Apple on Saturday removed Unjected, a dating-and-community app for unvaccinated people, from its App Store, in a move that the app’s owners likened to censorship.
“Apparently, we’re considered ‘too much’ for sharing our medical autonomy and freedom of choice,” the company said in a video posted on Instagram on Saturday. “So, of course, Apple removed us.”
Bloomberg News on Saturday reported that Apple removed the app after being contacted by a reporter.
Unjected posted a screenshot of the Bloomberg News story, saying: “We must use our voices. We are fighting the censorship of our freedoms and we won’t stop.”
Unjected launched in May as a dating app – one Twitter user called it “OK Q-Pid” – but had recently rolled out additional features. One was a list of businesses that “respect our autonomy and promote freedom.”
The company posted a screenshot of Apple’s take-down message, which read in part: “Specifically, your social networking app inappropriately refers to the COVID-19 pandemic in its concept or theme.”
Unjected said on Instagram, where it has about 25,000 followers, that it had deleted features, including a social feed and “blood bank,” in an attempt to stay on the App Store.
“We are looking into ways to get off of Apple and Google,” the company said. “But the easiest transition for us might be to make the website as great as possible since they can’t shut that down like the app.”
Insider has reached out to Unjected, Apple, and Instagram for comment.
The app on Sunday was still available on the Google Play store, where users mostly gave it middling reviews, including: “Amazing concept but holy $%^& this app is practically unusable.”
Walmart will require certain employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, the company said Friday.
The retailer’s new rule will apply to employees based at the retailer’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, according to a company-wide memo. “Market, regional, and divisional” management-level employees who travel and “work in multiple facilities” will also need to get vaccinated, the memo said.
The deadline for getting vaccinated is October 4, 2021. According to the memo, Walmart will also “implement a new process for verification of vaccine status” for its workers.
The vaccination requirement does not apply to employees who work in stores, clubs, or warehouses, the memo said.
Walmart also announced Friday that it would require store workers in areas with “high transmission” to mask up at work.
Walmart is the first major retailer to require certain corporate employees get vaccinated, and among the first to reinstate mask requirements for some store workers.
Other retailers will likely follow suit, as Walmart led the way for stores to close on Thanksgiving and raise the minimum age to purchase firearms.
“We continue to watch with deep concern the developments of the pandemic and the spread of variants, especially the Delta variant,” Walmart chief people officer Donna Morris said in an email to employees. “We know vaccinations are our solution to drive change. We are urging you to get vaccinated.”
Walmart’s new policies come as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly across the US. The current 7-day average of daily new cases increased by 64% compared to the previous 7-day average, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A leaked presentation from the CDC found the variant is more transmissible than the common cold and seasonal flu, but did not lead to severe illness or death in vaccinated individuals. The University of California Davis Health found 97% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated as of July 22.
In his address on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a restrictions to control the rise of the Delta variant, which including the requirement of full vaccination for a range of activities, starting in August.
The US COVID-19 vaccine rollout was swift enough to save hundreds of thousands of live and prevent millions of hospitalizations, even as more transmissible and deadlier strains of the virus took hold, a new study found.
Without readily available access to multiple FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines in late 2020 and 2021, deaths from COVID-19 would have jumped to 4,500 each day during a second “2021 spring surge” spurred on by the Alpha variant that originated in the UK, the study from the Yale School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund found.
Instead, vaccinations in the US saved approximately 279,000 lives and prevented up to 1.25 million additional hospitalizations, according to researchers, who studied the impact of vaccination in the country from Dec. 12, 2020, through July 1, 2021.
Fifty-five percent of the US is fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times vaccination tracker, making it the 17th most vaccinated country globally. But the study notes that millions of Americans remain unvaccinated – a cause for worry as the highly infectious Delta variant takes hold in several states.
Almost all of the COVID-19 deaths in the US are now among the unvaccinated. Only about 0.1% of people who were hospitalized in May for COVID-19 were fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
Since the US began its vaccine program in December, more than 303,000 Americans have died and more than 1.5 million have been hospitalized for COVID-19. But the country’s early rollout, which ramped up in February and March, “played a critical role in curtailing the pandemic,” the study said.
“A renewed commitment to expanding vaccine access will be crucial to achieving higher levels of vaccination necessary to control of the pandemic and prevent avoidable suffering, particularly for those in historically underserved groups and areas of the US with low vaccination rates,” the authors said.
After the most successful COVID vaccination programme in the world, Israel lifted social distancing and mask requirements at the start of June.
Then a low – but rising – number of cases, fueled by the arrival of the Delta variant, prompted the government to bring back masks in indoor spaces, announce a drive to vaccinate kids, and impose mass testing for airport arrivals.
