J&J's vaccine is safe, FDA says; California variant more contagious, early research shows — 7 COVID-19 updates

Nationwide, COVID-19 hospitalizations are still falling since hitting their mid-January peak, though the rate of decline has slowed over the last few days, reports The COVID Tracking Project.  

Six more updates: 

1. Johnson and Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is safe and prevented both hospitalizations and deaths in a large clinical trial, according to an FDA review. The vaccine was more than 85 percent effective at preventing severe illness and 66 percent effective at preventing moderate and severe disease four weeks after the shot. An external committee is set to meet Feb. 26 to recommend whether the FDA should grant the vaccine emergency authorization, reports The Washington Post. 

2. The federal government will increase states' collective vaccine allocation to 14.5 million doses each week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Feb. 23. This announcement marks the fifth consecutive week of supply increases. On Feb. 16, the government ramped up states' total supply to 13.5 million doses. 

3. A coronavirus variant found in California in December is more contagious than previously circulating forms of the virus, according to early research cited by The New York Times. The two cited studies have not been peer-reviewed, and researchers said they are unsure how this variant, known as B.1.427/B.1.429, compares to others circulating in the state in terms of their threat to public health. 

4. The FDA is expected to approve Pfizer's request to store its vaccine at standard freezer temperatures, two people familiar with the matter told The New York Times. The guidance change could expand the number of sites capable of storing and administering the vaccine, NYT said.

5. Global COVID-19 deaths have declined for the sixth week in a row, down 20 percent from last week, reports the World Health Organization. Worldwide, 2.4 million new virus cases were recorded last week, down 11 percent from the previous week, the organization said Feb. 23.  

6. The first shipment of vaccines distributed by Covax arrived in Ghana Feb. 24, reports The Washington Post. The nation received 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine through the international effort, which aims to ensure equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution across the globe.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in U.S.

Cases: 28,261,979

Deaths: 502,698 

Americans receiving at least one vaccine dose: 44,544,96

Counts reflect Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 data from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University and the CDC.

More articles on public health:
Flu shot may help reduce severity of COVID-19 illness, study suggests
COVID-19 hospitalizations by state: Feb. 24
States ranked by percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered 


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