America’s fight against COVID-19 got a nice boost Friday, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized vaccine booster shots for all adults, with any of the approved or authorized vaccines.
The expected FDA OK comes at a time that the daily average COVID-19 death toll has held above 1,000 for the past three months and the daily average for new cases rose to a six-week high. Fears of another surge in cases as people gather for the holidays has been fueled by the recent emergence of a fourth wave of cases in Europe, which in the past has foreshadowed waves in the U.S.
Next stop for the boosters, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory committee will meet later Friday to discuss clinical recommendations.
“COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be the best and highly effective defense against COVID-19,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock. “Authorizing the use of a single booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older helps to provide continued protection against COVID-19, including the serious consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death.”
Shares of Moderna Inc. MRNA, +4.36% rose 3.6% in morning trading, Pfizer Inc.’s stock PFE, +0.55% gained 0.3% and Pfizer-partner BioNTech SE’s U.S.-listed shares BNTX, +3.80% 22UA, +7.09% tacked on 3.5%.
The latest data from the CDC showed that 182.7 million adults in the U.S., or 70.7% of the population have been fully vaccinated, while 32.4 million adults, or 17.8% of the population, have received a booster shot. In total, 195.7 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated and 32.5 million have received boosters.
Now the sobering news.
The seven-day average of new cases rose to 94,669 on Thursday from 88,140 on Wednesday, according to a New York Time tracker. Although the daily average is well below the recent high of 175,822 on Sept. 13, it’s up 35% from the Oct. 25 low of 70,291, and is the highest since Oct. 10. Read MarketWatch’s “Coronavirus Update” column.
The daily average is also in line with numbers seen in early-November of 2020, before a wave of cases hit the U.S. during last year’s holiday season.
The daily average for deaths ticked up to 1,158 on Thursday from 1,088 on Wednesday, the New York Times data show. While the daily death toll is down from a recent high of 2,087 on Sept. 20, it has held above 1,000 since Aug. 19, and is around the same levels seen a year ago.
The daily average of hospitalizations grew to 48,276 on Thursday from 48,088 on Wednesday.
Michigan had the highest daily average for cases at 8,393 and had the highest number of cases per 100,000 people at 84. New York was second in daily cases at 5,986, followed by Pennsylvania at 5,428, while New Mexico was second in cases per 100,000 people at 79 and New Hampshire was third at 77.
Meanwhile, the situation in Europe continued to get worse, as Austria imposed a national lockdown to fight off yet another wave of COVID-19 cases. The lockdown will start Monday and initially last for 10 days.
And starting Feb. 1, 2022, the country will make vaccinations mandatory, according to public broadcaster ORF.
There are worries that Germany could be next, as the country’s health minister Jens Spahn said Friday that a lockdown can’t be ruled out, even for the vaccinated, according to a report in the Guardian.
That comment followed a record one-day case tally in Germany on Thursday. On Friday, another 52,970 COVID-19 cases were recorded in Germany, as were 201 deaths.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose above 256.3 million on Friday, while the death toll rose to nearly 5.14 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. remains the world leader in total cases, with more than 47.5 million, and in deaths, at 768,717.
India is second by cases after the U.S. at 34.5 million and has suffered 465,082 deaths, as of the latest count. Brazil has the world’s second highest death toll at 612,144 and is third in cases at 22.0 million.
In Europe, Russia has had the most fatalities at 256,669, followed by the U.K. at 143,999.
China, where the virus was first discovered in late-2019, has had 110,901 confirmed cases and 4,849 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be understated.