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As COVID Cases Rise, U.S. Health Officials Mull Widening Additional Booster Eligibility

Reuters reported:

Health officials are considering extending the eligibility for a second COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to people under 50 amid a steady rise in cases, with the United States seeing a threefold increase over the past month.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had in late March authorized a second booster dose of the Moderna (MRNA.O) and Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) vaccines for people aged 50 and older, citing data showing waning immunity and the risks posed by Omicron variants of the virus.

“With regard to a fourth dose for those under the age of 50, that is going to require action from the FDA, and we’re in conversations there,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walenksy said on Wednesday.

PM Dismisses Need for More Measures to Limit COVID Deaths, Suggesting Australians Are Dying With, Not of, the Virus

The Guardian reported:

Scott Morrison brushed off the need for further measures to curtail Australia’s ongoing high rates of COVID-19 transmission and deaths and suggested many Australians are dying with, not of, COVID.

Morrison told reporters on Wednesday that medical advice does not currently support a fourth COVID vaccine for the general population and asserted, without evidence, that Labor under Anthony Albanese may return to lockdowns to combat COVID.

Morrison has leaned heavily on Australia’s record combating COVID in his campaign for re-election by citing low deaths in the first two years of the pandemic when the country’s borders were shut to the world.

“What you see when you have case numbers of that level is that people, when they pass away from many other causes, they will die with COVID, and their deaths are recorded as COVID deaths — but that doesn’t necessarily mean … that they passed away because of COVID, that’s a very different proposition,” said Morrison, who added that the premiers, chief medical officer and health authorities also recognized that distinction.

Does Paxlovid Help People Who Have Been Vaccinated Against COVID? Show Us the Data!

STAT News reported:

As a primary care doctor in New York City, I am grateful to drug companies for providing effective COVID-19 therapies for my patients. But I am also frustrated that these companies appear to be completely running the show, and believe that Americans could get more from Big Pharma if only our regulators dared to ask for it.

This dynamic is on display with Paxlovid, which was approved based on a study that seems designed to exaggerate the benefit most Americans can expect from this drug rather than provide us with relevant information about it.

Among antiviral agents for COVID-19, Pfizer’s Paxlovid has emerged as the clear winner for two reasons: First, as a pill, Paxlovid is easy to administer, compared to the infusions required for monoclonal antibodies and remdesivir. Second, Paxlovid appears to be highly effective, with a clinical trial showing an 89% relative reduction in hospitalizations or death among high-risk patients who receive it.

I say “appears to be” because there’s a problem: The single trial supporting the FDA’s emergency use authorization of Paxlovid included only unvaccinated people who had never previously had COVID-19. Since 76% of U.S. adults are now vaccinated, and an estimated 58% of Americans have already had COVID, the trial supporting Paxlovid is not directly applicable to a majority of Americans.

Convicted Killer Charged With Heading COVID Fraud Scam

Associated Press reported:

A woman who is serving a life sentence for murder in California is charged with masterminding a $2 million fraud scheme involving COVID-19 unemployment money from behind bars, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Natalie Le Demola, 37, is among 13 people charged with using stolen identities to apply online for — and receive — benefits from the California Employment Development Department, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.

Most of the money had been earmarked for relief for people suffering from business lockdowns and restrictions aimed at reducing the deadly spread of COVID-19 and most of the fraud occurred in the second half of 2020 when infections were rising rapidly.

Some of the personal identifying information used — such as names, birth dates and Social Security numbers — was provided by a state prison official who wasn’t named, the indictment alleged.

As U.S. COVID Cases Rise, so Does Demand for Antivirals

Reuters reported:

Rising COVID-19 cases are driving up the use of therapeutics, with Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid seeing a 315% jump over the past four weeks, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday.

The increase in U.S. cases and hospitalizations is starting to affect recommendations on behavior, with New York City, the nation’s most populous city, advising stricter mask usage but stopping short of new mandates. Apple (AAPL.O) has scrapped return to office plans.

Nearly 43,000 Traffic Deaths Last Year, Most in 16 Years, U.S. Agency Says

New York Daily News reported:

The U.S. saw almost 43,000 traffic deaths in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The estimated 42,915 fatalities represent a 10.5% increase over the year prior when 38,824 deaths were reported and was the biggest percentage jump since the agency began tracking the data in 1975.

The NHTSA said 44 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, are projected to have increased traffic deaths in 2022, with Texas, California and Florida making up the top three.

“An increase in dangerous driving — speeding, distracted driving, drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, not buckling up — during the pandemic, combined with roads designed for speed instead of safety, has wiped out a decade and a half of progress in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths,” Russ Martin, senior director of policy and government relations for the Governors Highway Safety Association, said.

When Africans Asked for COVID Shots, They Didn’t Get Them. Now They Don’t Want Them.

Reuters reported:

It’s noisy inside the Mamprobi clinic in Accra as kids clamber over their mothers while they wait to get their measles vaccines. Outside, an area reserved for COVID-19 shots is empty. A health worker leans back in his chair and scrolls on a tablet.

One woman, waiting to get her daughter inoculated, is fully aware of the dangers of measles: the high fever, the rash, the risk to eyesight. But COVID-19? She has never heard of a single case.

The perception that COVID-19 doesn’t pose a significant threat is common in Ghana’s capital and elsewhere in Africa, whose youthful populace has suffered a fraction of the casualties that have driven vaccine uptake in places like Europe and America, where the disease tore through elderly populations.

Germany OKs More COVID Vaccine Spending for This Fall

Associated Press reported:

Germany plans to spend another 830 million euros ($872 million) to buy new coronavirus vaccines that will allow the country to deal with a series of possible variants this fall, the health minister said Wednesday.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that the government, via the European Union, already has ordered enough of the existing vaccines and of one that has been developed by Germany’s BioNTech to counter the Omicron variant. He said the new funding is earmarked for a vaccine being developed by Moderna to tackle both Omicron and other variants.