Coronavirus Update: Moderna wants to give all adults a second booster shot, and Becerra laments lack of funding for government’s ‘Test to Treat’ strategy

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Moderna Inc. has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize a fourth shot of its COVID-19 vaccine as a booster shot for all adults, a broader request than that made by Pfizer earlier this week, when it sought a booster shot for all senior.

Moderna MRNA, +6.09% said its request for approval for all adults was made “to provide flexibility” to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical providers to determine the “appropriate use” of a second booster dose of the mRNA vaccine, “including for those at higher risk of COVID-19 due to age or comorbidities,” as the Associated Press reported.

Moderna said its request for an additional dose was based on “recently published data generated in the United States and Israel following the emergence of Omicron.”

But for now, U.S. numbers continue to decline from their January peak when the omicron variant was still spreading rapidly. The U.S. is averaging 30,550 new cases a day, according to a New York Times tracker, down 41% from two weeks ago.

The average daily number of hospitalizations stands at 24,623, down 44% from two weeks ago. Deaths are averaging 1,224 a day, down 28% from two weeks ago, but still an undesirably high number.

However, with numbers climbing in Europe and many hot spots emerging in Asia, experts caution that there will likely be another wave in the U.S., which typically lags Europe by a few weeks.

The question now is whether another wave will prove more harmful than previous ones and that will depend on whether current variants and subvariants persist or new ones emerge.

Eric Topol, founder and head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, warned in a Guardian op-ed on Thursday that the U.S. has repeatedly failed to heed the warnings from Europe that a new surge was occurring.

U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra warned Thursday that vaccines, tests and treatments will be “stuck on the ground” unless Congress provides the additional funds the White House has demanded, the AP reported.

That’s after funding for COVID was removed from the recent spending bill, leaving the federal government lacking money needed to fund vaccines, testing and treatments.

“We have reached a pivot point,” Becerra said in an interview with the Associated Press. “How well we pivot is on us.”

At risk is President Joe Biden’s administration’s “Test to Treat” strategy, which would allow people go to their local drugstore for a test and if positive, receive medication they could take at home. Beceerra described it as a “one-stop shop.”

But “if you don’t have the dollars to let it fly, you’re stuck,” Becerra said. “You’re stuck on the ground.”

Special report: Two years of COVID-19: How the pandemic changed the way we shop, work, invest and get medical care

What is an endemic and how will we know when Covid-19 becomes one? WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez breaks down how public-health experts assess when a virus like Covid-19 enters an endemic stage. Photo: Michael Nagle/Zuma Press

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• A group of 35 generic manufacturers have signed agreements to produce low-cost, generic versions of Pfizer’s PFE, -0.77% oral antiviral treatment which it markets as Paxlovid for use in less wealthy countries, according to the Medicines Patent Pool, a non-profit that works to get essential medicines to regions where they are needed. The MPP said the generic pills will be supplied to 95 low and middle-income countries.

• Chinese authorities who are still locking down cities to stem the worst outbreak in two years are looking for an exit from what has been a successful but onerous COVID-19 prevention strategy, the AP reported. A study, interviews with Chinese public health staff and recent public messaging by government-affiliated experts indicate that China is exploring ways of slowly easing its zero-tolerance approach — with the emphasis on slowly. China counted more than 15,000 new cases this month in multiple outbreaks across the country, as well as an even larger one that has shaken Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has faced a record surge in Covid-19 cases and the world’s highest death rate, prompting authorities to impose strict restrictions. WSJ’s Diana Chan reports on how everyday life has changed in the city, from panic buying to an exodus of residents. Photo: Emmanuel Serna/Zuma Press

• A study by Johns Hopkins University found the local health officials in the U.S. suffered 1,499 episodes of harassment during the first year of the pandemic, the Washington Post reported. Researchers surveyed 583 local health departments and found 57% reporting that staff were targeted with personal threats, doxing and vandalism, among others. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Biden’s chief medical adviser, has received death threats and has had extra security since 2020, following criticism and false claims against him from the former president and Fox News personalities.

• A North Carolina man was sentenced to 20 months in prison for fraudulently taking $1.7 million in Covid-19 relief loans for fake companies he created, including some which had “Game of Thrones”-themed names, MarketWatch’s Lukas I. Alpert reported. Tristan Bishop Pan, 40, pleaded guilty to wire fraud last August for submitting at least 14 applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans, seeking over $6.1 million. Pan, who ran an insurance agency in the Raleigh-Durham area, ultimately received more than $1.7 million in benefits. Pan’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

See: Fully vaccinated will need fourth dose later this year, and new variant dubbed ‘deltacron’ detected in Europe

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 466.1 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.06 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 79.7 million cases and 970,009 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 216.9 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 65.3% of the population. But just 96.3 million are boosted, equal to 44.4% of the vaccinated population.

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