Fully vaccinated people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot in a large trial were at a 95.6% lower risk of COVID-19 infection than fully vaccinated people who received a placebo, the companies said Thursday.
The news came on the same day a CDC advisory panel voted unanimously to allow booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and to permit the extra doses to be of a different brand than the original shots.
Put together, Thursday's developments figure to accelerate the nation's booster program, which the Biden administration has promoted. The Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots were authorized for certain populations in the U.S. last month.
In a trial of more than 10,000 people age 16 and older who were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech shots, the companies found only five cases of COVID-19 in the boosted group compared to 109 in the placebo group, for an efficacy of 95.6%. No safety concerns were reported.
“These results provide further evidence of the benefits of boosters as we aim to keep people well-protected against this disease,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
Also in the news:
►A federal judge in Oregon denied an exemption from the state's vaccine mandate to seven unvaccinated workers who said they don't need the shots because they've already had COVID-19, the Washington Post reported.
►A Southern California woman who refused to wear a mask or leave a grocery store last year was convicted of trespassing and obstructing a business or customers. Marianne Campbell Smith was sentenced her to 40 hours of community service, a year of informal probation and a $200 fine.
►Amid Russia's worst surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths since the pandemic began, restaurants, movie theaters and many retail stores in Moscow will be closed for 11 days starting Oct. 28, along with other new restrictions. President Vladimir Putin has encouraged but not mandated vaccines, which have been met with widespread skepticism.
►Georgia’s unemployment rate fell to an all-time low of 3.2% in September, the 17th month in a row that the state’s jobless rate has dropped. Georgia reached an all-time high jobless rate of 12.5% at the start of the pandemic in April 2020.
►Nebraska hospitals can resume lower-priority surgeries starting Friday after Gov. Pete Ricketts announced he’s ending the restrictions that have kept facilities from being overwhelmed with patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 45.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 732,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 242.3 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 189.9 million Americans – 57.5% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we're reading: The FDA granted authorization for booster shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, and a CDC panel will consider whether to approve them. Here's who can get a booster shot now. And here are answers to other questions about boosters, including information on mixing and matching.
CDC panel gives unanimous OK to Moderna, J&J booster shots and to mixing and matching
A federal committee voted Thursday to allow booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and also to permit mixing and matching of the extra doses from different manufacturers than the ones provided in the initial inoculations.
The vote by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was unanimous, and it could open the door for the boosters to be available by the weekend.
Once CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signs off on the recommendation, which is expected to happen quickly, Moderna and J&J boosters can be offered in the U.S. On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized both for certain populations.
Boosters for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were OK’d in September for people 65 and older and those in high-risk conditions. The Moderna booster shots are authorized under the same terms, including having to wait until six months after the second dose, but J&J vaccine recipients can get any booster two months after being vaccinated.
A National Institutes of Health study found that a shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine after J&J provides higher levels of protection from COVID-19 than two shots of J&J.
Letting Americans choose among the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as a COVID-19 booster shot would increase protection against a disease that is killing an average of 1,093 Americans a day, the committee said.
— Elizabeth Weise
UK goes over 50,000 new cases in a day for the first time in three months
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraged eligible citizens to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine as the U.K. surpassed 50,000 new infections in a day for the first time since July 17.
The 52,009 new cases recorded Thursday raised the U.K.'s weekly average to 46,791, the continuation of a troubling spike after they had dropped well below 10,000 in June.
Johnson has been getting pressure to reinstate restrictions and require the use of face masks, but so far has resisted while saying new infections and deaths are close to what was expected when social distancing rules were relaxed. He also pointed to the effectiveness of vaccines and urged adolescents ages 12-15 to get the jab.
The UK, which has administered about 4.7 million booster shots, is in "incomparably better position than last year because of vaccines," Johnson said.
DeSantis promises special legislative session to ban vaccine mandates
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday said he will convene a special legislative session next month to pass bills to combat vaccine mandates enacted by businesses. The Republican outlined policy goals for the special session, including holding businesses liable for adverse reactions to vaccines, removing legal liability protections for employers with vaccine mandates and added protections for people fired for not being vaccinated.
Other states are considering anti-mandate bills. GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week issued an executive order to prohibit any entity from requiring vaccines.
