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:
►Mississippi has surpassed New Jersey as the state with the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., with roughly 1 of every 320 Mississippians having succumbed to the coronavirus.
►More than a dozen Tennessee school districts are requiring masks despite Gov. Bill Lee's order allowing parents to opt their children out. Many of districts are in conservative counties where officials are begging families to comply so schools can keep kids in the classroom as cases surge.
►Two dozen Republican attorneys general threatened legal action 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.
📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 41.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 670,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 227.1 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: Long-haul COVID-19 can last months. But here’s why experts are optimistic about recovery.
Hospitals in Idaho, Montana and Alaska have begun rationing resources due to the surge of COVID-19 cases straining health care facilities and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions.
A statewide “crisis standards of care” in Idaho was enacted along with similar measures at individual hospitals in Montana and Alaska, which allow for health care professionals to allocate ICU beds to the patients most likely to survive. Other patients may be given different care, or in extreme cases, palliative care.
“The situation is dire — we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident,” Idaho Department of Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in statement.
At St. Peter’s Health hospital in Montana, officials said the situation is worse than at earlier points in the pandemic as the ICU and morgue are full. At Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state's largest hospital, officials began prioritizing resources earlier this week.
Florida’s public schools have opened without requiring students, teachers and staff to mask up at the height of the delta variant surge. At the same time, those schools have suffered some dire coincidences.
As of this week, at least 31 classrooms and schools — including two entire school districts — have had to shut down due to the large number of students, teachers and staff quarantined because they were exposed to COVID-19. About 167,000 children under 16 have been infected with the coronavirus since Aug. 1, according to the Florida Department of Health.
During that same period, some 106,000 preK-12 students and teachers have been infected, and 196,450 students and staff have had to quarantine since Aug. 1, according to school district COVID-19 dashboards analyzed by the Florida Education Association.
“We are seeing (that) over 50% of schools have already seen or exceeded the number of cases for all of the last school year in the first three or four weeks of this school year,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, the 150,000-member statewide teachers union. “There is disruption in every school district.”
– Jeffrey Schweers, Florida Capital Bureau
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