A pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should continue until more is known about a rare vaccine side effect, a federal advisory committee decided Wednesday.
The committee will meet again within a week to ten days to evaluate more data that is expected to become available.
The extremely rare blood clots have been reported in seven of the 7.2 million Americans who have gotten the J&J vaccine. The recent six cases were reported in women ages 18 to 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. One woman died and three remained hospitalized.
There was some concern the pause might harm those most in need of the vaccine as J&J only requires one shot and is easier to store and transport than the other two authorized vaccines. But the committee noted continuing the pause would not significantly affect the ability to vaccinate Americans.
The J&J vaccine so far makes up less than 5% of shots administered in the United States. The two other vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have not had such effects.
Also in the news:
►The parts of the U.S. that are excelling and those that are struggling with vaccinations are starting to look like the nation’s political map: deeply divided between red and blue states. Americans in “blue states” that lean Democratic appear to be getting vaccinated at more robust rates, while those in “red” Republican states seem to be more hesitant.
►California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said Wednesday that all of the state’s schools should reopen when the new academic year begins next fall, though his guidelines remain merely an expectation rather than a mandate.
►Michigan health director Elizabeth Hertel traveled with family to Alabama for spring break last week despite her department’s guidance to avoid out-of-state travel while Michigan suffers a raging coronavirus outbreak.
►Puerto Rico broke its record for cases in a week and Michigan had its second worse week yet over the last seven days, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Thirty-nine states saw a rise in cases from the previous seven-day period.
►Attendance at Saturday’s funeral for Britain’s Prince Philip will be limited to 30 mourners because of current coronavirus restrictions in England. Queen Elizabeth may be required to sit alone, and guests must be spaced 6 feet apart.
►Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he has received his second COVID-19 vaccine shot, three weeks after the first dose. The Kremlin wouldn’t reveal which of the three Russian-developed vaccines the president has taken.
►Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has issued an executive order banning the development or use of vaccine passports in Montana.
►German health authorities are recommending that people younger than 60 who have already received one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine use a different vaccine for their second dose over concerns of blood clots.
►The NFL has laid out team guidelines for COVID-19 vaccinations and is strongly urging franchises to have all employees vaccinated. Commissioner Roger Goodell told teams in a memo to plan on using stadiums or team headquarters as vaccination centers for their players, employees and family members. Teams must update the league weekly on vaccination figures.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 31.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 2.96 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 137.5 million cases and more than 563,000 million deaths. More than 245.36 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 192.28 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: What do I do if I’ve gotten the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot? Your questions, answered.
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Pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine should have little long-term effect
The pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could briefly disrupt daily doses across the nation but should have little long-term effect on the drive to end the pandemic, the White COVID-19 response coordinator said Wednesday.
“In the very short term we do expect some impact on daily averages as sites and appointments transition from Johnson & Johnson to Moderna and Pfizer vaccines,” Jeff Zients said at the team’s thrice-weekly briefing. “However, I want to be clear that we have more than enough Pfizer and Moderna supplies to continue and even accelerate the current pace of vaccinations.”
Zients pressed the administration’s contention that the pause – announced Tuesday – will have little impact in the effort to vaccinate the nation. He said there is plenty Moderna and Pfizer vaccine to make up any shortfall of single-shot J&J vaccine. The U.S. is on track to acquire 600 million of double-shot doses from those companies by the end of July, he said.
Pandemic could fuel global unrest for years, US officials warn
U.S. intelligence officials warned that the coronavirus pandemic will test governments across the globe for years to come, “fueling humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest and geopolitical competition.” In its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment report, officials outlined a daunting challenge against a backdrop of other persistent threats posed by climate change and mass migration.
“No country has been completely spared, and even when a vaccine is widely distributed globally, the economic and political aftershocks will be felt for years,” the report concluded, referring to the massive virus fallout.
EU bails on AstraZeneca in favor of Pfizer/BioNTech
The European Union announced plans to negotiate a massive contract extension for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine as the 27-nation bloc’s faith in AstraZeneca’s vaccine wavers. America’s Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech would provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the 2nd quarter of this year, making up for faltering deliveries of British-Swedish AstraZeneca following reports of rare blood clots in some recipients. The Johnson & Johnson jab, which uses the same base technology as AstraZeneca, is on “pause” in the U.S. because of rare blood clots, and EU deliveries have been suspended.
“We need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Pfizer-BioNTech “has proven to be a reliable partner. It has delivered on its commitments, and it is responsive to our needs. This is to the immediate benefit of EU citizens.”
Many employees seek changes before returning to offices after pandemic
Offices that shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic are poised to reopen soon as vaccines roll out across the nation. But many employees aren’t interested in returning to the same work environment they left behind a year ago, according to the seventh annual Bright Horizons Modern Family Index. They want their companies to offer more services for their children. They expect flexibility in their work schedules. And in some instances they want to work from home permanently.
“We’ve been working from home or living at work,” says Maribeth Bearfield, Bright Horizons’ Chief Human Resource Officer. “I think employees are looking to their employers to provide more than they ever have before.”
– Charisse Jones
Could we save lives by assigning each American a place in line for vaccines?
Imagine a formula that could score each American’s unique risk of dying of COVID-19. People’s odds would determine their exact number in line for a vaccine. The algorithm would take into account your age, your race, your full medical history and every one of your health insurance claims. You’d get an email, a text or a phone call the week before your vaccine appointment telling you where and when to show up. If you turned down the shot, the next in line would take your spot. The pandemic has brought such micro-targeting far closer to reality than many might guess.
“We do have the data, we do have the computational capacity,” said Hossein Estiri, an assistant professor of medicine at Mass General and at Harvard who has worked on risk-based vaccine modeling. “It’s just that we haven’t figured out the politics to make this happen.” Read more here.
– Aleszu Bajak
Poland won’t pause use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Poland plans to go ahead with immunizations using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after receiving its first batch of 120,000 doses on Wednesday.
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said Poland is following the latest recommendations from the European Medicines Agency, which said it is “currently not clear” whether the J&J shot caused rare blood clots reported in some recipients. The EMA approved the vaccine for use in the European Union last month.
“In line with these recommendations, we will want to use it in inoculations,” Niedzielski said.
Phoenix aims to vaccinate 500 people who are homeless this week
Circle the City, with support from the Human Services Campus and Maricopa County in Arizona, is hosting a week-long, walk-up event on the Phoenix campus to vaccinate people experiencing homelessness. No appointment necessary. Dr. Melissa Sandoval of Circle the City said her team has been vaccinating people experiencing homelessness for months at the organization’s clinic but sees more success at walk-up events.
“If even just calling and making an appointment and walking into our clinic is a barrier, we’d like to lower that barrier,” she said.
The goal is to vaccinate 500 people this week. Sandoval said it has been difficult to enforce mask policies and educate about the risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 infections. Sandoval added that there’s also a heightened chance that people experiencing homelessness could die or end up in the hospital if they contract COVID-19 because they often have preexisting medical conditions or substance abuse disorders. Read the full story.
– Jessica Boehm, Arizona Republic
Contributing: Kevin Johnson and Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press