“You shouldn’t be discriminated against based on your health decisions,” DeSantis said during a news conference. “We want to provide protection for people, we want to make it clear that, in Florida, your right to earn a living is not contingent upon whatever choices you’re making in terms of these injections.”
Flu season, COVID could mean difficult winter for kids
Flu season is coming up, and no one is counting on a repeat of last winter’s reprieve from that annual scourge. Jennifer Erdahl, nurse manager of the pediatric ICU at the University of Iowa's Stead Family Children’s Hospital, said her staff is bracing for the current surge of young patients to continue deep into the winter. Many Americans hoped stories of packed hospitals would fade as the pandemic waned in early summer. The introduction of vaccines for adults was followed by plummeting case rates and soaring optimism. The late summer COVID surge deflated such hopes.
"It feels daunting and a little overwhelming that we're two months into it and we're still very busy," Erdahl said. "And we think we have months more to go."
– Tony Leys and Jessica Koscielniak
Miami-Dade schools could ease mask rules soon
The mask mandate for students in Florida's Miami-Dade County could add an opt-out within days because of falling infection and hospitalization rates, school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says. The number of students needing to quarantine in the district's schools has dropped significantly since classes started in August, he said.
The district will continue to rely on "science and data" in the community and schools to guide decision-making, he said. Miami-Dade County Public Schools includes more than 500 schools and almost 350,000 students.
"In light of these favorable data trends both in our schools and community, @MDCPS will continue to review protocols on a weekly basis to identify opportunities for further relaxation, including adjustments to mask protocols," Carvalho tweeted.
Report: 98% of deaths since June in Washington, D.C., were Black people
Forty-nine of the 50 people who died of COVID-19 in Washington, D.C., since June were Black residents, and 42 of them were not vaccinated, according to an analysis of data by DCCovid.com. City Health Department data shows that 63,305 people in D.C. had been infected with COVID-19 as of Tuesday. Of those, 33,119 – just over half – were Black. The local website DCist reports that of the 1,184 Washingtonians who have died during the pandemic, 911 of them were Black residents, or 77%.
Black people make up about 40% of the city's population of almost 700,000.
“People are uncertain and afraid,” D.C. resident Elvera Patrick told DCist earlier this year. “It’s been so many stories and myths about the vaccination that many don’t know what’s the truth.”
US has donated 200 million vaccine doses to other countries
The U.S. has donated 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines globally as of Thursday morning, the White House announced.
The United States Agency for International Development and COVAX, a world initiative to deliver vaccines globally, plans to deliver more than 1 billion U.S.-made vaccine doses to low-income countries in the next year, USAID Administrator Samantha Power said.
"Today, Americans have 200 million reasons to be proud," Power said in a White House statement. "USAID is honored to be at the forefront of this global vaccination effort unprecedented in scale, speed, and complexity, to counter the worst pandemic in modern history."
Surgeon general and Hinge team up for pandemic dating advice
Mask up or make out? Dating is tricky during the pandemic, but according to a new video by Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and the dating app Hinge, it's possible to make connections and still avoid COVID-19.
"Dating during the COVID-19 pandemic: It's not simple, but it's definitely possible," Murthy says in a video released Tuesday by Hinge. “Recognize that getting vaccinated is the single most important thing we can do to reduce our risk."
Murthy recommends following a risk-assessment checklist to decide whether to go for a kiss: Consider whether the person is fully vaccinated, has interacted with anyone who isn't and has taken precautions such as wearing a mask.
– Keira Wingate, USA TODAY
Unions warn pilots to stay focused on flying, not vaccine mandates
Pilots at American and Southwest airlines are being warned to keep vaccine mandate issues out of the cockpit because of potential flight safety concerns.
The Allied Pilots Association, which represents American's 14,000 pilots, sent a memo to members Tuesday about an increase in distractions because of looming deadlines to get vaccinated and sharply divided views on the topic. The subject line: "Distractions cannot affect safety.''
"We are seeing distractions in the flight deck that can create dangerous situations,'' the memo from the union's safety committee said.
The number of pilots self-reporting vaccine mandate talk or concerns to the Federal Aviation Administration as a distraction on the job has spiked, union spokesman Dennis Tajer said.
– Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Study finds 3rd Pfizer shot boosts protection: COVID updates