US, other nations track shifts in COVID-19 activity

COVID-19 data on a screen
COVID-19 data on a screen

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The overall pace of COVID-19 activity in the United States has showed some signs of leveling off, with the disease burden indicating a shift from east to west.

Meanwhile, advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet tomorrow to discuss emergency use of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.

Uncertain summer ahead

The 7-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases is 105,576, with 269 daily deaths, according to the Washington Post tracker. Over the past week, cases dropped 1% after rising slowly since about the middle of April. Hospitalizations over the past week rose 8%, while deaths dropped 27%.

The nation faces an uncertain summer, with the more transmissible BA.2.12.1 Omicron subvariant—first seen in New York—becoming the dominant strain over the past 2 weeks. Officials are closely watching two other more transmissible subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, that recently triggered a modest wave in South Africa and have been linked to a fresh rise in cases in Portugal.

In the United States, the increase in COVID-19 cases appears to be slowing in the Northeast, according to the New York Times. Levels appear to be rising westward, however, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of CDC data. It said the West recently passed the Northeast as the area with the highest rate of known cases per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, the nation's overall COVID vaccine uptake has been roughly level since the middle of April, with 66.7% of Americans fully vaccinated. Less than half (46.9%) have received their first booster dose. As vaccination stalls, the US discarded 82.1 million COVID-19 doses from December 2020 through the middle of May, according to CDC data shared with NBC News. That amount makes up just over 11% of doses distributed by the federal government.

In other vaccine developments, the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBAC) tomorrow will consider an emergency use authorization request for the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, a recombinant nanoparticle protein-based product that contains an adjuvant and is given in two doses 3 weeks apart.

Though the vaccine is a late entrant into the immunization landscape, health officials have hoped that the new offering could raise vaccine uptake in Americans, given that it is made using a more traditional production platform.

A review by FDA staff ahead of tomorrow VRBPAC meeting said it will likely provide meaningful protection against the Omicron variant, but they raised concerns about the potential for rare cardiac conditions after vaccination, similar to associations found earlier with mRNA vaccines.

Other countries track COVID shifts

Though global cases have resumed a slow decline, some countries are seeing rises as they grapple different situations regarding more transmissible subvariants.

  • Uganda is experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases, following a stable period since January, Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, MD, MPH, said on Twitter. She said the increase is similar to what the country faced in June 2021 when the Delta variant was dominant.

  • France's cases are rising again, with the 7-day average for daily cases rising to 20,000, according to Reuters, which said hospitals so far aren't seeing extra pressure.

  • China's cases continue to fall, and Beijing is allowing in-person dining to resume today, according to NBC News, which said other businesses are also reinstituting normal operations.

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