FDA set to authorize third vaccine dose for immunocompromised people, reports say: Latest COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Federal regulators are expected to amend the Emergency Use Authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to allow for a third shot of coronavirus vaccine as soon as Thursday for some immunocompromised people, multiple reports said Wednesday.

An official familiar with the plan told The New York Times that the third shot covers those with solid organ transplants and others whose immune systems are similarly compromised, roughly 10 million Americans.  A May study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that only 17% of transplant recipients had antibodies after their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with an additional 35% responding after two shots.

The reported decision comes as the delta variant surges throughout the United States. It accounts for about 93% of the nation’s cases among all of its iterations.

In Mississippi, which is averaging 2,700 new coronavirus infections a day, the number of patients needing intensive care and ventilators has surpassed the worst of the pandemic during the winter months.

“The rate of testing positive and rate of hospitalizations that we are seeing, if we continue that trajectory within the next 5 to 7 to 10 days, I think we’re going to see failure of the hospital system of Mississippi,” said Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and COVID-19 clinical response leader at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, on Wednesday. 

It’s not that there are no available beds in Mississippi, Jones said. There just aren’t enough health care workers to appropriately staff them, he said.

On the other side of the nation in New Mexico, Albuquerque hospitals were “totally overfull” as the state enters a new wave, with nursing shortages affecting the entire system and available ICU beds tightening, said Acting state Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase and state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross.

Ross called the rapid rise of new cases nationwide and in New Mexico “quite alarming” but added: “We can work together to level this out… We know what we have to do to flatten that curve.” 

Also in the news:

►Minnesota state government employees will be required to prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or agree to undergo weekly testing before they can return to the office, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday.

►California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday a new requirement that all teachers and school employees — for public and private schools — need to be vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing, saying it was the “first state in the country” with such a mandate.

►Due to a local delta variant surge, the University of Texas at San Antonio will hold most classes online for the first 3 weeks of the semester.

►Hawaii’s COVID infections are not coming from tourists, said Hilo Medical Center in a Facebook post. “Infections are coming from residents who traveled, which resulted in community spread,” they wrote. “It means WE are infecting our loved ones.”

►The University of Arkansas system is requiring masks on its campuses after a judge temporarily blocked the state’s law banning mask mandates.

►Amtrak is joining several companies in requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or participate in weekly COVID testing, the company announced Wednesday. The mandate will apply to their more than 18,000 employees who help people travel across the country.

? Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 36.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 618,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 204.7 million cases and 4.3 million deaths. More than 167 million Americans — 50.3% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

? What we’re reading: A 30-year-old Florida woman gave birth, took 2 photos with her baby, and died days later of COVID-19. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Study: Extra COVID shot helps protect transplant patients

A third dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine substantially improved protection for organ transplant recipients whose weak immune systems don’t always rev up enough with the standard two shots, Canadian researchers reported Wednesday.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was small but it’s the most rigorous type of third-dose testing so far for this vulnerable group.

Moderna and similar vaccines provide robust protection for most people, even as the highly contagious delta variant is surging. But millions with suppressed immune systems because of transplants, cancer or other disorders don’t always get that benefit. There’s limited evidence that an extra dose helps some of them, something France and Israel already recommend and the U.S. is considering.

A fake COVID card can cause real trouble for college students

Students who use phony COVID-19 vaccine cards to skirt mandates at U.S. colleges and universities are risking disastrous consequences, according to school officials and other experts.

Hundreds of colleges and universities now require proof of COVID-19 inoculations. The process to confirm vaccination at many schools can be as simple as uploading a picture of the vaccine card to the student’s portal. However, an easy click of the mouse could spell a hard road for students’ academic futures – if that card is a fake.

“At a minimum, it’s likely to be a federal crime… because when you get the vaccine card it has the CDC stamp on it,” Erika K. Wilson, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told USA TODAY. “So, if people are buying those fake cards, it could certainly fall under that statute.”

Read the full story. 

– Edward Segarra 

Missouri Republican senators push to ban vaccine mandates among private businesses

A group of conservative Missouri senators wants the state to intervene and prevent private businesses from requiring employees to get vaccinated, prompting pushback by the state’s chamber of commerce.

In a letter sent to Gov. Mike Parson last week, six Republicans asked him to call the legislature back to Jefferson City to pass legislation preventing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, “whether they be from the public or the private sector.”

The request comes as the virus’ delta variant continues to spread through Missouri, which has led some businesses around the state to require vaccination for workers.

“If your employer can force you to take an experimental drug, what can’t they force you to do?” the letter says. (COVID-19 vaccines have been thoroughly tested, and full approval by the Food and Drug Administration is expected soon.) “We need to step up and ensure Missouri workers can decide whether the vaccine is right for them.”

– Galen Bacharier, Springfield News-Leader