Each week, we offer you a roundup of our noteworthy coronavirus coverage.
More than 42.6 million people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Friday morning, Sept. 24, according to Johns Hopkins University. That includes more than 684,000 people who have died nationwide.
Globally, there have been more than 230.6 million confirmed cases of the highly infectious virus, with more than 4.7 million reported deaths.
More than 182.3 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Sept. 22 — about 55% of the total population, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker shows. About 66% of adults and 64% of people aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated in the U.S.
Here’s what happened between Sept. 17 and Sept. 23.
FDA panel votes in favor of Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for some
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted in favor of a booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for vaccinated people aged 65 and older and anyone at increased risk for severe COVID-19.
The booster shot would be the same Pfizer vaccine people received for their first two doses and would be given at least six months after receipt of their initial shots. It’s unclear exactly which medical conditions or occupations would be included in the group at high risk for severe COVID-19, but some panel members mentioned health care workers and people with obesity in an earlier discussion.
The recommendation for booster shot emergency use authorization came shortly after the committee voted against Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for all vaccinated people aged 16 and older, citing safety concerns due to a lack of data, particularly for younger people.
Continue reading to learn more.
Can you get Pfizer booster shot if you got Moderna or J&J COVID vaccine?
On Thursday, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group also voted in support of Pfizer booster shots for certain people following a two-day virtual meeting. The recommendation was then approved by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who also overruled part of the group’s recommendation and expanded who is eligible for the boosters.
To qualify, you must have initially received the Pfizer vaccine — leaving those who received the two-dose Moderna and one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines wondering when they can get an additional shot, too.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Booster of Johnson & Johnson vaccine offers 94% protection against COVID-19
A booster of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine two months after receipt of the first shot offers 94% protection against moderate to severe COVID-19 in the U.S., the company announced.
The booster also offers 100% protection against severe/critical COVID-19 at least two weeks after receiving the second dose, according to results from an ongoing clinical trial.
Put another way, antibody levels rose four to six times higher following a booster shot given two months after the first dose of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine. And when given six months after the first dose, the booster led to a 12-fold increase in antibody levels after about a month.
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine appears safe, effective in kids ages 5-11
The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine appears to be safe and effective in children between 5 and 11 years old, according to the companies, with a dose that’s a third of the amount given to teens and adults.
The two shots given 21 days apart also brought on side effects that were “generally comparable” to those experienced by 16- to 25-year-olds, Pfizer officials said in a statement. The companies plan on submitting their data to the FDA and other regulatory agencies before the winter.
But many questions remain given the lack of specific data on safety and efficacy.
Are your face masks still effective as COVID-19 lingers? It depends
Although being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 dramatically reduces your chances of becoming hospitalized and dying from the disease, the shots don’t entirely eliminate risks of infection.
That’s why health experts have continued to urge people to practice other preventive measures — including wearing masks to benefit from an additional layer of protection during the pandemic.
But more than a year and a half later, what more have scientists learned about masks’ ability to curb coronavirus spread? And are the mask types health officials first recommended still effective as more dangerous variants emerge?
Maps shows if your employer can mandate COVID-19 vaccines, masks
Private employers are increasingly considering whether to require proof of vaccination amid lingering COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and the rapidly spreading delta variant.
But individual state regulations, some of which prohibit employers from doing just that, have added a layer of confusion. Combined with President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirement affecting millions of American workers, some companies are at a loss.
National labor and employment firm Fisher Phillips LLP released two maps that track state laws in real-time. The maps were designed as a tool for private companies — particularly those that employ workers in multiple states.
Labs can charge thousands for COVID-19 tests
Some U.S. labs are charging thousands of dollars for COVID-19 tests ― but are they allowed? Technically yes, according to a new study that looks at average testing costs in each state.
Health insurers that haven’t negotiated testing prices with labs are obligated under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to pay whatever rate those providers choose, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Insurers can then pass down some of the cost to consumers, researchers said. And for the uninsured, the risk is even higher.
COVID-19 outbreak in Texas prison reveals delta variant’s wrath. Did vaccines help?
The delta coronavirus variant revealed its full potential in a Texas federal prison during a monthlong outbreak that infected 172 of 233 (74%) incarcerated people in just two neighboring housing units, an investigation found.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons and the CDC learned the variant’s “attack rate” was higher among unvaccinated prisoners, infecting 39 of 42 people (93%), compared to vaccinated prisoners, infecting 129 of 185 (70%), during the July outbreak.
Read on to learn what else the study found.