Michael Freedy, known as “Big Mike” by coworkers and friends, died of complications from COVID-19 this Thursday, according to his family. Before passing, the father of 5 texted his fiancée Jessica DuPreez: “I should have gotten the damn vaccine.”
“We wanted to wait just one year from the release to see what effects people had, but there was never any intention to not get it,” DuPreez told Las Vegas’ Fox affiliate.
DuPreez is not alone. About 40% of people over the age of 18 in the US have not been vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number one reason adults cite for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine is wanting to “wait and see” if the vaccine has any long-term side effects before receiving the shot, according to KFF’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor.
“I am not aware of any vaccine where the first set of negative effects show up past eight weeks after immunization,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, wrote on the school’s website. “The biology of how vaccines work suggests that it would not make sense for a new side effect to show up five years later.”
Doctors are flagging the very real dangers of vaccine hesitancy, with one Arkansas doctor delivering an emotional plea that described the “regret and remorse” on the faces of patients dying with COVID-19, Insider’s Mia Jankowicz reported.
“I have had to call multiple fathers and mothers of preschoolers – in their 20s and 30s – and tell them that their spouse may very well not survive this hospitalization,” he said.
Freedy began feeling unwell following a trip to the beach; they thought he had come down with sun poisoning. After testing positive for COVID-19, he was admitted to the ICU with double pneumonia and placed on a ventilator.
“His numbers crashed and they were not able to bring them back up,” DuPreez wrote on the family’s GoFundMe page. “The love of my life, my rock, my everything. The father to my babies is no longer with us. I don’t know what to do.”
Freedy worked at The M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, MGM Resorts, one of the largest players in the casino industry, urged employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible, Eater Las Vegas reported.
“In addition to the heart-wrenching thought of more illness and death, I fear that progressively more restrictive measures … could be around the corner if we continue on this path,” President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle wrote in a letter to employees on Wednesday. “This would be a significant blow to our community, industry, and economy.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday he was horrified when attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) appeared to cheer about the US failing to reach its vaccination goal this month.
Video of a CPAC discussion at its second conference of 2021 in Dallas posted to social media appeared to show the crowd cheering on the US’ inability to vaccinate most of its population.
“They were hoping – the government was hoping – they could sucker 90% of the population into getting vaccinated. And it isn’t happening,” said Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter who The Atlantic earlier this year dubbed “the pandemic’s wrongest man.”
Berenson was interrupted by cheers from the audience before he continued, claiming that younger people were avoiding getting vaccination because of potential side effects.
“They are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives,” he added. “I mean, if you just unpack that for a second… it’s almost frightening to say hey, guess what, we don’t want you to do something to save your life. Yay. Everybody starts screaming and clapping.
Fauci added: “I just don’t get that, and I don’t think that anybody who is thinking clearly can get that.”
About 68% of the US adult population has been partially vaccinated against COVID-19, receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. In total, about 55% of the US population is partially vaccinated. About 48% of the US population is fully vaccinated against the disease, according to CDC data as of July 10.
Officially known as the Allen & Co. Sun Valley conference, the annual retreat in Idaho lures the biggest names in tech, media, and finance, and, while the event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, it’s set to kick off next week.
But the conference’s A-list attendees will have to follow stringent vaccination and testing guidelines, according to Vanity Fair.
Allen & Co., the private investment firm that runs the event, tapped public health experts from the Mayo Clinic handle safety precautions. Attendees will be required to hand over a photo of their vaccination card or supply immunization records to the Mayo Clinic, and anyone who received a vaccine other than Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson could face extra restrictions.
Guests will also be required to show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their arrival in Idaho, then take a rapid test once they show up at the event.
In addition, attendees may only bring spouses, no children, and most of the conference events will take place outside, Vanity Fair reports.
According to Variety, the guest list for this year’s event includes the usual lineup of powerful executives and dealmakers: Tech tycoons like Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Satya Nadella, Reed Hastings, and Ted Sarandos have all been invited, while media magnates including David Zaslav, Bob Chapek, and Shari Redstone are also on the guest list.
Other notable invitees include Warren Buffett, Adam Silver, and Roger Goodell.
