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Coronavirus Update: CDC committee to meet on J&J COVID vaccine as India sets record case number for second straight day

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The global tally of confirmed cases of the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 was headed toward 145 million on Friday, as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee was scheduled to convene to make a decision on the fate of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after it was linked to a rare blood-clotting disorder.

Health experts are expecting the committee, which started meeting at 11 a.m. Eastern time to discuss data until a vote around 5 p.m. Eastern, to conclude that the one-shot jab’s benefits outweigh the risks, although they may recommend restricting it to certain older age groups.

“We need to make a decision quickly and I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to use the vaccine soon,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday on the “Today Show.”

European regulators said earlier this week that the overall benefits of J&J’s vaccine outweigh the “very rare side effects,” and J&J said it will resume shipments to Europe with updated information on the diagnosis and management of the “rare adverse event.”

India remained the world’s hot spot on Friday, recording a global record for new infections in a single day, and breaking the record it set just a day ago. India recorded 332,730 new cases on Friday, according to the Associated Press, and 2,263 deaths. India has the second-highest case tally in the world after the U.S. at 16 million and 186,920 deaths.

Source: Johns Hopkins University

Hospitals in the capital New Delhi were pleading for oxygen supplies on social media and 13 patients died in a fire in a hospital near Mumbai. The government started running Oxygen Express trains with tankers to meet the scramble at hospitals, Railroad Minister Piyush Goyal said.

The World Health Organization reiterated its criticism of wealthier countries for hogging vaccine supply, to the detriment of poorer countries and asked them to contribute more to its Covax program which aims to distribute vaccine to low-income countries.

“Nearly 900 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 81% have gone to high or upper middle-income countries, while low-income countries have received just 0.3%,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO said in a report published to mark the one-year anniversary of the ACT Acclerators, or access to COVID-19 tools.

Covax has shipped 40.5 million doses of vaccine to 118 countries so far, but some countries have still not received a single dose.

The U.S. vaccine program, meanwhile, continues to show good progress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that as of 6 a.m. ET Thursday, 282.2 million doses had been delivered to states, 218.9 million doses had been administered, and 135.8 million people had received at least one shot, equal to 40.9% of the population.

A full 89 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 26.9% of the population, meaning they have received two shots of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc.
PFE,
+0.12%

and German partner BioNTech SE
BNTX,
+3.38%

and Moderna Inc.
MRNA,
+3.21%
,
or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
+0.42%

one-shot vaccine. The AstraZeneca
AZN,
-0.92%

AZN,
-1.42%

vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.

Among Americans 65 years of age and older, 36 million are fully vaccinated, equal to 66% of that group. More than 44 million people in that age bracket have received a first jab, covering 80.7% of that population.

Experts are now concerned that demand for shots seems to be slowing in some parts of the country and county health departments have started closing mass vaccination sites, the New York Times reported. Sites in Ohio, Las Vegas and Florida are being closed because too few people are signing up for jabs and some of the vaccines had to be destroyed because they expired.

The administration of President Joe Biden has acknowledged that persuading the rest of the population to get vaccinated presents a challenge.

In other news:

• Japan has declared a state of emergency to curb a rapid coronavirus resurgence, the third since the pandemic began, just months before the summer Olympics are due to start, the AP reported. The measures in parts of Japan, including Tokyo, have so far failed to curb infections caused by a more contagious new variant of the virus.

• The European Commission is expecting to strike the world’s biggest vaccine supply deal with Pfizer in a few days, Reuters reported. The order will be fore up to 1.8 billion doses over the next few years. That would be enough to inoculate the entire 450 million residents of the trading bloc.

As more U.S. adults get their Covid-19 vaccines, a variety of side effects are emerging. WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez speaks with an infectious disease specialist on what is common, what isn’t and when to seek medical attention. Photo: Associated Press

• The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Layen, said the EU has yet to decide whether to launch legal action against AstraZeneca for failing to deliver vaccines it was contracted to, the Guardian reported. AstraZeneca delivered less than 30 million of 120 million doses ordered and refused to redirect vaccines made in the U.K. to make up for the losses.

Two new studies from Oxford University found that the vaccine it developed with AstraZeneca and the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech reduces COVID-19 infections by 65%, cuts symptomatic infections by 82% and asymptomatic infections by 57% after a single dose. The studies were released in preprint form, meaning they have not yet been peer-reviewed. Researchers analyzed 1,610,562 test results from nose and throat swabs taken from 373,402 study participants between Dec. 1 2020 and April 3 a full three weeks after a first dose.

• German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday signed into law new legislation designed to tackle high coronavirus infection numbers across the country, local broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported. The so-called “emergency brake” allows the government extra powers if caseloads climb above certain levels and include a nighttime curfew and limits on social contacts.

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose above 144.8 million on Friday, as the death toll increased to 3.07 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 83 million people have recovered from COVID, the data show.

The U.S. continues to lead the world in cases and deaths by wide margins, with 31.9 million cases, or 22.1% of the global total, and 570,346 deaths, or 18.6% of the worldwide total. 

 Brazil is third with 14.3 million cases and second by fatalities at 383,502.

Mexico has the third-highest death toll at 214,095 and 2.3 million cases, or 15th highest tally.

The U.K. has 4.4 million cases and 127,597 deaths, the fifth-highest in the world and highest in Europe.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 102,342 confirmed cases and 4,845 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.

Ireland, with a population of 4.9 million, now has more fatalities from COVID than China’s official tally, at 4,888. China has a population of 1.4 billion.

What’s the economy saying?

The flash reading of the IHS Market US. composite purchasing managers index rose to a record high 62.2 in April from 59.7 in March, according to survey data released Friday, MarketWatch’s Greg Robb reported.

IHS Markit said its the “flash” services purchasing managers index rose to a record 63.1 from 60.4 in March. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal were expecting a 61 reading.

The firm’s “flash” manufacturing purchasing managers index rose to a record 60.6 in April from 59.1 in the previous month. Economists were expecting a reading of 60.5.

Any reading above 50 indicates improving conditions. The flash estimate is typically based on approximately 85%–90% of total survey responses each month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.59%

and S&P 500
SPX,
+1.02%

were higher Friday.

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