Biden confirms global COVID-19 vaccine donation

Pfizer COVID vaccine vial and syringe
Pfizer COVID vaccine vial and syringe

International Monetary Fund, Ernesto Benevidas / Flickr cc

Today in the United Kingdom, President Joe Biden confirmed the United States would be donating 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine globally.

"America knows first-hand the tragedy of this pandemic. We've had more people die in the United States than anywhere in the world, nearly 600,000 of our fellow Americans," Biden said after meeting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the G7 Summit, set to begin tomorrow. "We also know the path to recovery."

The vaccines will be distributed to more than 90 different countries through COVAX, the World Health Organization's COVID-19 vaccine arm.

J&J vaccine shelf-life extension

In other breaking vaccine news, today Johnson & Johnson said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had authored an extension on the shelf life of its one-dose adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccine from 3 months to 4.5 months.

"The decision is based on data from ongoing stability assessment studies, which have demonstrated that the vaccine is stable at 4.5 months when refrigerated at temperatures of 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit," the company said

Many states had complained they had no way to sell or share supplies of the vaccine that were set to expire, unused, at the end of the month.

And finally, Moderna has confirmed it is seeking FDA emergency use authorization for their vaccine to be given to those 12 and up, following the path of Pfizer.

More states announce vaccination milestones

The United States reported 20,779 new COVID-19 cases and 432 deaths yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.

Eight states (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont) have now fully vaccinated more than half of their residents against COVID-19, CNN reports. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker shows 372,495,525 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, 304,753,476 have been administered, and 140,980,110 Americans are fully vaccinated.

Yesterday Seattle became the first city to fully vaccinate 70% of its residents above age 12, making it the most inoculated city in the country, the Washington Post reports. Seattle's mayor said the city also had the lowest number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths of any major US city.

"Now that we have reached community protection, we can lead the nation in safely reopening and recovering in earnest," said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan in a statement. "Seattleites—get outside and support a local small business, help revive our historic arts and cultural scene, and enjoy our unparalleled Seattle summers safely."

In Texas, one-third of the state's residents are fully vaccinated, and new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are as low as they were before the first wave of the outbreak last summer, according to the Texas Tribune.

But despite progress the United States still faces challenges. Deaths have dropped in all age groups, but half of all deaths are now comprised of people ages 50 to 74, up from one-third in December, according to a New York Times analysis. While this means vaccination efforts have been successful with the oldest Americans, it shows middle-aged populations of all racial groups are still at risk if they remain unvaccinated.

Deaths from nine conditions rose in 2020

Deaths from common diseases including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, chronic liver disease, stroke, and high blood pressure increased dramatically in 2020 across the country.

Diabetes deaths increased by 14%, Alzheimer’s was up 8%, Parkinson’s 11%, high blood pressure 12%, and stroke 4%, the Associated Press said, noting the CDC provided just numbers and no explanations on the increases.

The increase in excess deaths likely occurred as people avoided hospitals and doctor’s offices in the early days of the pandemic, experts told the news agency.

This week's top reads