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Coronavirus update: FDA reportedly will allow ‘mix-and-match’ boosters

Southwest Airlines shifts vaccination mandate policy

COVID-19 germ disappearing
Photo (c) MR.Cole_Photographer - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 45,059,288 (44,937,514)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 726,439 (722,744)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 241,305,371 (240,805,141)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,909,653 (4,901,012)‌

FDA may allow ‘mix-and-match’ booster shots

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will reportedly approve a policy allowing someone vaccinated with one brand of vaccine to receive a booster of another. The Wall Street Journal cites sources who say the approval could come this week.

Some studies have suggested that mixing the vaccines is not only safe but highly effective, producing more antibodies than if the same vaccine is used for a booster. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for boosters.

Late last week, an FDA advisory committee recommended both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines be used for booster shots. The FDA is expected to formally adopt the recommendations this week.

Southwest Airlines shifts position on vaccine mandate

In an abrupt about-face, Southwest Airlines will not put unvaccinated staff on unpaid leave if they have applied for, but not yet received, a medical or religious exemption. The federal deadline for implementing the vaccine mandate begins next month.

As a U.S. government contractor, Southwest is subject to the vaccination mandate issued by the Biden administration, which is stricter than requirements for most private businesses. Federal contractors can’t give unvaccinated staff the option of regular COVID-19 testing.

It’s not known how many Southwest employees have refused to be vaccinated. The union representing Southwest pilots has tried, unsuccessfully, to block the vaccination mandate or to find alternatives such as frequent tests.

Seniors in no rush to get a booster

People aged 65 and older were quick to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they were eligible. Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that they haven’t been nearly as eager to get a booster shot.

The CDC reports that only about 15% of seniors have received a booster, even though people 65 and older make up about half of the people who have received a booster so far.

The low numbers among seniors may be explained by the fact that only the Pfizer vaccine has been cleared by the FDA for booster shots. The FDA has recommended booster shots for people who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, including those 65 and older, those at high risk of severe disease, and those engaged in high-risk occupations.

Washington State fires unvaccinated football coach

Washington State University has fired head football coach Nick Rolovich because he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The firing coincided with the state’s vaccination mandate deadline for state employees.

“This is a disheartening day for our football program,” said Washington State University Athletic Director Pat Chun. “Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team.”

Rolovich earned an annual salary of more than $3 million, making him the highest-paid state employee in Washington. Four unvaccinated assistant coaches were also fired.

Around the nation

  • New York: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has revealed plans to offer New Yorkers booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, in preparation for approval from the FDA. An FDA advisory committee recommended approval of both vaccines last week, but the government’s health agencies have not yet granted formal approval.

  • Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak says the state has approved a $30 million contract for a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 that increases a patient’s antibody response. The drug is intended for COVID-19 patients who have a high risk of getting seriously ill.

  • Texas: A bill that would bar any entity in Texas from imposing a vaccination mandate appears to lack the votes to pass the Texas State Senate. Gov. Greg Abbott supports the bill, but opponents call it “anti-business,” suggesting it would trigger a number of discrimination lawsuits.

  • Alaska: Hospitals in Alaska continue to be filled with COVID-19 patients, as the state has seen no letup in new cases of the virus. Doctors say they are now being forced to ration care, limiting resources to patients who have the best chance of survival. “It’s terrible that I’m living through this because I’ve never seen more people die in my career,” Dr. Jeremy Gitomer of Anchorage told CNBC.

  • Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he is not ready to lift the state’s indoor mask mandate. Though the state's test positivity rate is down to 2.5%, Pritzker said he is concerned that rising COVID-19 cases in adjoining states could put Illinois residents at risk.

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