COVID-19 Updates: Status of Vaccine Boosters, J&J Vaccine May Be Linked to Neurological Disorder, Delta Variant Now Dominant Strain in U.S.

Medical professional giving COVID-19 vaccine injection to young male patient

At least 187 million cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed worldwide as of Monday evening, July 12, 2021, including at least 4.03 million deaths. Healthcare officials in the United States have reported at least 33.8 million positive COVID-19 cases and approximately 606,000 deaths. Source: Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

At least 3.42 billion individual doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide as of Monday evening, including at least 334 million in the United States. Source: GitHub

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CDC and FDA release joint statement on status of vaccine boosters

Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have announced their positions on the potential for a booster being needed for COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the most recent update, those patients who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. The FDA and CDC, as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are currently engaged ongoing to determine whether, or when, a booster might be necessary for those patients who have been fully vaccinated.

The review process will take into account laboratory data, clinical trial data, and cohort data, which can include data from specific pharmaceutical companies, but will not rely on these data exclusively. If and when the science demonstrates that boosters are needed, officials claim that preparations have been made for booster doses to be available.

These announcements were made public soon after it was revealed that officials at Pfizer are expected to meet with federal health officials this week to make its case for booster shots as the company seeks authorization for a third shot. According to reports, Pfizer officials say they are beginning to see waning immunity from its two-dose vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, has asked for the general population as well as the healthcare community to have patience as studies examine whether additional booster vaccines would be another tool that could eventually be recommended, particularly related to the Delta variant. Fauci recently appeared on the CNN program State of the Union and said that health regulatory agencies will continue to rely on collected data to determine if there is ever a need for a booster shot.

J&J vaccine possibly linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) one-dose COVID-19 vaccine may be linked to rare cases of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to company officials. In a statement released on July 12, officials said the chances of the complication are very low and that the rate of reported cases exceeds the background rate by a small degree.

Officials also said they strongly support raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of rare events to ensure they can be quickly identified and effectively treated. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome begin as weakness and tingling in the feet and legs that spread to the upper body.

Paralysis can occur, and people may also experience muscle pain and/or weakness, abnormal walking, problems with coordination, weakness of the arms and legs, fatigue, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, fast heart rate, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, facial muscle weakness, shortness of breath, slow reflexes, uncomfortable tingling and burning, urinary retention, and/or difficulty raising their feet.

J&J officials also say they have been in discussions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulators about the vaccine and potential side effects. Further information on vaccine safety can be found online.

Stanford Medicine publishes COVID-19 mini-series medcast

A program devoted to the role of palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic has been released by Stanford Medicine as a mini-series medcast available online.

The series addresses a range of relatable topics, including late-stage goals of care and advance care planning in the setting of COVID-19, recognition of habitual reactions and responses aroused by conflict or perceived threats under stressful circumstances, and strategies for communicating effectively across healthcare settings for safe and appropriate transitions of care.

In the most recent episode, Dr. Grant Smith, clinical assistant professor of medicine for primary care and population health at Stanford, and Dr. Brook Calton, assistant professor of medicine and palliative care specialist at University of California San Francisco’s Department of Medicine, discuss how the pandemic has changed palliative care in particular.

The physicians also discuss the challenges of guiding families through difficult conversations through the use of video platforms or mobile phones and the role that palliative care teams have had as an added layer of support to family members and staff members to prevent burnout associated with the care of these patients during the pandemic.

Delta variant reaches dominant strain status in the U.S.

After several weeks of tracking cases in the United States and around the globe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that the delta variant is now officially the dominant strain in the U.S. Delta accounted for 51.7 percent of new cases as of July 3, the most recent available data.

On July 9, CDC officials also announced that the Delta variant was responsible for an outbreak associated with a gymnastics facility in Oklahoma between April and May 2021. Review of public health surveillance and investigation data revealed temporal and geographic clustering in central Oklahoma, and the facility was identified as a likely exposure site.

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