U.S. health officials lifted a temporary pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine shortly after an expert panel recommended that vaccinations resume for all adults amid concerns about a rare risk of blood clots.
The decision, announced Friday by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came hours after the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices advised that the single-shot vaccine include a label that warns people to seek medical attention if they develop worrying symptoms. Several European nations and South Africa either resumed the shot’s use or began distributing doses, following a finding by Europe’s drug regulator that the vaccine’s benefits outweighed the possible risks.
Japan declared a state of emergency covering Tokyo and three western prefectures Friday, moving to curb a surge in infections attributed to more-contagious variants.
A single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine sharply reduced the risk of infection in all age groups, researchers at Oxford University, which co-developed the AstraZeneca shot, said in a new study.
The European Union plans to initiate legal action against British-Swedish vaccine-maker AstraZeneca after the company failed to supply the tens of millions of doses it had pledged to deliver in a contract with the bloc.
More than 570,000 people have died of covid-19 in the United States, out of some 31.9 million infections. New cases have dropped 12 percent over the past week, but public health experts worry that an ambitious vaccination drive is slowing ahead of the herd-immunity threshold.
Maryland’s state university system will require students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated against the coronavirus before they return to campuses in the fall, officials announced Friday, joining a vaccine-mandate movement in higher education that is gaining momentum around the country.
The University System of Maryland’s order will affect more than 216,000 people on 11 campuses, including the state’s flagship in College Park.
Jay A. Perman, chancellor of the state system, told the Board of Regents a vaccine requirement is needed to reopen safely.
“Last week, I said that mandating a covid vaccine is a reasonable and necessary means of preventing spread of the disease,” Perman said. “I’ll go one better: Mandating a covid vaccine is the most effective strategy we have, especially as we try to reach herd immunity. It’s not just one tool in this fight; it’s our best tool. And one I believe is critical to our safe return to campus.”
Connor Garwood, 17, always enjoyed meeting a classmate in the Best Buddies program a few times a month at his Virginia high school. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the pair — and dozens of other students in the program — had to find a new plan.
It was a big change for Garwood, altering an activity that had become routine.
“I missed seeing my friends in person,” said Garwood, a senior who has Down syndrome. The pandemic, he said, “made it a challenging time.”
For the 136 students in Yorktown High School’s Best Buddies program, the pandemic not only disrupted school days, but also their club. The program matches general-education students with those who have intellectual and other disabilities, ranging from autism to cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and visual or hearing impairments.
At Yorktown, parents and students said it is a crucial program for those already dealing with the sometimes awkward period of adolescence.
Georgetown University has struggled all spring to devise a commencement plan that will satisfy the urge of graduating seniors to celebrate in person after a grueling year and the demand of D.C. authorities to protect public health amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Now the university has secured a venue for the degree-conferring rituals that it hopes will be a home run for the Class of 2021: Nationals Park.
Between “My Big Italian Adventure,” which premiered in October, and “The Sopranos,” which according to HBO has seen its viewership increase nearly three times during the coronavirus pandemic, Lorraine Bracco, 66, was an unlikely star of the strange and isolating year we’ve all endured.
During the pandemic, with millions of people stuck at home with nothing but our screens to distract us from the end-of-days energy beyond our front doors, “The Sopranos” arguably had its biggest year since its original run.
During a phone interview from her home in the Hamptons, she sounds very matter-of-fact about the whole thing, especially “The Sopranos,” which she hasn’t ever seen in full because she doesn’t like to watch herself.
We needn’t tell you this has been an unusual award season, because everything has been especially unusual for over a year now. Does anyone ever actually know what day it is? Maybe not. But what we do know is that the Academy Awards are still happening Sunday night (whenever that is!).
The ceremony won’t look like it normally does, and optimistic producers Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh see this as a good thing. They seem to be tossing the playbook out the window, not only to avoid centering pandemic-era bizarreness, but also to try luring back audiences the telecast has lost over the years.
The Oscars will be shot like a movie, according to Soderbergh, who added during a recent news conference that “there is not a bad angle in the house.”
FORT ERIE, Ontario — Here in this border town just across the Niagara Riverfrom New York state, televisions carry stations from Buffalo. In recent weeks, the news from the U.S. side has been somewhat irksome.
In Erie County, N.Y., everyone 16 years of age and older became eligible for a coronavirus vaccine this month. On the Canadian side, meanwhile, inoculations have been mostly limited to people 40 years and older, Indigenous adults, and other priority groups. And they’re getting only the first shot, for now.
“It’s a point of frustration within Canada and within Niagara,” said Wayne Redekop, Fort Erie’s mayor. “Residents are looking to see who’s getting vaccinated and where. … It seems like if you’re in the United States and you want a vaccination, you can get it.”
When the Transportation Security Administration announced in January that it would require people to wear a mask at airports and on planes, trains and other forms of public transportation, the announcement included a sunset date: May 11.
With that deadline rapidly approaching and the pandemic still not under control, airline industry leaders are urging the agency to continue enforcing mask rules in the air and on the ground. The TSA’s announcement was tied to an executive order by President Biden and an emergency order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Flight attendants and passengers need the leadership and support of the TSA to maintain and improve compliance with the CDC mask order,” Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a letter to the agency’s administrator last week.
The European regulator said Friday that AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine can be beneficial to all people but more so for those who are older or in areas with high infection rates, given the risk of blood clots.
