A top U.S. official suggested Wednesday that people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine likely are protected against the delta variant.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNBC that data shows the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot — a “cousin” of the J&J — is highly effective against the variant first identified in India and currently surging across the nation.
“While we are still awaiting direct studies of Johnson & Johnson and the delta variant, we have reasons to be hopeful, because the J&J vaccine has proven to be quite effective against preventing hospitalizations and deaths, with all the variants that we’ve seen to date,” Murthy said.
Murthy’s comments come as other companies like Moderna announced that their vaccine is effective against all variants of COVID-19, including the delta variant, which is thought to be more contagious.
The World Health Organization recommended that even vaccinated people continue to wear masks in light of the delta variant spread in recent weeks, even as the Centers for Disease Control assures vaccinated Americans that they are safe from the variant and do not need to wear masks. Read more here.
Also in the news:
►Fifty-two Italian prison officers have been suspended for their alleged involvement in an assault on inmates who had protested the lack of face masks and virus tests during the peak of Italy’s pandemic last year.
►77% of vaccinated adults have said everyone in their household is vaccinated, while 75% of unvaccinated adults have said no one they live with is vaccinated, according to a recent survey from Kaiser Family Foundation.
►A Washington state lawmaker apologized Wednesday for wearing a yellow Star of David — a symbol forced on Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust — at a speech over the weekend to protest restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.
►More than 80 teens and adult staff have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a summer camp in central Illinois that did not require masks indoors or vaccination status.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 604,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 182.1 million cases and more than 3.94 million deaths. More than 154.8 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — nearly 46.7% of the population, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: As a diabetic, Joshua Garza had a chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine within the first month. In a decision that will forever haunt him, he passed; he thought the vaccine was still too new. Read more here.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer plans to announce details Thursday of COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes that will give vaccinated Michiganders a chance to win a combined total of more than $5 million in cash and nine college scholarships worth $55,000 apiece.
Called the “MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes,” the lottery-style raffle will be operated by the state in conjunction with Meijer and the Michigan Association of United Ways as an incentive to encourage more residents to get vaccinated.
Any resident 18 or older who has gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine is eligible for the sweepstakes. For teens and tweens ages 12-17, there’ll be a chance to win one of nine Michigan Education Trust (MET) Charitable Tuition Program four-year contracts valued at $55,000. The scholarships can be used to pay for tuition and mandatory fees at a college or university in accordance with MET terms and conditions.
As of Wednesday, just over 5 million Michiganders ages 16 and up had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which amounts to 61.8% of that population, according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard. The state in April endured a surge in cases related to the alpha variant.
– Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press
German vaccine maker CureVac said Wednesday that its vaccine is 53% effective against COVID-19 of any severity in 18-to 60-year-olds. Overall, CurveVac says the shot is 48% effective, based on 83 cases in the vaccine group and 145 in the placebo group.
The World Health Organization has said vaccines with an efficacy above 50% are worth using, though many of those already approved have a far higher rate.
CureVac says it has sent the data to the European Medicines Agency, which is conducting a rolling review of the vaccine.
CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas says the vaccine fully protects 18-to 60-year-olds against hospitalization. He calls it “an important contribution to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the dynamic variant spread.”
The company says it sequenced 204 case samples to identify the variant causing the infection but did not provide complete details on the variants found.
The head of the CDC reaffirmed on various networks Wednesday that fully vaccinated Americans still don’t need to wear COVID-19 face masks in most situations but acknowledged local officials may implement stricter policies.
“Here in the United States, we’re fortunate. We have three vaccines that we know are safe and effective. We have two-thirds of the adult population that is fully vaccinated and really quite protected from the variants that we have circulating here,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday morning on NBC News’ “Today.”
Walensky’s comments come after the World Health Organization this week recommended even vaccinated people continue to wear masks, and Los Angeles health officials recommended all people wear them indoors because of concerns about the delta coronavirus variant.
“We are still seeing an uptick of cases in areas of low vaccination, and in that situation we are suggesting that policies be made at the local level. And those masking policies are really intended to protect the unvaccinated. The vaccinated we believe still are safe,” Walensky said on “Good Morning America.”
The delta variant, which is believed to be more contagious, accounts for more than one in four COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to CDC estimates.
– Grace Hauck
Contributing: The Associated Press