U.S. plans to give extra COVID-19 shots to at-risk Americans - Fauci

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Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on federal government coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response in Washington
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By Trevor Hunnicutt and Carl O'Donnell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is working to give additional COVID-19 booster shots to Americans with compromised immune systems as quickly as possible, as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise, top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.

The United States is joining Germany, France and Israel in giving booster shots, ignoring a plea by the World Health Organisation to hold off until more people around the world can get their first shot.

U.S. regulators need to fully authorize the COVID-19 vaccines or amend their emergency use authorizations before officials can recommend additional shots, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to make third doses available sooner under certain circumstances, officials said at a July meeting.

"It is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters and we are now working on that," Fauci said on a press call, adding that immunocompromised people may not be sufficiently protected by their existing COVID-19 vaccinations.

Fauci said rising cases resulting from the spread of the contagious Delta variant in the United States can be turned around with additional vaccinations. (Graphic on U.S. outbreak) https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR

The Biden administration has been eager to thaw opposition by some Americans, including those who distrust the government, to taking the vaccine as the highly infectious Delta variant sweeps the country.

Seven U.S. states with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates account for half of the country's new cases and hospitalizations in the last week, the White House said on Thursday.

The states are Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, according to President Joe Biden's COVID-19 coordinator, Jeff Zients, who spoke at the press briefing

Of those, Florida and Texas account for about a third of new coronavirus cases and an even higher share of hospitalizations in the country.

COVID cases are up about 43% over the previous week and daily deaths are up more than 39%, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who also spoke on the call.

The United States hit a six-month high for new COVID cases with over 100,000 infections https://reut.rs/3lA9CmE reported on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally.

Some 864,000 vaccinations have been given in the past 24 hours, the highest since early July, the White House said.

Zients said the Biden administration supports U.S. businesses and other institutions requiring that their employees get vaccinated.

He added that the White House is considering requiring foreign visitors to be vaccinated as it plans to eventually reopen international travel but said it had made no final decision.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Susan Heavey, Carl O'Donnell and Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)

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