CDC Panel Talk Ends Without Vote; Pfizer Boost: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel ended discussion of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine without taking a vote. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE expect to deliver more vaccines to the European Union this quarter than currently targeted.
Denmark became the first EU country to drop AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine from its pandemic inoculation program, reflecting the same concerns over blood clots that prompted the J&J pause. Russia said there have been no cases of clotting with its Sputnik vaccine.
South Africa said drugmakers including J&J demanded “unreasonable terms” in exchange for vaccine supplies. Germany’s rate of infections climbed further beyond a key threshold, and EU governments reached a deal on technical standards for so-called vaccine passports.
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CDC Panel Doesn’t Vote on J&J Pause (5:30 p.m. NY)
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel ended discussion about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine without taking a vote, leaving it unclear how long the distribution of the shot will remain paused in the U.S.
Some panel members advocated for a monthlong pause, while others were concerned about the effects of not having the J&J vaccine available, especially to the communities it was being targeted toward.
As a result, distribution of the vaccine will remain halted at least until the panel meets next, perhaps in a week to 10 days.
CDC Panel Mulls Monthlong Pause on J&J (4:52 p.m.)
A Centers and Disease Control and Prevention panel is considering imposing a monthlong pause on the distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, following reports of rare blood clots among several women who got the shot.
Sarah Long, a member of the panel and professor at Drexel University, says she’s in favor of a monthlong pause and she would be opposed to resuming use of J&J’s vaccine at this point.
The panelists are the 15 voting members of an advisory committee. They make recommendations for the CDC, which ultimately has the final say. They are highly respected and any decision they make will carry tremendous weight.
Michigan Won’t Shut Down Amid Surge (4:15 p.m. NY)
Michigan health officials won’t issue new orders shutting down parts of the state economy in an attempt to combat the state’s surging Covid-19 cases, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday.
Health officials in the state are concerned tighter restrictions might just lead to more noncompliance.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 7,955 new cases Wednesday as roughly two dozen Michigan hospitals neared in-patient capacity. About 18% of Michigan hospital beds are occupied by people with the virus, state officials said Wednesday.
N.Y. Moves Restaurant, Bar Curfew to Midnight (3:40 p.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo moved the curfew on bars and restaurants to midnight from 11 p.m. The closing time for catered events will shift to 1 a.m. from midnight, he said in a briefing Wednesday. The changes will take effect Monday.
Vaccine Hesitancy Down in U.S. (3:05 p.m. NY)
Vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. is shrinking, though 1 in 7 residents remain wary about getting a Covid-19 vaccine, largely because of concerns about side effects.
That segment is younger and less educated than average, according to a tracker released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau that uses Household Pulse Survey data. Residents were surveyed before U.S. regulators on Tuesday recommended pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccines because of concerns about rare blood clots.
Denver Ends Outdoor Mask Mandate (2 p.m. NY)
Denver ended its outdoor mask mandate but will continue to require masks on public transit and indoor events, Mayor Michael Hancock announced Wednesday.
Astra Shot Safe, Effective, Health Canada Says (11:40 a.m. NY)
AstraZeneca’s vaccine may be linked to “very rare events of blood clots,” but the benefits of the shot outweigh its potential risk, Health Canada said in a statement following an assessment of scientific data.
The federal agency has updated warnings about the possible side effects in product information and is providing information about potential symptoms as well as when to seek prompt medical attention following vaccination.
J&J Drops Pregnant Women From Study (11:39 a.m. NY)
Johnson & Johnson will revise protocols on its Covid-19 vaccine study and exclude pregnant health workers from a trial in South Africa set to include 500,000 people. The move came after U.S. regulators paused the shot’s rollout on concerns of a rare and severe blood-clotting side effect.
While all studies are delayed, plans to run trials on children and pregnant women in South Africa have been set aside for now, said Glenda Gray, the co-lead of the South African studies, in an interview on Wednesday.
The research team will meet with South African regulators later on Wednesday, she said.
Airline Middle Seats Cited as Risk (11:38 a.m. NY)
The risk of being exposed to the Covid-19 virus on an airline flight drop by as much as half when airlines keep middle seats open, a new study published by the U.S. government concludes, a safety practice the carriers have abandoned.
The study is the latest to roil the waters on a controversial topic: just how risky it is to travel during the pandemic. It didn’t attempt to estimate infection risks and was based on modeling done before the pandemic, so it didn’t consider rules that now require face masks on flights.