Authorities are determined to avoid another spike. There are currently just 33 serious cases in Israel and a seven-day average of 321 new daily cases, compared with around 8,600 in January in the early stages of its vaccine drive.
JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images
But 13,000 students and teachers are currently in quarantine and the interior minister has threatened to shut down Ben Gurion Airport if cases continue to increase.
The rising case load is concerning for the country that was first to vaccinate its way out of the pandemic using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Miriam Britz-Kohn, a 49-year-old mother-of-three, lives in Binyamina in the north of the country, where the Delta variant was first observed in Israel around June 20.
Her son’s school informed her that children in one year group had tested positive, and mobile testing centers were quickly sent to monitor any spread. “Binyamina is a small place, so it had a big impact in the town,” she said.
“I felt we’d beaten Corona. We felt great about it, but then it affected our neighbourhood and that was a wakeup call. The reality is it’ll go up and down and be something that’s impossible to get rid of completely, at least in the near future.”
Some of her neighbors, who were previously staying home to avoid infection before they were vaccinated, have stopped sending their children to school, afraid of them bringing home a more transmissible variant of COVID.
Israel was already vaccinating children aged 12 to 15, and rising case numbers have encouraged more parents to vaccinate theirs.
AMIR COHEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Britz-Kohn said that many people were now vaccinating their teenagers to avoid the entire family having to isolate if they came into contact with someone who tested positive.
Her middle child, aged 13, has not yet been vaccinated but Britz-Kohn said he already had COVID and so should have antibodies.
She said she had “mixed feelings” about getting him vaccinated as his age makes him less likely to develop severe symptoms with coronavirus. Now she plans to get him vaccinated in light of the rising case numbers.
Shlomit Levy, a senior nurse working in Tel Hashomer Hospital, never stopped wearing her mask at work and in stores, even when the mandate was lifted for three weeks.
“Everybody should wear one,” she said. “Because if we all do, we can keep transmission low but let life carry on.”
Levy told Insider she felt masks kept her and many of her colleagues safe for the year before they were vaccinated. She works in a cancer unit, and said that, while some colleagues caught COVID, they most likely caught it outside the hospital.
Now she’s part of a study group which is tested regularly for antibodies, to see how long the vaccine’s protection lasts. She worries that as her antibody levels decrease, she could catch the new variant.
“I wear a N95 mask, so it gives me some protection as well as helping stop the spread. I’m not only afraid for myself, but also for my patients. Some of them couldn’t be vaccinated because of their cancer treatments.”
May Bejach, 28, a university student in Tel Aviv where she was born and raised, dreads another lockdown. She found it “very difficult” when most of her teaching went online as COVID first hit.
“The city that never sleeps was asleep for a year. Everything was closed and the streets were dead. It was awful,” she told Insider.
“I was so pleased when things went back to normal,” she said, adding she didn’t expect another full lockdown as cases were still low and, with 65.2% of people fully vaccinated, few are falling seriously ill.
She doesn’t know how she’d deal with another lockdown. “We got vaccinated early on, which means we are better prepared now for what’s happening. We need to be careful with masks and hope that the numbers stay low so we don’t need to disrupt our lives again.”
Bejach is still planning a trip to Italy that she had to cancel during the first lockdown. She said, with COVID looming again, increased testing at the airport and new rules could be “just something we’ll have to get used to.”
She is due to fly there on August 22. “The new restrictions have me thinking that it will continue getting worse and that they might cancel us again.”
Delta variant prevalence for the state was not available, but as of June 19, the variant made up 46% of cases in the broader CDC region 8 (Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming).
Vaccines protect against serious disease, even with Delta
The trends are in line with what US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said on Wednesday: those who are unvaccinated “are in trouble” and should act fast.
Those who are fully vaccinated have a “high degree of protection” even against the Delta variant, he said.
According to data from the UK, two doses of a vaccine are highly protective against developing even mild symptoms after catching the Delta variant: 88% for the Pfizer vaccine, and 60% for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
One dose of either is less protective against developing mild symptoms of the disease: 33% in both types.
However, a single dose of either vaccine offers substantial protection against developing a worse version of COVID-19.
The AstraZeneca shot offers 71% efficacy against hospitalization, while the Pfizer shot offers 94% protection, data from the UK shows.
Johnson & Johnson and Moderna have also said that their vaccines remain efficient against the Delta variant, although published data is not yet available.
The federal government updated its guidance for employers, saying companies may require their workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Additionally, they may offer incentives for employees who voluntarily receive vaccinations, such as paid time off or bonuses as long, as they are not coercive.
