US close to approving AstraZeneca vaccine even as European nations suspend use: Live COVID-19 updates

Sweden on Tuesday joined a growing number of European nations and suspended use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine citing a link to blood clots the company and other experts say likely are unrelated to the vaccine.

Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Denmark are among nations that have put use of the vaccine, a collaboration between the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and Oxford University. The World Health Organization has urged countries to continue using the vaccine, saying there’s no evidence of a connection to blood clots.

The WHO has scheduled a meeting of its safety experts for Tuesday to address the topic.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, told Reuters that data on the vaccine was being reviewed by independent U.S. monitors to determine whether the shot is safe and effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could complete its reviews and issue an emergency use authorization next month if all goes well, he said.

Also in the news:

►A year after Italy became the first country to impose a nationwide lockdown, the country imposed another one on Monday as cases and hospitalizations rise.

►Additional Greek Life chapters at DePaul in Illinois have since been identified as having attended a weekend St. Patrick’s Day party that violated city COVID-19 guidelines, school newspaper The DePaulia wrote Monday.

►More states are allowing all adults to get vaccinated. Mississippi joined Alaska on Tuesday in opening the vaccine eligibility flood gates. And Connecticut is preparing to open to all ages over 16 starting April 5.

►Two new studies add evidence that a coronavirus variant first detected in Britain, already known to be at least 50% more contagious than the original strain, is also more deadly.

►Support is rolling in for a San Antonio man whose Noodle Tree restaurant was vandalized with racist graffiti days after he spoke out against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to rescind a statewide mask mandate.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 535,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 120 million cases and 2.65 million deaths. More than 135.8 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and nearly 110 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Vaccine passports should be free, private and secure, the White House has said. But who will be issuing them?

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Moderna begins vaccine trials of children

Moderna has given the first COVID-19 vaccine doses to children under 12 years of age, the company announced Monday. The pharmaceutical company intends to recruit 6,750 healthy pediatric participants less than 12 years of age for the trial.

“This pediatric study will help us assess the potential safety and immunogenicity of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate in this important younger age population,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna. The company joins Pfizer and BioNTech in starting trials for children, after data that its vaccine was effective in older adults.

“If I were part of the FDA I would certainly want to be very convinced about the safety of a vaccine before I approved its use in children,” Dr. Cody Meissner a pediatric infectious disease expert at Tufts Children’s Hospital said in October, when Pfizer started pediatric trials. “The pattern of disease is very different in children, and lumping them in with adults would cause me some discomfort.”

Winter storm interrupts vaccinations in Colorado, Wyoming

After a “crippling” winter storm dumped up to 4 feet of snow in the Rocky Mountains — closing roads and canceling flights — the storm raced into the Midwest and sparked thunderstorms in the South. The result? Interference with COVID-19 vaccines, officials said. Federal officials shut down vaccine shipments to the region as the storm neared so the vials packed in dry ice wouldn’t spoil during mail delays, Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti said. The storm also was keeping many people from getting to vaccine locations, Deti noted.

“We think they’ll be at least a couple of days,” Deti said. “Nobody is quite sure when things will be cleared and reopened.”

People with immune issues — at ‘high risk’ for COVID-19 — remain hesitant

Even as more and more states open up vaccinations for those who are immunocompromised, more questions remain. None of the large-scale vaccine trials included people who are immunocompromised, though every indication is that vaccines are safe in this group. Organizations representing experts in cancer, organ transplantation and autoimmune diseases all support vaccination for their patients.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that there are still questions about vaccines and the immunocompromised. It remains unclear, he said at a news conference, whether people who are immunocompromised make a comparable immune response to those without these conditions, whether the protection from vaccines will last as long in them and whether they will be able to transmit the disease after vaccination.

But there’s no question people who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for bad outcomes if they do get COVID-19, he said. That’s why it’s particularly important for them to get vaccinated. Read the full story.

— Karen Weintraub

Spring breakers ‘have forgotten there’s a pandemic,’ mayor says

Miami Beach is facing an influx of spring breakers as much of the country remains under restrictions because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Because most pandemic restrictions have been lifted in Florida, people are coming with an “anything goes” mentality, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told USA TODAY on Monday, after a weekend of mayhem that kicked off with police in Miami Beach shooting pepper balls to disperse a crowd that had gathered around officers who were making an arrest.

The Miami Beach Police Department made 163 arrests over the past seven days, spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez told USA TODAY.

“It’s like a triple threat: We’ve got too many people, too many coming with a desire to go wild and we have the virus,” Gelber said. “It really poses a multifaceted peril for us.”

The primary concern, experts say, is that partying is occurring at a crucial moment in the fight against the coronavirus: More vaccines are being administered each day, yet more cases of variants — which are highly transmissible — are being reported. Making matters worse, they say, is that students will be enjoying their break as more states relax restrictions they had in place, such as mask mandates.

— Morgan Hines and Christal Hayes

Contributing: The Associated Press

You may also like...