With 22M Americans vaccinated, CDC data shows shots are going well; South Africa variant reaches US. Latest COVID-19 updates.

COVID-19 has killed more than 430,000 Americans, and infections have continued to mount despite the introduction of a pair of vaccines late in 2020. USA TODAY is tracking the news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.

Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine protects against COVID-19, and while it is not as effective as other vaccines already authorized in the U.S., it appears to be extremely effective against severe disease.

Johnson & Johnson said Friday that data from its late-stage trial in the U.S. and seven other countries showed the vaccine had an overall 66% effectiveness in preventing moderate to severe illness.

The two-shot vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are more than 94% effective, but J&J’s global research chief, Dr. Mathai Mammen, said, “Gambling on one dose was certainly worthwhile.”

Because of its single dose regimen, the J&J vaccine has been described as a “game-changer” in the campaign against the coronavirus pandemic. And the vaccine doesn’t need to be kept frozen, allowing it to be distributed through normal vaccine supply chains without the need for new, expensive equipment.

The data also showed the vaccine was more effective in the U.S. than in South Africa, where a rapidly spreading variant of the virus is more prevalent.

That South African variant was confirmed Thursday to have reached the U.S., identified in South Carolina. However, federal health officials say there is no evidence infections from the variant cause more severe disease.

Meanwhile, Novavax, a Gaithersburg, Maryland-based biotechnology firm, showed its COVID-19 candidate vaccine to be safe and roughly 90% effective against the virus.

In the headlines:

►New U.S. cases of the coronavirus have fallen 35% from their Jan. 11 peak, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The average number of daily cases has fallen to about 162,000, from 249,000.  And there are positive signs for hospitalization: The COVID Tracking Project said Wednesday that about 107,000 Americans were hospitalized because of the virus Tuesday, down from a peak of more than 130,000 three weeks ago.

►The Pentagon says it is reviewing a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for military troops to help set up 100 vaccination sites across the country.

►New York may have undercounted COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents by thousands, according to a new report from the state attorney general.

►Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who made clear in December that he would wait his turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, was quietly vaccinated last week at the recommendation of medical personnel, his office said.

►President Joe Biden will invoke the Defense Protection Act to expedite production of N-95 masks and special syringes to extract an additional dose from each vaccination vial, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told CBS News on Thursday.

►A Florida fire captain turned himself in to face charges in connection with the alleged theft of COVID-19 vaccines, asking a local paramedic to obtain the vaccine for his elderly mother.

►The European Union’s drug regulator authorized AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in all adults despite concerns that not enough data exist to prove it works in older people. On Thursday. Germany’s vaccination advisory committee said in a draft recommendation that the vaccine should only be given to people aged 18-64 for now.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 25.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 433,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 101.4 million cases and 2.19 million deaths. About 48.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 26.2 million have been administered, according to the CDC. 

📘 What we’re reading: With the Biden administration seeking to vaccine 1.5 million people each day, mass vaccination clinics are popping up in California and New York, among other places. They’ll soon become common across the U.S. Read the full story.

CDC says Pfizer, Moderna vaccines can be used interchangeably in rare cases

Patients can be administered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for their first dose and the Moderna vaccine for their second dose, and vice versa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

In a briefing hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the agency said this is only permissible if a patient doesn’t know which vaccine they got as a first dose and has no documentation. 

“In these extremely rare situations, CDC clarified that any available mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be administered as the second dose at least 28 days after the first dose,” said Dr. Jay Butler, CDC deputy director of infectious diseases. 

The agency acknowledged the new guidance is backed by very little data on safety and effectiveness, but Butler said this was a better approach than restarting the series and ultimately getting three doses. 

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Johnson & Johnson vaccine completely protects against hospitalization, death

Johnson & Johnson said Friday that data from its late-stage clinical trial show its COVID-19 vaccine completely protects against COVID-related hospitalization and death a month after vaccination.

Although the J&J data show the vaccine is less effective than others in its overall protection, the single-shot vaccine was still 85% effective against severe disease across all regions studied, the company said. The shot’s effectiveness against severe disease also increased over time, with none of the vaccinated volunteers reporting severe disease more than 49 days after vaccination. 

Side effects appear to be lower with this vaccine than the already approved ones, too.

