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FDA panel set to discuss whether Americans need an Omicron-specific booster shot

Another COVID-19 booster shot may soon be added to America’s arsenal as a leading Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel will meet Tuesday to discuss the benefits of additional shots tailored to the Omicron variant. .

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), a panel of independent experts who advise the FDA on vaccine-related matters, meets to discuss whether Americans need another booster dose tailored to the highly contagious this fall. , vaccine-resistant strain that took the world by storm late last year.

Approval would mean a fourth shortfall for the general population, and a fifth for Americans over age 50 and those who are immunocompromised. Even as demand for the shots has declined in recent months and the population is less concerned about the pandemic in general.

The Covid situation in America is also settled and remains stable for more than two weeks at just over 100,000 cases and 300 deaths per day.

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In preparation for Tuesday’s meeting, Pfizer on Saturday unveiled data demonstrating the effectiveness of the updated vaccine against the highly contagious strain of the virus.

Data includes more than 1,200 people who have already received both the original two-dose vaccine series and booster injection.

The trial found a significant increase in Omicron-effective antibodies in participants. Moderna, Pfizer’s main competitor in the rollout of the shots, revealed similar data for its Omicron-specific shots earlier this month.

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“The data demonstrate the ability of our monovalent and bivalent Omicron-adapted vaccine candidates to significantly enhance variant-specific antibody neutralization responses,” Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech – a German company that collaborated with Pfizer in the development and manufacture of the shots.

“Omicron has newly evolving sublines that have surpassed BA.1 and show a trend of increasing potential for immune escape.”

These shots were long sought after in January, when the then-new strain caused up to 800,000 new cases a day because mutations on the spike protein allowed it to evade vaccine immunity.

In the time since, however, experts have realized that while the variant is more transferable, it is also milder than its predecessors.

However, this has led to a sharp drop in demand for the additional injections and a waning concern about the pandemic from the general population.

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A May Gallup poll found that just 31 percent of Americans say they are “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about contracting COVID-19.

The poll signals the changing state of the virus as America approaches the summer months. In previous years, the warm weather months were accompanied by large, devastating virus waves.

The questionnaire was conducted in mid-April, when the trend of declining cases that had lasted nearly three months after the mid-January peak of the winter Omicron peak began to reverse.

The participants were asked about their feelings about the pandemic, the virus, and what kind of personal restrictive strategies they used — or ignored — in their daily lives.

The study also found that 64 percent of Americans believed the pandemic was getting “better.” At the time of the survey, cases had fallen just below 30,000 per day, making it one of the lowest since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

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About 21 percent of Americans said they believed the situation was about the same, and only 12 percent believed it was getting worse. The last time this small number of Americans believed the situation was deteriorating was in the summer of 2021, when cases bottomed out just before the explosion of the Delta variant.

These good feelings have also led to some behavioral changes. Only 17 percent of Americans reported still taking social distancing, the lowest point of the pandemic to date. Just under a third of Americans said they avoided large crowds, a fifth reported avoiding public places and just 15 percent avoided small gatherings.

Those numbers are also all pandemic lows, Gallup reports.

Despite shifts in social distancing, Americans seem to be clinging to masks. The poll found that half of Americans still wear face masks in public places. While the 50 percent figure is also a pandemic low, it is significantly higher than the number of people reporting that they are still concerned about the virus.

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