The CDC reviews Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, India’s case count reaches record highs, and the US expands its Do Not Travel list. Here’s what you should know:
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CDC advisory committee meets to determine the future of the Johnson & Johnson shot
Today, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting to discuss the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and it is expected to recommend resuming its use. The shot’s rollout was paused to investigate a very small number of dangerous blood-clotting incidents. While rare, they were medically serious and, in some cases, deadly. Presuming that the shot will soon be back in use, medical practitioners are thinking carefully about how to discuss both the collective gain and personal risk. In the words of one physician, “We do want societal benefit at the end of the day, but we shouldn’t avoid the aspects of talking about what it means to individual patients.”
In the EU, the health regulator announced earlier this week that the region would resume its Johnson & Johnson rollout, as the benefits of the shot outweigh the risk of rare blood clots. There, the drugmaker will add a new label with warnings about the risk of clots and steps for recognizing and treating them.
India sets pandemic records as other countries also battle mounting outbreaks
On Friday, there were 332,730 daily new Covid-19 infections in India—the world’s highest single-day increase in cases. The pandemic surge in India has been making headlines all week as the situation grows increasingly dire. Hospital beds are filling up, and some states and cities have instituted lockdowns in the absence of a national mandate. On top of that, there were two deadly accidents at overrun hospitals this week: An oxygen leak killed 22 Covid patients, and a fire killed at least 14.
Other countries are also struggling to contain the crisis. In Brazil, millions are going hungry as the country faces a record-setting outbreak. And this week Japan declared a third state of emergency for several regions, including Tokyo, as cases tick up just a few months before the Olympics.
The US issues new travel advisories as other countries create plans for opening their borders
Earlier this week, the US State Department put out a far more expansive Do Not Travel list. The list, which included just 33 countries a week prior, now names more than 115 countries and territories that Americans should avoid traveling to, including Brazil, Russia, India, and large parts of Europe.
As vaccination drives progress in some parts of the world, other countries are also outlining new plans for foreign travel. China, which once allowed entry only for people who had received Chinese vaccines, recently announced it will allow American vaccine records to be submitted when applying for a coronavirus QR “health code.” And Israel and Bahrain reached a first-of-its-kind agreement to recognize vaccine passports from either place and allow quarantine-free travel between the two countries.
The Oscars are this Sunday. It’s not entirely clear what the awards show will look like, but after the year Hollywood has had, we’ll take what we can get.
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How has the pandemic worsened inequality?
As unemployment rates and death tolls rose last spring, it was evident that this pandemic was affecting everyone. But the way it’s hit some of America’s most vulnerable populations—children and patients without an internet connection at home, people without a home to shelter in, members of the Navajo Nation, incarcerated individuals—illuminates many of the chasms that divide society. How much you make determines how well you're able to prevent getting sick, and the people who are most likely to get Covid often also have the hardest time getting vaccinated. It's been particularly distressing to see the disease's disproportionate impact on communities of color, a reality that the available data doesn't fully reveal. Churches and courts are two of many institutions that have struggled with the unequal impact of this pandemic. Hot spots have also emerged in poorer, densely populated cities in the global south. And even in Silicon Valley, Big Tech's shadow workforce is barely scraping by.