Is there another approved COVID-19 vaccine booster on the way? Here is the latest on the fight against the deadly virus.
FDA Vaccine Advisers Vote to Recommend Booster
A group of vaccine advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted on Thursday to recommend emergency use authorization (EUA) of a booster dose of the Moderna vaccine. The unanimous vote came from the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. The panel recommended the use of the Moderna booster six months out from the end of the primary series of shots at a half dose of the original vaccine.Read More »
What is Next for Boosters?
The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet again on Friday to discuss boosters for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. At this time, the group will also hear a presentation on the effects of mixing and matching vaccines from different pharmaceutical companies.
While this particular committee is charged with making recommendations, it is the FDA itself that will make the final approval about whether to greenlight the use of the booster. Should the FDA approve the EUA of the Moderna booster, the decision will then fall on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss what groups of people should be eligible to receive the shot.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is slated to meet on October 21 to formally discuss boosters.
Merck Seeking Approval of COVID-19 Antiviral Treatment
Merck is also seeking approval from the FDA for an EUA of its experimental antiviral COVID-19 treatment, molnupiravir. If approved, this pill will be distinguished as the first oral antiviral treatment designed for COVID-19 patients. The pill is intended to serve as an early treatment for those at risk of going on to develop severe COVID-19 or hospitalization.
The US government has already purchased 1.7 million treatment courses of molnupiravir. Merck said that it will sell the drug at a tiered pricing structure so that lower-income countries can also afford to provide the treatment for their citizens.
The Latest on the Frontlines
While the news about the potential approval of more booster shots and additional treatment options is certainly something to celebrate, some areas of the nation are still dealing with a high amount of hospitalizations due to the virus. Some health care systems are experiencing record numbers of hospital admits despite the number of confirmed cases being down overall.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the state of Montana is seeing record highs of hospitalizations attributed to COVID-19 with well over 500 patients. This number is higher than the previous top number set last November before vaccines were available. Other states that are dealing with this significant burden include neighboring Wyoming and Idaho, pointing to a serious problem in the Mountain West.
New CDC Predictions
According to a new report by the CDC, COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are forecast to decline over the next four weeks. The Wednesday forecast predicts 740,000 to 762,000 total deaths by November 6. This represents the third straight week that new deaths predictions have gone down. As of October 13, there have been over 717,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the US.
In addition to the decline in deaths, the CDC report also forecasts that hospitalizations at the hands of the virus will also go down. This is the fifth consecutive week of a forecasted decline in hospitalization numbers.
Although health experts are encouraged by the new predictions and the continued decline of numbers, they caution that the nation is far from out of the woods. With the colder weather sending people indoors and the holidays looming, medical professionals are warning Americans to continue to exercise caution when planning events.
Biden Speaks on COVID-19 Response
President Joe Biden spoke on Thursday at the White House, addressing the nation about his administration’s continued response to the health crisis. Biden specifically called out the 66 million Americans who have not yet received their vaccine, saying it is essential that these people roll up their sleeves.
Biden also said that the US Labor Department will implement a new rule soon mandating that companies with 100 or more employees apply vaccine requirements as a condition of employment. The president used this opportunity to deliver promising data that demonstrates rising vaccination rates for businesses and organizations that have already mandated these requirements.
He wrapped up by imploring Americans to not let the issue of vaccine mandates divide the country.