WASHINGTON — U.S. government advisers on Monday reiterated that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for people 16 and older.
The vaccine was the first to win full approval in the U.S. for that age group last week. It also remains available for emergency use by 12- to 15-year-olds.
The full approval gave advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a chance to look at all the extra evidence about safety since vaccinations first began last December. And data revealed Monday showed one serious side effect, heart inflammation, remains exceedingly rare after both the Pfizer vaccine and the similar Moderna shot.
The CDC has counted 2,574 cases of heart inflammation after hundreds of millions of doses of both vaccines. It mostly strikes males under 30 about a week after vaccination. CDC tracking shows the vast majority recover without lingering symptoms.
The CDC put the rare risk into sharper perspective. For every 1 million Pfizer vaccine doses administered to 16- to 17-year-old males, it estimated there would be 73 cases of the heart inflammation. But 500 COVID-19 hospitalizations among these teens would be prevented over the next four months.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Hurricane Ida slams Louisiana hospitals brimming with virus patients
— Texas man who worked against COVID-19 measures dies from virus
— Once a beacon of safety, Hawaii is seeing a surge of coronavirus cases driven by delta variant
— Anxious tenants await assistance as evictions resume
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MIAMI — The number of patients with the coronavirus in Florida hospitals is dropping as infection rates stay high. It’s a sign that while more people test positive for the virus, they are not necessarily developing severe illness.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tallied 15,488 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals, an 8% decrease over the past week.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the more than 30,000 people have been able to get monoclonal antibodies at 21 state sites set up over the past two weeks and avoided worsening their symptoms.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The four largest hospitals in Oklahoma City on Monday said they either have no intensive care bed space available or no space for COVID-19 patients.
Mercy, Integris and SSM Health said they had no ICU beds available and OU Health had none for COVID-19 patients in the state’s largest city.
OU Health, the state’s only trauma center, must keep some ICU beds available for other critically ill or injured patients.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health, which reported 1,572 virus-related hospitalizations statewide Monday, including 422 in ICU, stopped providing daily hospital bed availability data in May when Gov. Kevin Stitt ended a COVID-19 emergency declaration. The department has said it will resume providing the data, but has not yet done so.
SSM Health spokesperson Kate Cunningham said the information provided by the hospitals is not in response to anything the state agency has or has not provided.
“The only motive for acting together in this is because of regular requests for information from reporters, and we want to be transparent to the public,” Cunningham said.
Disability rights groups and parents of children with disabilities are seeking an immediate halt to a South Carolina law banning school districts from requiring face masks.
Last week, the groups and parents represented by the American Civil Liberties Union filed for a temporary restraining order that would block the law from being enforced while their lawsuit challenging the measure proceeds.
The ban, they wrote, “needlessly and unconscionably exposes South Carolina school children and their families to a heightened risk of infection, hospitalization, and death.”
State officials have until Sept. 9 to respond to the request in court.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Fully vaccinated employees in Alaska’s largest school district will receive up to 10 extra days of paid time off if they test positive for COVID-19 but can’t work from home while quarantining.
A spokesperson for the Anchorage School District tells the Anchorage Daily News in an email that employees who are not fully vaccinated are not eligible for the leave.
The district said in an Aug. 23 memo that employees will have to show proof of vaccination to be eligible.
The district is not requiring people to be vaccinated, but Superintendent Deena Bishop encourages employees to do so. Masks must be worn inside school district buildings despite opposition on that policy by new Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor is calling up as many as an additional 1,500 National Guard soldiers to help with COVID-19 response.
More than 5,600 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across Georgia on Monday, nearly one-third of all people in hospitals. That’s just short of the record of 5,715 set on Jan. 13.
Kemp signed the executive order Monday increasing the ceiling on guard members from 1,000 to 2,500.
The Guard had deployed more than 100 personnel to 20 hospitals across the state to help them deal with the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.___
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s public school system is looking to the U.S. mainland for teachers to teach online classes as the islands struggle with a surge in COVID-19 cases.
As the highly contagious delta variant continues to infect more people, schools are seeing an increased demand for online instruction. Department guidelines say teachers doing telework must live in Hawaii.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the state Board of Education is urging administrators to look at changing the residency requirement.
