Coronavirus update: Will you need a vaccine booster shot? Drug companies decided not to work together on blood clot issue

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Cases are on the rise in 21 states

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 31,499,477 (31,439,683)

Total U.S. deaths: 565,318 (564,557)

Total global cases: 139,264,407 (138,489,227)

Total global deaths: 2,989,590 (2,976,972)

Pfizer CEO thinks a vaccine booster may be necessary

People fully vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may need a third “booster” shot within 12 months. Appearing at a CVS Health event earlier this month, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that view is part of a growing consensus.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a third dose, somewhere between six and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role,” he said.

Dr. David Kessler, the White House’s chief COVID-19 adviser, told lawmakers this week that all the vaccines may require annual boosters to maintain their potency in the face of easily transmissible variants.

Johnson & Johnson sought unified probe of blood clot reports

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has been suspended while government health experts look into reports that six women who received the vaccine suffered severe blood clot issues. As it began to receive these reports, the drug company tried to get other vaccine makers to join an investigation.

The Wall Street Journal quotes people familiar with the matter as saying Johnson & Johnson approached AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna about a joint investigation. According to the report, Pfizer and Moderna declined the offer.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee is reviewing the data concerning the blood clot issue and is expected to make a recommendation about the future of the vaccine later this month. Six women, out of more than 7 million people who have received the vaccine, suffered blood clots in the brain and one died.

New cases rising in 21 states

About half the U.S. is seeing a sharp rise in new cases of the coronavirus despite millions of vaccinations being administered so far. A review of data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Tracking Project shows that 21 states are reporting an increased caseload. Some of the states have maintained strict virus mitigation practices since the beginning of the pandemic.

Michigan is a case in point. The state’s tough antivirus restrictions became a political flashpoint late last year as some small business owners complained they were unnecessary. This month, Michigan hospitals are filling up again with COVID-19 patients.

Health officials say stepped-up vaccination efforts are the answer. In most states, all adults will become eligible for the shots starting Monday. CDC data shows that about 30% of all U.S. adults have been vaccinated so far. 

WHO sees a surge in worldwide cases

Even though cases are rising in most of the U.S., the rate is not nearly as high as the world as a whole. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the international COVID-19 infection rate is approaching the highest of the pandemic.

WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency is particularly concerned about the increase in cases in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the western Pacific region. PNG recently reported more than 9,300 cases of the virus and 82 deaths.

Brazil is another source of concern, with some health officials calling it “a humanitarian crisis.” This week, the country recorded about 3,000 deaths a day.

Former FDA official says U.S. may have to live with COVID-19

In one of the “miracles of modern science,” the world eradicated smallpox with an extremely effective vaccine. But former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the U.S. is unlikely to have the same result with COVID-19, even with highly effective vaccines. 

In an appearance on CNBC today, Gottlieb said it’s possible to eradicate the virus, but it would require nearly everyone to get a vaccine. Polls have not shown that level of commitment.

“It will require people exercising some serious virtue to get vaccinated even if they individually feel they’re at low risk of the infection because even if they’re personally low risk, they can still get and transmit the infection and you can’t eradicate a disease where you have a significant contingent of people who are going to continue to catch it and transmit it,” Gottlieb said.

Around the nation

  • New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu has declared that the statewide mask mandate in New Hampshire will end today, but he said residents still need to take precautions. He also said ending the statewide mandate does not prevent private businesses or local municipalities from requiring masks.

  • Florida: State health officials say cases of COVID-19 are still on the rise, but they report that the number of deaths from the virus is falling. New cases are rising fastest in the Miami-Dade County area and in the Orlando metro.

  • Illinois: State officials caution that the increasing number of coronavirus cases throughout the state could put certain regions in danger of facing more restrictions. According to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, at least four regions may face increased mitigation requirements due to increases in positivity rates and hospitalizations.

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