Boosters may soon become available to all adults as advisory panel sets meeting; Pfizer seeks authorization for COVID pill: Updates

Boosters may soon become available to all adults as advisory panel sets meeting; Pfizer seeks authorization for COVID pill: Updates

An expert panel that advises the CDC has scheduled an emergency meeting Friday to discuss allowing extra COVID-19 vaccine doses for all adults, adding to reports suggesting booster shots will soon become more widely available.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has already endorsed boosters for specific groups, including those over 65, younger adults at high risk for severe COVID-19 and people whose jobs or living conditions put them at high risk for infection. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to sign off on the plan before Friday’s meeting without convening its own expert advisory committee.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the FDA may authorize Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for all Americans age 18 and older by Thursday. Booster recipients would need to have completed their Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations at least six months before getting the extra dose. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the wait is only two months.

Some jurisdictions, including California, Colorado, New Mexico and New York City, have already endorsed boosters for all adults.

— Karen Weintraub

Also in the news:

►Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city would lift indoor mask mandates starting Monday, with a number of exceptions that include public transit vehicles and stations, schools, libraries, nursing homes and other congregate living settings, as well as any private businesses that opt for the requirement.

►Cases are rising in 31 states, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Cases for the week ending Monday were at 584,449, up 15% from a recent low in the week ending Oct. 26.

►The CDC on Monday moved four European travel destinations — Hungary, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Guernsey — to its highest-risk, “Level 4” category. The CDC recommends avoiding travel to destinations in this category, which have an incidence rate of more than 500 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days.

►Maine surpassed its record for the number of people in the state hospitalized with COVID-19 as that figure reached 261 on Monday, 72 of them in critical care.

►A Houston hospital temporarily suspended a doctor for spreading false information about COVID-19 to her patients and on social media.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 47 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 764,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 253 million cases and 5.1 million deaths. More than 195 million Americans — 58.8% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: As doctors’ offices and pharmacies fill appointments fill to immunize children, parents across the country are looking forward to the freedoms their kids can enjoy after getting their shot. But the question of masking — especially in schools — still remains. 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox, and join our Facebook group.

Pfizer to share promising drug with low-income nations

A deal between American drugmaker Pfizer and a U.N.-backed public health organization could provide a promising COVID-19 pill to more than half the world’s population, a significant step toward accelerating the pandemic’s end.

Pfizer said Tuesday it would grant a license for the antiviral pill Paxlovid to the Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which would let generic drug companies produce the pill for use in 95 low- and middle-income countries, making up about 53% of the global population. The agreement follows a similar deal struck in October between the MPP and New Jersey-based Merck for its own experimental COVID-19 medicine, molnupiravir.

Also on Tuesday, Pfizer requested emergency use authorization of Paxlovid from the Food and Drug Administration. Interim data showed the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in COVID patients who took it within three days of symptoms appearing.

“We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections, decreasing the strain on our healthcare systems and saving lives,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

Health officials said the fact that the deal was struck even before Pfizer’s pill has been authorized anywhere could help to end the pandemic sooner.

“It’s quite significant that we will be able to provide access to a drug that appears to be effective and has just been developed, to more than 4 billion people,” said Esteban Burrone, head of policy at the Medicines Patent Pool, who estimated production of the pill would begin within months.

Fauci says vaccinated families ‘can feel good’ about spending holidays together

Presidential medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said people who have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 should feel comfortable getting together over the holidays with loved ones who have also been inoculated.

“If you get vaccinated and your family’s vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family and close friends,” Fauci said in a Monday interview hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

With cases still high, Fauci urged Americans to wear masks when in groups of people in indoor settings.

“But when you’re with your family at home, enjoy it with your parents, your children, your grandparents,” he said. “There’s no reason not to do that.”

Pfizer submits antiviral data to FDA, requests authorization

Pfizer has formally requested emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to provide its COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid to the American public.

A recent study showed the medication reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% compared to a placebo when given within three days of the beginning of COVID-19 symptoms. Subjects in the trial were all at high risk for severe disease. An independent review agency stopped the study early because of its effectiveness. The drug, which limits the replication of the virus, is delivered as three pills taken for five days.

— Karen Weintraub

Times Square celebration will be open to the (vaccinated) masses

Crowds will be welcome again at New York City’s iconic New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square — provided participants are vaccinated against COVID-19.

After limiting attendance mostly to first responders in socially distant pods last year as the coronavirus raged throughout the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would open its arms to “hundreds of thousands of people there to celebrate. We can finally get back together again. It’s going to be amazing.”

At least for those who have gotten their shots. People age 5 and older will have to provide proof of vaccination along with a valid photo ID to be admitted to the viewing area. Those under 5, and therefore ineligible for the vaccine, must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult, and they have to wear a face covering at all times. 

— Jordan Mendoza

Report urges clearer federal strategy against COVID misinformation

A new report from a panel of government, academic and journalism leaders urged a clearer federal strategy to counter misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic as part of 15 broad recommendations to reduce “the chain reaction of harm” caused by false information.

The report, released Monday by the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder, followed a six-month investigation of the spread of COVID-related misinformation. It emphasized the need for a “comprehensive federal approach” with clearly defined responsibilities across the executive branch.

“At the time of this writing, the Federal Government lacks any clear leadership and strategy to the disinformation problem, despite its own acknowledgement of the impact on public health, elections, businesses, technology, and continued campaigns on communities of color, including immigrants and refugees,” the report said. “This lack of leadership, ownership, or strategy is hampering efforts, slowing response times, and duplicating efforts.”

The panel also called on social media platforms for more transparency in sharing background information about viral posts and how they spread, among other recommendations.

Florida teacher at center of ivermectin lawsuit dies after battling COVID-19

A teacher in Palm Beach County, Florida, who was at the center of a battle to get a hospital to administer an unproven drug for her worsening COVID-19 symptoms has died from the illness.

Tamara Drock, 47, of Loxahatchee, Florida, died from complications of COVID-19 on Friday, 12 weeks after being admitted to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center for treatment, her husband said.

As she struggled with the disease, her husband, Ryan Drock, sued the hospital last month in an attempt to require it to administer ivermectin, a drug approved by the FDA to treat conditions caused by parasitic worms but not COVID-19.

The closely watched case became one of several across the country that sought to compel hospitals to administer the drug, which has gained popularity in conservative circles as a potential treatment for serious cases of the illness. The FDA says ivermectin has not proved effective against COVID-19 in pre-clinical trials.

— Andrew Marra, Palm Beach Post

Contributing: The Associated Press



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