Coronavirus Vaccine Updates: Booster shots may be needed until infections die down, study suggests

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Just like flu vaccines, which are adjusted each year to combat viruses as they change and mutate, COVID-19 vaccines may need similar alterations until infection rates decrease, a recent study suggests.

A team of researchers from a German research hospital found that four common cold coronaviruses that infect humans by the same spike protein mechanism that SARS-CoV-2 uses do evade the immune system just like the influenza virus.

But, researchers say a good sign for COVID-19 is that the coronaviruses evolved about four times slower than flu viruses.

Still, SARS-CoV-2 is mutating at a faster rate than the coronaviruses in the study and likely won't slow down until the rate of infections across the globe drops dramatically.

So, vaccine producers such as Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson are already working on boosters for their vaccines to be more effective against variants.

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Here are more of today's headlines:

NY, CT among 22 states with more than 10% increase in new cases
New York and Connecticut are among 22 states that have seen a more than 10% increase in the number of new cases week on week, new data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows. Meanwhile, New York and Connecticut are joined by New Jersey on the list of states with the highest case rates nationally (7 day daily average: 310, 225, and 321 per 100k population, respectively). Among these states, New Jersey had the highest RT-PCR test positivity in the last seven days (8.8%).

Increasing cases in Connecticut
The Connecticut State Department of Public Health is reminding residents to remain vigilant against COVID-19 as case rates have risen over the last two weeks.

DPH has moved several Connecticut towns that had been seeing falling or stable COVID-19 case rates back into Red Alert status, as the average daily case rate for COVID-19 has increased statewide to 25 cases/100,000 residents per day.

Over 90% of the Connecticut population lives in a town with an average daily case rate of over 15 cases per 100,000 residents. It is estimated that 40% of these new cases are the B.1.1.7 variant.

Fauci lays out scenario for when experts could loosen face mask recommendations
If a new study shows that vaccinations prevent COVID-19 transmission, inoculated Americans could be "much more liberal" in deciding whether or not to wear a face mask, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert.

But he also said that he cannot start recommending the removal of face masks until daily COVID infections reduce drastically.

NJ Transit vaccinating bus drivers, transit workers
New Jersey Transit bus drivers and transit workers will receive COVID-19 vaccinations on Saturday. All of the state's public transit workers first became eligible on March 15. At least 21 NJ Transit employees have died of complications from coronavirus -- including 11 bus drivers and one train operator.

1st priest in US to die of COVID remembered
Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, a Mexican-born Brooklyn pastor, became the first priest in the United States to die as a result of COVID-19.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will lead memorial mass in Bushwick, Brooklyn, at St. Brigid Church on Saturday.

5,000 attend rock concert in Barcelona after COVID-19 screen
Five thousand music lovers are set to attend a rock concert in Barcelona after passing a COVID-19 screening, to test its effectiveness in preventing outbreaks at large cultural events.

The show on Saturday has the permission of Spanish health authorities. Concertgoers will undergo an antigen test hours before the concert.

Those who test negative will be able to attend the indoor concert and mix freely, although face masks will be mandatory. The concert is an expanded version of a case study in December based on a concert for 500 people that organizers said showed no sign of contagion.

NYC COVID tracing initiative

NYC is devoting $600 million toward its COVID tracing initiative. More tracers were hired over the first two weeks of March as cases surged in the post-holiday period.

Because of the renewed effort, the city was able to hit its goal of reaching at least 90% of people who tested positive -- a goal it hadn't achieved since around Thanksgiving.

NY unveils digital 'Excelsior' pass to help businesses, venues reopen
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced the launch of Excelsior Pass, a free and voluntary platform developed in partnership with IBM that utilizes secure technology to confirm an individual's recent negative PCR or antigen test result or proof of vaccination. The goal is to help fast track the reopening of businesses and event venues in accordance with state Department of Health guidelines.
Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app. Each Pass will have a secure QR code, which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination.

Spurred by lockdown, Spain gives 4-day week a try
Experimenting with cutting back one workday per week is about to go nationwide in Spain. A three-year pilot project will be using 50 million euros ($59 million) from the European Union's massive coronavirus recovery fund to compensate companies as they resize their workforce or reorganize production workflows to adapt to a 32-hour working week.

While several companies have already embraced the trend, the pandemic has accelerated it. Supporters say that shorter schedules could benefit work-life balance and three-day weekends could boost consumption. But critics argue that a pandemic-shaken economy is no ground for experiments.

Israelis gather for Passover, celebrating freedom from virus
Israelis will once again hold large family gatherings this weekend to celebrate Passover, the festive Jewish holiday recalling the biblical flight of the Israelites from Egypt.

That's thanks to a highly successful coronavirus vaccination campaign that has inoculated 80% of the country's adult population. Authorities have reopened restaurants, hotels, museums and theaters, and permit indoor gatherings of up to 20 people. It's a stark turnaround from last year, when Israel was in its first of three lockdowns, with people largely confined to their homes.

China outlines COVID-origin findings, ahead of WHO report
Chinese officials briefed diplomats Friday on the ongoing research into the origin of COVID-19, ahead of the expected release of a long-awaited report from the World Health Organization.

The briefing appeared to be an attempt by China to get out its view on the report, which has become enmeshed in a diplomatic spat. The U.S. and others have raised questions about Chinese influence and the independence of the findings, and China has accused critics of politicizing a scientific study.

When did you realize the COVID pandemic changed everything?
Many of us had a moment, most often occurring in March 2020, when we realized that COVID-19 had completely changed our lives forever. Even though we've managed to move forward and adapt to a new normal, that memory still sticks with us. Tell us: What was that moment to you?

Top 7 COVID vaccine questions answered
You had questions about COVID-19 vaccines and 7 On Your Side is getting you answers from doctors on the front line of the pandemic.


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