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Biden OKs booster shots 5 months after 2nd dose

President Joe Biden.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

President Biden said his administration is considering whether to start booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine as soon as five months after people receive a second dose, a move that would accelerate US plans by three months.

Soon after Biden made the comments — at an Oval Office meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday — a White House official said there had been no change in the plan to administer boosters after eight months.

Biden nonetheless said he talked with infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci about the possible timeline change earlier in the day, signaling his interest in studying the issue.


Biden told Bennett that he’s “considering your advice that we should start earlier” in administering boosters in the face of the Delta variant, he said. One of the questions, Biden said, is: “Should it be five months?”

Relying substantially on data from Israel, Biden’s senior health team announced a plan this month for any adult to get a booster, beginning Sept. 20, if it’s been eight months since their second shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. That plan is still subject to authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Biden administration cited warning signs that vaccine efficacy is waning over time, and that the shots aren’t as effective against the Delta variant. The variant is highly contagious and fueling an increase in coronavirus cases around the country.

But some health experts say it’s not yet clear if boosters are needed for all adults, including the young and healthy.


CVS limits purchases of OTC rapid tests for virus

CVS is limiting customers’ purchases of rapid, over-the-counter Covid-19 tests, with a maximum of six packages available online and four in its pharmacies, as the spread of the delta variant spurs demand.

Put in place this week, the limits apply to Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW along with a test from the startup Ellume, according to an e-mail from a CVS spokesperson. Both tests are available without a prescription.


Surging interest in rapid virus tests have made the products a scarce commodity at some online retailers and in certain stores. The renewed demand for testing has arisen just as the highly contagious delta variant threatens many people’s plans to return to work and school this fall.


Study says risk of blood clots higher from virus than vaccine

A major study of more than 29 million people in England found that the risk of developing blood clots was higher after naturally contracting the coronavirus than after getting a vaccination.

The study based on national vaccination and hospital admissions data, published Friday in the British Medical Journal, analyzed people who had taken a first dose of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine between December and April.

It looked for complications up to 28 days after getting a vaccine or being naturally infected, it said, and found that although “there was a slight increase in blood clots with both vaccines, … the risk of blood clots was very much higher in people who went on to catch covid-19.”

Researchers estimated that of out of 10 million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot, about 107 would be hospitalized or die because of low platelet counts — about one-ninth of the risk of the same conditions in the infected. It also found that for every 10 million people vaccinated with the Pfizer shot, an extra 143 cases of ischemic strokes were observed, almost one-twelfth the amount after a natural infection, it said.


Cases of blood clots or “thrombocytopenia and thromboembolic events” have been recorded after some vaccines in Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Britain, which led to limits being put in place on the AstraZeneca vaccine. In the United States, a pause on the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine occurred in April, after similar concerns. Federal health officials have, however, said such events remain rare.


Delta Air Lines CEO urges employees to get vaccinated

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian had an important message for employees this week: The highly contagious nature of the Delta variant meant more of them needed to get vaccinated.

He didn’t use those exact words.

“Over the past few weeks, the fight has changed with the rise of the B. 1.617.2 variant — a very aggressive form of the virus,” he wrote, using the scientific term. In May, the World Health Organization assigned names to key variants using letters of the Greek alphabet.

Most haven’t stuck around long enough, or wreaked enough havoc, to become household names. Delta — unfortunately for Delta — was different. The variant accounted for 93.4 percent of new infections in the United States by the end of July.

In his note Wednesday, Bastian also referred to “the most recent virus variants” and simply “the variant” — the term he told the Wall Street Journal he preferred to use last month. His message said that employees who do not get vaccinated will have to be tested weekly and pay a $200 monthly insurance surcharge.



Research show long COVID sufferers can have lengthy recovery

One year after becoming ill with the coronavirus, nearly half of patients in a large new study were still experiencing at least one lingering health symptom, adding to evidence that recovery from COVID-19 can be arduous and that the multifaceted condition known as “long COVID” can last for months.

The study, published Thursday in the journal The Lancet, is believed to be the largest to date in which patients were evaluated one year after being hospitalized for COVID. It involved 1,276 patients admitted to Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, who were discharged between Jan. 7 and May 29, 2020.

The researchers, who also evaluated the patients six months after hospitalization, found that while many symptoms improved over time and many of the 479 people who had been employed when they got COVID had returned to their original job, 49 percent of patients still had at least one health problem.

And shortness of breath and mental health issues such as anxiety or depression were slightly more prevalent 12 months later than at the six-month mark, the researchers reported, saying the reasons for that “worrying” increase were unclear.

The researchers also compared the patients in the study with people in the community who had not had COVID but had similar pre-existing health conditions and other characteristics. After 12 months, COVID survivors had worse overall health than people who had not been infected. They were also much more likely to be experiencing pain or discomfort, anxiety or depression, and mobility problems than those who had not had the disease.



Oregon deploys National Guard to hospitals

Facing a tenfold increase in coronavirus hospitalizations since July 9, Oregon leaders have deployed the National Guard to hospitals, dispatched crisis teams to the hardest-hit regions of the state, and ordered educators and health care workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

Now, Governor Kate Brown has gone beyond what any other state has done in battling the summer surge, requiring that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks when gathering closely in public, even when outdoors. The measure took effect on Friday. She said more restrictions might be needed as the coming days unfold and the state tries to keep in-person schooling on track.

“All options are on the table,” Ms. Brown said in an interview this week.

Oregon’s aggressive approach in restoring pandemic safety rules is a stark divergence from states in the South, where outbreaks have been even worse but where many governors have resisted requirements for masks and vaccinations.

But with the arrival of the Delta variant, Oregon has become one of a handful of states where cases and hospitalizations have escalated beyond even the records set during the worst part of the pandemic last year.

The virus is rampaging through rural communities where vaccination rates remain low. Hospitals across the state are near capacity, almost 50 percent beyond the state’s previous peak in December. Last week, a coronavirus patient in Roseburg died while waiting for an ICU bed.

The Oregon Health Authority director, Patrick Allen, said the situation was so “dire” that he was urging unvaccinated people to avoid engaging in any nonessential activities.

“It’s that simple. It’s that urgent,” he said.


Myanmar says it will vaccinate persecuted Rohingya

BANGKOK — A spokesman for Myanmar’s military-installed government said Friday that COVID-19 vaccines will be given to members of the country’s persecuted Rohingya ethnic group.

The Muslim minority was the target of a fierce counter-insurgency campaign in 2017 that some critics charged amounted to ethnic cleansing or genocide. The Rohingya face widespread discrimination and most are denied citizenship and other basic rights.

Government spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun made the announcement at a news conference in the capital Naypyitaw, where he also said the authorities are trying to vaccinate 50 percent of the country’s population this year.

Myanmar, whose poor public health system was weakened further by the political turmoil caused by the army’s February takeover of power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been facing a devastating outbreak of the coronavirus, although in the past month the daily number of reported new cases and deaths has been falling.