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Coronavirus update: Modified vaccines could be ready by the fall

The FDA is making Paxlovid easier to get

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 88,277,120 (88,067,709)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 1,019,157 (1,018,376)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 552,635,153 (547,361,783)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,345,357 (6,342,542)‌

Updated vaccines could be available this fall

Drugmakers are at work on new versions of their COVID-19 vaccines in hopes of providing more effective protection against various Omicron strains. But just when will those updated vaccines be available?

The FDA has asked pharmaceutical companies to have the updated vaccines available in time for booster shots during the fall. The current vaccines have been providing strong protection against severe disease, but the older vaccines are less effective at preventing infections from Omicron's BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.

An FDA advisory committee said an updated vaccine would offer better protection to match the virus strains that are currently spreading throughout the U.S. The two aforementioned subvariants are much more contagious than the original strain.

FDA authorizes quicker access to COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid

Pfizer’s antiviral drug won praise as an early treatment for COVID-19, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to make it more available to patients.

The FDA has revised its emergency use authorization (EUA) to authorize state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid to eligible patients. Certain limitations will be enacted to ensure appropriate patient assessment and prescribing of Paxlovid is undertaken. 

“The FDA recognizes the important role pharmacists have played and continue to play in combatting this pandemic,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, M.D., director for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Since Paxlovid must be taken within five days after symptoms begin, authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid could expand access to timely treatment for some patients who are eligible to receive this drug for the treatment of COVID-19.” 

Employees are losing their ‘pandemic advantage’

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees have felt like they were in the driver’s seat. They could work from anywhere, and many took advantage of the situation by seeking out new jobs or quitting altogether.

But over the last few weeks, the advantage appears to be shifting back to employers, many of whom have demanded that employees return to the office. The advantage is illustrated by the weekly initial claims for unemployment benefits, which are rising.

The Labor Department reports that last week’s claims totaled 235,000 – an increase of 4,000 over the previous week. Employers are also trimming their payrolls with the expectation that the U.S. economy is entering a recession.

Around the nation

  • New York: The BA.5 Omicron subvariant has become dominant in New York, and health officials say it is responsible for the latest new wave. Health officials say new cases in New York rose 15% last week and appear to still be going up.

  • Nevada: Even though cases of COVID-19 are increasing, some states are reducing mitigation measures. The Nevada Board of Regents will no longer require staff at the state’s public universities and colleges to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

  • Missouri: State Rep. Tricia Derges resigned last week from her seat representing Christian County (District 140) in the Missouri House of Representatives, according to a report by KOLR-TV. Her resignation came four days after she was convicted on June 28 by a federal trial jury for what prosecutors described as a nearly $900,000 COVID-19 fraud scheme

  • Oregon: Two-thirds of the counties in the state are now back in the “high” transmission rate category. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged those counties to reimpose universal indoor masking.

  • Ohio: Ohio is reporting a surge in new cases caused by the more contagious but less severe BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. Health officials say those strains now make up more than 70% of all COVID-19 cases in the CDC's Region 5 area, which includes Columbus.

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