Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca PLC and the University of Oxford are conducting early-stage research into whether potential modifications of their coronavirus vaccines could reduce or eliminate the risk of rare but serious blood clots, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Journal, citing sources it described as close to the process, said outside scientists also are joining the effort and that emerging clues into how the clots form are boosting hopes of identifying the cause. AstraZeneca hopes to update its shot by next year, the Journal said.
It is too early to know whether the J&J shot or the AstraZeneca shot can be modified, or whether doing so would make commercial sense, the Journal wrote. AstraZeneca has said it is “actively working with the regulators and scientific community” to learn more about the rare blood-clotting events, including information on early diagnosis, and treatment.
Apart from the scientific hurdles, modifications might require changes to ownership rights or regulatory approvals. Still, the unprecedented scale and urgency of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout could fast-track the scientific research and legal issues, the Journal says, just as it accelerated the development of the vaccines.
Use of the J&J vaccine, hailed for its single-shot convenience, was paused for 10 days in April while federal health agencies investigated reports of several women developing severe blood clots within two weeks of receiving the jab. The agencies later determined the vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks. Almost 13 million J&J shots have been administered.
Also in the news:
►A state board on Tuesday certified a petition drive to repeal a Michigan law that was used by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to set major pandemic restrictions. The decision, ordered by a court, means the Republican-controlled Legislature can kill the law without Whitmer, a Democrat, intervening.
►The Mississippi State Department of Health is now blocking comments on its Facebook coronavirus posts citing a “rise of misinformation” about the virus and vaccinations, department spokesperson Liz Sharlot said. Only about 31% of Mississippians have been fully vaccinated.
►The final drawing for Washington state’s vaccine lottery, a $1 million prize, will take place Tuesday. The winner will be contacted Wednesday and will have 72 hours to respond. The previous four drawings, held throughout June, were for cash prizes of $250,000.
►The Tennessee state government has fired its top vaccination official. Dr. Michelle Fiscus angered some Republicans when she sent medical providers information explaining the state’s legal mechanism for vaccinating minors above the age of 14 without parental consent.
►Malaysia shut down a mass vaccination center Tuesday after more than 200 medical staff and volunteers tested positive for the coronavirus.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 33.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 607,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 187.4 million cases and more than 4 million deaths. Nearly 160 million Americans – 48% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: As many adolescents and young adults prepare to return to the classroom in the fall term amid the spread of the delta variant, the lagging vaccination rates among Generation Z are raising concerns among experts.
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As delta variant surges, Chicago adds Missouri, Arkansas travel advisories
After several weeks with no states on its travel advisory list, Chicago is now advising any unvaccinated people traveling from Missouri or Arkansas to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 72 hours prior to arrival or quarantine for a 10-day period upon arrival.
Last month, for the first time since July 2020, there were no states on Chicago’s travel advisory list. But Chicago added Missouri and Arkansas to the list Tuesday as the two states are once again reporting more than 15 cases per day, per 100,000 residents. Illinois, meanwhile is reporting 2.6 cases per day, per 100,000 residents.
“We continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID, and adherence to all masking guidelines for travel,’ the Chicago Department of Public Health wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “While Chicago’s case rate remains low, areas with lower vaccination rates are seeing surges.”
– Grace Hauck
Some Boston College students and their parents are angered by the Catholic school’s refusal to grant religious exemptions to people who don’t want to get a mandated coronavirus vaccine because of a purported link to aborted fetal tissue. Pope Francis, however, said in January that Catholics have a moral obligation to take the vaccine.
“A religious exemption may be granted if vaccination goes against the fundamental tenets of a faith,” school spokesperson Ed Hayward said in a statement. “Given that Pope Francis, (Boston) Cardinal Sean (O’Malley), and millions of Catholics worldwide have been vaccinated, it is difficult for Catholics to make an argument against a COVID-19 vaccination.”
An surge of infections have swept through numerous summer camps in Texas, Illinois, Florida, Missouri and Kansas, in some locations spreading to the broader community. The clusters have come as the number of newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. has reversed course, surging more than 60% over the past two weeks from an average of about 12,000 a day to around 19,500, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The West Central Christian Service Camp in Pettis County, Missouri, had an outbreak. Local health center administrator JoAnn Martin said it has been a struggle to convince people to get vaccinated.
