Portal, AZ - Rodeo, NM

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Coronavirus Update

F.D.A. Approves New Covid Shots

A nationwide rollout of the vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna should begin later this week, after the C.D.C. considers guidelines to prepare Americans for this season when infections usually tick upward.

The Food and Drug Administration approved a new round of Covid boosters on Monday, that will arrive alongside the seasonal flu vaccine and shots to protect infants and older adults from R.S.V., a potentially lethal respiratory virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to follow up on Tuesday with an advisory meeting to discuss who should get the new shots, by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. After a final decision by the C.D.C.’s director, millions of doses will be shipped to pharmacies, clinics and health systems nationwide within days.

As Covid cases creep up, the trifecta of prevention measures could portend the first winter of the decade without a crush of patients overwhelming some hospitals. But a healthy winter is far from a lock: In the last year, the updated Covid vaccine made it into the arms of only 20 percent of adults in the United States.

Some experts view that statistic with little alarm because the number of Covid deaths slowed considerably over the last year, thanks to an increasingly immune population and higher vaccine rates among older Americans. Others see this year as an opportunity to protect more vulnerable people from severe illness or death.

“Vaccination remains critical to public health and continued protection against serious consequences of Covid-19, including hospitalization and death,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the F.D.A’s top vaccine expert.

The F.D.A. granted full approval for the new formulas for people who are 12 and older and authorized them to protect infants six months and older through age 11. The Pfizer shot was authorized in the European Union for ages 6 months and older on Aug. 31.

Covid vaccines are just rolling out in the United Kingdom this week, with the first doses going to the highest risk people in care homes, ages 65 and over as well as health and social care staff members.

Federal officials have been retreating from labeling the new formulation as boosters to previous shots, preferring to recast them as an annual immunization effort akin to the flu vaccine. That shift may reflect concern over the fatigue that some Americans have expressed about yet another round of shots against the virus.

The vaccine campaign will also be the first since the end of the public health emergency, which expired in May. In previous years, the U.S. government bought hundreds of millions of vaccine doses and distributed them for free. This year, private insurance and government payers like Medicare that cover the vast majority of Americans are expected to provide the vaccines to people for free.

But the question remains whether the private market of hospitals, clinics and pharmacies will be able to calibrate their vaccine orders to stock a realistic supply. Experts are uncertain how much demand there will be for the latest shots.

New Data Links Pandemic’s Origins to Raccoon Dogs at Wuhan Market

Genetic samples from the market were recently uploaded to an international database and then removed after scientists asked China about them.

An international team of virus experts said on Thursday that they had found genetic data from a market in Wuhan, China, linking the coronavirus with raccoon dogs for sale there, adding evidence to the case that the worst pandemic in a century could have been ignited by an infected animal that was being dealt through the illegal wildlife trade.

The genetic data was drawn from swabs taken from in and around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market starting in January 2020, shortly after the Chinese authorities had shut down the market because of suspicions that it was linked to the outbreak of a new virus. By then, the animals had been cleared out, but researchers swabbed walls, floors, metal cages and carts often used for transporting animal cages.

In samples that came back positive for the coronavirus, the international research team found genetic material belonging to animals, including large amounts that were a match for the raccoon dog, three scientists involved in the analysis said.

The jumbling together of genetic material from the virus and the animal does not prove that a raccoon dog itself was infected. And even if a raccoon dog had been infected, it would not be clear that the animal had spread the virus to people. Another animal could have passed the virus to people, or someone infected with the virus could have spread the virus to a raccoon dog.

But the analysis did establish that raccoon dogs — fluffy animals that are related to foxes and are known to be able to transmit the coronavirus — deposited genetic signatures in the same place where genetic material from the virus was left, the three scientists said. That evidence, they said, was consistent with a scenario in which the virus had spilled into humans from a wild animal.