HHS will permit pharmacists to give COVID-19 vaccines, surgeon general says: 4 pandemic updates

The U.S. has reported an average of 36,704 COVID-19 cases daily in the past week, down 13 percent from the average seen two weeks ago, reports The New York Times. 

Four updates:

1. AstraZeneca paused its COVID-19 vaccine trial Sept. 8 after a participant experienced a serious adverse reaction, reports The New York Times. A source familiar with the matter told the Times that the individual was diagnosed with an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord. It is still unclear whether the vaccine caused the adverse reaction. Pausing the trial will allow AstraZeneca to conduct a safety review and investigate whether the vaccine did in fact cause the inflammatory syndrome. 

2. Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, along with Jerome Adams, MD, U.S. surgeon general, testified about vaccine safety in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee Sept. 9. Dr. Collins spoke of six large-scale vaccine candidates in the U.S., recognizing that the AstraZeneca trial was put on hold Sept. 8. Dr. Collins said this hold "ought to be reassuring" because it exemplified the claim that public safety won't be compromised in the race for a vaccine. The pause is not unprecedented and all six vaccines aren't expected to be successful, Dr. Collins said. To hasten development while still maintaining the "rigor of scientific evaluation," delays in traditional vaccine development have been removed, such as eliminating downtime between clinical phases, according to Dr. Collins. "As a physician, I'm hopeful," Dr. Collins said. 

"There will be no shortcuts," Dr. Adams said regarding vaccine development, reiterating Dr. Collins' claims. Dr. Adams also underscored the importance of equitable vaccination, and said HHS will be issuing guidance letting pharmacists administer COVID-19 vaccines to individuals 3 years and older. 

3. BioNTech and Pfizer expect clinical results regarding their experimental COVID-19 vaccine in late October. The companies plan to pursue regulatory review for vaccine BNT162b2 in October, depending on the success of late-stage clinical trials in which more than 25,000participants have enrolled. On Sept. 9, the partner companies reached a preliminary agreement to supply 200 million doses of the experimental vaccine to the European Union — the biggest initial order yet for Pfizer and BioNTech. In July, the U.S. signed for 100 million doses of BNT162b2 for the price of $2 billion, with an option for 500 million more.

4. The Senate will vote on a slimmed-down COVID-19 relief bill Sept. 10, reports The Hill. Senate Republicans released the roughly $500 billion package Sept. 8. It is about half of the $1.1 trillion bill that Republicans introduced in July. Democrats aren't expected to support the bill. Learn more about the legislation here.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 6,328,154
Deaths: 189,699
Recovered: 2,359,111

Counts reflect data available as of 8:30 a.m. CDT Sept. 9.

More articles on public health:

Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, by state: Sept. 9
US sees fewest daily cases in nearly 3 months; LabCorp test can detect flu, COVID-19 + RSV — 7 updates
After month of decline, positive COVID-19 tests rise in late August: 4 CDC findings


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