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Coronavirus update: Johnson & Johnson seeks booster approval, thousands of test kits recalled

Scientists think the virus increases the risk of developing diabetes

COVID-19 booster shots concept
Photo (c) Dzmitry Dzemidovich - Getty Images
Coronavirus‌ ‌(COVID-19)‌ ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 43,990,314 (43,867,314)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 706,522 (703,742)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 236,044,100 (235,598,854)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,820,945 (4,812,498)‌

Johnson & Johnson seeks booster shot approval

Johnson & Johnson says it has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) for booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine. The boosters would be given to consumers aged 18 and older who had previously received the company’s vaccine.

The drug company submitted data from clinical trials showing that when a booster was given six months after the single shot, antibody levels increased nine-fold one week after the booster and continued to climb to 12-fold higher four weeks after the booster. The company said the vaccine was generally well-tolerated when given as a booster or primary dose.

"Our clinical program has found that a booster of our COVID-19 vaccine increases levels of protection for those who have received our single-shot vaccine to 94 percent,” said Dr. Mathai Mammen, a top executive at J&J subsidiary Janssen Research & Development.

At-home test kits recalled

Ellume, an Australian company that produces at-home COVID-19 test kits, is recalling thousands of the kits because some have been shown to render false positives. The company said the recall involves 43 lots of the product.

Ellume CEO Dr. Sean Parsons said an internal investigation isolated the cause of the defect and confirmed that this incidence of false positives is limited to specific lots.

“In response, we worked with the FDA to voluntarily remove affected Ellume tests from the market,” Parsons said. “Importantly, the reliability of negative results is unaffected by this issue.” 

Scientists trace COVID-19 link to diabetes

It’s well established that diabetes is one of the underlying health conditions that make COVID-19 symptoms more serious. But researchers now think that one of the lingering effects of having COVID-19 is a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Scientists are trying to determine whether the coronavirus somehow attacks important cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. At the moment, the researchers say the relationship isn’t well understood. However, they say the idea warrants investigation.

"Clearly there's a link, there's some sort of mechanism that makes the diseases fuel one another," Francesco Rubino, chair of metabolic surgery at King's College London, told Yahoo News. "The question is whether new-onset diabetes could be caused by this virus."

Around the nation

  • New York: Gov. Kathy Hochul has renewed a push for New Yorkers to be vaccinated, saying it’s the best way to keep kids in schools and people back at work. “We all know the best way to ensure our continued progress is to get more shots in arms,” Hochul said. “If you are still unvaccinated, you are far more vulnerable.”

  • Georgia: A federal report credits an increase in vaccinations across the state with slowing the spread of the virus and reducing deaths among seniors. The report said COVID-19 vaccinations may have helped prevent roughly 5,100 new COVID-19 infections and 700 deaths among seniors in Georgia during the first five months of this year.

  • New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu is calling for Rep. Ken Weyler, a fellow Republican, to be removed as the House’s top budget writer due to his spread of COVID-19 misinformation. Sununu said Weyler has sent out emails packed with conspiracy theories about the pandemic and the vaccines used to contain it.

  • California: New cases of the coronavirus have declined across the state, prompting some local officials to consider easing restrictions. San Francisco officials say they may ease the city’s indoor mask mandate. In a statement, the city's Health Department says it would likely consider settings that are low-risk with low contact rates, as well as places where people are fully vaccinated.

  • Tennessee: A new federal study shows that Tennessee has had the most coronavirus-related school closures so far this school year. More than 400 schools in the state have closed for at least one day due to the virus since reopening in August. Tennessee does not allow school districts to enforce mask mandates.

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