The new school year began this month and the department currently offers limited remote learning options.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor on Monday announced new restrictions to fight a rise in COVID-19 cases, including closing certain private businesses and banning alcohol sales after midnight.
Social activities such as concerts, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries also will be banned during those hours, and people will be required to wear masks outside if there is a crowd of 50 or more. In addition, elective surgeries that require the use of intensive care units will be prohibited.
The measures will be in effect Sept. 2-23 and affect businesses including restaurants and theatres.
“We’re on the right track, but there was no alternative,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said, referring to a recent spike in cases and deaths blamed largely on the delta variant.
The announcement comes on the same day that people in the U.S. territory are required to start showing proof of vaccination to enter gyms, casinos, beauty salons and other places.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s health authorities reinstalled new tough restrictive measures and warned of a possible obligatory vaccine shot for some categories in their effort to prevent a further spread of the new Delta virus variant.
Health minister Ogerta Manastirliu said that “soon we shall start the application to passing over to a new stage of the vaccination campaign, making obligatory the vaccines for some categories on behalf of the right of the other people not to get infected.”
Albania has noted a significant rise of the daily cases this month to more than 900 from about 100 times less a month ago.
An experts’ committee extended the overnight curfew time by one hour to 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. (2100-0400 GMT). Face masks are obligatory in closed areas.
There were two deaths and 768 new cases on Sunday and about half of Albania’s 2.8 million population has had at least one shot of the vaccine.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — A Bulgarian health official said Monday that the government should consider implementing “stringent” anti-coronavirus measures amid a surge of infections in the Balkan nation.
In early July, Bulgaria — which has the lowest COVID-19 vaccine rate in the European Union at 18% — was recording just a few dozen coronavirus infections per day, but over the last week has registered between 1,500 to 2,000 infections per day.
Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev on Monday told local television channel BTV that he will recommend to the health ministry stricter measures against COVID-19 “which should apply to the whole country.”
“A new tightening of measures is inevitable where the incidence is high,” Kunchev said. “It is imperative to observe 50% capacity in establishments. A ban on mass events such as concerts and festivals may be imposed.”
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government says its financial support packages to help businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic will end on Oct. 1.
The government announced Monday that with the economy back on track, lockdown measures largely over and unemployment low, “Continuing the support would stand in the way of the economic recovery.”
The government has spent some 80 billion euros ($94 billion) since March last year propping up business ranging from individual entrepreneurs to national flag carrier KLM. It says the support helped limit bankruptcies and unemployment.
The Dutch economy is forecast to grow 3.8% this year and 3.2% in 2022. A number of targeted support measures aimed at education programs and night clubs will remain in the final quarter of the year.
PARIS — France said it will provide 10 additional million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to African countries over the next three months.
France and the African Union announced in a statement on Monday a “new partnership” allowing Paris to deliver some additional AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.
The African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Trust will be in charge of distributing the doses, in coordination with the global COVAX program, a U.N.-backed effort to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to the shots.
The African Union’s initiative so far was able to buy enough doses to vaccinate 400 million people, or one third of the African population, by Sept. 2022, at a cost of $3 billion, the statement said.
France promised to share at least 60 million doses before the end of the year with poorest countries.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway joined neighboring Denmark in offering people with severe weakened immune systems a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The government said Monday that these people have an increased risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, and the vaccine has a lower effect on them than on healthy people.
The government estimates the patient groups amount to up to 200,000 people, including patients with immune deficiency diseases, organ transplants, cancer patients with ongoing or recently terminated cancer treatment, among others.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Health Authorities recommended Monday that people with severe immune deficiency get a third dose of coronavirus vaccine.
The Danish Medicines Agency said that some people “may have insufficient effect of vaccination against COVID-19, just as they may have reduced effect of other vaccines.”
The government agency said it was a recommendation as to which groups should be offered revaccination with a third dose COVID-19 vaccine on the basis of severely weakened immune systems.
BERLIN — Amid slowing demand for the shot, authorities in Berlin offered a special train service Monday for anyone interested in getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The service operated on a circular commuter line that runs around the center of the German capital for two hours.
Officials invited anyone aged 18 or older to step aboard and receive a dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Health authorities are trying to make it easier for people to get the shot, as the pace of vaccination has declined in recent months. Slightly more than 60% of the German population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while infection rates are rising strongly again.
