The United States could be just days away from getting a third vaccine approved. In analysis released Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine has met the requirements for emergency use authorization.
The efficacy of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot against moderate to severe/critical Covid-19 infection across all geographic areas was 66.9% at least 14 days after the vaccination, and 66.1% at least 28 later, according to the analysis. “There were no specific safety concerns identified in subgroup analyses by age, race, ethnicity, medical comorbidities, or prior SARS-CoV-2 infection,” it added.
The FDA’s vaccine advisers will meet Friday to determine their recommendation on authorizing the shot. If all goes well, the FDA could give it the green light as early as Friday or Saturday.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine also seems to work better than initial data showed against the virus variant first identified in South Africa. This builds on positive news coming from pharmaceutical giant Moderna, which has updated its shot to help combat that variant. Initial doses have been shipped to the US National Institutes of Health for a clinical study.
Meanwhile, a peer-reviewed study of about 600,000 vaccinated people in Israel published Wednesday found the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate is highly effective at preventing symptomatic coronavirus infections under real-world conditions. It found that the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 decreased by 94% among people who received two doses of the vaccine.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: I recently recovered from Covid-19 in the US, should I get vaccinated?
A: People who have already had Covid-19 should still get vaccinated, but they may want to consider waiting to let others who haven’t been exposed to the virus receive their shots first, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this week.
“It’s likely if you’ve had Covid-19 before you still have some immune protection up to at least about 90 days,” Walensky added, in a video produced by the White House. “So yes, you’re eligible for vaccination but we might ask that you consider waiting so that others who don’t have any immunity can get vaccinated.”
While her comment isn’t formal CDC guidance, it comes at a moment when research is suggesting that people who have previously tested positive for Covid-19 may only need one dose of vaccine to maintain immunity. US health officials have said they are reviewing data to see if one dose is an option for some Americans.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
India was in crisis months ago. Why have its Covid-19 cases plummeted?
Six months ago, India’s Covid-19 cases and deaths were spiraling. Today, the country looks very different. The count of daily new infections has plummeted, and the capital Delhi reported zero virus deaths for the first time in nearly nine months on February 9, Jessie Yeung, Manveena Suri and Vedika Sud report.
Experts speculate that several factors are likely behind the decline in India’s case numbers, such as the country’s younger population or the possibility of rising immunity in urban areas. But there’s also the possibility that the case count doesn’t reflect reality. Testing rates have fallen slightly, which could mean more cases are going undetected.
A concerning new ‘home-grown’ variant in New York City
Two separate teams of researchers said this week they have found a worrying new coronavirus variant in New York City and elsewhere in the northeast US. This strain carries mutations that help it evade the body’s natural immune response — as well as the effects of monoclonal antibody treatments — the scientists said.
This is the latest of a growing number of viral variants to arise in the US, which has had far more confirmed cases — 28 million — than any other country worldwide.
Calls grow for vaccine passports
European Union leaders are expected to discuss possible vaccine certificates for travelers who have already received a Covid-19 immunization today. It comes as a growing number of southern European countries, which depend heavily on tourism, call on governments to adopt Covid-19 vaccine passports.
Greece’s tourism minister told the Financial Times that the introduction of a vaccine certificate should be an immediate priority for the EU. Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association urged governments around the world to start issuing digital vaccine credentials to support a successful restart of international travel once borders reopen.
ON OUR RADAR
- Lockdown has made London a boomtown for rats, which are migrating to more residential areas in search of food
- Australian airline Qantas says it will resume international flights in October
- Pentagon chief urges US service members to get vaccinated after it was revealed one-third are opting out
- People with Covid-19 antibodies may be protected against reinfection, study suggests.
- A lack of equity leaves the US’s most vulnerable populations without the vaccine, analysis finds.
Which face mask is best for communication? New research weighs in
One study tackled the problem of making yourself heard from behind a face covering by comparing four ways of masking up: using two different kinds of cloth masks, a surgical mask and an N95 mask, which filters 95% of tiny virus particles. The study did not investigate double masking.
It found that during high levels of background noise, the surgical mask “was shown to least hinder speech recognition,” said Dr. Jawad Fares, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago’s Northwestern University.
“The findings of the study are important in light of the current pandemic, as it acknowledges the communication challenges that we are facing,” said Fares, who was not involved in the study.
“In the survey I’m doing online about dreams [in] the pandemic, bugs are the most common one … Where the dreamer is being attacked by usually large numbers of bugs, swarms of flying insects, roaches are crawling towards you, masses of wriggling worms.” — Deirdre Barrett, dream researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.
In today’s episode, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to Barrett about her Covid-19 dream survey and why we’re having good and bad dreams a year into the pandemic. Listen now.