According to Variety, Jack Dorsey, Peter Thiel, John Stankey, Nikki Haley, and Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are skipping this year’s conference.
The portal asks Californians to enter some personal information, including age and date of birth. If the information matches the official records, the user will receive a text or email with a link to their digital record, which has a QR code that can be scanned to show authenticity.
The digital vaccine cards are not “vaccine passports,” the state says. They contain only the same information as the CDC paper cards, and California will not make them mandatory. The digital version is just “one of the options to show proof of vaccination” for the coronavirus, the state says in the FAQ section.
California officially reopened on June 15, dropping requirements for physical distancing, capacity limits on businesses, and a tier system that varied the requirements by county. The nearly 20 million vaccinated residents of the state can use the new system to prove their vaccination status at businesses that require it, though most are not verifying vaccination.
The pass will alleviate issues for people who lost their vaccine cards, but some might have issues accessing their information. Not all records include contact information, and some of it may be outdated, according to Rick Klau, California chief tech innovation officer.
A new study, published on Friday, has sparked concerns that a heart condition could be a very rare side effect for teens and young adults receiving the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
Health authorities are investigating whether reports of heart inflammation in seven US teen boys across several states can be linked to the administration of a Pfizer shot, the Associated Press reported.
The study, published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows that the seven boys – aged between 14 and 19 – experienced chest pain within a few days of having their second coronavirus vaccine.
Heart imaging tests showed a type of inflammation of the heart muscle called myocarditis.
None of the teenagers were critically ill and all were sent home from the hospital after two to six days, Dr. Preeti Jaggi, who co-authored the report, told AP. It is currently believed that the inflammation was temporary, Jaggi said.
This study follows news from Israel that suggested there is a “probable link” between receiving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the appearance of myocarditis, Israel’s health ministry said on Tuesday.
Out of more than 5 million people who got the vaccine, 275 people reported heart muscle inflammation, mainly young men, the health ministry said.
The rate of reported myocarditis cases after COVID-19 vaccinations, however, was not different from the baseline rate, which means there may not be a link between vaccination and the condition, Al-Arshani wrote.
Eligible teens are still being encouraged to be vaccinated due to a rising number of hospitalizations among young people, the CDC said.
The White House announced a bevy of incentives for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday in an effort to get 70% of US adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4.
As of June 2, approximately 63.8% of US adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country will need to vaccinate around 625,000 people per day to reach the target percentage.
If the country reaches President Joe Biden’s 70% vaccination goal, Anheuser-Busch agreed to give free beer to all adults older than 21 (though it’s unclear how the drinks would be distributed).
Additional incentives listed by the White House include:
Sweepstakes for 2022 DAYTONA 500 tickets from NASCAR
25% discount on NFL merchandise and a chance to win 50 tickets for the next Super Bowl
Free tickets to MLB fans who get vaccinated at a game in June
30% off of stadium merchandise and a chance to win tickets to the 2021 MLS All-Star Game
A chance to win Cruise tickets, Super Bowl tickets, and cash prizes from CVS
Sweepstakes to win a year of free flights from United Airlines
Free snack or drink from Vitamin Shoppe
In addition to incentives to get vaccinated, the Biden administration partnered with the following companies to give free childcare for caregivers and parents looking to receive the vaccine:
Learning Care Group
Ridesharing apps Uber and Lyft also announced they would provide free rides to vaccination sites.
While the US is close to reaching Biden’s 70% vaccination goal, polling shows that Democrats are far likelier to get vaccinated than their Republican counterparts. A PBS poll from early May showed that 96% of Democrats said they planned on getting vaccinated, compared to 59% of Republicans polled.
West Virginia is giving away guns to incentivize more people to get the COVID vaccine.
Five hunting rifles and five custom shotguns are among the numerous prizes that the state is rolling out as part of its drive to get more jabs into its residents’ arms. The guns will be given away in multiple lucky draws, the first of which will be held on Father’s Day on June 20.
The initiative was announced by Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday, who said that residents need only get their first COVID vaccine to enter the draw. Those who have already received their vaccines are also eligible.
“You could win something that would be phenomenal,” Justice said.
