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Coronavirus update: Moderna says it has a better booster

Cases and deaths are moving in opposite directions

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
Photo (c) carmengabriela - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 85,079,798 (84,885,712)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 1,010,021 (1,008,881)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 533,327,522 (532,504,668)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,303,578 (6,300,491)‌

Moderna reports positive results from updated booster

Moderna has updated its vaccine to deal with Omicron subvariants that are able to slip past antibodies. It has released new clinical data on its Omicron-containing bivalent COVID-19 booster candidate, mRNA-1273.214, and reports that it is highly effective.

The company said a booster dose of mRNA-1273.214 met all pre-specified endpoints, including superior neutralizing antibody response against the Omicron variant one month after administration when compared to the original mRNA-1273 vaccine.The booster dose was generally well-tolerated, with side effects comparable to a booster dose of the previous vaccine.

"We are thrilled to share the preliminary data analysis on mRNA-1273.214, which is the second demonstration of superiority of our bivalent booster platform against variants of concern and represents an innovation in the fight against COVID," said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna. 

Cases are sharply higher but deaths are significantly lower

The daily COVID-19 numbers collected by Johns Hopkins University present a mixed picture, especially when compared to the numbers from exactly one year ago. Cases are surging but deaths are declining.

On Tuesday, the U.S. recorded more than 116,000 new cases of COVID-19, more than any other nation. On June 7, 2021, after vaccines had rolled out and before the Delta variant surfaced, there were only 13,565 new cases.

But one year ago, there were 403 deaths from the virus. On Tuesday, even with substantially more cases, there were only 339 deaths. Medical experts says the current virus strains spread more easily than previous variants but are much less lethal.

U.S. may get a fourth vaccine

An advisory committee for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended approval of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine for use in adults. If the proposal is adopted by the FDA,  the Novavax vaccine would join other approved vaccines produced by Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson.

But the new vaccine faced some questions from some committee members. Some wondered whether there was a need for another vaccine at this point in the pandemic.

The FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks suggested that there are still some unmet vaccine needs in the U.S. He said some people who have not been vaccinated might have various concerns about the three approved vaccines and might welcome an alternative.

Around the nation

  • Massachusetts: Five counties are now listed by federal health authorities as having a high risk of COVID-19 transmission. Those counties are Barnstable, Franklin, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk. Bristol County is the only area of Massachusetts classified as low risk.

  • Nebraska: Nebraska’s rate of COVID-19 infection is higher than the nation as a whole, with cases climbing over the last two months. The state recorded 2,354 new cases last week, significantly higher than the 1,671 logged during the previous week.

  • New Jersey: State officials are cautiously optimistic that this summer will be marked by a return to normalcy, from offices to the beaches. New cases are on the rise across the state, but the current strains have not resulted in rising hospitalizations and deaths.

  • New Hampshire: The New Hampshire Hospital Association reported that 91 people tested positive for COVID-19 in hospitals around the state on Tuesday. That’s an increase from 89 people on Monday. Of those 91 people, 27 required treatment for COVID-19, which was one fewer than Monday.

  • Oregon: New cases of the coronavirus declined for a second week, as Oregon posted an 11% weekly drop in identified cases. The Oregon Health Authority recorded 9,800 confirmed or presumed infections in the past week. That translated into 1,400 a day, down from 1,579 daily cases last week.

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