the coronavirus crisis
April 13, 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday addressed the FDA and the CDC's decision to recommend a pause of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, arguing the move was not made "too quickly" and ultimately shows "how seriously we take safety."

Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser, at a White House press conference spoke about the health agencies' recommendation that use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine be paused while officials look into six blood clotting cases. He stressed that "this is a very rare event" given that 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the United States, though he argued that officials weren't "pulling the trigger too quickly" with the pause.

"This is an unusual occurrence of a serious, adverse event that you want to make sure, before you go forward, you investigate it thoroughly, and that's exactly what they're doing," Fauci said. "They're pausing so that they can look at it more carefully."

The move to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over such a rare occurrence prompted some criticism, though, as well as concerns that it could lead to greater vaccine hesitancy. But Fauci argued it should only make Americans more confident in the process.

"The fact that a pause was done I think just is a testimony to how seriously we take safety, and why we have an FDA and a CDC that looks at this very carefully and hopefully will resolve it pretty soon, within days to weeks," Fauci said. "...So I think it's a very strong argument for safety, actually."

Fauci also stressed that there have been "no red flag signals" from the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines even though they have already been administered to tens of millions of Americans, which shows that "you're dealing with a really safe vaccine." Brendan Morrow

April 13, 2021

The White House does not appear to be concerned about whether the Food and Drug Administration's recommendation to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may hinder its distribution strategy.

Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in a statement Tuesday that because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes up only a small percentage of the recorded shots in the U.S., the federal plan should remain intact without any major hiccups. "Over the last few weeks, we have made available more than 25 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna [vaccines] each week ... This is more than enough supply to continue the current pace of 3 million shots per day, and meet [President Biden's] goal of 200 million shots by his 100th day in office," the statement said.

Johnson & Johnson appointments scheduled for the next several days have already been canceled, but Zients said the Biden administration is working with state and federal partners to reschedule those for a dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

While the math may hold up for the White House's goals, there are still other factors to consider, including whether the FDA's decision leads to any noticeable increase in vaccine hesitancy, regardless of which shots are available. Tim O'Donnell

April 13, 2021

Selena Gomez is set to host a concert pushing for equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution — and seeking to "reunite the world."

Global Citizen announced on Tuesday that Gomez will host "Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World," which will air on multiple networks next month and "aims to inspire vaccine confidence worldwide," as well as call on "world leaders to prioritize the equitable distribution" of COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

The concert will be pre-taped and take place at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium, and it will feature performances from Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters, J Balvin and H.E.R.

"This is a historic moment to encourage people around the world to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, call on world leaders to share vaccine doses equitably and to bring people together for a night of music in a way that hasn't felt possible in the past year," Gomez said.

Global Citizen said it will be campaigning to support the vaccine-sharing program COVAX to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines in low-income countries. It's also calling for donations from philanthropists and corporations to help vaccinate 27 million health care workers in poor countries and for the investment of $22 billion for getting two billion vaccine doses to these countries.

Global Citizen previously organized a "One World: Together at Home" concert near the start of the pandemic in April 2020, which was watched by over 20 million people in the U.S. and raised more than $120 million for COVID-19 relief. "Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World" is set to air on ABC, CBS, Fox, YouTube, and iHeartMedia stations on May 8. Brendan Morrow

April 13, 2021

No one knows for sure yet whether the FDA made the right call in pausing the usage of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, but the agency is already facing criticism for poor risk assessment and shortsightedness. Some state officials are worried the decision will increase vaccine hesitancy, regardless of which shot people are set to receive. "There's nothing we can do to restore confidence," one GOP state official told CBS News.

Nearly 7 million doses of the single-shot vaccine have been administered in the United States, and there are six reported cases of recipients developing a rare and severe type of blood clot. Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and professor at Brown University, tweeted on Tuesday that a connection is "plausible," but even if it turns out to be real, she added, the risk is still far lower than the risk of developing a blood clot from a COVID-19 infection, which may be as high as 20 percent.

Blood clots are also a side effect of other medications, including birth control pills, writes Rebecca Wind, the communications director at the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank focused on sexual and reproductive health.

