Kimberly Redmond | |

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is developing a quick review process of COVID-19 booster shots, tests and drugs in an effort to respond to new variants of the virus.

On Thursday, the agency’s acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said the agency is creating guidelines to address tweaks to authorized treatments and vaccines as needed, as well as looking for areas of regulatory flexibility.

Reuters | |

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) said on Thursday it has asked U.S. health regulators to authorize its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, and it will apply to European authorities in coming weeks.

The drugmaker’s application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) follows its Jan. 29 report in which it said the vaccine had a 66% rate of preventing infections in its large global trial.

Reuters | |

The world faces around 4,000 variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, prompting a race to improve vaccines, Britain said on Thursday, as researchers began to explore mixing doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots in a world first.

Thousands of variants have been documented as the virus mutates, including the so-called British, South African and Brazilian variants which appear to spread more swiftly than others.

British Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said it was very unlikely that the current vaccines would not work against the new variants.

Reuters | |

New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations appear to be on a downward trajectory in the United States as the Biden administration remains confident that it can hit its target of 100 million vaccines in 100 days, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said on Wednesday.

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned, however, that new COVID-19 variants popping up across the country could threaten that positive momentum.

AP News | |

The deadliest month yet of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. drew to a close with certain signs of progress: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are plummeting, while vaccinations are picking up speed.

The question is whether the nation can stay ahead of the fast-spreading mutations of the virus.

The U.S. death toll has climbed past 440,000, with over 95,000 lives lost in January alone. Deaths are running at about 3,150 per day on average, down slightly by about 200 from their peak in mid-January.

Kimberly Redmond | |

Johnson & Johnson said findings from its late-stage clinical trial shows its COVID-19 vaccine completely protects against coronavirus-related hospitalization and death a month after vaccination.

Phase 3 trial data released Friday showed Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe illness and 85% protective against the most serious symptoms.

AP News | |

A new variant of the coronavirus emerged Thursday in the United States, posing yet another public health challenge in a country already losing more than 3,000 people to COVID-19 every day.

The mutated version of the virus, first identified in South Africa, was found in two cases in South Carolina. Public health officials said it’s almost certain that there are more infections that have not been identified yet. They are also concerned that this version spreads more easily and that vaccines could be less effective against it.

AP News | |

The Biden administration launched its new level-with-America health briefings Wednesday with a projection that as many as 90,000 more in the U.S. will die from the coronavirus in the next four weeks — a sobering warning as the government strains to improve delivery and injection of vaccines.

The tone of the hourlong briefing was in line with President Joe Biden’s promise to be straight with the nation about the state of the outbreak that has already claimed more than 425,000 U.S. lives. It marked a sharp contrast to what had become the Trump show in the past administration, when public health officials were repeatedly undermined by a president who shared his unproven ideas without hesitation.

Kimberly Redmond | |

Bill Gates said he was taken aback when Dr. Anthony Fauci and he became frequent targets of “crazy” and “evil” conspiracy theories related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist said he would like to explore what’s driving the social media chatter and figure out to better educate people about the virus, its origins and motives of those working to ...

AP News | |

Several states are loosening their coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of improved infection and hospitalization numbers but are moving gradually and cautiously, in part because of the more contagious variant taking hold in the U.S.

While the easing could cause case rates to rise, health experts say it can work if done in a measured way and if the public remains vigilant about masks and social distancing.

“If the frequency goes up, you tighten it up. If the frequency goes down, you loosen up. Getting it just right is almost impossible,” said Dr. Arnold Monto, a public health professor at the University of Michigan. “There’s no perfect way to do this.”