A compilation of public health data from the Centers for Disease Control’s WONDER database noted that West Virginia has the eighth-highest rate of gun violence in the US. The state logged a yearly average of 320 deaths and 760 gun-related injuries from 2015 to 2019. It also has the fourth-highest rate of gun-related suicides and suicide attempts, with an average of around 235 gun-related suicides each year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on Thursday: Vaccinated people can go without face masks in nearly every situation, marking a huge step in returning to pre-pandemic ways.
But some states have more vaccinated residents than others, and they’re not quite ready to lift mask mandates until vaccination rates are higher. A spokeswoman for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, for example, said they would be waiting for health state officials to review lifting the indoor mask mandate, and President Joe Biden said after the CDC’s announcement that some Americans might not be ready to walk around freely without a mask.
“Please treat them with kindness and respect,” he said. “We’ve had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much politicization of this issue about wearing masks. Let’s put it to rest.”
While states can’t force their residents to get vaccinated, they can offer incentives that might sway vaccine-reluctant residents to get shots in their arms, and some are even using stimulus funds from Biden’s American Rescue Plan to do so. For example, Ohio is using stimulus money to offer $1 million to five vaccinated residents at random, and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is working on using stimulus money to create $100 savings bonds for vaccinated young people.
Here are seven states using unconventional incentives to get their residents vaccinated.
Connecticut is launching the #CTDrinksOnUs campaign, where participating restaurants will begin offering free alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to residents that bring in their vaccination cards.
To take part in the promotion, all residents need to do is show proof of vaccine, and then they can select their desired free drink from from a pre-set list. This is limited to one drink per person, and a food purchase is also required.
For anyone who is missing Chicago’s concert scene, proof of vaccination will be enough to access summer events in the city.
Chicago is launching the “Vax Pass,” which will allow vaccinated individuals to get exclusive deals at summer concerts, and it could also extend to barber shops and salons.
“So certainly, as we build vaccine confidence and convenience, we’re interested in thinking about ways to incentivize people to get the vaccine,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “I would hope that for most people, their their main incentive is to be able to stay healthy, keep their families healthy, keep their communities healthy. But we also know, younger people in particular, may be excited about the idea of getting into events.”
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said the state would not be issuing vaccine passports, but Chicago will move forward with the Vax Pass this month.
Kentucky is partnering with Kroger and Walmart to give every vaccinated adult a free Cash Ball 225 ticket, where a top prize is $225,000.
All residents needs to do is go to a Kroger or Walmart location in Kentucky to get their vaccine, and once the shot is in their arms, they will receive a coupon to get a free Kentucky lottery ticket.
Kentucky Lottery President and CEO Mary Harville said in a statement that “we hope that by literally injecting a little fun into the process, more people will get vaccinated.”
These coupons can be redeemed at any Kentucky Lottery retailer through June 1, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear hopes this incentive will be what every Kentucky resident needs to get a vaccine.
“Helping keep our Kentucky communities safe and a free chance at winning hundreds of thousands of dollars is a win-win for everyone involved,” he said in a statement.
From free hunting and fishing licenses to tickets to a baseball game, Maine is offering a range of incentives to encourage its residents to get vaccinated.
Effective through May 31, any Maine resident who gets vaccinated is eligible for “Your Shot to Get Outdoor,” which allows residents to choose one of the following rewards:
A free fishing license;
A free hunting license;
A Maine Wildlife Park pass;
A Maine State Park day pass;
A $20 LL Bean gift card;
A Sea Dogs admission ticket;
Or an Oxford Plains Speedway pass.
Incentives will be processed between May 17 and June 1.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy launched the “Shot and a Beer” program for all residents (aged 21+, of course), that allows any New Jerseyan to bring their vaccination card to a participating brewery for a free beer.
This program is active for the whole month of May.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at the beginning of May that the Yankees and the Mets will give free tickets to fans who get vaccinated at the ballparks before games.
The announcement of this incentive also came with the plan to split up stadiums in which vaccinated fans could sit in a section without social distancing, while those who are unvaccinated would still have to abide by the six-feet rule.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also worked on developing incentives, like allowing free admission to New York’s Museum of Natural History, where visitors can get their shots under the giant blue whale.
“We’re gonna be looking to do incentives just like that to give people great opportunities when they get vaccinated,” de Blasio said in a briefing.