That the shot can be given in just one dose and stored in a standard refrigerator would make a significant contribution to the fight against COVID-19, said Moncef Slaoui, who helped run Operation Warp Speed during the Trump Administration and is now an advisor to the Biden Administration.

“From a public health standpoint, if you get one shot and within a week or two from that shot you’re now vaccinated, and the vaccine can be stable at fridge temperatures, it’s so much easier (than current vaccines),” he said. “Look how difficult it is to vaccinate people. If you cut that by 50%, it’s transformational.”

– Karen Weintraub

How COVID-19 is shaping the Super Bowl

An NFL season like no other will conclude Feb. 7 with Super Bowl 55, which will be unprecedented in many ways itself.

A few ways Super Bowl week and Super Sunday will be far different during a pandemic:

  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the first team to host a Super Bowl in their own stadium, but only 22,000 fans will be allowed to attend.
  • The traditional Super Bowl week kickoff event, known originally as “Media Day” but lately as “Opening Night,” will be drastically altered Monday. To begin with, there will be no media. All interviews will be done via Zoom with just nine players from each team instead of full rosters.
  • The Chiefs are not expected to be on site until next Friday or Saturday. Super Bowl teams usually spend a week at the host city – practicing, conducting interviews at media events and dispersing into the community.

Read more here. 

– Nate Davis

WHO team visits Wuhan hospital that had early COVID-19 patients

The World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the coronavirus visited a Wuhan hospital Friday where Chinese officials say the first COVID-19 patients were treated more than a year ago.

The long-awaited WHO mission has become politically charged, and it may take years determine the origins of the virus, requiring extensive testing and analysis.

Team members from the WHO and Chinese officials met earlier at a hotel as they prepared for a series of field visits in and around Wuhan in the coming days.

“First face to face meeting with our colleagues. Correction: facemask to facemask given the medical restrictions,” Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans tweeted in the morning. 

Pain relief medications OK to treat COVID-19 vaccine side effects 

Avoid pain relief medications before getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are “perfectly fine” to take after, experts say.

Normal side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include headache, fever, body aches and chills, and to minimize the discomfort, some Americans may turn to pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Studies on how the medications could have impact on the effectiveness of the vaccine are sparse and inconsistent, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization both recommend against the preventive use of pain relievers, though allow them if symptoms develop after.

In a study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Virology, researchers found nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can reduce the production of antibodies and impact other aspects of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

– Adrianna Rodriguez

The first 22M Americans have been vaccinated. Here’s how it’s going.

Everyone who experienced an allergic response after the COVID-19 vaccination has been treated successfully, and no other serious problems have turned up among the first 22 million people vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data on the 22M Americans vaccinated was collected from several tracking systems, including a voluntary one in which people who are vaccinated report their symptoms via text. Another allows people who believe they have been harmed by a vaccine to contribute their information, and athird collects reports from medical records. 

Although it’s never possible to prove something is completely safe, data from these tracking systems suggests the vaccines are not causing large numbers of unusual or dangerous results. Read the full story.

– Karen Weintraub

16 states have used less than half of distributed doses

The Biden administration vowed drug companies would make enough vaccine to immunize 300 million Americans by the end of the summer.

But getting the vaccine from the factory to the arms of people has been anything but smooth. Of 47.2 million doses shipped to states and nursing homes, 24.6 million have been administered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. 

The nation’s slow rollout boiled over from California, which tapped Blue Shield to allocate vaccines, to Maryland, where Gov. Larry Hogan implored the federal government to send more doses of potentially lifesaving vaccine.

– Ken Alltucker

Andrew Brooks, creator of first saliva COVID-19 test, dies

Andrew Brooks, the former Chief Operating Officer and Director of Technology Development of RUCDR Infinite Biologics, helping usher medical breakthroughs to the market, including the first saliva test for COVID-19, died unexpectedly on Jan. 23 at the age of 51. A cause of death was not provided.

The COVID-19 test that Brooks’ team created received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration last spring and has been used approximately four million times, according to Rutgers.

“It means we no longer have to put health care professionals at risk for infection by performing nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal collections,” Brooks said in April 2020 when it was first approved. “We can preserve precious personal protective equipment for use in patient care instead of testing.”

– Justin Murphy, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Contributing: The Associated Press

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *