Fully vaccinated people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot in a large trial were at a 95.6% lower risk of COVID-19 infection than fully vaccinated people who received a placebo, the companies said Thursday. 

The news came on the same day a CDC advisory panel voted unanimously to allow booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and to permit the extra doses to be of a different brand than the original shots.

All of Thursday’s developments will help to speed up the nation’s booster programme, which is something that the Biden administration promoted. Certain populations were given Pfizer BioNTech booster shots last month.

In a trial of more than 10,000 people age 16 and older who were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech shots, the companies found only five cases of COVID-19 in the boosted group compared to 109 in the placebo group, for an efficacy of 95.6%. There were no safety issues.

“These results provide further evidence of the benefits of boosters as we aim to keep people well-protected against this disease,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

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►A federal judge in Oregon denied an exemption from the state’s vaccine mandate to seven unvaccinated workers who said they don’t need the shots because they’ve already had COVID-19, the Washington Post reported.

►A Southern California woman who refused to wear a mask or leave a grocery store last year was convicted of trespassing and obstructing a business or customers. Marianne Campbell Smith received 40 hours community service and an informal probation year. She was also fined $200.

►Amid Russia’s worst surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths since the pandemic began, restaurants, movie theaters and many retail stores in Moscow will be closed for 11 days starting Oct. 28, along with other new restrictions. The widespread distrust of vaccines has been expressed by President Vladimir Putin, who encouraged them but did not require them to be used.

►Georgia’s unemployment rate fell to an all-time low of 3.2% in September, the 17th month in a row that the state’s jobless rate has dropped. Georgia had a 12.5% jobless rate at the beginning of the pandemic, in April 2020.

►Nebraska hospitals can resume lower-priority surgeries starting Friday after Gov. Pete Ricketts announced he’s ending the restrictions that have kept facilities from being overwhelmed with patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

📈These are the numbers of today The U.S. has recorded more than 45.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 732,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 242.3 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 189.9 million Americans – 57.5% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘This is what we are reading The FDA granted authorization for booster shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, and a CDC panel will consider whether to approve them. This is how you can obtain a booster vaccine now. We also have answers for other questions regarding boosters including mixing and matching. 

For the most recent news, keep checking this page. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

CDC panel gives unanimous OK to Moderna, J&J booster shots and to mixing and matching

A federal committee voted Thursday to allow booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and also to permit mixing and matching of the extra doses from different manufacturers than the ones provided in the initial inoculations.

It was unanimously voted by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The result could mean that boosters will be made available for purchase by next weekend.

Once CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signs off on the recommendation, which is expected to happen quickly, Moderna and J&J boosters can be offered in the U.S. On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized both for certain populations.

Boosters for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were OK’d in September for people 65 and older and those in high-risk conditions. The Moderna booster shots are authorized under the same terms, including having to wait until six months after the second dose, but J&J vaccine recipients can get any booster two months after being vaccinated. 

A National Institutes of Health study found that a shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine after J&J provides higher levels of protection from COVID-19 than two shots of J&J.

Letting Americans choose among the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as a COVID-19 booster shot would increase protection against a disease that is killing an average of 1,093 Americans a day, the committee said. 

— Elizabeth Weise

UK records over 50,000 additional cases per day for first time in 3 months

Boris Johnson, British Prime Minster encouraged citizens who were eligible to have a booster shot with the COVID-19 vaccine. The U.K. had more than 50k new infections per day since July 17, 2017.

The 52,009 new cases recorded Thursday raised the U.K.’s weekly average to 46,791, the continuation of a troubling spike after they had dropped well below 10,000 in June.

Johnson has come under pressure from many to reinstate restrictions on the use of facial masks and demand that they be used. However, Johnson insists that he will not do so. He also stated that there are no new infections or deaths since social distancing rules have been relaxed. He spoke out in support of vaccinations and advised adolescents aged 12-15 to receive the vaccine.

Johnson claimed that vaccines have put the UK in an “incomparably improved position” this year, with around 4.7million booster shots.

DeSantis has promised a special legislative session in order to ban mandates for vaccines

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday said he will convene a special legislative session next month to pass bills to combat vaccine mandates enacted by businesses. The Republican outlined policy goals for the special session, including holding businesses liable for adverse reactions to vaccines, removing legal liability protections for employers with vaccine mandates and added protections for people fired for not being vaccinated.

Others are also considering legislation to repeal the mandate. GOP Texas Governor. Greg Abbott issued an executive directive last week to ban any entity from needing vaccines.

“You shouldn’t be discriminated against based on your health decisions,” DeSantis said during a news conference. “We want to provide protection for people, we want to make it clear that, in Florida, your right to earn a living is not contingent upon whatever choices you’re making in terms of these injections.”

Children could face a difficult winter due to flu season and COVID

Flu season is coming up, and no one is counting on a repeat of last winter’s reprieve from that annual scourge. Jennifer Erdahl, nurse manager of the pediatric ICU at the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital, said her staff is bracing for the current surge of young patients to continue deep into the winter. Many Americans hoped stories of packed hospitals would fade as the pandemic waned in early summer. With the introduction of vaccines to adults, there was a drop in case rates as well as a surge in optimism. It was a deflating moment for such optimism.

Erdahl stated, “It’s daunting and overwhelming because we’re only two months in and it’s still very busy.” “And we think we have months more to go.”

– Tony Leys and Jessica Koscielniak

Schools in Miami-Dade could soon relax mask regulations

The mask mandate for students in Florida’s Miami-Dade County could add an opt-out within days because of falling infection and hospitalization rates, school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says. He said that the number of students who have to be quarantined in schools in the district has fallen significantly since August.

According to him, the district will still rely on science and data from within the area and in schools for decision-making. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is home to more than 500 schools with almost 350,000 students. 

“In light of these favorable data trends both in our schools and community, @MDCPS  will continue to review protocols on a weekly basis to identify opportunities for further relaxation, including adjustments to mask protocols,” Carvalho tweeted.

Report: 98% of deaths since June in Washington, D.C., were Black people

Forty-nine of the 50 people who died of COVID-19 in Washington, D.C., since June were Black residents, and 42 of them were not vaccinated, according to an analysis of data by DCCovid.com. City Health Department data shows that 63,305 people in D.C. had been infected with COVID-19 as of Tuesday. Of those, 33,119 – just over half – were Black. DCist reported that 91% of those who perished in the pandemic killed were Black Washingtonians, representing 77% of all 1,184 Washingtonians.

Nearly 700,000. residents are made up of blacks.

“People are uncertain and afraid,” D.C. resident Elvera Patrick told DCist earlier this year. “It’s been so many stories and myths about the vaccination that many don’t know what’s the truth.”

The United States has given 200 million doses of vaccines to countries around the world

As of Thursday morning the White House reported that 200 million COVID-19 vaccines were donated globally by the U.S. 

Samantha Power from USAID stated that in 2017, the United States Agency for International Development and COVAX will deliver over 1 billion vaccine doses made by America to low-income nations.

Power declared that Americans are proud to have more than 200 million reasons today. USAID feels honored to have been at the forefront in this unprecedented global vaccine effort to combat the worst pandemic of modern history.

Hinge and the surgeon general team up to provide pandemic dating advice

Do you prefer to hide or be with someone? It can be difficult to date during the pandemic. However, according to Dr. Vivek Murthy, a video from the Hinge dating app, you are able to find connections while still avoiding COVID-19. 

Murthy explains, “Dating in the COVID-19 Pandemic: It’s difficult but it is possible”, according to a Tuesday Hinge video. “Recognize that getting vaccinated is the single most important thing we can do to reduce our risk.” 

Murthy recommends following a risk-assessment checklist to decide whether to go for a kiss: Consider whether the person is fully vaccinated, has interacted with anyone who isn’t and has taken precautions such as wearing a mask.

– Keira Wingate, USA TODAY

Unions urge pilots not to focus on vaccines but flying.

Pilots at American and Southwest airlines are being warned to keep vaccine mandate issues out of the cockpit because of potential flight safety concerns.

The Allied Pilots Association, which represents American’s 14,000 pilots, sent a memo to members Tuesday about an increase in distractions because of looming deadlines to get vaccinated and sharply divided views on the topic. Subject line: “Distractions can not affect safety.”

According to the safety committee memo, “We see distractions on board the flight deck that could create dangerous situations”, 

The number of pilots self-reporting vaccine mandate talk or concerns to the Federal Aviation Administration as a distraction on the job has spiked, union spokesman Dennis Tajer said.

– Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY

Contributing to The Associated Press 

Source: USAToday.com

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