Wed, October 27, 2021

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U.S. expands COVID-19 vaccination, eyes new booster, multivalent vaccines


Northwell Health, New York States largest private hospital system, laid off 1,400 workers who wouldnt get vaccinated against COVID-19, a spokesperson confirmed.

The United States' vaccination efforts against the coronavirus keep expanding, particularly in the sectors involving frequent movement of large amounts of people such as medical services and aviation, while new booster and multivalent vaccines are being planned under tight schedules in order to counter the pandemic in a more efficient way.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated on Tuesday that 215,502,382 people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, making up 64.9 percent of the whole U.S. population; fully vaccinated people stood at 185,788,098, accounting for 56 percent of the total. A total of 5,711,774 people, or 3.1 percent of the fully vaccinated group, received booster shots.

Meanwhile, according to The New York Times' data analysis, the seven-day average of confirmed cases of the pandemic stood at 103,785 nationwide on Monday, with its 14-day change striking a 24-percent fall. The COVID-19-related deaths were 1,829 on Monday, with the 14-day change realizing a 12-percent decrease.

Photo taken on March 27, 2019 shows Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft parked at the Southern California Logistics Airport, in Victorville, California, the United States. (Xinhua/Zhao Hanrong)

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HOSPITAL, AIRLINE

Northwell Health, New York State's largest private hospital system, laid off 1,400 workers who wouldn't get vaccinated against COVID-19, a spokesperson for the health care network confirmed Monday afternoon. Now, the hospital's vaccination compliance rate is up to 100 percent for the roughly 75,000 staff that remain.

Hospital and nursing home workers were required to get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27, under a state mandate first announced in mid-August. Last week, Northwell said it started warning employees and planned to begin layoffs starting with the highest-paid workers who refused the shots.

"Northwell regrets losing any employee under such circumstances, but as health care professionals and members of the largest health care provider in the state, we understand our unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients and each other," said Jason Molinet, a Northwell Health spokesperson.

Also on Monday, Southwest Airlines said that its 56,000-person workforce must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 to continue working at the airline because of new federal rules, joining other carriers who made similar announcements last week.

The U.S. federal government last month said that staff of federal contractors must be vaccinated, unless they are granted a religious or medical exemption. Southwest and other major airlines are federal contractors since they fly government employees, cargo and provide other service.

"Southwest Airlines is a federal contractor and we have no viable choice but to comply with the U.S. government mandate for Employees to be vaccinated, and -- like other airlines -- we're taking steps to comply," Gary Kelly, CEO of the Dallas-based airline, told staff on Monday.

NEW BOOSTER, MULTIVALENT VACCINE

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday said that it has asked U.S. health regulators to authorize a booster dose for its COVID-19 vaccine, citing studies showing it improved protection among adults who previously received a single shot.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could decide on J&J's request within weeks. The agency has scheduled an Oct. 15 meeting of an advisory panel to review the evidence of the need for a booster, and to recommend whether the agency should authorize one.

"We're describing the data to them," said Mathai Mammen, head of global research and development for J&J's vaccine arm, Janssen. "The process is not that we asked for a very specific interval -- we're providing them data and we're going to be presenting to the committee. They'll take all that into consideration when they ultimately decide on an appropriate interval."

Meanwhile, several companies are developing multivalent COVID-19 vaccines, which would target SARS-CoV-2 variants, reported The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. The current vaccines wouldn't protect against all coronaviruses. The viruses are quite distinct from one another, making it a scientific challenge to create one vaccine that targets them all.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden and other funders should give priority to the development of shots that would broadly protect against these variants, Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, was quoted as saying. "What we really need is a global collaborative effort," he said.

Recent studies of antibodies in people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are helping to speed vaccine development, Dennis Burton, an immunologist at Scripps Research, told the Journal. He and other researchers have identified "broadly neutralizing antibodies" that ward off both the pandemic virus and close viral cousins.

Placards display signage for Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations at a mobile COVID-19 vaccination center in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, Aug. 18, 2021. (Xinhua/Michael Nagle)

Published : October 06, 2021

By : Xinhua