Johnson & Johnson plans to call on U.S. federal regulators earlier this week to approve a booster of its coronavirus vaccine, officials familiar with the company’s plans. The company is the last of the three federally authorized vaccine providers to ask for additional injections as there is growing evidence that at least older adults and others in high-risk groups need more protection.
Federal officials are increasingly concerned that the more than 15 million Americans who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are at too high a risk for serious Covid-19. The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a meeting of its expert panel on October 15 on Friday to discuss whether to approve a booster of the vaccine in an emergency.
This is part of a broader government effort to strengthen protection for all three vaccines. Regulators last month approved booster vaccinations for many recipients of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine and are considering doing so for Moderna recipients this month.
The fact that the Johnson & Johnson Advisory Committee was scheduled to meet before the company filed an application with the Food and Drug Administration reflects the Biden administration’s particular urgency to provide more protection for recipients of this vaccine.
Although the federal government has been stressing that all three vaccines are highly effective for months, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine was only 71 percent effective against hospitalizations caused by Covid, compared with 88 percent for the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech and 93 percent for that from Moderna.
“Real world data suggest that the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine regimens provide more protection than Johnson & Johnson’s single dose, the researchers said. Other research found that recipients of Johnson & Johnson were more likely to have breakthrough infections or symptomatic Covid than recipients of the other two vaccines.
Johnson & Johnson cites some studies with better results: A company-sponsored study of nearly two million people estimated that the vaccine was 81 percent effective against hospital stays. Other research suggests that protection from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not deteriorate over time, as does protection from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Nonetheless, Johnson & Johnson now appears to agree with federal officials that a single shot of its vaccine is not enough.
Last month, the company announced that a second dose, given two months after the first, increased the vaccine’s effectiveness against symptomatic Covid by about 22 percentage points to 94 percent. Johnson & Johnson also said two serious illness shots were 100 percent effective, although that estimate was less conclusive.
Andrew Wiggins, the guardian of the Golden State Warriors who stood up against a Covid-19 vaccine, has received one, the team’s trainer Steve Kerr told reporters on Sunday.
This means Wiggins can play home games in San Francisco as city ordinances require people to be fully vaccinated to enter facilities such as indoor gyms. Wiggins had tried to bypass these restrictions by filing a religious exception that the NBA rejected.
The NBA had publicly stated that if players in markets with similar mandates – that is, the Nets and the Knicks who play in New York and the Warriors who play in San Francisco – couldn’t play because of their unvaccinated status, they couldn’t play their wages could lose.
At first it seemed like Wiggins would hold out and miss the home games. He told reporters last week that his back was “against the wall, but I’ll just keep fighting for what I believe”.
The league announced in recent days that 95 percent of NBA players had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. The players’ union has rejected the introduction of a league-wide vaccination mandate. Wiggins was one of a small group of prominent players who were unvaccinated. But Wiggins received support from vaccinated teammates like Draymond Green, who said he wasn’t pushing Wiggins to take the vaccine.
“To me it feels like it turned into a political war,” Green told reporters last week. “When you talk about vaccinations and the unvaccinated, I think it has become very political. And for someone who is not so interested in politics, if you do something so politically and not everyone is into politics, then you can put these people off too. I think there is something for people’s concern about something that is under such pressure. Why do you force it so strongly? “
Green’s comments were backed by the NBA’s biggest star, LeBron James, as well as a frequent NBA critic, Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas. The Senator also said in a Twitter post on Wednesday“I’m Standing With Andrew Wiggins,” as well as other unvaccinated players including Jonathan Isaac of Orlando Magic and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
New York City’s requirement that virtually everyone who works in the city’s public schools be vaccinated against the coronavirus has forced thousands of Department of Education employees to get a Covid shot over the past week, it said Preliminary data led to extremely high vaccination rates among educators on Friday.
At least 98 percent of the school principals and 93 percent of the teachers, as well as 90 percent of the employees outside the education sector, had been vaccinated by Friday, officials from the city said.
The union, which represents city teachers who separately track vaccinations among its members, said about 95 percent of its members received at least one dose of vaccine.
The New York mandate, which goes into effect when school starts on Monday, is the mayor’s first attempt to require a no-test vaccination for all city workers. The requirement applies to well over 150,000 people who work in the country’s largest school system.
School workers who failed to provide evidence that they had received at least one dose of vaccine were automatically given unpaid leave on late Friday. Anyone who received an injection over the weekend was allowed to report to school on Monday and write back on the payroll.
Educators who do not provide proof of vaccination will be excluded from school and will be given leave of absence for one year with unpaid health insurance. Those who get vaccinated after Monday can return after receiving the first dose.
While the mandate clearly pushed many employees to get vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to enforce it will continue to be tested this week as some schools grapple with potential staffing shortages from the departure of unvaccinated employees.
In many schools, the mandate will have little or no effect. However, some schools are likely to have to employ large numbers of substitute teachers. Others will likely have to switch from serving hot lunches to grab-and-go options for lack of cafeteria attendants.
As of Friday afternoon, around 4,000 teachers were still unvaccinated and around 30 principals or deputy principals had no chance. About 15,000 non-educational workers were not vaccinated.
Union officials said they were particularly concerned about school safety officers who refused to be vaccinated. They work for the police and cannot simply be replaced.