Biden Boosts J&J Dose Order; Moderna Booster Shot: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said he will double the U.S. order of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, bringing the country’s supply to enough for 500 million people. Contagious Covid-19 variant seems dominant in Texas and Florida.
Brazil reported a record number of deaths for the second day in a row, breaching the 2,000 level. The U.K. accused European Union politicians of damaging its vaccination program by making misleading statements that cast doubt on AstraZeneca Plc’s shot, in an escalation of tensions between the two sides.
The first European company to reach a deal to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine said it could start manufacturing in the third quarter. Moderna is testing a booster shot.
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- U.S. Spotlight: Shots slow in some states, opening way for policy shifts
- Biden Boosts J&J Order, Says U.S. Will Wait to Export Vaccine
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- What’s the best Covid vaccine? Why it’s not so simple: QuickTake
Brazil Hits Another Record of Deaths (5:11 p.m. NY)
Brazil reported record deaths from Covid-19 as slow progress of vaccinations adds to worries with the near collapse of the health system.
Latin America’s largest country saw deaths rise by 2,286 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, pushing the total to 270,656. Confirmed cases increased by 79,876 to 11,202,305.
Texas Expands Vaccines to 50-Year-Olds (5:04 p.m. NY)
Texas will expand vaccine eligibility to anyone 50 or older beginning March 15, Governor Greg Abbott announced. Most of the state’s elderly already have received at least one dose, he said in a tweet.
Colorado Unveils Recovery Fund (5:01 p.m. NY)
The Colorado state legislature unveiled a $700 million pandemic recovery fund. The spending program, which has bipartisan support, is aimed at improving infrastructure, helping small businesses and providing workforce development.
Moderna Testing Booster Shots (4:45 p.m. NY)
Moderna Inc. said it had dosed the first participants in a study to examine whether booster shots of its Covid-19 vaccines may help protect against emerging variants.
In the study, 60 people who received two doses of Moderna’s vaccine as part of its original phase 2 study last year, will receive a third shot as part of the study. One third of the participants will receive a booster shot that contains a low dose of the existing vaccine; the second third will receive a booster shot that is customized against the variant that arose in South Africa, called B.1.351; and the final third will receive a single vaccine that contains both the existing vaccine and the one customized against B.1.351.
The company says it’s pursuing booster shots out of an abundance of caution.
Variant Seems Dominant in U.S. South (4:14 p.m. NY)
A highly infectious Covid-19 variant is probably the dominant strain in Florida, Texas and Georgia, and gaining a foothold across the U.S., according to new data from testing company Helix.
In all three states, more than 50% of the latest samples exhibited S gene target failure, a key characteristic of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7. The variant has prompted warnings of a possible resurgence, even as the seven-day average of new cases fell to the lowest since Oct. 18 in Johns Hopkins University data.
Biden Doubles Order of J&J Vaccines (3:50 p.m. NY)
President Joe Biden will double the U.S. order of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine -- seeking another 100 million doses -- bringing the country’s total vaccine supply to enough for 500 million people.
Biden made the announcement during an event at the White House on Wednesday with J&J Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky and Merck & Co. chairman and CEO Ken Frazier. The companies last week struck a collaboration to boost production of J&J’s recently authorized Covid-19 vaccine.
Texas Rangers to Fully Reopen Stadium (3:40 p.m. NY)
Baseball’s Texas Rangers said they’re clear to totally reopen Globe Life Field to fans on opening day in April, making the game a key test of pro sports’ efforts to return to normal.
The decision follows Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s move last week to lift antipandemic restrictions and allow businesses to open at full capacity. Masks will still be required at the stadium, and the team is planning “distanced seating” sections that will allow for more space between occupied seats -- though those won’t be available for the home opener on April 5.
NYC, N.J. Restaurants Expand Capacity to 50% (2:35 p.m. NY)
New York City and New Jersey restaurants can increase indoor-dining capacity to 50% from 35% beginning March 19, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy said. Cuomo also said restaurants outside of New York City can expand to 75% capacity.
