A federal advisory committee will decide Friday whether third shots of COVID-19 vaccines are safe and protective against infections.
At root is whether the extra shots are "luxuries" or an essential part of providing complete protection against the virus, presidential adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week.
He and other federal officials, including President Joe Biden, believe it is time to begin offering third shots to compensate for what appears to be fading protection. The government has agreements to purchase the doses and provide them at no cost to consumers.
Others, particularly the director general of the World Health Organization, argue that Americans would benefit far more by getting initial shots to the unvaccinated around the world.
The Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will consider information from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in deciding whether to allow the companies to provide third vaccine doses to people 16 and older.
-Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Also in the news:
►Two dozen Republican attorneys general threatened legal action on Thursday over President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates set to affect about 100 million U.S. workers. The White House announced mandatory vaccines for employers with more than 100 employees, along with all federal workers.
►Italy Premier Mario Draghi's government passed a decree mandating that private- and public-sector workers show a health pass in order to access workplaces. The pass is issued to those who have been vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or a recent negative test.
►St. Peter’s Health hospital in Montana implemented crisis standards of care, officials said Thursday, under which health care workers may have to choose how to allocate scarce crisis resources. Hospital officials said the situation is worse than at earlier points in the pandemic, and that the ICU and morgue are full.
►Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro might be barred from attending the U.N.'s General Assembly next week because he has not received a COVID vaccine. Attendees will be required to be vaccinated, but Bolsonaro has said he plans to travel to New York for the assembly.
📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 41.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 669,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 226.9 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. More than 180 million Americans — 54.2% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we're reading: AS COVID-19 swept across the country early last year, the primary concern was for the dying. But there are others — as many as 12 million and counting — who took months and months to recover, or are still struggling. These “long-haulers” suffer from what’s called Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, better known simply as long COVID.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded emergency use authorization Thursday to allow two monoclonal antibody treatments to be administered together to prevent infection in high-risk individuals who have been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 or who are at high risk of exposure in an institutional setting, such as a nursing home or prison.
The authorization applies to patients 12 years of age and older who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or are not expected to mount an adequate immune response, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company said in a statement.
"Recent reports suggest that fully vaccinated residents of nursing homes have contracted COVID-19, some of whom became quite ill," Dr. Myron Cohen, director of UNC's Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. "This additional emergency use authorization of monoclonal antibodies for post-exposure prophylaxis in addition to the treatment of COVID-19 offers a significant achievement in the fight against this pandemic."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that the White House was in a "very early stage call" with Nicki Minaj's staff after a Twitter post from the rapper alleging the COVID-19 vaccine causes impotence went viral, and added that the White House hopes celebrities share "accurate information" on the vaccine.
"We offered a call with Nicki Minaj and one of our doctors to answer questions she had about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine," Psaki said. "This is pretty standard and something we do all the time."
Responding to a tweet from a fan saying that Minaj should speak at the United Nations' General Assembly after her messages about the vaccine, the Trinidadian-born rapper tweeted Wednesday that “the White House has invited me” and "yes, I'm going." The White House said that the rapper was just offered a call.
-Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said that her state will challenge the constitutionality of President Joe Biden's sweeping order mandating vaccines for all employers with more than 100 employees and for all federal workers, a plan set to impact up to 100 million workers in the U.S.
In an op-ed for USA TODAY, Noem wrote that public health orders should be a decision left to individual states.
"As governor, I will continue to honor the wishes of our Founders by taking my direction from the Constitution. I will continue to value freedom and personal responsibility," she wrote.
Contributing: The Associated Press