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UPDATES: Latest Information on Coronavirus


UPDATES: Latest Information - What you need to know. Published from aarp.org

  • Some pharmacists can now prescribe Paxlovid. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now allowing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe the COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid. Previously, individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 needed a prescription from their doctor or from a special test-to-treat site. People seeking Paxlovid from a pharmacist will need to show a copy of their recent health records (less than 12 months old) that include blood work so the pharmacist can review for kidney or liver problems. They'll also need to bring a list of all the medications they are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, so the pharmacist can screen for any potential drug interactions. “The FDA recognizes the important role pharmacists have played and continue to play in combating this pandemic,” Patrizia Cavazzoni, M.D., director for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “Since Paxlovid must be taken within five days after symptoms begin, authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid could expand access to timely treatment for some patients who are eligible to receive this drug for the treatment of COVID-19.” The FDA still suggests, however, that people who test positive for COVID-19 first consider seeking care from their regular health care provider or from a test-to-treat site in their area.

  • BA.5 is now the dominant strain of COVID. Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 now account for roughly 70 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of July 5, just months after the strains were first reported in South Africa. BA.5 is behind just over half (53.6 percent) of COVID-19 cases, and BA.4 makes up about 16.5 percent, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows. These strains appear to be more contagious than their predecessors, experts say. The U.S. is averaging about 100,000 reported cases of COVID-19 each day — all of which are caused by some version of the omicron variant. Last week, the FDA and its panel of experts voted in favor of introducing vaccines (to be used as boosters this fall) specifically designed to target the original coronavirus strain plus omicron and its subvariants, including BA.4 and BA.5. “As we move into the fall and winter, it is critical that we have safe and effective vaccine boosters that can provide protection against circulating and emerging variants to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19,” Peter Marks, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

  • CDC recommends vaccinations for young children. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., recommended on June 18 that parents vaccinate their young children ages 6 months to 5 years, accepting the findings of the FDA and the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee. “I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated,” Walensky said in a statement. The FDA on June 17 authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for that youngest age group and also authorized Moderna’s vaccine for youth ages 6 to 17. Distribution of pediatric vaccinations for the youngest children has started across the country, CDC officials say, and they are available at thousands of pediatric practices, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, health departments and clinics. In May, health officials had recommended that kids 5 and older who have been vaccinated with Pfizer’s two-shot series get a booster.

  • New COVID-19 vaccine options could be coming. An independent panel of experts on June 7 recommended that the FDA authorize a two-shot, protein-based vaccine from Maryland-based biotech company Novavax. If the FDA authorizes the product and experts at the CDC sign off on its use, the vaccine will join three others in the U.S. that have been made available to help curb infection and illness caused by the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna announced on June 8 that a newer version of its mRNA vaccine — made to target multiple coronavirus variants, including the now-dominant omicron variant — generated a strong immune response among clinical trial participants. The company says it plans to submit its data to the FDA in the coming weeks in hopes of using the new formula in boosters expected to be recommended this fall.

  • One in 4 older Americans likely experience long COVID symptoms. A large new study from the CDC found that 1 in 5 COVID-19 survivors between the ages of 18 and 64 and 1 in 4 survivors 65 and older experienced at least one condition that might be attributable to a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Conditions were seen in a number of organ systems, including the heart, kidneys and lungs. The most common conditions in both age groups were respiratory symptoms and musculoskeletal pain. Another key finding: Older adults in the study were at increased risk for developing neurologic conditions and mental health issues. Researchers also found that COVID-19 survivors have twice the risk for developing pulmonary embolism or respiratory conditions.

  • CDC strengthens booster recommendation for older Americans. The CDC upgraded its guidance to older Americans and those age 12 and older who are immunocompromised from saying that these individuals “may” get a second COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to saying they “should” get a fourth dose. “Over the past month we have seen steady increases in cases, with a steep and substantial increase in hospitalizations for older Americans,” says a May 19 CDC statement. “While older Americans have the highest coverage of any age group of first booster doses, most older Americans received their last dose (either their primary series or their first booster dose) many months ago, leaving many who are vulnerable without the protection they may need to prevent severe disease, hospitalization and death. Whether it is your first booster or your second, if you haven’t had a vaccine dose since the beginning of December 2021 and you are eligible, now is the time to get one.”

  • CDC recommends boosters for 5- to 11-year-olds. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recommended that children ages 5 to 11 get a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccine on May 19. Her recommendation follows an 11 to 1 vote by the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that these children get the extra shot five months after they receive a second dose. The FDA amended the vaccine’s emergency use authorization to add the booster shot for this age group on May 17. “While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer-term effects, even following initially mild disease,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. Califf said the third dose is being authorized “to provide continued protection against COVID-19.”

  • Third round of free at-home COVID tests. Americans can now go to covidtests.gov and order a third round of free at-home COVID-19 tests. This latest round will provide eight free tests per household, bringing the total number of tests people can request to be mailed to their homes to 16. There is no cost for the tests or for the shipping, which is being done by the U.S. Postal Service. “As the highly transmissible subvariants of omicron drive a rise in cases in parts of the country, free and accessible tests will help slow the spread of the virus,” says a White House fact sheet announcing the latest round. The increased availability of free at-home tests is being announced the day after the number of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 reached 1 million and as cases, hospitalizations and deaths are climbing. The government began offering the free tests in January, and since then, 350 million have been sent to people’s homes. Individuals who have difficulty accessing the internet or need help placing an order can call 800-232-0233 from 8 a.m. to midnight ET, seven days a week. Assistance is available in English, Spanish and 150 other languages.

  • COVID takes 1 million U.S. lives. The number of Americans who have died from COVID-19 reached 1 million on May 16. This grim milestone eclipses the impact of all other catastrophes in our nation’s history. The deaths equal more than twice the U.S. military casualties of World War II (405,399), the Vietnam War (58,220) and the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 (2,977) — combined. These fatalities also have taken the lives of more Americans than the 657,000 who perished in the flu epidemic of 1918, also known as the Spanish flu, and the more than the 700,000 who have died from HIV/AIDS since 1981. “The fact that more than 90 percent of the 1 million COVID deaths in the U.S. over the last two years have been among those ages 50 and older spotlights the urgent need to address how we support health as we age going forward,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. While 1 million deaths is an overwhelming number, the breakneck development of three coronavirus vaccines that have fully immunized nearly 220 million Americans has prevented an estimated 2.2 million more fatalities from this virus, according to a Commonwealth Fund report. Yet, while hospitalizations and deaths are far lower than they were this past winter, federal health officials and medical experts are quick to point out that this pandemic is not yet behind us. And that is particularly true among Americans who are most at risk for the coronavirus: older adults, those with compromised immune systems and people with such underlying medical conditions as diabetes and respiratory illnesses.

  • FDA restricts use of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Americans 18 and older who still have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 should only get the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) shot only if the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are not available or medically appropriate, or if getting the J&J product is the only way they will get vaccinated, federal regulators said on May 5 in an update to the vaccine’s emergency use authorization. The reason, the FDA noted in its announcement, is a rare but potentially life-threatening complication called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which was first linked to the J&J vaccine in the spring of 2021. Health officials have since been monitoring and investigating all cases of TTS, which develops when blood clots form and an individual also has low levels of blood platelets. The majority of cases — there have been 60 as of March 2022 — have been in women; most have been under age 50. TTS has not been linked to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which use a different, mRNA technology than J&J’s. The CDC in December recommended the mRNA vaccines over J&J’s product “in most situations.”


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