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US pauses Johnson & Johnson rollout over clotting reports — Coronavirus Fact vs. Fiction

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended the pause over “six reported US cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot.”

“All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” the agencies said in a joint statement.

While there is no confirmed link yet between the single-dose shot and clots, a federal official earlier told CNN that health agencies were assessing the concerns.

“The CDC and the FDA are taking these concerns about blood clots and the J&J vaccine seriously and are diligently assembling data,” the official said.

European authorities are also investigating reports of clots in several people who were given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, though they too cautioned that it was “currently not clear” whether there’s a causal association between the vaccine and the clots.

Tuesday’s developments come after a number of European countries restricted the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to older age groups over a possible link between that shot and blood clots.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q. If I observe Ramadan, will taking a Covid-19 vaccine break my fast?

A. This week, Muslims across the world will begin observing another pandemic Ramadan. If you’re doing so, multiple groups say getting a vaccine won’t break your fast.

In the US, the National Muslim Task Force on Covid-19 (NMTF) and the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition (NBMCC) have issued a Ramadan advisory urging Muslims to continue being vaccinated through the holy month. The advisory was signed by 24 Muslim community organizations.

The three available vaccines in the US — Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna — are halal and will not invalidate a fast, the organizations said in a joint news release.

In the UK, the British Islamic Medical Association has also recommended the AstraZeneca shot for Muslims.

During Ramadan it’s also customary for Muslims to gather for suhoor (the first meal of the day), iftar (the first meal after sunset) and taraweeh (nightly communal prayers) with friends and family. Health officials say this is possible if you’re fully vaccinated — so long as you keep your circle small and follow health protocols.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

Biden rebuffs Michigan over vaccines as US rollout hits its stride

The Biden administration has rejected a plea from Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for more vaccine doses, as the US inoculation rollout hits its stride.

Whitmer is a Biden ally and has made several appeals to the White House for a vaccine surge as cases rise dramatically in her state. That puts the administration in a delicate position as Michigan struggles to cope with the violent surge of cases.

The state has reported a total of 830, 957 cases since the pandemic began. Biden’s team had been enjoying a smooth inoculation rollout overall, with half of US adults expected to have received at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of this week.

Michigan’s crisis has been driven by the B.1.1.7 variant, which experts believe is more contagious. The state has the second highest number of cases of the variant, behind Florida and followed by Minnesota and Massachusetts, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Michigan should enforce a lockdown instead of ramping up vaccinations. That’s likely to be little comfort to Whitmer.

B.1.1.7 variant is more transmissible but does not increase disease severity, studies suggest

Two new studies suggest that the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which was first identified in the UK, is more transmissible but does not appear to impact disease severity.

The findings clash with separate research that previously suggested the variant may be tied to a higher risk of dying from Covid-19.

One of the studies, published Monday in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found no evidence in a sample of hospitalized patients that the variant is associated with severe Covid-19.

The study included data on 496 people who were admitted to hospitals in London and tested positive for coronavirus.

Researchers found the B.1.1.7 variant was associated with increased viral load, which supports the growing evidence that it is more easily transmitted.

The other study, published Monday in the Lancet Public Health journal, found no statistically significant association between the variant and the types or duration of Covid-19 symptoms people said that they experienced.

Although the variant was first detected in Britain it has since spread across Europe and the US, where it has become the dominant strain of Covid-19.

CDC studies find racial and ethnic disparities in Covid-19 hospitalizations

Racial and ethnic minority groups in the US had higher rates of hospitalization for Covid-19 and sought emergency department care for the virus more when compared to White people, according to two new studies published Monday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The reports underscore “the need to address health inequities in our country, including in our vaccination efforts,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday during a White House briefing.

“These disparities were not caused by the pandemic, but they were certainly exacerbated,” she added.

Walensky said the CDC was pushing for more vaccinations to be administered in hard-hit communities and for increased funding to improve vaccine access and uptake and for community health workers. The CDC is also seeking more funding for testing efforts in high-risk, underserved communities.

Walensky’s comments followed her statement last week that racism is a public health epidemic.

ON OUR RADAR

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that countries need a “reality check” on the state of the pandemic, as many nations abandon restrictions despite four weeks of rising deaths and seven weeks of rising cases globally.
  • Brazil is spiraling further into crisis as officials ease movement restrictions in major cities and states despite sky-high ICU occupancy rates.
  • Drugmaker Regeneron says a single shot of its antibody cocktail prevented symptomatic Covid-19 among people exposed to the virus, according to data from a Phase 3 trial.
  • The more contagious B.1.1.7 strain is hitting young people in the US particularly hard. Doctors say many younger adults are suffering unexpected Covid-19 complications.
  • California has one of the worst disparities in vaccinating its Latino population compared to other states, despite a mandate that allocates 40% of vaccine doses to underserved communities.
Cemetery workers lower a coffin into a gravesite in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 7.

TODAY’S TOP TIP

Pets — like their humans — had to adjust during the pandemic.

They got used to people being at home most of the time but now, with Covid-19 vaccinations picking up, it’s time to prepare them for your return to normal — whatever that may look like post-pandemic. According to some animal experts, it’s going to take time for pets to adjust.

If you’re planning a return to the office, Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, recommends that you start by leaving your pet home alone for two or three hours at a time daily, so they aren’t caught off guard when you’re gone for eight or more hours a day.

And Dr. Dana Varble, chief veterinary officer for the North American Veterinary Community, suggests that pet owners try to keep up some of the habits formed during the pandemic, such as taking their dogs for a walk during their lunch breaks.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“Nearly 200 million Americans have received Covid-19 vaccines, and the discussion is shifting from the rollout to the aftermath. Is anyone really keeping track of who is immunized?”

— Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Vaccine passports may help people feel safer when returning to normal life, but given privacy concerns, some experts aren’t in favor. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains the concerns around monitoring people’s vaccination status. Listen now.

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