CDC reports ‘community spread’ of South African variant; Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine found to be safe. Latest COVID-19 updates.
COVID-19 has killed more than 435,000 Americans, and infections have continued to mount despite the introduction of a pair of vaccines late in 2020. USA TODAY is tracking the news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.
Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine protects against COVID-19, and while it is not as effective as other vaccines already authorized in the U.S., it appears to be extremely effective against severe disease.
Johnson & Johnson said Friday that data from its late-stage trial in the U.S. and seven other countries showed the vaccine had an overall 66% effectiveness in preventing moderate to severe illness.
The two-shot vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are more than 94% effective, but J&J’s global research chief, Dr. Mathai Mammen, said, “Gambling on one dose was certainly worthwhile.”
Because of its single dose regimen, the J&J vaccine has been described as a “game-changer” in the campaign against the coronavirus pandemic. And the vaccine doesn’t need to be kept frozen, allowing it to be distributed through normal vaccine supply chains without the need for new, expensive equipment.
Meanwhile, Novavax, a Gaithersburg, Maryland-based biotechnology firm, showed its COVID-19 candidate vaccine to be safe and roughly 90% effective against the virus.
In the headlines:
►Seattle hospitals rushed out COVID-19 vaccines to hundreds of people in the middle of the night after a freezer they were being stored in failed.
►The European Union’s drug regulator on Friday authorized AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in all adults despite concerns that not enough data exist to prove it works in older people. On Thursday, Germany’s vaccination advisory committee said in a draft recommendation that the vaccine should only be given to people aged 18-64 for now.
►Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced stricter restrictions on travelers in response to new, likely more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus — including making it mandatory for travelers to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense when they arrive in Canada and suspending airline service to Mexico and all Caribbean destinations until April 30.
►New York City restaurants can resume indoor dining on Feb. 14, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday. The decision reverses a citywide ban on indoor service that he put in place Dec. 11 and allows bars and restaurants to reopen dining rooms at 25% capacity.
►The Pentagon says it is reviewing a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for military troops to help set up 100 vaccination sites across the country.
►Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who made clear in December that he would wait his turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, was quietly vaccinated last week at the recommendation of medical personnel, his office said.
►President Joe Biden will invoke the Defense Protection Act to expedite production of N-95 masks and special syringes to extract an additional dose from each vaccination vial, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told CBS News on Thursday.
►A Florida fire captain turned himself in to face charges in connection with the alleged theft of COVID-19 vaccines, asking a local paramedic to obtain the vaccine for his elderly mother.
►The South African variant was confirmed Thursday to have reached the U.S. in South Carolina. Amid rising concern about the spread of more contagious variants, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a briefing Friday that the U.S. “should be treating every case as if it’s a variant during this pandemic right now.”
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 25.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 435,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 101.8 million cases and 2.2 million deaths. About 48.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 26.2 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: With the Biden administration seeking to vaccine 1.5 million people each day, mass vaccination clinics are popping up in California and New York, among other places. They’ll soon become common across the U.S. Read the full story.
COVID-19 vaccines for teachers comes down to location – and luck
The content of the article:
- 1 COVID-19 vaccines for teachers comes down to location – and luck
- 2 White House officials: Vaccination pace is ahead of schedule
- 3 CDC director Walensky: Community spread of South African variant is here
- 4 CDC: Pfizer, Moderna vaccines can be used interchangeably in rare cases
- 5 Johnson & Johnson vaccine fully protects against hospitalization, death
- 6 How COVID-19 is shaping the Super Bowl
- 7 WHO team visits Wuhan hospital that had early COVID-19 patients
- 8 Pain relief medications OK to treat COVID-19 vaccine side effects
Amid fraught negotiations nationwide about reopening more schools for in-person learning, especially in large districts, vaccines for teachers is now viewed as a lynchpin for getting kids back to class.
But a chaotic vaccine rollout combined with a patchwork of conflicting local guidance has raised serious ethical questions about where and how teachers fall in line. And that’s resulted in wildly uneven access, meaning that kids in some communities may have a chance to return to schools sooner than others because their teachers had more access to inoculations.
“It’s a mess,” said Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and researcher at Brown University in Rhode Island. “We’ll be lucky if we get teachers getting vaccinated by March or April in most states.”
In some cases, teachers may qualify for the first priority group based on their age or medical conditions. But as states and localities follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on who to prioritize, each can add their own variations.
– Erin Richards and Lindsay Schnell
White House officials: Vaccination pace is ahead of schedule
The Biden administration is running ahead of its initial vaccination goal but hasn’t reached the higher pace that President Joe Biden said might be possible, officials announced Friday.
An average 1.2 million shots a day were administered over the past seven days, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters at one of the pandemic briefings the administration has pledged to hold three times a week. Biden has promised to deliver 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration.
