A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will hold an all-day meeting meeting Friday to review the data on Johnson & Johnson's candidate vaccine and is likely to give the vaccine a thumbs-up, leading to an expected FDA authorization for the shot in adults within the next few days. An FDA report released early Wednesday deemed it safe and effective.
Johnson & Johnson has agreed to provide 100 million doses of its vaccine in the USA by June, including 20 million by the end of March. Those doses will add to the 300 million doses Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna each have promised to deliver by the end of July.
The vaccine was shown to be 72% effective in a U.S. trial in which all ethnic, racial and age groups benefited about the same, and was shown to be 85% effective in preventing the most severe disease .
Meanwhile, Pfizer-BioNTech will begin testing a booster shot to combat COVID-19 variants, the companies announced Thursday. The announcement came one day after new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases across all age groups by 94%.
And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert, warned people not to hold off on getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if it soon becomes available while waiting for the slightly more effective Pfizer or Moderna shots. Fauci also told NBC News a third vaccine becoming available "is nothing but good news."
Also in the news:
►The Food and Drug Administration will allow Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped and stored at freezers commonly found in pharmacies rather than the ultra-frigid ones initially required after data from the company showed the vaccine remains stable for up to two weeks in standard freezer temperatures. Thursday's decision will make it easier to distribute and administer the vaccine.
►Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday extended Oregon's declaration of a state of emergency until May 2 as confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to drop across the state but still number in the hundreds each day.
►After six straight weeks of declines in new COVID-19 infections across the U.S., daily cases have started to plateau in many states, but hospitalizations and deaths continue to drop, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
►The World Health Organization reported Thursday that case rates across Europe have been cut in half from their winter peak.
???? Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 28.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 508,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 112.9 million cases and 2.5 million deaths. More than 91.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 68.2 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
???? What we're reading: Surgery for a child, paying a loan, electric bills: We asked Americans how they would spend $1,400 stimulus checks. This is what they said.