A COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca appears to provide strong protection three months after just one dose while also curbing spread of infections, researchers said Wednesday.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the study supports a strategy of delaying the second shot so more first doses can be delivered to more people. Researchers also found a 67% reduction in positive “swabs” among those vaccinated – crucial news because if no virus is present, the virus can’t spread.
AstraZeneca has not yet applied for emergency use authorization for its vaccine in the U.S. Just two vaccines, by Pfizer-BioNTech and by Moderna, have been authorized in the U.S., and both require a second dose.
Dr. Anthony Fauci lauded the British researchers for responding to their data but said the U.S. will continue to recommend that Pfizer booster shots be given about 21 days after the initial shot, Moderna boosters about 28 days after.
“We also are going very much by the data and science that has emanated out of very large clinical trials,” Fauci said. “We feel strongly that we will go by the science, which dictated for us the optimal way for us to get the 94-to-95 percent response.”
COVID-19 has killed more than 450,000 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.
In the headlines:
►San Francisco has taken a dramatic step in its effort to get kids back in public schools, suing its own school district to try to force classrooms to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in California and possibly the country, as school systems come under increasing pressure from parents and politicians to end online learning.
►A judge has ordered all inmates in the Oregon prison system to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations – a move that should make prisoners immediately eligible for inoculation.
►Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will slightly relax indoor restrictions across the state by increasing capacity limits from the current 25% up to 35% and allowing restaurants to stay open past 10 p.m., he announced Wednesday. The executive order will go into effect 8 a.m. Friday.
►Pope Francis received his second vaccine dose on Wednesday. The pope, 84, had the first jab on Jan. 13.
►Dr. David Chokshi, New York City’s Health Commissioner, said he has tested positive and is experiencing mild, “manageable” symptoms. “This is a reminder – if we ever needed one – that COVID is still with us and we all must continue to wear masks, wash our hands, socially distance and stay home if feeling ill.”
►Japan enacted legislation allowing officials to fine violators of coronavirus orders. The country is struggling to slow the latest surge of infections amid growing uncertainty about the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine, considered key to holding the Olympics this summer.
►How many people in your state and across the U.S. have received the COVID-19 vaccine so far? Check the USA TODAY vaccine tracker.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 26.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 450,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 104.3 million cases and 2.2 million deaths. Nearly 56 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 34 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Raymond James Stadium not only is site of Super Bowl 55, but also a symbol of the pandemic.
Two Florida officers will be suspended for 30 days each in connection with a city investigation into use of the Eventbrite vaccine registration system, government officials announced Wednesday.
Marco Island Police Chief Tracy L. Frazzano and Fire-Rescue Chief Christopher Byrne are accused of providing the link to make an online appointment to a family member before the city published the link Jan. 20. An investigation concluded that Frazzano had given the access to her husband, William Frazzano, 65, something that Byrne did not report.
Florida’s vaccination system got off to a rocky start in December, as the governor allowed people 65 and older to jump ahead of essential workers, even as many health care employees in Florida wait for their shot. Florida residents ages 65 and up are continuing to have difficulty securing an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine because the demand for the vaccine is far outstripping supply.
– Omar Rodríguez Ortiz, Marco Eagle
Yankee Stadium will open as a COVID-19 mass vaccination site starting Friday to serve residents of the Bronx in an effort to bolster equity in New York’s vaccine distribution, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a joint statement Wednesday.
15,000 appointments will be available at the site during its first week, which will coincide with outreach efforts to Bronx residents about vaccine safety and scheduling appointments.
The Bronx has the highest number of hospitalizations and deaths per 100,000 people of the five boroughs, according to the city’s data, and its population is predominately Black and Latino.
– Ryan W. Miller
New infections and hospital admissions continue to decrease and the U.S. now appears to be in a consistent downward trajectory for both, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday. But she warned that the proliferation of variants could reverse those trends. Walensky also acknowledged that daily deaths continue to edge higher.
“While deaths have continued to increase, the pace appears to be slowing,” she said. “The recent decline in hospitalizations gives us hope that the number of deaths should start to decrease in coming weeks.”
For the first time since Nov. 13, the United States has reported fewer than 1 million new coronavirus cases over a seven-day period. The weekly total peaked at more than 1.7 million a few weeks ago. Johns Hopkins University data shows 989,974 new cases in the seven-day period ending Tuesday. Still, at that pace, 98 Americans were reported positive every minute.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning America to “just lay low” rather than gathering for Super Bowl parties on Sunday.
President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said during TV interviews Wednesday that now isn’t the time to host watch parties because of the possibility that guests could be infected with the coronavirus and could sicken others. The NFL has capped attendance for the game in Tampa at 22,000, citing the pandemic and citywide coronavirus mandates. Fauci says the best thing people can do is watch the game on TV at home with the people in your household.
“You don’t want parties with people that you haven’t had much contact with,” he told NBC’s “Today” show. “You just don’t know if they’re infected, so as difficult as that is, at least this time around, just lay low and cool it.”
As more Americans anxiously wait their turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine, people are discovering that smokers are one of the priority groups for vaccination. The revelation has drawn frustrations on social media, but a study published last week in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who smoke or who have smoked in the past are more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
“I could see why people would feel as if that would be unfair,” said Dr. Samuel Kim, a thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. “But people who are smokers are in general at higher risk for getting sicker when they develop COVID-19.” Read more here.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
After protesters disrupted drive-in COVID-19 vaccinations at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles last week, local police said Tuesday that any further protests would prompt “immediate and swift” arrests.
“It’s my expectation and direction that … individuals will be arrested, they’ll be cited, and their actions will be caused to be ceased,” said Police Chief Michel Moore during a virtual meeting of the Police Commission, according to the Los Angeles Times. “This going forward is a means of ensuring that the lines will stay open, that the vaccine sites will be unhindered.”
The stadium, one of the largest vaccination sites in the country, was temporarily shut down Saturday because dozen of protesters blocked the entrance. However, no vaccination appointments were canceled and the site was not shut down permanently, according to Moore.
Contributing: The Associated Press