MILAN — New virus restrictions were in effect Monday in Sicily, the first region in Italy to have its status shifted since a summertime loosening.
Sicily has been reporting more than 1,000 new cases of virus every day since the middle of August, and has exceeded the threshold for number of hospital and intensive care beds occupied.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said shifting Sicily to a yellow zone from a white zone “is the confirmation that the virus has not yet been defeated, and that the priority is to continue to invest in the vaccine campaign and on prudent and correct behaviors by each of us.”
The new restrictions come as Italians begin to wind down summer holidays, with Sicily as a popular destination.
People in Sicily are now required to wear masks outdoors. Seating at restaurants is limited to four people at a table, even outdoors.
The Associated Press
'Waning immunity?' Some experts say term leads to false understanding of COVID-19 vaccines – CBC.ca
The idea of waning immunity has picked up steam in recent weeks, with some countries using it to justify rolling out third-dose COVID-19 vaccine boosters to their populations. But immunologists say the concept has been largely misunderstood.
While antibodies — proteins created after infection or vaccination that help prevent future invasions from the pathogen — do level off over time, experts say that’s supposed to happen.
And it doesn’t mean we’re not protected against COVID-19.
Jennifer Gommerman, an immunologist with the University of Toronto, said the term “waning immunity” has given people a false understanding of how the immune system works.
“Waning has this connotation that something’s wrong, and there isn’t,” she said. “It’s very normal for the immune system to mount a response where a ton of antibodies are made and lots of immune cells expand. And for the moment, that kind of takes over.
“But it has to contract, otherwise you wouldn’t have room for subsequent immune responses.”
Antibody levels ramp up in the “primary response” phase after vaccination or infection, “when your immune system is charged up and ready to attack,” said Steven Kerfoot, an associate professor of immunology at Western University in London, Ont.
Memory of pathogen remains
They then decrease from that “emergency phase,” he said. But the memory of the pathogen and the body’s ability to respond to it remain.
Kerfoot said B-cells, which make the antibodies, and T-cells, which limit the virus’s ability to cause serious damage, continue to work together to stave off severe disease long after a vaccine is administered. While T-cells can’t recognize the virus directly, they determine which cells are infected and kill them off quickly.
Recent studies have suggested the T-cell response is still robust several months following a COVID-19 vaccination.
“You might get a minor infection … [but] all of those cells are still there, which is why we’re still seeing very stable effectiveness when it comes to preventing severe disease,” Kerfoot said.
A pre-print study released this week by Public Health England suggested that protection against hospitalization and death remains much higher than protection against infection, even among older adults.
So the concept of waning immunity depends on whether you’re measuring protection against infection or against severe disease, Kerfoot said.
Ontario reported 43 hospitalized breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated on Friday, compared with 256 unvaccinated hospitalized infections. There were 795 total new cases in the province that day, 582 among those who weren’t fully vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.
British Columbia, meanwhile, saw 53 fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients hospitalized over the last two weeks, compared with 318 unvaccinated patients.
“You’ll hear people say that vaccines aren’t designed to protect infection, they’re designed to prevent severe disease,” Kerfoot said. “I wouldn’t say necessarily it’s the vaccine that’s designed to do one or another … that’s just how the immune system works.”
Moderna, Pfizer back need for booster
Moderna released real-world data this week suggesting its vaccine was 96 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization, even amid the more transmissible delta variant, and 87 per cent effective at preventing infection — down from 94 per cent efficacy seen in clinical trials last year.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said that dip “illustrates the impact of waning immunity and supports the need for a booster to maintain high levels of protection.”
Pfizer-BioNTech has argued the same with its own data, and an advisory panel to the U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration voted Friday to endorse third doses for those aged 65 and older or at high risk for severe disease.
However, the panel rejected boosters for the general population, saying the pharmaceutical company had provided little safety data on extra jabs.
The University of Toronto’s Gommerman said the efficacy data presented by Moderna doesn’t signal the need for a third dose.
“The fact it protects 87 per cent against infection, that’s incredible,” she said. “Most vaccines can’t achieve that.”
Bancel said Moderna’s research, which has yet to be peer reviewed, suggested a booster dose could also extend the duration of the immune response by re-upping neutralizing antibody levels.
