Germany, France, Spain and Italy on Monday suspended use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine over new reports of blood clots, even as a U.S. official said the vaccine could win U.S. authorization next month.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told Reuters that data from the 30,000-person vaccine trial were being reviewed by independent U.S. monitors to determine whether the shot is safe and effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could complete its reviews and issue an emergency use authorization next month if all goes well, he said.
Collins said European regulators have indicated the clotting problems most likely were by chance and not related to the vaccine. And the World Health Organization has urged countries to continue using the vaccine, saying there’s no evidence of a connection to blood clots. The WHO has scheduled a meeting of its safety experts for Tuesday to address the topic.
The German Health Minister, Jens Spahn, said the suspension was a “purely precautionary measure” pending further investigation.
In recent days, several smaller European nations had temporarily halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to look into cases of blood clots. AstraZeneca has said there is no cause for concern, that there were fewer reported cases of clotting in those who received the shot than in the general population.
Also in the news:
►Mississippi on Tuesday will join Alaska in allowing all adults to get vaccinated. Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted: “Starting tomorrow, ALL new appointments will be open to ALL Mississippians. Get your shot friends – and let’s get back to normal!”
►The White House said Medicare will increase what it pays for every COVID-19 vaccine dose administered from an average of $23 to $40 to help get more Americans vaccinated, particularly those in hard-to-reach areas.
►The CDC is assessing new research on whether children wearing masks could be safely seated 3 feet apart rather than the currently recommended 6, a determination that could have a major impact on school reopenings.
►Newly vaccinated residents of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, were treated to a mini-concert last week when famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma played while waiting out his 15-minute post-injection health monitoring.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 535,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 120.1 million cases and 2.65 million deaths. More than 135.8 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 109 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: In the year of COVID-19, who has really benefited from the stock market boom? While some Americans have seen their stock holdings balloon in value or stashed away stimulus checks, not everyone was able to take advantage of the market rebound. Read more here.
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Spring breakers with ‘anything goes’ mentality could set off superspreader
An influx of large numbers of spring break revelers in Miami Beach is creating headaches and the potential for massive coronavirus transmission at a time when the pandemic is still far from controlled.
Because most pandemic restrictions have been lifted in Florida, visitors are coming with an “anything goes” mentality, said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, whose police department made 163 arrests in the last seven days.
“It’s like a triple threat: We’ve got too many people, too many coming with a desire to go wild and we have the virus,” Gelber said. “It really poses a multifaceted peril for us.”
The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has expressed alarm over the risky behavior witnessed in beach towns and a recent increase in travel around spring break. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1.3 million people both Friday and Sunday, setting a new high since the pandemic began.
CDC study: Nearly 90% who get first dose complete two-shot regimen
People who get a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. are nearly certain to return for the second shot, according to the first federal study to look at how many are completing the series.
A report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an 88% completion rate among the 12.5 million people in the study, conducted from December 14 to February 14. Another 9% of those who got the first dose still had time to get the booster shot within the six weeks the CDC recommends as the maximum span between doses. About 3% did not complete the series in that time frame.
“We think these findings are really encouraging. The fact that most people are completing the two-dose series to be fully vaccinated shows the system’s working,” said Robin Toblin of the CDC, one of the study’s authors.
Texas restaurant owner who took stand on masks faces death threats, vandalism
Support is rolling in for a San Antonio man whose Noodle Tree restaurant was vandalized with racist graffiti days after he spoke out against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to rescind a statewide mask mandate.
Mike Nguyen appeared on CNN last week, saying his stance was based on the safety of his staff, himself and the community. Since that interview, he said he has faced death threats on social media. On Sunday, he arrived at his restaurant to find “no mask,” “go back 2 China” and other hateful messages scrawled in red paint on his storefront.
“I was born here and I’m not Chinese,” Nguyen, whose background is half Vietnamese and half French, told USA TODAY on Monday. “It’s not right that as an American I can’t state my opinion without being attacked.”
