The pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should be lifted with no warning added despite a small risk of a rare clotting disorder, an expert advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
The recommendation by the CDC committee, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, has to be approved by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration before becoming official government policy.
The vaccine was paused after reports of a rare combination of blood clots and low levels of platelets within two weeks of vaccination in six women out of the more than 7 million Americans who recently got the J&J shot, and one man from an earlier clinical trial. One of the women died, and another is hospitalized in critical condition.
Earlier this week, CDC head Rochelle Walensky said while the agency has received more reports of medical conditions, it was still investigating whether they were connected to the shots, and was not hearing about a substantial number of new cases.
Also in the news:
► More than 40% of Americans have been at least partially vaccinated, ranking the U.S. near the top in vaccination rates, Our World In Data reports. This comes as Michigan’s coronavirus case rate has begun to fall, dropping 12.5% over the last week, suggesting the state’s third surge — the worst in the U.S. — may be waning.
► The Biden administration announced Friday it will open two mass vaccination sites in Kentucky with a combined capacity of 7,000 shots a week.
►Two independent studies found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be effective in preventing serious illness and death from the New York variants, the New York Times reported.
►Researchers in the U.K. found two cases of human-to-cat transmission of the coronavirus, according to the Guardian. But their study showed no evidence of people being infected by their pets, the Guardian reported.
►Amid a surge in new coronavirus variant cases, Japan declared a third state of emergency Friday, which will begin Sunday and last until May 11 to discourage holiday traveling. While the Olympics committee reaffirmed its determination to hold the summer games, with the committee president expected to visit the country mid-May, a majority of the public have supported canceling or further postponement.
►The California State University and University of California systems jointly announced Thursday they will both require all students and staff returning for on-campus classes and activities to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The requirement, however, will not take effect until one or more of the vaccines receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. UMass Amherst also reportedly joined the growing number of colleges requiring students to be vaccinated this fall.
►South Africa will resume the administration of Johnson & Johnson shots to health care workers next week.
►COVID-19 hospitalizations among older Americans have plunged more than 70% since the start of the year, and deaths among them appear to have tumbled as well, dramatic evidence the vaccination campaign is working.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has nearly 31.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 570,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 145 million cases and 3 million deaths. Nearly 282.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and almost 219 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: As states expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to allow shots for 16- and 17-year-olds, teens in rural America may have trouble getting them. Read more here.
Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
White House expects vaccination rates to ‘moderate and fluctuate’
The U.S. is vaccinating an average of nearly 3 million people a day, but White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said he expects daily vaccination rates in the U.S. to “moderate and fluctuate” going forward.
“We’ve gotten vaccinations to the most at-risk and those most eager to get vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Zients said in a task force briefing Friday, adding, “We know reaching other populations will take time and focus.”
About 90% of all Americans live within five miles of a vaccination site, Zients said, and the U.S. will have enough vaccine supply by the end of May for every adult who wants one.
About 80% of Americans 65 and older now have at least one shot, Zients said. As of Friday, 66% of Americans age 65 and older are fully vaccinated, Walensky, the CDC director, said. “We are well on our way to have one of our most vulnerable populations fully protected against this deadly virus, and that is a reason to celebrate,” she said.
However, there are “some unsettling gaps in our coverage,” Walensky said. “While we have many reasons to celebrate, we also have the potential, indeed the need to do more to protect people now.”
As part of its vaccine public education initiative, the White House announced a “We Can Do This: Live” campaign to connect people on social media to trusted information by pairing influencers with health professionals.
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said actresses Eva Longoriaand Olivia Holt; personalities Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest; Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban of Shark Tank; Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; NASCAR; the NBA and the WNBA have signed on to the campaign.
“To truly turn this pandemic around requires more than government action. It’s going to require each of us to take action as well,” Murthy said. “We have to decide who we are as a country. Are we 300 million people who happen to live in the same place? Or are we fellow Americans who recognize we are stronger when we care for and protect one another?”
India tries to meet need for oxygen supplies amid record new cases, deaths
With hospitals in India pleading with the government on social media to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop fresh admissions of patients, the government put oxygen tankers on special express trains to save COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe.
“We have ramped up the production as oxygen consumption is rising through the roof,” said Saket Tiku, president of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association. “But we have limitations and the biggest challenge right now is transporting it to where it’s urgently needed.”
India is seeing the world’s worst coronavirus surge, setting a grim record for daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730. India has confirmed 16 million cases so far and recorded 2,263 deaths in the past 24 hours. Adding to the deaths, a fire in Mumbai, India, killed 13 COVID-19 patients early Friday when an air conditioning unit exploded in a hospital’s ICU.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top epidemiologist, called the situation in India “dire” in a White House task force briefing Friday. “We’re trying to help in any way we can,” Fauci said, adding, “I think what this is telling us, in Africa and in India, that when you have a global pandemic it is a global pandemic, and there are no countries that are really safe from it.”
As rich countries buy excess vaccine doses, poor countries struggle to vaccinate, study shows
The world’s richest countries have collectively bought 1 billion more doses than their citizens need, according to a study by the global advocacy group ONE. The rest of the world has only been able to secure 2.5 billion doses — not enough to vaccinate their populations.
Some are calling on the U.S. to share doses with other countries, like India, which reported a global one-day record of more than 332,700 new infections Friday as a coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country overwhelms a fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.
The Biden administration has said it will share surplus coronavirus vaccine doses with Canada and Mexico. Asked Friday about sharing vaccine with India, Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said: “We are committed to sharing vaccine supply as our confidence around our supply increases.”
“This is a global pandemic, and India demonstrates the risk of what can happen if we don’t get the pandemic under control everywhere,” Zients said.
Tokyo under ’emergency orders’ with Olympics three months away
Only three months before the postponed Olympics are set to open, Tokyo and Japan’s second largest metropolitan area of Osaka have been placed under emergency orders aimed at stemming surging cases of the coronavirus.
The measures, which take place during Japan’s “golden week” holiday period, are meant to limit travel and keep people out of public places. They are to end on May 11, just ahead of a widely reported visit to Hiroshima by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
Bach said this week that the visit, reported for May 17-18, is still in the “planning phase.” But Bach’s presence was immediately criticized by opposition lawmakers who say the Olympics are being prioritized ahead of public safety.
“Japan should decide its own public health policies. There is no reason we should be told by Mr. Bach what to do,” said Yuichiro Tamaki, the head of the Democratic Party for the People.
CDC investigating woman’s death after J&J vaccine
Oregon health officials said Thursday that federal officials are investigating the death of a woman in her 50s who developed a rare blood clot and low platelets within two weeks of receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19.
Federal officials already were examining six reports of the unusual clots, including a death, out of more 8 million Americans given the one-dose vaccination so far.
The woman developed a “rare but serious blood clot in combination with very low platelets,” the Oregon Health Authority said in a statement.
Texas health officials also say the U.S. government has reported that a Texas woman is hospitalized with possible blood clots associated with Johnson and Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine.
The announcement by Texas quotes the FDA and CDC as saying the adult woman has “symptoms that appear to be consistent with those few other reported cases” of a rare blood clotting disorder developed after receiving the J&J vaccine. No other information is being released, because of patient privacy and confidentiality.
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise, Karen Weintraub and Nada Hassanein, USA TODAY; The Associated Press