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Coronavirus update: FDA looks for ways to increase vaccinations, jobless claims still falling

Global health officials want the U.S. to postpone booster shots

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 35,347,582 (35,251,200)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 614,858 (614,368)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 200,485,291 (199,866,646)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,261,527 (4,251,676)‌

FDA considers full approval of Pfizer vaccine

Of the three pharmaceutical companies that have produced COVID-19 vaccines being used in the U.S., Pfizer is the only one submitting paperwork for full approval. All three vaccines are being used under emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Biden administration is pushing for full approval as early as this month. However, sources tell the newspaper that approval is likely to slip to mid-September.

Why is full approval important? FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Caccomo said she can’t comment on timing, but she told the Journal that the agency is well aware that having a fully approved vaccine might help persuade some unvaccinated people that they need to be vaccinated.

New unemployment filings fell again last week

Despite a record number of job openings, there are still a lot of people filing for unemployment benefits each week. The Labor Department reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits last week totaled 385,000. That’s a decline of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised total.

The number of people who continue to draw unemployment benefits also continues to decline. Continuing claims for the week ending July 17 were 12,975,015, a decrease of 181,251 from the previous week. There were 31,987,359 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2020. 

While these numbers suggest that the labor market is continuing to find stability, it doesn’t actually measure how many people are going back to work as the economy recovers from the pandemic. More evidence along those lines will come Friday when the Labor Department issues its July employment report.

WHO wants a halt to boosters

Many vaccinated Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves again to receive a COVID-19 booster shot, but the World Health Organization (WHO) is asking that they wait. The health group says vaccine doses are needed for other countries where supplies are short and the vaccination rate is low.

The U.S. and U.K. have announced plans to make booster shots available after research suggested that initial vaccine durability can diminish slightly over time. The Biden administration said it is continuing to ship vaccine supplies overseas and still has enough for booster shots.

“If the FDA decides that boosters are recommended for a portion of the population, to provide those as well,” said White House News Secretary Jen Psaki.  “We believe we can do both, and we don’t need to make that choice.” 

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: Clark R. Allen, a long-time political broker and a major player in New Jersey Republican politics in the 1960s, has died of complications related to COVID-19 after exposure to someone who declined to be vaccinated. He was 84.

  • Ohio: Nurses at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center are demanding that the hospital’s mandate for all employees to be vaccinated be subject to negotiation. The nurses’ union said it wants to discuss “the timeline, exceptions, discipline, and compensation for time missed due to vaccine side effects.” 

  • Iowa: Cases of the virus have spread quickly across the state in the last week, but that hasn’t changed plans for large gatherings. Concerts are being held as scheduled, but an eastern Iowa concert venue has announced that it will begin requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination.

  • Arizona: The state’s public schools will reopen in the fall, but they may be faced with a shortage of substitute teachers. Arizona Family reports that many subs just don’t think it’s worth the risk. "At my age, I'll be 85 in January, I'm concerned about, even though I've been vaccinated, becoming infected and spreading it into my family," said longtime substitute Gary Kemp.

  • Louisiana: As the Delta variant has quickly spread across the state and filled hospitals, many people who refused to be vaccinated are apparently having a change of heart. Vaccination sites in Louisiana are reporting a big increase in traffic. Officials hope that will increase the state’s low vaccination rate.

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