The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that the U.S. decide each June which SARS-CoV-2 strains should be included in an annual fall booster shot.
Doing so would allow updated COVID-19 vaccines to be ready for distribution “no later than September” each year, according to documents published by the regulator.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is set to meet Thursday to discuss the proposal, as well as other issues, including whether the same strain should be included in the primary series of shots and in booster doses.
The news comes as the seven-day average of new U.S. COVID cases stood at 46,418 on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 29% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 22% to 37,089. The average for deaths was 487, up 4% from two weeks ago.
Cases are now rising in just five states: Alaska, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri. On a per capita basis, Tennessee leads with 41 new cases per 100,000 residents, followed by Rhode Island at 27.
New York and New Jersey, which were recent hot spots, are showing signs of recovery, with cases down about 30% in both states, the trackers noted.
Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• The next variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID could come from China if a current wave of infections allows more people to acquire immunity. That could force the virus to find new ways to evade immune protections, according to the journal Nature. It is crucial that variants continue to be tracked, but scientists question how quickly the next variant of concern will be detected as many countries wind down surveillance efforts. That has been a repeated complaint from the World Health Organization in its weekly epidemiological updates, which caution that data are being distorted as countries pull back on surveillance and testing.
• A Mississippi doctor who leads a group of physicians opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates has filed paperwork to challenge Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves in the state’s Republican primary, the Associated Press reported. John Witcher is the only Republican other than Reeves who has entered the gubernatorial primary so far. He’s best known for founding Mississippi Against Mandates, the group opposed to requiring COVID vaccines. Witcher has said he was fired from a Mississippi hospital in 2021 after switching patients’ COVID-19 medication to ivermectin, an antiparasite drug that is not authorized by the FDA for use against the novel coronavirus and which research shows is not effective.
• Johnson & Johnson’s
fourth-quarter profit fell 25.7% to $3.52 billion, or $1.33 a share, from $4.74 billion, or $1.77 a share, in the same period last year. The company’s adjusted net income in the latest quarter totaled $2.35 a share, ahead of the Wall Street analyst estimate of $2.23 a share, according to FactSet data. The drug company’s revenue fell 4.4% to $23.71 billion, slightly short of the Wall Street revenue target of $23.896 billion. The company said the decline was due to reduced COVID vaccine sales.
Here’s what the numbers say:
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 669.1 million on Monday, while the death toll rose above 6.74 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 102 million cases and 1,104,390 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 229.5 million people living in the U.S., equal to 69.1% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.
So far, just 50.7 million Americans, equal to 15.3% of the overall population, have had the updated COVID booster that targets both the original virus and the omicron variants.