The vandalism came just days after President Joe Biden condemned the violence Asian Americans have endured throughout the pandemic. Neighbors came to Nguyen’s aid, helping him clean up the mess. Mayor Ron Nirenberg thanked them, saying the effort “proved that we’re better than this one hateful act.”
The Chinese American Citizens Alliance and the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio released a joint statement denouncing the “ugly display of hate.”
30,000 deaths later, New York City marks anniversary of first fatality
Somber words and music were set against a backdrop of images of New Yorkers taken during the pandemic as Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday marked a year since reporting the city’s first fatality from COVID-19, a fearful moment that sent officials rushing to close businesses and schools.
More than 30,000 New Yorkers have died, a bigger total than the number the city lost in World War II, Vietnam, Sept. 11 and Superstorm Sandy combined, de Blasio said. “Everyone we’ve lost, what they did, goes on,” he said. “What they contributed, what they created, the love they gave, goes on.”
The city, the state and the nation are showing signs of renewal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that domestic travelers to New York will no longer be required to quarantine starting April 1. Dr. Anthony Fauci said some form of “normality” could return to the country by the Fourth of July. But Fauci also warned on Fox News Sunday that the U.S. must lift restrictions gradually or risk another wide-ranging lockdown to halt a surge.
Facebook launching vaccination appointment tool
Facebook is launching a tool in its COVID Information Center designed to show when and where people can get vaccinated, and it also provides a link to make an appointment. Facebook is partnering with Boston Children’s Hospital, which runs the VaccineFinder.org website, to offer the tool for identifying places nearby to get the vaccine.
“Improving vaccine access and equity across the country will be a critical step in achieving herd immunity and bringing this pandemic to a close,” John Brownstein, Boston Children’s Hospital’s chief innovation officer and VaccineFinder founder, said in a statement.
– Kelly Tyko
With nearly 12M shots given, California increases vaccine eligibility
On Monday, California opened vaccine eligibility to people with certain high-risk medical conditions or disabilities. An estimated 4.4 million Californians meet the state criteria, which includes more essential workers, people who work or live in jails, homeless shelters and other congregant places, and those with disabilities and health conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID-19.
San Francisco will allow people with HIV to get vaccinated, along with people who identify as deaf or disabled, local officials said. The city is going beyond the state’s eligibility rules to cover developmental, medical, physical, sensory or behavioral health disabilities, including severe mental health or substance use disorders, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.
“Getting vaccinations to people with disabilities and who have severe underlying conditions, and people who are in congregate settings, is an important part of our efforts to save lives and protect our most vulnerable residents,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
– Palm Springs Desert Sun
Patients with sickle cell find freedom with vaccine
As the mother of two children, ages 10 and 11, with sickle cell disease, Mariame Doray has spent the past year being extra careful, knowing that they would be at increased risk of severe disease if they fell ill with COVID-19. So when she heard that Indianapolis’s Martin Center, a service agency that supports people with sickle cell disease, was offering a Saturday vaccination clinic for their patients and their family members in concert with Community Health Network, she signed up.
“Now I feel better going to work,” she said, gesturing to the sticker on her shirt that attested to her newly acquired vaccination status.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that can lead to a host of symptoms, including heart problems, stroke, organ damage, reduced life expectancy and pain. About 95% of people diagnosed with these conditions are Black. Sickle cell disease patients were added to the Indiana vaccine availability lists in February, along with people with some other high-risk conditions. Read more here.
– Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star
Here’s how to find out when your stimulus payment will come
You can now find out when your next stimulus payment is expected to hit your bank account or get mailed. The IRS updated the “Get My Payment” tool on its website with information on the third round of stimulus checks Saturday, agency spokesperson Karen Connelly confirmed to USA TODAY. Check for your status here.
The third round of payments will be based on a taxpayer’s latest processed tax return from either 2020 or 2019. That includes anyone who used the IRS non-filers tool last year or submitted a special simplified tax return.
– Kelly Tyko
Contributing: The Associated Press