nephew replied, and protecting his parents from infection.

“I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, I think those are good reasons to receive the vaccine, but it’s your own decision,'” Gagneur said. His nephew texted him about a week later to say that he had a vaccine appointment — and that he had coaxed many others to a similar result.

“Just because we are not on the same side at the beginning of the discussion does not mean we are in opposition,” Gagneur said. “We’re trying to achieve the same goal. And the same goal can be just to respect each point of view and have an open conversation.”

How you persuaded the hesitant

More than 300 readers wrote in to describe how they persuaded friends and family to get a vaccine. Here are some of your stories.

A helping hand

“I talked my sister through some of her hesitation. When she gave an excuse about being too busy to get an appointment, I got her insurance info from our mother and made an appointment for her. I sent her the date and time, then called her that morning to make sure she was on her way. She sent selfies from the pharmacy.” — K. Quinn Adams, Brooklyn


“My oldest daughter did not want to be vaccinated. We talked to her, but she was not ready. In full Jewish-mom style, I offered her one hundred dollars to get vaccinated, and she agreed to follow up by the end of the month. She has had one vaccine so far. I have mixed feelings about how I handled this. When push comes to shove, I would rather have my daughter safe and alive than have one hundred dollars.” — Harriet Pecot, Gualala, Calif.


“I met a romantic interest who was unvaccinated. Upon my discovery, I refused to go home with him. He got vaccinated the next day. He claims there were myriad reasons, ‘getting hard to do things in New York, etc.’ — but the timing is suspicious!” — Juliette Hainline, Brooklyn


“I nagged and nagged and nagged some more. I did this by sending almost daily texts and emails about how safe the vaccines are, how bad Covid is, how many people are dying, and how she was being selfish by not getting the vaccine. She said she got it because she could not take it anymore, and that it was worth the risk as long as I did not send her any more articles on Covid.” — Charlie, Florida


I persuaded my partner of 21 years to get the vaccine by telling him that he could not come back home, or into the house, unless he gets the vaccine. In addition I said that there was no path forward for the two of us together unless he got the vaccine. He got vaccinated and he did it for love, not because he believed he should get it! Now fully vaccinated, he is telling me and others that he is protected, and I heard him trying to convince his aunt and cousin to get the vaccine. I am so so happy that he is vaccinated. — Carol F. Rosenthal, Long Island, N.Y.

Firsthand experience

It wasn’t something I said, honestly. My boyfriend was steadfast in his refusal to get the vaccine, whereas I received the two-shot Pfizer vaccine when I was eligible in March. What convinced him was coming down with Covid. He brought it home to me. He got horribly sick, and swore he would never go through that again. I had a mild case that was something like a cold. The contrast between our two cases convinced him the vaccine works and it was worth it to him to get vaccinated. — Sherry, Athens, Ga.

An open conversation

“I helped my friend by truly listening to her questions and concerns. I did not ‘should’ all over her! I understood her feelings of fear even though I did not have the same fears. I tried hard to not be judgmental and to simply explain how and why I got the shot. She is now fully vaccinated. A few weeks ago she helped her childhood friend get their shot, too. Don’t give up on your loved ones! — Amy M, Alexandria, Va.

What else we’re following

Two hosts of “The View” tested positive for the virus minutes ahead of an interview with Vice President Kamala Harris.

Moderna’s chief executive said that there should be enough vaccines for “everyone on this Earth” in one year, The Washington Post reports.

Monday is the deadline for all of New York’s health care workers to be vaccinated against coronavirus. Thousands haven’t received their first shot.

The Oakland Unified School District in Northern California will require vaccinations for students 12 and older attending in-person classes, KQED reports.

New York City schools are preparing for staffing shortages as a vaccine mandate looms.

Apple Wallet will contain verifiable Covid vaccine certificates as part of an upcoming iPhone update, Engadget reports.

The Department of Health in New Mexico said two residents died from ivermectin toxicity, KOB4 reports.

A Turkish infant was accidentally injected with the Pfizer vaccine.

Shareholder activists are pushing companies to keep annual shareholder meetings virtual after the pandemic, the DealBook newsletter reports.

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Amelia Nierenberg contributed to today’s newsletter.

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