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Coronavirus update: FDA advisers vote on boosters this week

COVID-19 was the second-leading cause of U.S. deaths in September

COVID-19 booster vaccine
Photo (c) Teka77 - Getty Images
Coronavirus‌ ‌(COVID-19)‌ ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 44,694,149 (44,590,780)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 719,760 (717,158)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 239,341,545 (238,947,617)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,877,533 (4,869,812)‌

FDA panel to vote on boosters

People inoculated with the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are waiting to hear whether they should get a booster shot, and the answer will likely come by the end of the week. A panel of experts advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to vote today on Moderna’s vaccine and Friday on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

Moderna wants the FDA to authorize a booster that is half the dosage of the first two vaccine doses. In an initial statement on the application, the FDA didn’t take a position one way or the other, noting that some research suggests that a Moderna booster may not be necessary.

The FDA has authorized booster shots for people who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. It’s recommended for people aged 65 and older, people in certain occupations, and people with compromised immune systems.

COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death last month

It’s a grim statistic. In September, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reported that COVID-19 was the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and ahead of cancer.

The Foundation also reported that there were 90,000 deaths from the coronavirus from June through September among people who had not been vaccinated. 

"Most of these preventable deaths occurred in the last month, well after vaccines became available," the KFF said. "In September 2021 alone, approximately 49,000 deaths likely would have been averted if they had chosen to get vaccinated against COVID-19."

Family seeking flu shots were injected with COVID-19 vaccine instead

Joshua and Alexandria Price say they and their two young children were mistakenly given a COVID-19 vaccine last week when they went to a Walgreens Pharmacy in Evansville, Indiana. The children, ages four and five, received a full adult dose of the vaccine.

"When they called us and told us that they had made a mistake and had given us the wrong shot, I was just in shock," Alexandra Price told CNN. "All I could say to them was, 'What does this mean for my kids?'"

Price said the four-year-old began having flu-like symptoms before they got home. Medical experts say both kids should be fine, but they note that they should be monitored. Walgreens declined to comment, citing privacy concerns.

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: New Jersey has joined the ranks of the most-vaccinated states. This week, state health officials reported that 75% of eligible residents have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Only six other states have reached that threshold.

  • Montana: The state may have a small population, but an increasing number of residents are getting COVID-19. As a result, health officials say hospitals are being overwhelmed with sick patients. The intensive care unit (ICU) at Billings Clinic is operating at 175% of capacity.

  • Texas: A grand jury has indicted an Aubrey man on charges of threatening harm to a doctor because of her outspoken advocacy of COVID-19 vaccinations. The 51-year old man was arrested after the grand jury said he "knowingly and willingly transmitted in interstate commerce a threat to injure the person of another." The doctor who received the threat was not named.

  • Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, continues to walk a political tightrope in a state where the GOP base is increasingly anti-vaccine. This week, he allowed two bills that let employees opt out of vaccine mandates to become laws without his signature, calling them “unnecessary” and “harmful to vaccination efforts.”

  • Tennessee: The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners has adopted a policy allowing for disciplinary action against doctors who spread misinformation about COVID-19. Penalties include suspension and, in extreme cases, the revocation of medical licenses.

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