Questioned about whether that goal is ambitious enough, Biden said Monday that he hopes the pace will accelerate to 1.5 million a day. Slavitt told reporters that he wasn’t announcing a new target, “other than to tell you that, every day, when the number comes out, all of us that are breathlessly awaiting the number and looking for as high a number as possible.”
Slavitt also outlined steps the administration is taking to ramp up vaccinations, through increasing the vaccine supply and speeding up distribution. Those include extending more funding, supplies and logistical support from the Federal Emergency Management Association for vaccination sites, allowing recently retired doctors and nurses who are still licensed to administer COVID-19 vaccines and stepping up activation of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service.
– Maureen Groppe
The COVID-19 vaccine is using new technology that has never been used before in traditional vaccines. Here's how an mRNA vaccine works.
CDC director Walensky: Community spread of South African variant is here
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that community spread of the highly contagious South African variant of the coronavirus is likely already occurring in the United States.
Two cases of the variant were first reported in the United States on Thursday in South Carolina. The CDC says that preliminary data suggest that, like the U.K. variant, the one that originated in South Africa is more contagious than other variants of the virus.
“I think one of the concerning things is that we know these two people did not know one another and that they did not travel to South Africa so the presumption is, at this point, that there has been community spread of this strain,” Walensky said Friday morning in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.
CDC: Pfizer, Moderna vaccines can be used interchangeably in rare cases
Patients can be administered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for their first dose and the Moderna vaccine for their second dose, and vice versa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
In a briefing hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the agency said this is only permissible if a patient doesn’t know which vaccine they got as a first dose and has no documentation.
“In these extremely rare situations, CDC clarified that any available mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be administered as the second dose at least 28 days after the first dose,” said Dr. Jay Butler, CDC deputy director of infectious diseases.
The agency acknowledged the new guidance is backed by very little data on safety and effectiveness, but Butler said this was a better approach than restarting the series and ultimately getting three doses.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Johnson & Johnson vaccine fully protects against hospitalization, death
Johnson & Johnson said Friday that data from its late-stage clinical trial show its COVID-19 vaccine completely protects against COVID-related hospitalization and death a month after vaccination.
Although the J&J data show the vaccine is less effective than others in its overall protection, the single-shot vaccine was still 85% effective against severe disease across all regions studied, the company said. The shot’s effectiveness against severe disease also increased over time, with none of the vaccinated volunteers reporting severe disease more than 49 days after vaccination.
Side effects appear to be lower with this vaccine than the already approved ones, too.
That the shot can be given in just one dose and stored in a standard refrigerator would make a significant contribution to the fight against COVID-19, said Moncef Slaoui, who helped run Operation Warp Speed during the Trump Administration and is now an advisor to the Biden Administration.
“From a public health standpoint, if you get one shot and within a week or two from that shot you’re now vaccinated, and the vaccine can be stable at fridge temperatures, it’s so much easier (than current vaccines),” he said. “Look how difficult it is to vaccinate people. If you cut that by 50%, it’s transformational.”
– Karen Weintraub
How COVID-19 is shaping the Super Bowl
An NFL season like no other will conclude Feb. 7 with Super Bowl 55, which will be unprecedented in many ways itself.
A few ways Super Bowl week and Super Sunday will be far different during a pandemic:
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the first team to host a Super Bowl in their own stadium, but only 22,000 fans will be allowed to attend.The traditional Super Bowl week kickoff event, known originally as “Media Day” but lately as “Opening Night,” will be drastically altered Monday. To begin with, there will be no media. All interviews will be done via Zoom with just nine players from each team instead of full rosters.The Chiefs are not expected to be on site until next Friday or Saturday. Super Bowl teams usually spend a week at the host city – practicing, conducting interviews at media events and dispersing into the community.
Read more here.
– Nate Davis
WHO team visits Wuhan hospital that had early COVID-19 patients
The World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the coronavirus visited a Wuhan hospital Friday where Chinese officials say the first COVID-19 patients were treated more than a year ago.
The long-awaited WHO mission has become politically charged, and it may take years determine the origins of the virus, requiring extensive testing and analysis.
Team members from the WHO and Chinese officials met earlier at a hotel as they prepared for a series of field visits in and around Wuhan in the coming days.
“First face to face meeting with our colleagues. Correction: facemask to facemask given the medical restrictions,” Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans tweeted in the morning.
Pain relief medications OK to treat COVID-19 vaccine side effects
Avoid pain relief medications before getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are “perfectly fine” to take after, experts say.
Normal side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include headache, fever, body aches and chills, and to minimize the discomfort, some Americans may turn to pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Studies on how the medications could have impact on the effectiveness of the vaccine are sparse and inconsistent, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization both recommend against the preventive use of pain relievers, though allow them if symptoms develop after.
In a study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Virology, researchers found nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can reduce the production of antibodies and impact other aspects of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
– Adrianna Rodriguez