Looking beyond the antibody response
But Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious physician in Mississauga, Ont., said looking solely at the antibody response is misleading and could be falsely used as justification for an infinite number of boosters.
Israel, which has opened third doses for its citizens, recently talked about administering fourth doses in the near future.
“This idea of waning immunity is being exploited, and it’s really concerning to see,” Chakrabarti said. “There’s this idea that antibodies mean immunity, and that’s true … but the background level of immunity, the durable T-cell stuff, hasn’t been stressed enough.”
While some experts maintain that boosters for the general population are premature, they agree some individuals would benefit from a third jab.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended boosters for the immunocompromised, who don’t mount a robust immune response from a two-dose series.
Other experts have argued that residents of long-term care homes, who were prioritized when the rollout began last December, may also soon need a third dose. The English study suggests immunity could be waning in older groups but not much — if at all — among those under age 65.
Chakrabarti said a decrease in protection among older populations could be due more to “overlapping factors,” including their generally weaker immune systems and congregate-living situations for those in long-term care.
Immune cells live for years within bone marrow
“These are people at the highest risk of hospitalization,” he said. “Could [the length of time that’s passed following their doses] be playing a role? Yeah, maybe.”
While we still don’t know the duration of the immune response to COVID-19 vaccination, Gommerman said immune cells typically continue to live within bone marrow and make small amounts of antibodies for “decades.”
“And they can be quickly mobilized if they encounter a pathogen,” she said.
Coronavirus cases in Quebec rise by 821 with three new deaths and two more hospitalizations – CTV News Montreal
Quebec reported Saturday that 821 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, bringing the overall number of infections to 402,283.
Of the new infections, 609 people were unvaccinated when they received their positive result, 49 received one dose of vaccine more than two weeks prior, and 163 were double-vaxxed more than a week before the test.
Hospitalizations rose by two bringing the total number of people receiving care in the province’s hospitals to 264. The ministry reports that 36 people checked in for care, and 34 were discharged. Of the 36, 28 were unvaccinated, two received one vaccine dose more than 14 days prior and six got both jabs more than a week before entering the hospital.
There are 89 people in intensive care wards, which is six fewer than on Friday.
Three more people have died due to COVID-19, bringing that total to 11,321 since March 2020.
There are 508 active outbreaks in the province.
Quebec’s vaccination rate remains at 88 per cent for one dose of the eligible population and 82 per cent for both doses.
Spike in COVID-19 cases is pushing New Brunswick's health-care system to the limit – CTV News Atlantic
MONCTON, N.B. —
New Brunswick’s jump in COVID-19 cases has overloaded the health-care system this week.
The Horizon Health Network is now looking to hire more staff across the province to help with the growing demand for testing and vaccinations.
The health network has seen an increased demand in testing as COVID-19 cases have soared over the last month.
“Two weeks ago, if you wanted a test, you could walk in or call and get it at almost anytime you wanted,” said Dr. Jeff Steeves with New Brunswick’s Medical Society.
But now, assessment centres are seeing long line ups and delays in testing.
Steeves wants people to get the jab and practice caution during this time to prevent overloading the system even more.
“Remember, we were running short even before COVID, so we’re trying to maintain that,” Steeves said. “Therefore, we can’t divert the staff like we did before, hence the call for new staff.”
Horizon Health’s vice-president said in a statement Friday that they are currently looking to recruit staff at vaccination clinics, assessment centres and school clinics in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.
“Given the recent rise in COVID activity in New Brunswick, and the increased demand for these services, we are hoping to replenish our pool of available clinicians and administrative support staff as we ramp up activity at these locations,” said Jean Daigle.
Since the province announced proof of vaccination requirements this week, public health has reported a significant jump in vaccination appointments.
On Wednesday, 1,700 appointments were booked, while yesterday there were 1,929.
Health officials say prior to Wednesday’s number, the recent average for vaccinations was 600 bookings per day. On Thursday, 600 additional vaccines had to be delivered to a clinic in Moncton.
“Things have picked up dramatically,” said Fredericton pharmacist Alistair Bursary, who says they’ve been busy taking calls from people looking to get their first or second dose.
“So, whereas we were doing perhaps 10 patients a day on average now we are probably going to hit 40-50 just at our pharmacy alone,” Bursary said.
While the demand for services continue to climb, those working on the frontlines hope to get the help they need sooner rather than later.
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