Vaccine panel recommends J&J boosters after data says vaccine's effectiveness has 'headroom to improve': Live COVID-19 updates

Vaccine panel recommends J&J boosters after data says vaccine's effectiveness has 'headroom to improve': Live COVID-19 updates

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine should be considered a two-dose vaccine rather than the one-and-done shot that had received initial authorization, a federal panel decided Friday.

The committee felt all 15 million Americans who got a single dose of the "one and done" J&J vaccine would be substantially better protected with a second one.

The unanimous decision from the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee came after real-world data showed J&J's one-shot vaccine is not as effective as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in real-world studies

"Because the magnitude is lower than I think what would be desired – the estimates that have been seen with the mRNA vaccines – there is headroom to improve the efficacy," said Dr. Penny Heaton, head of the vaccines global therapeutic area for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson company that developed the vaccine.

Adding a second dose 2- to 6-months after the initial J&J shot would provide the same effectiveness as the mRNA vaccines without their fading protection, Heaton told the committee Friday.

The committee did not vote on mixing and matching booster doses of vaccine. Instead, the committee decided more data was needed from an ongoing study on the topic before it could make any suggestions on whether to allow people to get a booster shot different from their original vaccine.

The same panel voted Thursday to support booster shots of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and older, as well as younger adults with certain medical conditions or jobs that put them at increased risk for infection.

The committee decisions on both the Moderna and J&J supplementary shots still need to be verified by a different advisory panel as well as top federal officials. The CDC advisory panel is expected to meet Oct. 20 and 21 to discuss extra doses for Moderna and J&J recipients.

– Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub

Also in the news:

►The U.S. will allow vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the country starting Nov. 8 under a new international travel system. Foreign national air travelers will need to be vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination to fly to the U.S. and ahead of boarding will need to show a pre-departure negative test within three days of travel.

►Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday that she took her fight with the head of the city’s police officers union to court, arguing that his call for officers to ignore the order to report their COVID-19 vaccination status was illegal.

►A federal appeals court has denied an emergency request to stop a COVID-19 vaccine mandate from going into effect in Maine.

►Pennsylvania on Friday became the seventh state to report 1.5 million coronavirus cases. The states with the most cases include California, with about 4.8 million; Texas, with almost 4.2 million; and Florida, with more than 3.6 million.

►British health officials said Friday an estimated 43,000 people in England may have received false-negative COVID-19 test results due to problems at a private laboratory.

►Italy's strict vaccine requirements for all workers went into effect Friday. The rule requires all workers to show a health pass to get into their place of employment. Police were out in force as protests against the rule were expected and could turn violent.

►More than 100 workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the nuclear lab where the atomic bomb was created, are suing over a vaccine mandate that gives them until Friday to be vaccinated or fired.

►Anyone age 12 and older will have to provide either proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test to attend large events in Washington state starting Nov. 15.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 44.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 722,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 239.9 million cases and 4.8 million deaths. More than 188.6 million Americans — 56.8% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we're reading: The Great Resignation led to 4.3 million Americans quitting in August. This trend is here to stay.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY's Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Minnesota calls in National Guard to help at hospitals

Gov. Tim Walz said Friday he’ll use the Minnesota National Guard to help alleviate staffing shortages at hospitals and care facilities that are struggling to cope with the surge in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated Minnesotans.

The governor announced plans at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale for alleviating bottlenecks caused by overstretched staffs that prevent hospitals from moving recovering patients to transitional and long-term care facilities.

More than 400 Minnesota hospital patients are currently waiting for beds to open up at other care centers and taking up space needed for incoming patients, he said.

Walz said the number of National Guard soldiers who will be deployed to help out and their exact roles have yet to be determined.

– The Associated Press

COVID-19 vaccine lotteries didn’t work, new study says

The announcement of large cash lotteries for people who received their COVID-19 vaccine did not lead to an uptick in vaccinations, according to a study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To boost vaccine uptake, 19 states announced large cash lotteries by July 1, according to the authors, who are economists at several U.S. universities. The authors found “no statistically significant association” between the announcements and the number of vaccinations before or after the announcement date.

“Lottery-style drawings may be less effective than incentives that pay with certainty,” the authors wrote. “Another possibility is that drawings were not an informative vaccine promotional strategy and that more complete messaging on vaccination would have been far more effective.”

A study in July reached a similar conclusion. That report by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found Ohio’s lottery did not increase vaccination rates when compared with other states without lottery-based incentive systems. However, several independent analyses later found Ohio's Vax-a-Million giveaway contributed to more people getting vaccinated in the state.

– Grace Hauck

CDC data shows how much better the vaccinated are faring

Newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows how vaccinated people across age groups and with all three vaccine brands used in the United States fared much better with COVID-19 infections and deaths than the unvaccinated.

In August, unvaccinated people were 11.3 times more likely to die of COVID-19 and 6.1 times more likely to test positive, the real-world data show.

On the worst reported week of deaths around Aug. 8, for example, unvaccinated people died at a rate of 13.23 per 100,000, compared to Johnson & Johnson recipients at 3.14, Pfizer at 1.43 and Moderna at 0.73.

The vaccines also dramatically change COVID-19 outcomes for the elderly compared to the unvaccinated. Fully vaccinated people aged 80 or older were somewhat less likely to die of the disease than unvaccinated people in their 50s or early 60s. Vaccinated people of every age group were far less likely to test positive than any age group of unvaccinated people.

The CDC says the data come from 16 governments representing about 30 percent of the population, from Florida to Wisconsin to Utah, as well as New York City.

– Mike Stucka

FDA to convene independent panel on Merck's COVID pill

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it would convene a panel of outside experts next month to review the safety and efficacy data of Merck's pill to treat COVID-19. While those panels have been standard for review of vaccine data, the FDA has not yet convened a similar panel for COVID-19 treatments.

"We believe that, in this instance, a public discussion of these data with the agency’s advisory committee will help ensure clear understanding of the scientific data and information that the FDA is evaluating," said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of FDA’s drug center.

The group will meet Nov. 30, meaning Merck's pill likely won't receive authorization until December at the earliest.

Earlier this month, Merck said its trial data shows the experimental drug prevented half of severe coronavirus infections that would otherwise have sent people to the hospital.

Florida governor vows to challenge Biden's COVID vaccine mandate

Florida will challenge the Biden administration's vaccine mandate in federal court, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday, vowing that the pending requirement on businesses and hospitals "will go down."

President Joe Biden's mandate has yet to be released but is expected this month. It would apply to hospitals that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients and employers with 100 or more employees.

Some Florida hospitals already have COVID-19 vaccine requirements in anticipation of the coming federal rule.

"We are going to contest that immediately," DeSantis said Thursday at a Florida Department of Health office, where he was linking his promotion of monoclonal antibody treatments to the recent drop of COVID hospitalizations statewide. "And I think that the mandate is going to lose in court. I also think that we have a responsibility at the state level to do whatever we need to do to protect Floridians from mandates that could result in them losing their jobs."

DeSantis, who has been steadfast in his opposition to vaccine requirements, also cited unverified figures from the monoclonal treatment centers suggesting that large percentages of people seeking those treatments have already been vaccinated. The USA TODAY Network — Florida filed a public records request more than a week ago seeking those figures. The Florida Department of Health has not produced them.

– Frank Gluck, Fort Myers News-Press

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Johnson & Johnson COVID boosters: FDA panel supports second shot