CDC: Effectiveness of Moderna vaccine is staying especially strong. Latest COVID-19 updates

New research released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday shows that effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine is staying especially strong.

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Over the course of five months of research, from March to August, the effectiveness of all the vaccines at keeping people out of the hospital due to COVID among people without compromising conditions was highest for Moderna recipients, at 93%. Pfizer’s effectiveness was overall 88% and J&J’s was 71%.

Pfizer’s effectiveness decreased after 120 days of the study period, from 91% to 77%, while Moderna’s effectiveness did not see a similar decline. Initial effectiveness of 93% only declined to 92% with Moderna.

“Although these real-world data suggest some variation in levels of protection by vaccine, all FDA-approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization,” researchers concluded.

The report was released hours before an FDA committee decided not to recommend booster shots for people vaccinated with Pfizer, except in the case of the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Also in the news:

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► A New York City restaurant hostess was allegedly assaulted by a group of customers visiting from Texas when she asked them for proof they had been vaccinated. The New York City Fire Department said she was punched repeatedly and had her necklace broken. Three suspects were taken into custody.

► An Arizona couple, Frank Robert Montoya and Victoria Parra-Carranza, were given jail time after they coughed on Walmart employees who asked them to wear masks, then fought with police.

►A federal judge has again blocked Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee from allowing parents to opt out of school mask requirements aimed at limiting coronavirus infections.

► A child died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, state health officials announced on Friday. The child, who was between 5 and 11 years old, is the 15th minor to die from the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 41.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 672,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 227.7 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. More than 180.5 million Americans — 54.4% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘What we’re reading: Joe Biden’s plan to combat COVID-19 is more than a vaccine mandate. It’s a testing mandate, too. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

FDA panel recommends Pfizer boosters only for elderly, high-risk

After hours of discussion and a request to revise the question they were being asked, a key federal advisory committee on Friday recommended a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine six months after full vaccination for people aged 65 and older and those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

The initial question, posed by Pfizer, would have made the booster available to everyone aged 16 and up.

There isn’t yet sufficient evidence to show boosters for people under 65 are necessary, said members of the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.

Those at high risk would include health care workers, first responders and people likely to be exposed to the virus at work, committee members said.

– Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY

British government simplifies COVID travel rules after complaints 

Amid complaints that its rules regarding international travel were too complicated, England on Friday announced a modification to the regulations in place to prevent the spread of COVID.

Instead of a red-, amber- or green-light system to classify countries based on their prevalence of COVID, with changes in classification confusing travelers, the country will implement a two-tier system beginning in October. 

Under the new system, countries will either be red or open. Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya were all removed from the red list this week.

Testing requirements will also be eased for travelers coming from open countries who are fully vaccinated.

Facebook overrun by COVID vaccine lies, report says

Anti-vaccine activists flooded Facebook to sow doubt about the COVID-19 vaccines, overwhelming efforts to stop them, even as the company told the world that it was not responsible for vaccine hesitancy, a new report from the Wall Street Journal has found.

Of about 150,000 users posting in Facebook Groups disabled for spreading COVID-19 misinformation, 5% produced half of the posts, and 1,400 invited half of the new members, one document unearthed by the newspaper found. 

The report paints a picture of a company outfoxed by a small but wily group of anti-vaccine activists that it called “big whales.” 

Facebook researchers in May compared the problem to QAnon and allegations of election fraud, “with a relatively few number of actors creating a large percentage of the content and growth.”

– Brett Molina and Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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