Ohio Gov. Mark DeWine announced on Tuesday that he will offer five $1 million prizes to vaccinated adults, along with with five full-ride scholarships to state schools for vaccinated teens.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” DeWine said when announcing the plan. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Any vaccinated Ohio resident, 18 years and older, are eligible for the $1 million lottery, and 12- to 17-year-olds can sign up for the scholarship drawing through an electronic portal that will open on May 18.
To fund these incentives, DeWine is using money from Biden’s stimulus package to encourage vaccinations.
“I’m also aware through other information that many people who have taken the shot, many thousands of people here in the US, are deceased. And the deceased part is the good news. And please don’t take that out of context,” O’Connor told Ryan Randazzo of the Arizona Republic.
“But the alternative to being deceased after the shot, there are something like 40,000 plus recorded cases of people that are now potted plants. They are human vegetables. They’ve lost their ability to function,” he said.
There is no clinical evidence to support O’Connor’s claims, and it is unclear where O’Connor obtained the case numbers he cited of people going into a vegetative state after receiving the COVID vaccine. O’Connor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
O’Connor did not cite any database or official source to support his claims. But when the Arizona Republic pressed the official on where he was getting this information from, he referenced Ryan Cole – an Idaho-based physician who made false COVID claims in March this year.
The Republic wrote as well that several commission records indicated that O’Connor was attempting to discourage company leaders in the Arizona trade and utility industry from having their workers vaccinated. O’Connor told the Republic that he was concerned about potential job losses if utility companies in the state made it a requirement for their workers to be vaccinated.
“If people are willing to individually choose to get the shot, God bless them,” he said, adding that he did not want people to lose their jobs if they chose not to be vaccinated.
ABC News reported that O’Connor reached out in March to the leaders of several companies, in a bid to sway them from requiring that their employees take the COVID vaccine. These companies included the Arizona Public Service, the Salt River Project, Southwest Gas Corporation, and Tucson Electric Power.
ABC spoke to Mike Hummel, CEO of the Salt River Project, who confirmed that O’Connor contacted him about the COVID jab.
“We continue to see vaccines as a way out of this,” Hummel told ABC News. “What we’ve done is try to make information available to employees.”
Misinformation about the side effects of COVID vaccines has been rife – particularly among vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccine groups. Insider reported last week that some groups were circulating “death lists” and broadcasting screenshots of reports of disturbing side effects, pulling statistics from an unvetted vaccine database to warn others about unverified “side effects” from taking the COVID shot.
However, the vaccine database in question, known as the US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), does not require a medical professional to verify symptoms before reports are logged – meaning that reports of deaths and adverse side effects are unverified, and may even be falsified.
According to the NPR’s vaccine tracker, more than 257 million COVID vaccine doses have been administered in the US. This brings the tally of Americans who have been fully vaccinated to over 112 million people, or 33.9% of the total population.
Pfizer and BioNTech are asking the Food and Drug Administration for full regulatory approval of their jointly-produced COVID-19 vaccine. The move would allow the companies to produce and distribute the shots even after the coronavirus pandemic state of emergency is lifted.
Reports that the companies were seeking full approval first came Friday from CNN and CNBC.
The Pfizer and BioNTech two-shot vaccine was approved for emergency use in December as coronavirus cases in the US continued to spike. Under a state of emergency declaration, the companies were allowed to administer vaccines to the public based on a shorter data span, per CNN.
About 170 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered in the US under the Emergency Use Authorization, according to CNN.
The process for full FDA approval works on a rolling basis, allowing Pfizer and BioNTech to submit documents as they are prepared. The companies have also asked the FDA to expedite the process, according to CNBC.
The drug companies are seeking a Biologic License Application using clinical data, CNBC reported. If the BLA is approved by regulators, the vaccine would be permanently available to members of the US population from ages 16 and up.
Under an emergency use authorization, Pfizer and BioNTech also have less control over their pricing and distribution. Full authorization would allow them to potentially charge more for the vaccine, according to CNN.
Insider reported in April that the drug companies were increasing production in order to meet a stated goal of 300 million doses by the end of July.
And most recently, on April 23, the FDA revised standards for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine along with a warning about a potential “very rare and very serious type of blood clot in people who have received it.”