There isn’t yet sufficient evidence to show COVID-19 booster shots for people under 65 are necessary, members of a key federal advisory committee said Friday. The committee agreed to a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine six months after full vaccination for people aged 65 and older and those at high risk of severe COVID-19.
The initial question, posed by Pfizer, would have made the booster available to everyone aged 16 and up.
Members said getting it right, and waiting to follow the science, were important.
“We may need it but we don’t have the data yet,” said Dr. Ofer Levy, director of the precision vaccines program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The committee doesn’t make the decision for the FDA but FDA almost always takes its recommendations to heart.
The committee’s decision doesn’t mean booster shots for those who got Pfizer doses more than six months ago will immediately become available.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and other federal officials, including President Joe Biden, have said it is time to begin offering third shots to compensate for what appears to be fading protection. The government has agreements to purchase the doses and provide them at no cost to consumers.
Others, particularly the director general of the World Health Organization, argue that Americans would benefit far more by getting initial shots to the unvaccinated around the world.
– Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub
Also in the news:
► Anti-vaccine activists flooded Facebook to sow doubt about the COVID-19 vaccines, overwhelming efforts to stop them, even as the company told the world that it was not responsible for vaccine hesitancy, a new report from the Wall Street Journal found.
► A CDC study released Friday found the Moderna vaccine was more effective than Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson several months after vaccination. All three were still highly effective at preventing hospitalization from March through August, with Moderna 93% effective, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 88% and the J&J vaccine at 71%.
►Mississippi has surpassed New Jersey as the state with the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., with roughly 1 of every 320 Mississippians having succumbed to the coronavirus.
►More than a dozen Tennessee school districts are requiring masks despite Gov. Bill Lee’s order allowing parents to opt their children out. Many of districts are in conservative counties where officials are begging families to comply so schools can keep kids in the classroom as cases surge.
►Two dozen Republican attorneys general threatened legal action Thursday over President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates set to affect about 100 million U.S. workers. The White House announced mandatory vaccines for employers with more than 100 employees, along with all federal workers.
►Italy Premier Mario Draghi’s government passed a decree mandating that private- and public-sector workers show a health pass in order to access workplaces. The pass is issued to those who have been vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or a recent negative test.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 41.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 671,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 227.4 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. More than 180 million Americans — 54.2% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we’re reading: Long-haul COVID-19 can last months. But here’s why experts are optimistic about recovery.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday announced a new effort to prevent infections in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings across the United States.
During the pandemic, infections of all kinds increased in health care settings, reversing a several years long trend of declining infections, including not only COVID-19. Walensky said the CDC will spend $2.1 billion with funds in the American Rescue Plan to help increase preparedness around the country to fight all types of infections.
Walensky also said $1.25 billion of the investment will go to local health departments, including about $500 million for state-based strike teams to fight infections at skilled nursing home facilities, which were among the hardest hit during the early days of the pandemic.
Hospitals in Idaho, Montana and Alaska have begun rationing resources due to the surge of COVID-19 cases straining health care facilities and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions.
A statewide “crisis standards of care” in Idaho was enacted along with similar measures at individual hospitals in Montana and Alaska, which allow for health care professionals to allocate ICU beds to the patients most likely to survive. Other patients may be given different care, or in extreme cases, palliative care.
“The situation is dire — we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident,” Idaho Department of Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in statement.
At St. Peter’s Health hospital in Montana, officials said the situation is worse than at earlier points in the pandemic as the ICU and morgue are full. At Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, officials began prioritizing resources earlier this week.
Florida’s public schools have opened without requiring students, teachers and staff to mask up at the height of the delta variant surge. At the same time, those schools have suffered some dire coincidences.
As of this week, at least 31 classrooms and schools — including two entire school districts — have had to shut down due to the large number of students, teachers and staff quarantined because they were exposed to COVID-19. About 167,000 children under 16 have been infected with the coronavirus since Aug. 1, according to the Florida Department of Health.
During that same period, some 106,000 preK-12 students and teachers have been infected, and 196,450 students and staff have had to quarantine since Aug. 1, according to school district COVID-19 dashboards analyzed by the Florida Education Association.
“We are seeing (that) over 50% of schools have already seen or exceeded the number of cases for all of the last school year in the first three or four weeks of this school year,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, the 150,000-member statewide teachers union. “There is disruption in every school district.”
– Jeffrey Schweers, Florida Capital Bureau
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded emergency use authorization Thursday to allow two monoclonal antibody treatments to be administered together to prevent infection in high-risk individuals who have been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 or who are at high risk of exposure in an institutional setting, such as a nursing home or prison.
The authorization applies to patients 12 years of age and older who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or are not expected to mount an adequate immune response, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company said in a statement.
“Recent reports suggest that fully vaccinated residents of nursing homes have contracted COVID-19, some of whom became quite ill,” Dr. Myron Cohen, director of UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. “This additional emergency use authorization of monoclonal antibodies for post-exposure prophylaxis in addition to the treatment of COVID-19 offers a significant achievement in the fight against this pandemic.”
Contributing: The Associated Press