The risk of coming in contact with the virus dropped by 23% to 57% if airlines limited passenger loads on both single-aisle and widebody jets, compared with full occupancy, according to research released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.
U.S. Spy Chiefs Say Virus Source Unknown (11:25 a.m. NY)
U.S. spy agencies have yet to determine the source of the virus that causes Covid-19, top intelligence officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday.
Avril Haines, the director of National Intelligence, said analysts are still examining two theories: animal-to-human transmission, and the possibility of a laboratory accident. “The intelligence community does not know exactly where, when or how Covid-19 virus was transmitted initially,” Haines said.
CIA Director William Burns, echoed Haines’ assessment, adding that “the Chinese leadership has not been fully forthcoming or fully transparent” in working with the World Health Organization to pinpoint the origin of the coronavirus.
The spy chiefs’ assessments add to a growing number of top politicians and public health experts who argue that the theory of a lab leak warrants further investigation. In late March, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a mission to study the origins of the virus was too quick to dismiss the theory of a lab leak.
Russia Says No Clotting Cases From Sputnik (10:45 a.m. NY)
The developers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine said it hasn’t produced any instances of the dangerous blood-clotting that forced U.S. officials to urge a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
Sputnik’s first dose uses the same human adenovirus as the Johnson & Johnson inoculation, but they have “significant differences in their structure” and it isn’t appropriate to extrapolate safety data from one to the other, the state-run Gamaleya Center said in a statement.
Switzerland Allows Theaters to Open (10:45 a.m. NY)
Switzerland will allow theaters, cinemas and outdoor dining at restaurants to open starting Monday, pursuing once again a more liberal course than many of its European neighbors.
While facilities will be subject to capacity limitations, the move stands in contrast to France, where officials have responded to an increase in Covid-19 infections by doubling down on restrictions.
Outdoor events will be limited to 100 people, while indoors at cinemas or concerts the maximum is 50.
EU Sees J&J Recommendation Next Week (9:43 a.m. NY)
The European Union’s drug regulator is accelerating its review of blood-clot reports with J&J’s vaccine and said it expects to issue a recommendation next week.
EU member states should store doses as they await guidance, and the European Medicines Agency said it will decide shortly whether “regulatory action is necessary.”
Astra Shot Induces Strong T-Cell Response (9:40 a.m. NY)
The Astra vaccine generated a stronger cellular immune response than the Pfizer and BioNTech shot in people over 80 years old, a study by U.K. researchers shows.
Responses in T cells -- a type of white blood cell that helps fight viruses -- were seen in 31% of participants receiving the Astra vaccine and 12% of the Pfizer-BioNTech group, according to the University of Birmingham and U.K. Coronavirus Immunology Consortium. Elderly people receiving a single dose of either vaccine showed equivalent antibody responses after five weeks.
It’s unclear if the different levels of T cell responses observed will have any impact on clinical effectiveness, the researchers said.
NYC Reschedules 4,000 Appointments (9:29 a.m. NY)
New York City had to reschedule 4,000 shots on Tuesday due to the Johnson & Johnson pause, according to Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. The “vast majority” of New Yorkers will keep the same appointments but receive the Pfizer or Moderna shots instead.
The city’s homebound senior vaccine program, which depended on the J&J shot, will be suspended through Sunday, but the city is working to reschedule appointments and arrange transports by taxi or ambulette, Chokshi said.
Denmark Is First in EU to Drop Astra Shot (8:14 a.m. NY)
Denmark has become the first country in the European Union to drop AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine from its inoculation program amid concerns over blood clots.
Denmark was one of the first countries to suspend the vaccine, on March 11. At the time, the Danish Health Authority called the decision a precautionary move and reiterated its view that Astra’s vaccine was “effective and safe.”
Pfizer to Speed EU Deliveries (7:42 a.m. NY)
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE will raise Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to the European Union by 50 million this quarter, offering good news to the bloc after Johnson & Johnson’s shot was paused.
The drugmakers will bring forward deliveries scheduled for the fourth quarter, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday. The additional supplies will add to the 200 million doses the EU was already expecting from Pfizer through June. The company provided about 66 million in the first three months of the year.
EU Vaccine Passports Draw Closer (7:30 a.m. NY)
European Union governments reached a deal on technical standards for so-called vaccine passports, advancing the effort to boost travel to and within the bloc in time for the summer season.
Envoys meeting in Brussels unanimously supported a draft legal text setting out specifics for “digital green certificates,” according to a diplomat familiar with the private meeting. The documents will provide proof their holders have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, tested negative or have recently recovered from the disease and are considered immune.
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