The European Medicines Agency said that it had assessed the risk of clots in comparison with how good the vaccine is at preventing hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and deaths in various age groups and during various levels of outbreak.
“What we see is that there are benefits in all age categories in some scenarios,” said Peter Arlett, the head of pharmacovigilance at the EMA, “and the benefits of vaccination go up with age, and the benefits of vaccination go up with infection rates.”
When looking at the risk of clots compared with efficacy in preventing hospitalizations, there is a “significant benefit across all age groups,” Arlett said. But when it comes to intensive care admissions and death in some age groups, there are “too few” to “show that benefit,” he said.
Overall, the regulator put the risk of the blood clots post-vaccination at 1 in 100,000 shots, with an incidence of around twice that rate in those between ages 20 and 49 and around half that rate for those in their 70s and 80s.
There was not enough data provided by member states to make calculations based on sex, officials said.
The regulator said European countries can use the data to decide how to administer the vaccine. Many already restrict the AstraZeneca vaccine among younger people.
A total of 287 cases of the rare clots, including 70 fatalities, had been reported to the regulator as of April 13, from tens of millions of shots worldwide.
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CDC recommends pregnant women get coronavirus vaccine
Pregnant women confused by conflicting recommendations regarding coronavirus vaccination over the past few months now have clear guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Get the shots.
At a White House covid-19 briefing Friday, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said that surveillance systems of vaccinations showed “no safety concerns” for more than 35,000 women in their third trimester or for their babies.
“We know that this is a deeply personal decision,” she added, “and I encourage people to talk to their doctors and their primary care providers to determine what is best for them and for their baby.”
Amid a huge surge in coronavirus cases in India, countries around the world are restricting travel from the South Asian giant in a scenario that recalls some of the earliest days of the pandemic.
On Thursday, Britain added India to its “red list” of countries. Inclusion on the list means that travelers who have visited the country in the past 10 days are not allowed entry to Britain. On the same day, Canada installed a ban on flights from India and its neighbor Pakistan for 30 days, citing the risk of virus spread.
France, Indonesia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates have also announced travel restrictions on India this week, while New Zealand had announced restrictions earlier this month.
The travel restrictions and warnings came as India reported more than 330,000 new cases of coronavirus in a single day, setting a global record and pointing to the alarming spread of the virus across the country.
Announcing Canada’s new measures Thursday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that while India accounts for one-fifth of a percent of recent air volumes to Canada, more than half of all positive tests found at the border were from passengers arriving from India.
Earlier this month, New Zealand also stated that the large proportion of positive tests found in passengers from India at the border was the reason for restricting travel from the country.
The travel bans are also of huge concern for many in India, which has a population of 1.36 billion and a huge diaspora sometimes cited as the largest in the world, with particularly big populations in Britain and Canada.
What immunosuppressed patients should know about the coronavirus vaccines
Cancer patients. Organ transplant recipients. Individuals with HIV. Those with autoimmune or chronic inflammatory conditions such as lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
An estimated 10 million people in the United States are considered immunocompromised, including those who were born with immune-system deficiencies. It often makes them more susceptible to infections and puts them at a higher risk of experiencing a more severe outcome when they get sick.
So it makes sense why many would want to inoculate themselves against covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus — and public health authorities have advised them to do it.
Homebound with severe lung disease, 77-year-old Pat Dunaj worked her phone and the Internet until she secured a promise from the county health department to come to her door with a shot of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine last week.
Federal officials then paused the use of the vaccine, and the inevitable call from the county that Dunaj’s April 13 vaccination had been canceled soon followed.
“They wouldn’t give it to me. They didn’t know what to do. So they erred on the side of caution,” said Dunaj, who lives in Livingston County, Mich.
Now, the plan is to vaccinate her Friday with a dose of the Moderna vaccine, though that will mean another visit to Dunaj’s home 28 days later for a second shot.
Reaching out to the homebound, the homeless, the hesitant and those who have trouble accessing vaccines is part of the next big push in the United States’ vaccination effort, which so far has relied largely on mass vaccination sites, drugstores and clinics. The J&J pause makes that effort more difficult, by delaying vaccinations for people like Dunaj, who were easier to reach with the one-dose vaccine. It is also forcing some health-care providers to switch to the more cumbersome Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech products, which require two doses, are harder to transport and need to be stored at ultracold temperatures.
A federal vaccine advisory committee is reconvening Friday to discuss next steps for Johnson& Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine after health officials recommended last week that states pause usewhile six U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot were reviewed.
That independent expert panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, last met April 14. It reviewed the decision made the day before by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to recommend a temporary halt in giving the vaccine following reports of a handful of blood clots among the more than 7.5 million people who had been inoculated at that time.
The panel said at that meeting it needed more data on the risks, cause and frequency of the rare brain blood clots before recommending a lift to the pause or other steps, such as restrictions based on age or gender.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday designed to more forcefully investigate hate crimes, particularly those against Asian Americans after the March 16 shootings at three Atlanta spas and a wave of violence following the spread of the coronavirus from China last year.
“To our Asian American friends: We will not tolerate bigotry against you. And to those perpetrating anti-Asian bigotry: We will pursue you to the fullest extent of the law. We cannot — we cannot — allow the recent tide of bigotry, intolerance and prejudice against Asian Americans go unchecked,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a floor speech just before the vote.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced the bill last month, officially titled the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, based on a year’s worth of rising attacks after the pandemic began in Wuhan, China.