Coronavirus update: Vaccine plant draws FDA criticism, new cases are down but deaths are up

Photo (c) Joao Paulo Burini - Getty Images

The U.S. is picking up the vaccination pace

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 31,802,046 (31,741,301)

Total U.S. deaths: 568,572 (567,759)

Total global cases: 143,128,250 (142,252,661)

Total global deaths: 3,047,754 (3,033,225)

FDA criticizes conditions at plant making Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a report that is critical of the conditions at a Baltimore plant where a subcontractor has produced Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. The report said the plant failed to maintain sanitary conditions.

In late March, the FDA announced that 15 million doses of the vaccine produced by Emergent BioSolutions had to be discarded after workers reportedly mixed up two vaccine dosages.

Use of the vaccine is currently suspended for unrelated reasons. Health experts are reviewing data after six women who received the vaccine later developed serious blood clots and one woman died.

COVID-19 cases fall but deaths rise

The latest data published by The COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University shows that new cases of the coronavirus are down, but deaths are up slightly. 

There were more than 54,000 new cases reported on Tuesday, an improvement from the day before when there were nearly 68,000 new cases of the virus. The increase over the last four weeks has concerned health officials, but they note that the rise in U.S. cases is far slower than in many other nations.

There were 767 reported deaths from the virus on Tuesday, nearly double Monday’s total. Health experts say deaths from COVID-19 are a lagging indicator of the virus, sometimes rising four weeks after an increase in reported cases.

Vaccination pace is increasing

When eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine was opened to adults 16 and older this week, the people administering the shots were busy. Figures supplied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the U.S. has administered 3 million shots a day for the last two weeks.

Since late December, when the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine rolled out, the U.S. has vaccinated more than 40 million people with at least one shot. About a third of adults are fully vaccinated.

While young people are only now able to receive inoculations, seniors 65 and older -- the first group to receive the vaccine -- have an 80% vaccination rate, with 65% fully vaccinated against the virus.

Vaccine supply quickly outpacing demand

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation warns that the U.S. is reaching a tipping point between supply and demand for the coronavirus vaccine. Supplies have been limited since the December rollout, and not everyone was eligible for the shots.

The report says there will be more supply than demand in the next two to four weeks. So how is that a bad thing? 

“Once this happens, efforts to encourage vaccination will become much harder, presenting a challenge to reaching the levels of herd immunity that are expected to be needed,” the report’s authors write.

Researchers say COVID-19 is making HIV/AIDS worse

With COVID-19 being the focus of health care over the last 13 months, other areas haven’t gotten the attention they have in the past. Patients have put off everything from cancer screenings to minor surgeries.

Researchers say HIV/AIDS research has also suffered during the pandemic. They say the coronavirus has caused “profound disruptions” across the spectrum of HIV/AIDS research and treatment. Routine HIV screening is down sharply at clinics and hospital emergency rooms. 

"This is a major derailing," Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, told NPR. "There will be damage. The question is, how much?"

Around the nation

  • Wisconsin: Cases of the virus are on the rise across the state. Doctors at University of Wisconsin (UW) Health report that they are seeing a significant increase in infected children. "Normally, we didn’t see as much disease in children as we did in adults," said Gregory Demuri with UW Health. "This has swung quite a bit over the last several weeks or so."

  • Indiana: The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is stepping up vaccination efforts. It reports that 20,768 more people are now fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. So far, 2,191,407 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

  • Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance is urging Gov. Charlie Baker to lift the statewide mandate requiring people to wear a face mask while outside. It notes that most older people have already been fully vaccinated and inoculations are now open to everyone. “It’s time to start taking steps back to normal,” said Paul Diego Craney, a spokesperson for the group.

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