About 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine have been lost after a mix-up at a Baltimore manufacturing plant, the New York Times reported Wednesday night.
The plant, run by Emergent BioSolutions, is tasked with manufacturing two COVID-19 vaccines, the Times reported. Workers at the plant conflated ingredients of the vaccines, ruining the doses, the newspaper reported.
The mix-up does not affect Johnson & Johnson doses currently being delivered and used nationwide, since those those were developed in the Netherlands, according to the Times.
Johnson & Johnson identified the spoiled batch of doses through its quality control process, the company said in a statement on its website. The site is “not yet authorized to manufacture drug substance for our COVID-19 vaccine,” and added, “This batch was never advanced to the filling and finishing stages of our manufacturing process.”
In its statement, Johnson & Johnson said it remained on track to deliver “an additional 24 million single-shot vaccine doses through April.”
Also in the news:
► French President Emmanuel Macron announced a three-week nationwide school closure and a month-long domestic travel ban. In a televised address to the nation Wednesday night, Macron said efforts are needed as “the epidemic is accelerating.”
►Chicago announced the opening of a new vaccination site for union workers eligible for the shot under current restrictions.
►The U.S. reported that half of all seniors have now been vaccinated. “Vaccination milestone,” tweeted Andy Slavitt, White House senior COVID-19 adviser. “50% of all seniors have now been fully vaccinated.”
►MGM Resorts International is bringing the coronavirus vaccine to employees at its casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
►A coronavirus variant first identified in Britain has been found on the Navajo Nation.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 30.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 551,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 128.6 million cases and 2.8 million deaths. More than 189.45 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 147.6 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Those who experimented with gender identity behind masks and screens during the pandemic may soon be returning to the workplace as the rollout of vaccines ramps up and businesses reopen. But will workplaces be ready to provide a tolerant, safe environment for employees who now identify differently? Read the full story.
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Wisconsin Supreme Court throws out mask mandate
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers from issuing public health emergency orders to mandate face masks without the approval of the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
In a 4-3 decision, conservative justices in the majority also declared the current statewide mask mandate invalid and ruled Evers exceeded his authority in issuing multiple emergency declarations during the pandemic. Evers used the emergency orders to require face coverings be worn indoors statewide after lawmakers opted not to.
“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not,” said Justice Brian Hagedorn, writing for the conservative majority.
President Joe Biden this week urged governors to reimpose mask mandates as the U.S. once again faces increasing daily totals for infections and hospitalizations. On Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, lifted the statewide mask mandate and Wyoming Gov. Gov. Mark Gordon said he won’t reinstate a mask order lifted two weeks ago.
COVID-19 was third-highest cause of US deaths in 2020
COVID-19 accounted for about 11% of all American deaths last year – right behind heart disease and cancer – and the vast majority of patients who died of the virus already had health problems before they were infected, according to two government reports released Wednesday.
The reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on death certificate data, also illustrated the staggering impact COVID-19 had in 2020 on different racial groups.
Overall, American Indian and Alaska Native people were more likely to die than people of the same age from other racial and ethnic groups. Hispanics were second most likely to die of COVID-19, followed by Black people.
“Sadly, based on the current state of the pandemic, these impacts have remained in 2021, where we continue to see that communities of color account for an outsized portion of these deaths,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a Wednesday news briefing.
– Nada Hassanein
Every state now set to expand vaccine access by May 1
All 50 states have announced when they plan to open up coronavirus vaccinations to all adults by May 1, and the day arrived Wednesday for residents of Indiana and South Carolina. More than a dozen have already lifted restrictions. Montana and Connecticut join the growing list on Thursday, New Hampshire on Friday. Next week 11 more states, New York and Florida among them, join the group. President Joe Biden has urged states to open up vaccination opportunities to all states by May 1. All are scheduled to do so. But Biden’s plea to keep mask mandates have not been as popular despite indications that new infections, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide are once again on the rise.
