Coronavirus update: Johnson & Johnson vaccine may protect against Delta variant, one reason mRNA vaccines are effective

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Jobless benefits have hit a pandemic low

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 33,666,914 (33,654,602)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 604,738 (604,510)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 182,330,997 (181,926,290)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 3,949,408 (3,940,211)‌

Johnson & Johnson vaccine may protect against Delta variant

The emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is causing concern among health officials, but U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNBC that he thinks people who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may be protected against it.

Murthy cited research showing that the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot is highly effective at keeping people out of the hospital. Since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is “built on a similar platform,” he said it is reasonable to conclude that it would be effective against the Delta variant as well.

“While we are still awaiting direct studies of Johnson & Johnson and the delta variant, we have reasons to be hopeful, because the J&J vaccine has proven to be quite effective against preventing hospitalizations and deaths, with all the variants that we’ve seen to date,” Murthy said.

Study: Vaccinated people have less of the virus in their system

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that people vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine have less of the virus in their system if they get infected.

Both vaccines are known as mRNA vaccines, and previous research has shown that they keep vaccinated people from getting seriously ill if they become infected with the virus. 

In the study, 16 people who were vaccinated with either of the mRNA vaccines got infected. Follow-up tests revealed they had, on average, 40% less of the virus in their nose compared with the 155 unvaccinated people in the study who were infected with COVID-19.

Unemployment claims dropped sharply last week

After a false start over the last few weeks, the Labor Department took a big step toward “normal” over the last seven days. It reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 51,000 from the previous week to 364,000.

While that is the smallest number of claims since the pandemic began, it’s still about 108,000 more than just before the economic shutdown began in March 2020. The four-week moving average was 392,750, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week's revised average.

The number of people still drawing unemployment benefits also went down last week. The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week ending June 12 was 14,659,791, a decrease of 180,890 from the previous week.

Around the nation

  • Massachusetts: Massachusetts is the latest state to adopt a lottery prize to encourage residents to get vaccinated. Fully vaccinated residents can begin to register for the state’s VaxMillions Giveaway starting today, with prizes including cash and scholarships.

  • Wisconsin: This might be a good reason to get vaccinated if you haven’t already gotten a shot. State health officials say 95% of the COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin since March were patients who had not been vaccinated.

  • New Mexico: New Mexico is one of the latest states to fully reopen its economy, as restrictions expired today.  But Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said residents should still be mindful of the Delta variant of the virus that is causing cases to increase in some parts of the country.

  • Virginia: The state has dropped its restrictions, but Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula are warning that the Delta variant is still a threat. “We are seeing the Delta variant here in Virginia. We are seeing it unrelated to travel and we can fully expect that we will see the Delta variant continue to probably double every week,” Avula said.

  • Kentucky: It’s something of a milestone. The first drive-thru COVID-19 testing site to open in the state has now closed down. The Louisville testing site opened on March 18, 2020.

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