FDA may approve people to mix and match booster shots, report says: COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

The Food and Drug Administration may give its OK this week to administering booster shots that are different from recipients’ original COVID-19 vaccine, the New York Times reported. The decision would fulfill the requests of state health officials, who have been seeking increased flexibility in giving the vaccines.

Last week, an expert panel that advises the FDA recommended booster shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a day after voting in favor of the Moderna booster. That same committee received the results of a study that showed recipients of the J&J vaccine would get enhanced protection from a second dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, which relies on a different technology. 

Pfizer boosters were authorized for certain populations last month. The Moderna and J&J boosters are expected to be cleared this week.

Some studies have found benefits in combining different vaccine shots as part of the initial protocol, but there isn’t a uniform consensus about the practice yet. 

Also in the news:

►The NHL has suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games for submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

►Public health officials in the U.K. are urging the government to reimpose social distancing restrictions as the country is seeing its highest cases levels since mid-July. 

Nevada won’t require face masks at large events where all attendees are vaccinated, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday evening.

A World Health Organization program is seeking to purchase antiviral COVID-19 drugs, including Merck’s experimental pill, at as little as $10 per course for 120 million patients in the world’s poorest nations, Reuters reported.

► Roughly a quarter of the way through the current school year, Indiana has already topped last school year’s total number of COVID-19 cases reported among the state’s K-12 students. 

►Washington State has fired football coach Nick Rolovich after he declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite a state mandate that required it unless he was approved for an exemption.

►The United States reported its 45 millionth COVID-19 case on Monday, Johns Hopkins University data shows. Half the cases have been reported just since Jan. 9, when America’s vaccination effort was well underway.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 45 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 726,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 241.2 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 189 million Americans – 57% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Day care facilities are mandating COVID vaccine. Will they find enough staff to stay open?

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What’s better: Natural immunity or vaccine to protect against COVID-19?

Data is just starting to emerge about how protected people who caught COVID-19 may be against another infection, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends people previously infected get vaccinated.

A growing body of research suggests infection plus vaccination provides the strongest protection against a wide range of variants, possibly for a long time. 

People who were infected and then vaccinated some months later have “what’s called ‘hybrid immunity,’ which is like super-immunity,” said Warner Greene, a virologist at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco. However, Greene warns against seeking out infection to get protection given the risk of severe disease.

Dr. Monica Gandhi said public health officials too often downplay the protection provided by infection. 

“To deny natural immunity does not generate trust,” said Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital. Getting vaccinated three months – or even better, six months – after infection provides the best possible protection, she said. Read more here.

– Karen Weintraub

Latino Catholics have one of the highest vaccination rates in the US

Amid ongoing debate over whether to mandate vaccines and ethical questions surrounding the research and manufacture of certain vaccines using cell lines from aborted fetuses, a Pew Research Center survey found Latino Catholics have one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates among major religious groups in the United States.

The study of 10,000 adults revealed that 86% of Hispanic Catholics said they were at least partially vaccinated, higher than white Catholics (79%) and second only to atheists (90%).

Elsewhere, Catholic Church leaders, though strongly opposed to abortion, have taken differing positions on vaccine mandates and the use of religious exemptions. A letter by four Colorado bishops in August stated their support for some COVID-19 vaccines but strongly opposed mandates. By contrast, the archdioceses of New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have urged their priests not to provide religious exemptions to vaccines. Read more here.

– Rick Jervis

City leaders, police push back over impending COVID-19 vaccine mandates

As COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadlines loom over police departments nationwide, law enforcement leaders and politicians must weigh whether defiant officers can keep their jobs amid an already-depleted police force.

In Chicago, the police union and mayor have publicly feuded over a city-wide vaccine mandate. The deadline for city employees to report their vaccination status was last Friday. Over a third of Chicago police officers didn’t do so, according to city data.

Like Chicago, the head of the Baltimore Police union urged members not to report their vaccination status.

In Seattle, city employees are poised to lose their jobs early Tuesday if they don’t comply with vaccine mandates. The police department has lost more than 300 officers over the past year, according to Mike Solan, the union’s president. And Solan said he anticipates another “mass exodus” of Seattle police offers as the vaccine mandate comes into effect.

However, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for American law enforcement officers, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit tracking police officer deaths. Read more here.  

– Celina Tebor and Grace Hauck

Deadline arrives for unvaccinated Washington state workers

Monday was the final day for thousands of workers in Washington who want to keep their jobs to prove they’ve been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Washington’s vaccine mandate, issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August, is believed to be among the strictest in the nation and covers more than 800,000 workers.

The mandate applies to most state workers, long-term care employees and teachers and staff at the state’s schools, including the state’s colleges and universities. The only opt-out is a medical or religious exemption, though the exemption only ensures continued employment if a job accommodation can be made.

– Associated Press

Contributing: The Associated Press