“It has been a challenge since the first case,” she said. “You have people who still say it is not real. You have people who say it is a cold. You have people who say what is the big deal. You have people who say it is all a government plot.”
Nearly 1 million people in France made vaccine appointments in a single day amid pressure to salvage summer vacations and rescue the French economy. An app that centralizes France’s vaccine appointments, Doctolib, announced Tuesday that 926,000 people had made appointments Monday, a daily record since the country rolled out coronavirus vaccines in December. People younger than 35 made up 65% of the new appointments.
Infections are on the rise in France, driving talk that President Emmanuel Macron might announce vaccination requirements – and driving new demand for appointments. About 41 % of the French population has been fully vaccinated.
The Food and Drug Administration is warning about a possible link between that Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the autoimmune disorder known as Guillain-Barré syndrome. In a statement, the agency said the data “suggests an association” between the vaccine and a higher risk of the condition, but not enough “to establish a causal relationship.” About 12.8 million doses of the J&J shot have been administered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website that people who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome can be vaccinated against COVID-19 and that no cases of the disorder were reported in clinical trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. One case was reported in J&J trials, the CDC said.
Iraqi health officials: 92 dead in fire at coronavirus ward
The death toll from a catastrophic blaze that erupted at a coronavirus hospital ward in southern Iraq the previous day rose to 92 on Tuesday, Iraqi medical officials said. Two health officials said more than 100 people were also injured in the fire that torched the coronavirus ward of al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in the city of Nasiriyah on Monday.
Anguished relatives were still looking for traces of their loved ones on Tuesday morning, searching through the debris of charred blankets and belongings inside the torched remains of the ward. A blackened skull of a deceased female patient from the ward was found. Many cried openly, their tears tinged with anger, blaming both the provincial government of Dhi Qar, where Nasiriyah is located, and the federal government in Baghdad for years of mismanagement and neglect.
“The whole state system has collapsed, and who paid the price? The people inside here. These people have paid the price,” said Haidar al-Askari, who was at the scene of the blaze.
Overnight, firefighters and rescuers – many with just flashlights and using blankets to extinguish small fires still smoldering in places – had frantically worked searching through the ward in the darkness. As dawn broke, bodies covered with sheets were laid on the ground outside the hospital.
Earlier, officials had said the fire was caused by an electric short circuit but provided no more details. Another official said the blaze erupted when an oxygen cylinder exploded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
– Associated Press
Over the past seven days in the U.S., new COVID-19 cases increased by 97.4% from the previous week with 47 states now reporting an increase in infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data. But the major increase is likely from states that didn’t report over the July 4 holiday and were closed Monday, likely artificially inflating the number of new infections.
The U.S. is again reporting cases at a pace of nearly 1,000 every hour. That’s more than double the pace the country saw just a couple weeks ago, before case counts began rising again.
More than 99% of deaths are now among people who have not been vaccinated, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
“If (patients) are sick enough to be admitted to the hospital, they are unvaccinated. That is the absolute common denominator amongst those patients,” Dr. Howard Jarvis, an emergency medicine physician in Springfield, Missouri, told CNN on Monday. “I can see the regret on their face. You know, we ask them, because we want to know, are you vaccinated? And it’s very clear that a lot of them regret (not being vaccinated).”
– Mike Stucka
New California state rules prohibit K-12 students from attending in-person classes without a mask, according to the new state regulations released on Monday.
The rules go against the CDC’s recommendations that allow vaccinated students to attend classes without masks. California added stricter rules in addition to federal recommendations.
State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond told the Los Angeles Times that part of the reason is that those 12 and under are still not eligible to be vaccinated. Masks are a helpful addition when physical distancing may be difficult with full attendance.
“That makes it more tenable that everyone can come back, and everyone can be safe,” Thurmond said. “So I see this as a commonsense measure of promoting safety but giving everyone the ability to get back.”
The California Department of Public Health tweeted Monday that school guidance will be clarified regarding mask enforcement and safety.
Contributing: The Associated Press.