India administers 1 billion vaccine doses, and Lithuania news portals shut off comments to avoid conspiracy theories
There was a flurry of positive news on vaccine boosters Thursday, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered to discuss which patient groups should be eligible for boosters developed by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
The meeting follows a decision Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration to allow those boosters, marking a big step toward expanding the booster campaign, which started with extra doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer (PFE) and German partner BioNTech (BNTX) last month. The CDC will now consult an expert panel Thursday before finalizing official recommendations as to who should get boosters and when, as the Associated Press reported
The FDA also gave the go-ahead for Americans to get a booster shot of a vaccine that is not the one they received initially. That will formally allow "mixing and matching" of shots -- making it simpler to get another dose, especially for people who had a side effect from one brand but still want the proven protection of vaccination.
Specifically, the FDA authorized a third Moderna shot for seniors and others at high risk from COVID-19 because of their health problems, jobs or living conditions -- six months after their last shot. One big change: Moderna's (MRNA) booster will be half the dose that's used for the first two shots, based on company data showing that was plenty to rev up immunity.
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For J&J's (JNJ) single-shot vaccine, the FDA said all U.S. recipients, no matter their age, could get a second dose at least two months following their initial vaccination.
Pfizer and BioNTech, meanwhile, said early Thursday that a late-stage trial of a 30-milligram booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine showed efficacy of 95.6% compared with those who received a placebo.
The Phase 3 trial involved more than 10,000 people aged 16 and older who had already received the primary two-dose series and found the booster restored vaccine protection against COVID to the high levels achieved after the second dose. The booster was found to be safe.
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"These important data add to the body of evidence suggesting that a booster dose of our vaccine can help protect a broad population of people from this virus and its variants," said U ur ahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, in a joint statement with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.
The companies are planning to submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency and other regulators around the world.
The news comes as the U.S. continues to see more than 1,500 deaths a day from COVID, according to a New York Times tracker, although cases and hospitalization are declining. New cases have roughly halved since the start of September to an average of about 76,496 a day.
But as most cases, hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people, experts continue to urge that group to get their shots and avoid dying a preventable death.
The CDC's vaccine tracker is still showing 189.7 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to about 57% of the overall population and below the 70% needed to stop the spread.
Elsewhere, India has cause to celebrate after administering 1 billion COVID vaccine doses as its program gets back on track after a rocky start, the New York Times reported. But the nation of about 1.4 billion people still has work to do, with only about 30% of the 900 million eligible for vaccination receiving two doses.
Read: U.K. faces calls for 'Plan B' with coronavirus cases high and rising
Lithuania news portals have switched off public comments on their articles about COVID vaccines in an effort aimed at curbing conspiracy theories, AFP reported. Some 71% of adults in the eurozone country of 2.8 million people are fully vaccinated against the illness, which is a far higher rate than many of its neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe. But infection rates have surged in recent days.
Bulgaria, which has the lowest vaccination rate in Europe at just 25%, is facing protests after the government started to require residents to show proof of vaccination to eat at a restaurant, go to a movie theater or enter shopping malls, the Times reported.
Read: Debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccines shifts to religious exemptions -- and what constitutes 'sincerely held beliefs'
China is seeing a fresh outbreak of locally transmitted COVID cases in a handful of cities, and local governments are doubling down on efforts to track carriers amid the country's zero-tolerance policy, Reuters reported Most of the new cases are in northern and northwestern China.
Singapore suffered a record of 18 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, CNN reported, and has extended restrictions for another month. In a news release Thursday, Singapore's health ministry said current measures would be extended to Nov. 21, to help contain case numbers, which rose by more than 3,800 on Wednesday.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 242.3 million on Wednesday, while the death toll edged above 4.92 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 45.2 million cases and 731,808 deaths.
India is second by cases after the U.S. at 34.1 million and has suffered 452,811 deaths. Brazil has the second highest death toll at 604,228 and 21.7 million cases.
In Europe, Russia has reported the most fatalities at 223,331 deaths, followed by the U.K. at 139,559.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 109,010 confirmed cases and 4,809 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 21, 2021 14:07 ET (18:07 GMT)
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