A Pause on J&J, Preparations for Booster Shots, and More Coronavirus News

The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine continues, the CEO of Pfizer talks boosters, and variants fuel Covid-19 surges. Here’s what you should know:

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Headlines

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains on hold while experts assess the potential risk of rare blood clots

The temporary hold on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to continue for at least another week while CDC advisers analyze data on unusual blood clots possibly linked to the shot. If it is determined that the vaccine does pose a risk, regulators might issue updated information on who should and shouldn’t receive it. Some are concerned the pause could be fuel for misinformation and conspiracy theories, and devastate public confidence in the vaccine. But there’s also the possibility that the decision to pause reassures Americans that the FDA is taking all health concerns, no matter how rare or unlikely, seriously.

It is important to note that the risks, if any, are extremely low—about one in 1 million. The government says there is no evidence of similar clots after vaccination with the Pfizer and Moderna shots.

Pfizer CEO anticipates a need for re-vaccinations

As concerns over coronavirus variants rise, drugmakers and the US government are preparing for the possibility that a third shot might be necessary nine to 12 months after the initial vaccination. Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said it is “likely” that individuals will need a booster and possibly a re-vaccination every year thereafter, much like the flu vaccine. David Kessler, the chief science officer of the Biden administration’s Covid response, also noted that additional shots might be necessary in a congressional committee meeting this week. So far, data has shown that the Pfizer vaccine is effective against the South African variant, B.1.351, for at least six months. Moderna hopes to have booster shots for its two-dose vaccine available by the fall.

Variants fuel new coronavirus surges, but experts remain optimistic about vaccines

The three most notable Covid-19 variants—which were first recorded in Brazil, the UK, and South Africa—have been spreading to other countries. The B.1.1.7 strain, for example, is now the primary source of new infections in the United States. However, scientists remain optimistic that public health measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask can continue to combat these new variants. After a deadly surge in the UK, cases of B.1.1.7 have now slowed dramatically thanks to a strict lockdown and vaccinations.

All of the major vaccines in use have shown to be effective against Covid-19 variants. “Breakthrough infections”—where someone who is vaccinated still gets sick—are possible but very rare. Such infections also tend to have fewer symptoms and are less transmissible. Vaccine producers are working on shots that will more directly target the variants, but in the meantime, current vaccines should prevent most people from getting severely ill.

Daily Distraction

How many homes could you power with free donuts? Krispy Kreme is offering a free donut per day to anyone who shows proof of Covid-19 vaccination. What if vaccinated Americans (all 78 million of them) worked off the energy on pedal-powered bike generators?

Something to Read

Scientists in Brazil have identified a deep sleep state—and possibly dreaming!—in octopuses. The discovery could help us better understand the evolution of sleep and its importance to the human brain.

Sanity Check

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One Question

Are there other Covid-19 variants that we should be worried about?

The CDC is currently monitoring other variants. While there are others, and new ones could develop at any time, there are currently no SARS-CoV-2 variants that are of “high consequence,” a classification by the CDC for variants that have proven to be resistant to preventative or medical measures. It’s also important to note that not every genetic change in the virus is necessarily dangerous, and many have been hyped before careful and comprehensive studies show there’s real cause for alarm.


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