In New Jersey, hospitalizations have declined by 1,000 since the state last changed its restaurant capacity limit on Feb. 5, Murphy said. Before that, the limit had been 25% for months.
“If we keep the infections down and vaccinations up, we will continue to stay ahead in the footrace against this invisible enemy,” Cuomo said in a statement.
NYC Schools Not Super-Spreaders, Study Finds (1:10 p.m. NY)
In-person learning in New York City’s public schools wasn’t associated with increased Covid-19 infections compared with the general community, according to a peer-reviewed study released Wednesday.
The study, led by senior health adviser Jay Varma and published in the Pediatrics medical journal, provides data to back up claims by city officials that school buildings are among the safest places in New York.
Virus Origin Could Be Found in Few Years (1 p.m. NY)
The world will likely have a better idea about the origins of Covid-19 in a few years as scientists continue to analyze the data, according to a member of the international team of experts that traveled to China to trace the pandemic’s emergence.
Despite the shortage of clues to the virus’s roots and the political tensions around the search, the scientific process will eventually prevail, Peter Daszak, a New York-based zoologist assisting the mission, said at a webinar organized by U.K. think tank Chatham House on Wednesday.
No Indication of Astra Vaccine Clotting (12:20 p.m. NY)
There is no indication that the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine caused the blood clotting that led Austrian authorities to suspend using a batch of the vaccines, the European Medicines Agency said. The agency’s safety committee is investigating cases reported with the batch post vaccination, as well as other conditions related to clotting.
Montenegro Goes Into Lockdown (11:30 a.m. NY)
Montenegro is closing schools, shopping malls, gyms, kindergartens and much of its vital hospitality industry to try to halt a surge in virus infections, the government said on Wednesday. Lockdown and restricted movement are ordered in 11 cities and municipalities acros the tourism-dpendent Adriatic state, which had one of the biggest economic contractions in Europe last year.
Variants Account for Most New Cases in NYC (10:30 a.m. NY)
New virus variants account for 51% of New York City’s Covid cases, health officials said on a virus briefing Wednesday. The variants, known as B.1.1.7, which originated in the U.K., and B.1.526, which was first detected in New York, appear to be more infectious than older strains of the virus. But research doesn’t indicate that the variants cause more severe illness or reduce effectiveness of vaccines, said Jay Varma, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior public health adviser. Varma warned that the data is still preliminary.
Kenya Approves Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine (10 a.m. NY)
Kenya approved the use of the Sputnik V Covid-19 shots for emergency purposes, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
Other African nations that have allowed their use include Angola, the Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ghana and Guinea, the sovereign fund said in a statement. Sputnik V has a 91.6% efficacy and provides full protection against severe cases of the illness, it said.
Germany’s Merkel Sees Tough Months Ahead (9:05 a.m. NY)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned citizens to prepare for several more tough months before vaccinations start to have a tangible impact on the pandemic.
“We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” Merkel said during an online dialog with emergency telephone service operators. “There will be three or four more difficult months and then we’ll be so far along with vaccinations that we will also really see actual effects and things will clearly improve.”
Biden to Order More J&J Doses (8:31 a.m. NY)
President Joe Biden will announce a doubling of the U.S. order of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine during an event with the chief executives of J&J and Merck & Co., who struck a collaboration to boost production of the shot, officials familiar with the plan say.
Ireland Plans ‘Modest’ Curb Easing (8:30 a.m. NY)
Ireland will allow a limited easing of curbs next month as cases drop, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in an interview with state broadcaster RTE. Still, with vaccines delayed, restrictions such as the closure of non-essential stores will remain in place, he said.
Ireland has one of the strictest lockdowns in Western Europe, after enduring one of the world’s worst outbreak after Christmas.
Finland, Portugal Back Astra Shot for All (8:22 a.m. NY)
Portugal endorsed the AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups, even the elderly, in an updated recommendation. The prior advice was that the shot be “preferably” used for people age 65 and younger. Finland did the same, ruling that the product can be given to people over 70. The decisions follow similar endorsements from France and Germany last week as real-life data show the vaccine protects older patients as well.
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