In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced during a news conference Tuesday that all Arkansans 16 and older were immediately eligible to receive the vaccine. Hutchinson, however, also lifted the statewide mask mandate.
London remembers victims with wall of 145,000 hearts
Relatives and friends of Britons who lost their lives to the coronavirus are drawing thousands of hearts on a wall opposite the Parliament in London as a memorial to the 145,000 victims.
“Each heart represents someone who was loved. Someone who was lost too soon to Covid-19,” the organizers, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, said on their crowdfunder page. “As bereaved family and friends this is how we choose to remember.”
Each heart is being drawn by hand, and the National Covid #MemorialWall will have drawn more than 145,000 of them. The palm-size hearts will cover a a 6-foot-tall wall the length of more than five football fields. Hearts will continue to be added until the pandemic ends and the deaths stop, the group says.
Pfizer says its vaccine is safe for kids 12 to 15 years old
The COVID-19 vaccine from drug company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech vaccine is safe for and extremely effective in adolescents, according to a company-sponsored study released early Wednesday. In adolescents 12 to 15 years old, vaccination led to a higher protective antibody response than in adults and was seen to be 100% effective against symptomatic disease, the study of 2,260 adolescents found. The two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been authorized for use in those 16 and up based on previous trials, but not in younger adolescents.
Last week, the companies began testing their vaccine in children ages 5 to 11; next week, they will begin testing in ages 2 to 5, and later will look at children 6 months to 2 years.
– Karen Weintraub
US tops 12K known COVID variant cases
The United States has reported more known coronavirus variant cases in the last week – nearly 4,300 – than it reported through the middle of March, a USA TODAY analysis of CDC data shows. Tuesday night’s tally reflected more than 1,000 new cases just since Sunday’s report. The U.S. now has 12,053 known cases of variants that can spread COVID-19 more easily, dodge some treatments and immunities, or both.
California alone reported 289 new variant cases Tuesday, bringing it up to 865 known cases. Most of those are of B.1.1.7, a variant first detected in the United Kingdom. But California’s P.1 case count also exploded, moving from seven known cases on Sunday to 33 known cases Tuesday. P.1 was first detected in Brazil. Massachusetts reported 266 new cases, bringing its total to 732.
Several states that hadn’t had much of a known variant problem suddenly have much larger problems. West Virginia went from just three known variant cases on Sunday to 53 on Tuesday, while Nevada went from 11 cases on Sunday to 63 cases on Tuesday. Idaho jumped from 18 to 32.
Ohio reported its first two cases of the B.1.351 variant first detected in South Africa.
– Mike Stucka
Most Americans want vaccine or are already vaccinated
The majority of U.S. adults say that they’ve either being vaccinated for COVID-19 or intending to do so as soon as possible, and that number continues to rise. That’s according to a new survey from nonpartisan health foundation Kaiser Family Foundation, which puts that number at 61% of respondents while the share that responded said they’re taking a “wait and see” approach has shrunk to 17%.
The new developments come as average daily reported cases are up 10% compared to a week earlier, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. And as COVID-19 cases creep up again across the country, federal officials and epidemiologists say they’re worried we could hit another tipping point, leading to a fourth significant surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Read more here.
Nations challenge WHO report on coronavirus origins
The U.S. and a dozen other countries issued a rare joint statement on Tuesday questioning the validity of a World Health Organization study into the origins of the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, and has now killed 2.8 million people across the globe.
“We support a transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence, of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China,” reads the statement, which was issued by the U.S. State Department in coordination with a raft of other governments, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The statement included strong support for the WHO and did not directly blame China for interfering with the scientific probe. But it said health experts were delayed in studying the origins of the virus and that even when granted access, they were denied “complete, original data and samples.”
“The mission of the WHO is critical to advancing global health and health security,” the statement said. “Scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.”
The WHO’s director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. has also highlighted China’s lack of cooperation.
“I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough,” he said. “Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Contributing: The Associated Press