Coronavirus update: FDA could ask for a modified vaccine

Photo (c) Igor Kutyaev - Getty Images

New York City prepares for the next wave

COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 87,411,319 (87,233,810)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 1,017,470 (1,016,792)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 546,499,530 (545,690,489)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,334,660 (6,332,965)‌

FDA advisors recommend a modified vaccine

An independent advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted this week to recommend new COVID-19 shots that specifically target the Omicron variant this fall, when public health officials are expecting a new wave of infections.

The current vaccines, introduced in late 2020 and early 2021, were shown to be highly effective against the original strain of COVID-19. However, successive variants have more easily evaded its protection.

If the panel’s recommendations are accepted, the FDA could ask Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to produce modified vaccines that target Omicron or its subvariants.

Cases level off but don’t drop in New York City

New York City health officials are keeping a wary eye on the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron as COVID-19 cases begin to rise again across the city. Some say BA.5 appears to be “the worst form” of Omicron to emerge so far.

Dr. Jay Varma, formerly then-mayor Bill de Blasio's top public health advisor during the pandemic, said COVID-19 infections appear to have leveled off but do not appear to be dropping. He says they remain at a high level.

"The decline of reported COVID-19 cases in NYC has stopped,” he wrote in a tweet. “Reported cases are at a high plateau, which means actual transmission is very high when you account for the >20x under-counting. This is likely the beginning of a BA.5 wave." 

Around the nation

  • California: The San Francisco Chronicle reports Alameda County’s mask mandate did little to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Compared with neighboring counties that did not reimpose the mandate, cases of COVID-19 did not fall. The mask mandate was lifted June 25.

  • New Jersey: All of New Jersey has slipped into the category of “high” COVID-19 transmission. The state recorded nearly 2,200 new cases Wednesday, with the latest testing data showing a positivity rate of 12.17%. Federal health officials consider anything above 10% to be high.

  • Louisiana: The state Legislature has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow parents and students to sue schools that require a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of enrollment. It’s not clear if Gov. John Bel Edwards, who recently tested positive for the virus, will sign it.

  • Michigan: A study of Michigan residents who had long COVID found they were more likely to be women, Hispanic, and low-income. The Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Surveillance Study also found that people with a body mass index over 30 are also more likely to have long-term post-COVID symptoms.

  • Illinois: Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady has expressed concern about the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, which is spreading throughout the state. Arwady says the two variants are not only highly transmissible, but that people infected with them can be contagious for up to 10 days.

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