COVID-19 cases drop across US, as J&J touts boosters

According to Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 cases in the United States have dropped by more than 34% in the last month, as the country emerges out of a fourth wave of pandemic activity caused by the Delta (B1617.2) variant.

Unlike previous waves, this wave took place against the backdrop of three free and widely available vaccines that prevented the worse outcomes from infections for those vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker shows 56% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 64.9% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 3.1% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster shot.

Pediatric cases remain high

Children under the age of 12 are still not able to get vaccinated, and once again this past week saw more than 173,000 child COVID-19 cases, according to the latest update from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As has been the trend since late August, children accounted for 26.7% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases, with nearly 850,000 child cases added over the past 4 weeks.

Many states have reported pediatric outbreaks connected to school openings. Since the start of the school year, the data service Burbio has tracked 2,238 school closures in 561 districts across 45 states because of COVID-19 outbreaks. But the pace of school closures has slowed dramatically over the past week.

Yesterday the United States reported 169,207 new COVID-19 cases, and 2,109 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.

J&J applies to amend EUA

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) formally applied to amend their emergency use authorization (EUA) for their one-dose COVID-19 vaccine, and has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a booster dose in recipients age 18 and older.

"Our clinical program has found that a booster of our COVID-19 vaccine increases levels of protection for those who have received our single-shot vaccine to 94 percent. We look forward to our discussions with the FDA and other health authorities to support their decisions regarding boosters," said Mathai Mammen, MD, PhD, the company's global head of research and development said in a press release.

One dose of the J&J vaccine, the only adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccine used in the United States, is currently 71% protective, according to the CDC.

J&J is submitting to the FDA data showing that when a booster of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was given 6 months after the single shot, antibody levels increased 9-fold 1 week after the booster, and continued to climb to 12-fold higher 4 weeks after the booster.

The FDA previously announce they will consider J&J booster doses during a meeting slated for next week.

In related news, AstraZeneca has submitted a request to the FDA for an emergency use authorization for its long-acting antibody (LAAB) combination for prophylaxis of symptomatic COVID-19, according to a company press release.

If approved, it would be the first LAAB to receive an EUA for COVID-19 prevention.

And finally yesterday the FDA yesterday authorized a new rapid, at-home COVID-19 test, The Hill reports. The move is expected to double the availability of such tests in the coming weeks.

NIH head to stop down

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, announced he will step down from his role by the end of the year.

Collins has been the head of the NIH for 12 years. Collins headed the US efforts to map the human genome before directing the NIH, and in the last 2 years had overseen the country's effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

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