Health Care — FDA advisers weigh boosters’ fate

Associated Press/Nam Y Huh

Dating can be tough during a pandemic, a new Pew study found, with 63 percent of people in the dating market say dating has gotten harder during COVID-19.

Today, an FDA advisory panel met to discuss the future of booster shots, and there are several more high-profile COVID-19 cases in Washington.

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FDA weighing future of boosters, new strains

Health experts discussed the path forward against COVID this year.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) met on Wednesday along with other health officials and experts from around the world to discuss the future of how the US will handle the SARS-CoV-2 virus as cases dwindle and the necessity of future doses is debated.

The all-day meeting was dedicated to discussing boosters and how future strains of the coronavirus will be addressed. The committee did not hold any votes and the exact details of future vaccine compositions and rollouts were not specified.

Peter Marks, director for the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, noted during the meeting that despite the declining COVID-19 cases in the US, the virus will continue to mutate and could still cause waves of cases in the future.

Specifically, Marks pointed to three factors that put the US at risk of another surge in the fall and winter of this year: waning immunity, particularly among those who have never been vaccinated or haven’t been boosted; an ever-changing virus that will have had six months to mutate; and colder temperatures driving people to stay indoors.

Read more here.

ANOTHER HIGH PROFILE POSITIVE TEST

The number of high-profile COVID-19 cases is stacking up.

Vice President Harris’ communications director tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, marking a close contact exposure to the vice president who will continue with her public schedule as planned.

Jamal Simmons, who joined Harris’ staff earlier this year, is isolating and working from home, Harris’ press secretary, Kirsten Allen, said in a statement.

“The Vice President will follow CDC guidance for those that have been in close contact with a positive individual and will continue to consult with her physician,” Allen said. “The Vice President plans to continue with her public schedule.”

Simmons is the latest member of Harris’ circle to test positive in recent weeks. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff tested positive for the virus last month, though Harris never tested positive herself, according to the White House.

The communications director’s positive test was the latest to be revealed on Wednesday amid what appeared to be a fresh outbreak among top officials, lawmakers and media members in the nation’s capital.

Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who both attended the annual Gridiron Dinner over the weekend, tested positive earlier Wednesday.

Read more here.

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CDC lowers COVID-19 travel warnings

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered its travel warning for Canada and Jamaica.

In an update on Monday, the health agency said the level of COVID-19 in Canada has upgraded from Level 4 (Very High) to Level 3 (High).

Level 4 is the highest risk level in the CDC’s COVID-19 advisory system.

Even with the newly updated guidelines, the health agency still advises American travelers to be fully vaccinated against the virus before traveling to the country.

“If you are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, avoid travel to Canada,” the CDC said. “Even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, you may still be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19.”

Read more here.

HOUSE GOP UNVEILS BILL AIMED AT VACCINE PATENT WAIVERS

representative Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) on Wednesday led a group of House Republicans in introducing a bill to require COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers to receive congressional approval before going into effect.

The Biden administration supports a waiver of vaccine patents as a way to help share the vaccine formula with lower-income countries and boost access.

Republicans, as well as vaccine makers, have countered that the move undermines innovation and the intellectual property system.

The formal title is a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver. While the Biden administration supports it, the proposal has been mired for months in negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

“The United States can and should help increase global access to COVID-19 vaccines, but we also have a duty to protect the hard work, investment, and intellectual property of American innovators,” Smith said in a statement, saying efforts should focus instead on other areas like boosting supplies of raw materials for vaccines.

Read the bill here.

A new study in Israel has found that the fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine improves protection against infection and severe COVID-19; however, protection against confirmed infection appears to be short-lived.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday, found that the effectiveness against COVID-19 infection in the fourth week after receipt of the fourth dose was lower when compared to protection after the third dose of the vaccine.

It added that protection against severe illness did not wane during the six weeks after the fourth dose was administered and found that the rate of confirmed infection in the fourth week after was lower than that in the group with three vaccine doses.

However, the study added that protection against infection waned in later weeks.

The study, conducted by the Sheba Medical Center, included more than 1.25 million vaccinated people in Israel from Jan. 10 to March 2.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • The FDA suspends use of a Glaxo antibody drug in the US as an Omicron subvariant spreads (The New York Times)
  • Some hoped FDA approval of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine would convince unvaccinated Americans. It didn’t, study finds. (US Today)
  • ‘We need to be much more diverse’: More than half of data used in health care AI comes from the US and China (STAT)

STATE BY STATE

  • Colorado is moving toward statewide coverage of wastewater surveillance (NPR)
  • Four cases of Norovirus in Hawaii linked to raw oysters from Canada (KITV)
  • Top New York judge not complying with vaccine mandate (AP)

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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