Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it submitted data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showing a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and significantly increases protection against disease.
Johnson & Johnson says its data, published last month, shows a booster given 56 days after a first dose of its vaccine provides 94% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% protection against severe disease.
“We look forward to our discussions with the FDA and other health authorities to support their decisions regarding boosters,” Mathai Mammen, a J&J research executive, said in a statement.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is one of three authorized in the U.S., and by far the least used, with less than 15 million Americans receiving its single-dose shot. Use of the J&J vaccine was paused for 10 days in April after reports of rare but dangerous blood clots in six women who got the shot, but the FDA and CDC determined the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks.
On Tuesday, officials in Washington state confirmed a female resident of King County became the fourth known person in the nation to die of a blood clot after getting the J&J vaccine. Unlike the two-dose mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, the J&J inoculation is an adenovirus vector vaccine.
Also in the news:
►The FDA on Monday authorized a new coronavirus home test that the agency says will soon double the nation’s limited supply of non-prescription tests.
►Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider, said 1,400 employees, less than 2% of its total workforce, have been fired for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. A statewide vaccination mandate for all hospital and nursing home workers took effect Sept. 27.
►A New York man was charged with a felony and could face seven years in prison for faking a COVID-19 vaccine card.
►The European Union’s drug regulator gave its backing Monday to administering booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 and older.
►Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday that foreign visitors to the country wouldn’t be allowed back until at least next year.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 43.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 703,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 235.5 million cases and 4.8 million deaths. More than 185.8 million Americans – 56.3% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: COVID-19 vaccines could be available for younger children in a matter of weeks – but experts worry whether communities of color will have an equal shot at protecting their kids. Read more here.
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When University of Northern Iowa professor Steve O’Kane decided to require masks in his plant systematics class this fall, he was fully aware that he was breaking state Board of Regents policy. Last week, O’Kane was stripped of his ability to teach the class this semester as a result.
Still, he plans to require masks again next semester, even if it means termination.
“To not disobey is to admit defeat. And what the administration is forced to do – please note my words – what the administration is forced to do is immoral and unethical. And it all boils down to Iowa politics,” O’Kane said in an interview.
O’Kane’s defiance of the regents’ policy prohibiting mask requirements is the largest escalation in what has been weeks of back-and-forth between faculty at UNI, Iowa State and the University of Iowa, their administrations and the Board of Regents over how to best protect the community from the spread of COVID-19.
– Cleo Krejci, Iowa City Press-Citizen
AstraZeneca on Tuesday said that it was seeking FDA emergency use authorization for its “long-acting” antibody combination to treat COVID-19.
AstraZeneca says its AZD7442 treatment, a combination of the antibodies tixagevimab and cilgavimab, is designed to have more durability than traditional antibodies. Most treatments are prescribed early in the course of disease, and while highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, the protection is temporary. AstraZeneca says its antibody treatment could provide up to a year of protection.
In its clinical trial, AstraZeneca said the treatment reduced the risk of symptomatic COVID by 77%, and more than 75% of the study population had an increased risk of severe complications from COVID.
Lack of access to health care, poverty, smoking and heavy drinking all play a role in driving up the disparity between rural and urban residents – a gap likely now further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of rural hospitals.
The federal study examined the 10 leading causes of death nationally from 2009 through 2019. It also found people in cities are living longer than their rural counterparts, and that the health disparities are increasing. Rural Americans are also dying from COVID-19 infections at about twice the rate of urban Americans, based on data analyzed by the Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis at the University of Iowa.
Dr. Varinder Singh, chair of the cardiology department at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, said it’s important to remember that health care disparities exist in urban areas too, especially within communities of color. But he said the federal study raises important questions about the growing urban-rural divide, and should prompt discussions about how to effectively reach rural populations with public-health messages.
– Trevor Hughes
The U.S. will soon reach more COVID-19 deaths this year than in all of 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
More than 703,000 Americans have died of the disease, and the Washington National Cathedral is planning to toll its funeral bell 700 times Tuesday evening in memory of the lives lost.
The solemn ceremony comes as COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S. are trending downward, according to Johns Hopkins University data, though not enough to prevent making 2021 deadliner than 2020, when 352,000 Americans were killed by COVID.
Compared to four weeks ago, hospitalizations for the latest week are down 26.9%, and the number of ICU beds occupied by likely COVID-19 patients is down 25.3%, according to the data. The pace of fatalities has decreased as well, about 12% from the Sept. 22 peak.
– Mike Stucka
The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis S. Collins, says he is stepping down by the end of the year, having led the research center for 12 years and become a prominent source of public information during the coronavirus pandemic.
“There comes a time where an institution like NIH really benefits from new vision, new leadership,” Collins, 71, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “This was the right timing.”
A formal announcement was expected Tuesday from NIH. The Post and Politico reported Collins’ plans Monday night.
Based in Bethesda, Maryland, and a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, NIH is the nation’s medical research agency and operates more than two dozen institutes and centers. It lays claim to being the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world.
– The Associated Press
COVID-19 has already killed twice as many people in Alabama this year as it did in all of 2020, Johns Hopkins University data shows.
The state was doubly punished by last year’s fall-winter wave of coronavirus, then the more recent delta variant-driven wave. The disease killed 4,827 people in Alabama in 2020, and a similar number from Jan. 1 to Feb. 23 this year.
Since July 1, when the delta variant really began taking off in the United States, COVID-19 has killed more than 3,100 people in Alabama.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of countries where Americans should avoid travel because of “very high” COVID-19 cases grew again Monday, with Barbados and Croatia the most notable additions.
Other countries raised to level 4, the agency’s highest travel health alert level: Austria, Armenia, Latvia and New Caledonia. All had been at level 3, which indicates case counts are “high.”
More than 80 countries are now on the ever-changing list of countries travelers should avoid, including Jamaica, Aruba, Belize, the United Kingdom, Greece and other popular tourist destinations. Read more here.
– Dawn Gilbertson
More than 1 million Texans lost jobs seemingly overnight and the state’s unemployment rate nearly quadrupled when the coronavirus pandemic first slammed the economy early last year.
But a less visible impact of the pandemic – a steep decline in educational attainment by Texas students amid the crisis – might end up having even bigger negative economic consequences long term, according to the state’s top public school official.
“This is the largest problem facing the state of Texas – the problem of making sure that our citizenry is educated to take advantage of the opportunities” generated by the economy in the future, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said.
Morath said the percentage of third graders in the state who meet grade-level proficiency in reading and math has dropped precipitously since the start of the pandemic. Read more here.
– Bob Sechler, Austin American-Statesman
Contributing: The Associated Press