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Coronavirus update: J&J reports good vaccine results, so does Novavax

Health officials say the vaccines currently being used appear to be safe

Photo (c) Images By Tang Ming Tung - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 25,789,000 (25,620,883)

Total U.S. deaths: 433,622 (429,870)

Total global cases: 101,636,470 (101,068,455)

Total global deaths: 2,194,790 (2,180,021)

J&J vaccine was 72 percent effective in clinical trial

Johnson & Johnson has reported the results of its Phase 3 clinical trial of its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate, saying it was 72 percent effective in preventing the virus in the U.S. trial.

While that is less than the 95 percent rate achieved by Moderna and Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson said its single-dose vaccine was 85 percent effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illnesses.

The company said the COVID-19 vaccine candidate demonstrated “complete protection against COVID-related hospitalization and death, 28 days post-vaccination.” The company said the results represent “a promising moment.”

Novavax reports promising vaccine results

Drugmaker Novavax reports that its trials in the U.K. have shown its coronavirus vaccine to be more than 89 percent effective. Even more encouraging, the company says it was effective against the new strain of the virus first identified last month in the U.K.

The vaccine, produced at a plant in England, is expected to be widely used in the U.K. once health officials there clear it for use. However, government officials say it may not be widely distributed until the second half of 2021. 

Vaccines appear to be safe so far

More than 22 million Americans have been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far, and government health officials say the results suggest that the vaccines from Pfizer and from Moderna appear to be safe.

In a report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there have been a few allergic reactions but that everyone who experienced one has been treated successfully and has experienced no other serious problems.

Most people receiving the shots have reported at least some side effects. About 70 percent of people who self-reported side effects said they suffered some pain at the point of injection. 

Severe economic toll

The pandemic has not only killed more than 400,000 people in the U.S., but it has also caused widespread economic dislocation. Businesses have closed and millions of people are unemployed.

The Commerce Department reported this week that the pandemic caused the economy to shrink by 3.5 percent last year, its worst showing since 1946. Brian Deese, head of the White House National Economic Council, said the report underscores the need for more stimulus.

"Without swift action, we risk a continued economic crisis that will make it harder for Americans to return to work and get on back their feet,” he said. “The cost of inaction is too high."

Worst hot spots

Previously unpublished data collected by various states show the nation’s coronavirus “hot spots,” where the virus is spreading almost unchecked. Released this week by the CDC, the information suggests that Arizona, California, and South Carolina are seeing the fastest spread.

The rate of infection was highest in South Carolina last week, recording 645 new infections per 100,000 residents. California reported its second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, but the rates of new infections and hospitalizations continue to drop.

Florida, meanwhile, announced this week that it had completed the task of vaccinating residents and staff at the state’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Around the nation

  • Michigan: It may be the peak of the college basketball season, but the University of Michigan has paused all athletic programs for 14 days because of a spike in coronavirus cases, according to The Daily, the school newspaper.

  • Texas: State health officials report that 2 million vaccines have been administered so far, but they say that’s not good enough because it only accounts for one in 13 eligible Texans. Like other states, Texas has been limited by shortages of the vaccine.

  • Massachusetts: Massachusetts reports an improvement in the number of communities downgraded from “high risk” for COVID-19 spread. The Department of Public Health puts the number of high-risk communities at 192, down from 222 last week.

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