As Ranney put it, "science and medicine ... is full of weighing risks vs. benefits." She acknowledged there may be legitimate concerns about whether certain groups of people — perhaps younger women — should receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But, overall, she argues the shot's benefits are too great to give up right now. Tim O'Donnell

April 13, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are calling for a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

Officials from the two agencies on Tuesday said that "out of an abundance of caution," they're recommending the U.S. pause the use of the single-shot vaccine while they review "six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving" it.

The six cases, officials said, were all in women who were between 18 and 48, with their symptoms having occurred between six and 13 days after they were vaccinated. Over 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which comes with the key benefit of only requiring one dose, have been administered in the United States, and the agencies noted that "right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare."

On Wednesday, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is set to hold an emergency meeting to review the clotting cases. The federal government will also stop administering the vaccine at federally run vaccination sites, The New York Times reported. This pause, the Times noted, "could substantially complicate" the United States' vaccination efforts.

The decision drew some immediate criticism given the small number of blood clotting cases, with FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver raising concerns that it's "going to create more vaccine hesitancy." But the FDA's Dr. Peter Marks and the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat said the step is "important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot." Brendan Morrow

April 12, 2021

Michigan has emerged as the United States' major coronavirus hot spot, but despite a rising number of infections, it looks unlikely that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) will receive the extra COVID-19 vaccines she's requesting from the Biden administration.

While vaccines are a game-changer and the clearest ticket out of the pandemic for the U.S., their protection likely wouldn't take effect in time to quell Michigan's current surge, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky suggested Monday during a press briefing. "I think if we tried to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan, we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work," she said.

Walensky added that other places that are not in Michigan's situation currently could trend that way if they miss out on their doses, so changing up the federal distribution to react in real time to an "acute" situation could potentially backfire. At the moment, the director said, the best course of action for Michigan is to "go back to our basics" and "really close things down."

Still, Whitmer will reportedly put in another formal request for more doses later in the day. Tim O'Donnell

April 6, 2021

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) says the time has come to start "planning for our lives post-pandemic."

Newsom announced Tuesday that California is aiming to fully reopen its economy on June 15, the Los Angeles Times reports. The plan is to at that point lift most of the state's COVID-19 restrictions and stop using the current system that divides counties into tiers based on factors like number of new cases, according to The Associated Press.

Two criteria will have to be met by June 15 for this to happen, officials said: the state having sufficient vaccine supply for all adults and its COVID-19 hospitalization rates being stable and low.

"With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California's economy," Newsom said. "We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here — wearing masks and getting vaccinated — but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter."

California's mask mandate is expected to remain in place. But business will be permitted to "return to usual operations" with "common-sense public health policies in place, such as required masking, testing and with vaccinations encouraged," officials said.

In a news conference, Newsom hailed this as a "big day" for the state, though he warned that California being able to "open up as business as usual" by June 15 is still "subject to ongoing mask-wearing and ongoing vigilance." California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly also cautioned that "we will take the necessary precautions" should the state see any "concerning rise in our hospitalizations," per the Los Angeles Times. But Ghaly added that "right now, we are hopeful in what we're seeing." Brendan Morrow

April 6, 2021

President Biden will reportedly announce that all U.S. adults are now set to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in less than two weeks.

Biden on Tuesday will announce he's moving up the deadline for states to open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults to April 19, earlier than his previous deadline of May 1, CNN reports.

The president announced in an address last month he was directing states to open vaccine eligibility to all adults no later than May 1. Since that time, all 50 states have either made COVID-19 vaccines available to all adults or announced when they will. According to Axios, Hawaii and Oregon are the only states that will face pressure to alter their timetable after Biden's announcement; they were previously set to expand eligibility to all adults by May 1.

Last week, Biden said that the "vast, vast majority of adults" can expect to be eligible for vaccination by April 19 and "won't have to wait until May 1."

In his remarks on Tuesday, Biden will credit governors' efforts to meet his original May 1 deadline, CNN reports. He'll also reportedly announce that 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in his first 75 days in office. The president before taking office set a goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days, and after that milestone was met early, the goal was doubled to 200 million doses. The U.S is on pace to meet this goal. Brendan Morrow

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