In April, the Biden Administration announced it would grant tax incentives to any small businesses that offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated. Companies both small and large have used incentives and flexible company policies to increase employee vaccination rates.
The new guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) includes protections for workers who may refuse the vaccine due to underlying medical conditions or conflicting religious beliefs, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Employers who determine that an employee who cannot be vaccinated due to a disability are a risk others are not allowed to bar them from the workplace unless there is no accommodation they can take “that would eliminate or reduce this risk so the unvaccinated employee does not pose a direct threat,” according to the guidelines. The same goes for employees who have religious objections to receiving the vaccine.
In neither case do employers have the right to automatically fire workers who cannot receive the vaccine. First they must determine whether the employee has rights under local and national discrimination laws.
However, experts say most employers will probably simply request their workers get vaccinated, rather than forcefully compel them. Although public confidence in the vaccine has increased, a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 27% of respondents “probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists.” Forcing workers to take the shot or leave their jobs could backfire on employers.
There are also potential legal risks for employers. If a required vaccination causes harm to a worker, it could likely spur a workers compensation claim against their employer, employment law attorney Jay Rosenlieb told AARP.
“It’s a treacherous area for employers,” Rosenlieb said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that 50 teenagers living in the state could win a full scholarship to any state college or university if they get a first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Thursday.
The “Get a Shot to Make Your Future” prize draw would allow parents of vaccinated 12 to 17-year-olds to add their child’s names to a raffle. State officials would randomly pick ten names every week for five weeks, Cuomo said at a press conference Wednesday.
The scholarship adds to the list of incentives state officials are using to boost vaccine uptake. Last week, Cuomo unveiled a new “Vax and Scratch” program, which would give people $20 scratch-off lottery tickets for a $5 million cash prize. He announced a two-day free pass to any state park for vaccinated New Yorkers on Monday.
Winners of the prize draw would receive up to five years’ worth of funds to cover tuition, books, and room and board for those enrolling in an undergraduate or approved bachelor’s degree program, Cuomo said.
Cuomo said it was open to all vaccinated 12 to 17-year-olds.
New York state also offers the Excelsior Scholarship, which covers tuition costs for students whose parents make $125,000 or less per year.
Cuomo said the state needed to “get creative” to encourage more New Yorkers to get their shot, amid slowing demand.
“Vaccination rates across the state are beginning to slow and our greatest need is with young New Yorkers who make up a large percent of positive cases and have the lowest vaccination percentage in the state,” Cuomo said at the press conference.
As of Wednesday, 46% of New York residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 55% have received at least one dose, according to a New York Times database.
Four months into the US’s vaccine rollout, the seven-day average of vaccine doses administered a day has fallen from a peak of 3.5 million in mid-April to 2.3 million in early May, according to The New York Times. As of Tuesday, 56% of the US’s adult population had received at least one shot, and 40% had been fully vaccinated.
The US is nearing a tipping point of vaccine supply outpacing demand. But vaccination rates vary by region.
Upwards of 50% of people in states in the Northeast and New England have received at least one shot, while several states in the South and the West have less than 40% of their populations vaccinated, partly because of factors like higher rates of hesitancy and refusal to get the vaccine.
Until now, a state’s weekly allocation of vaccines, based on its adult population, would roll over into the next week. But states where supply exceeds demand can now give their unordered doses to states with more of a need for them, The Post reported.
The report said the White House was looking to “steer untapped vaccine into a federal bank available to states where demand continues to outstrip supply.”
The Biden administration is aiming to take a more flexible approach to target the most vulnerable people who remain unvaccinated, Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 task force coordinator, told The Post.
The US is also under pressure to share its supply of vaccines with other countries, like India, that are facing devastating COVID-19 outbreaks. The US’s neighbors are also seeking help because they have far less capacity to manufacture vaccines and have immunized smaller portions of their populations.
Last week, the White House announced it would begin sharing its unused doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which has not been authorized for emergency use in the US, with other countries once the vaccine is cleared through a federal safety process. Up to 60 million doses of that vaccine could be available to export.
The leading drug companies manufacturing the vaccines are also under pressure to release their patents and give up their intellectual-property rights to the vaccines, which would allow them to be distributed at a greater scale worldwide.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said that his state would gift $100 savings bonds for young people between the ages of 16 and 35 who get vaccinated, in a bid to chip away at COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
Justice said the bonds would be paid for using CARES Act money.
“Accept that wonderful savings bond, and I hope that you keep it for a long long long time,” said Justice. “I hope that it signifies to you just what this great country is all about, because at this time you are stepping up to shut this thing down.”