Florida’s total cumulative COVID-19 positive tests topped 1.9 million on Saturday, while the state added 118 more deaths in the latest Florida Department of Health statistics.
The numbers also come after a government advisory board unanimously voted on Friday to recommend approval of a third COVID-19 vaccine, this one from Johnson & Johnson.
“I think approval of this vaccine will help meet needs right now,” said committee member Archana Chatterjee, dean of Chicago Medical School, after casting her vote.
If the Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration approves, as expected, the vaccine could be launched in the US next week.
New numbers in northeast Florida on Saturday included five deaths, four in St. Johns County and one in Duval County. The health department has now recorded a total of 31,280 fatalities.
Although statistics show that the pandemic is slowing its spread in Florida and the number of new cases reported every day has decreased by around two-thirds from the beginning of 2021, the death toll has not declined by a comparable rate. In the past week, the health department in Duval recorded 63 deaths.
So far, the department has reported 1,903,682 positive tests, up 5,459 from Friday’s total. Duval County added 148 cases, St. Johns County 41, Clay County 22, Putnam County six, Nassau County five, and Baker County one.
The department’s positivity rate rose to 7.41 percent for lab results that were below 7 percent after two consecutive days on Friday, although the percentage has remained below average for the past two weeks. Daily positivity rates from mid-teens were recorded regularly in early January.
The new case positivity rate for Duval saw a very slight increase to 3.85 percent. Similar to the nationwide rate, the percentage remains a few percentage points lower than a month ago.
The positivity rate for new cases from Baker dropped to 1.59 percent and has remained below 5 percent for the past five days. Nassau also fell sharply to 1.35 percent and Putnam fell to 3.17 percent while St. Johns rose to 5.50 percent and Clay was near stationary at 4.44 percent.
The Agency for the Administration of Healthcare reported a sustained decline in COVID-19 hospital stays across Florida, listing 3,728 at 3:00 p.m. Saturday.
Duval hospital stays, now at 162, have declined more than 40 in the past week. Clay listed 22, Nassau five, Putnam two, and St. John’s four.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine would join Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s, which have made available to 46 million people since December.
Approval from the FDA Advisory Group, known as the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products, was awaited as the company met all of the criteria the FDA set for approval of a vaccine last year: a large-scale study to detect Safety and efficacy, and evidence that the company can consistently and safely manufacture the vaccine.
All three vaccines are safe and effective, several committee members said after the vote.
Eric Rubin, an infectious disease expert at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said voting to support the vaccine was a “relatively simple call”.
“It’s clearly going way over the bar,” said Rubin, also editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The J&J vaccine has several advantages over the other vaccines and one disadvantage: less effectiveness.
In a large study a few months after the first two, the J&J vaccine was shown to be 72 percent effective in the US and significantly effective in South Africa and Latin America, where two variants – which have now arrived in the US – have spread are less effective.
In the United States, the vaccine appeared to be equally effective for all populations, with the exception of people over 60 with multiple medical problems who were less effective.
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines were found to be 94 percent effective in their tests last year, although the introduction of the variants is expected to reduce their effectiveness somewhat as well.
The presence of the variants increases the urgency to make safe and effective vaccines available to the public, said committee member Jay Portnoy, a pediatric immunologist with the University of Missouri-Kansas City Medical School.
“We are in a race between the mutating viruses and new variants that can cause more diseases,” he said. “The fewer people infected with the virus, the less chance it will develop into a more virulent strain.”
In terms of benefits, the J&J vaccine takes one shot instead of two, which provides faster protection. The company is also investigating a two-dose regimen to see if this will prove to be significantly more effective.
The J&J vaccine is based on a more established technology than the other two. It uses a harmless virus to deliver a protein that trains the immune system to attack when it sees the virus that causes COVID-19.
It can also be kept in the refrigerator for longer, making it easier to ship to places lacking pharmaceutical grade freezers. And it may have fewer side effects.
The public is not expected to have a choice of which vaccine to take, and it is not yet clear whether the J&J vaccine will be added to the broader pool or whether federal or state governments will decide to transfer it to others Way to use because of its special properties.
Rubin said knowing how best to use this new vaccine is a bit difficult as there are still open questions about it, including whether it will be effective enough in people over 60 with multiple conditions.
“With new information released all the time, we can better understand how this can best be applied,” he said.
An advisory committee from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meets on Sunday and Monday to discuss the vaccine and recommend its use.
By midsummer, the US also expects 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, enough to vaccinate the vast majority of Americans.
Two other vaccine candidates, one from AstraZeneca and Oxford University and one from Biotech Novavax, are working their way through the clinical trial process and are expected to apply for FDA approval in the next few months.
The government prepaid all of these vaccines, most for around $ 10 per dose, so they will be made available to the public at no additional charge. Insurance companies or government programs are expected to cover the additional costs of actually delivering the footage.
The vaccines are not yet approved for use in children, although the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine can be given to 16- and 17-year-olds, and the company expects to complete a study in younger adolescents this spring. J&J said Friday that it plans to start a study in adolescents and younger children next week in the coming months.
Florida coronavirus statistics
Total cases in Florida: 1,903,682, down from 1,898,223 Friday and down from 1,863,707 a week ago
State deaths: 30,734, down from 30,624 Friday and up from 29,813 a week ago
Nonresident deaths: 546 versus 526 a week ago
Total hospital stays: 79,242, down from 79,021 on Friday and down from 77,654 a week ago
Current hospital stays: 3,728 compared to 4,213 a week ago
Note: Tests listed as “pending” or “pending testing” by the Department of Health are not included.
Total positive tests: 88,578, down from 88,430 on Friday and down from 87,486 a week ago
Age range: 0 to 106
Deaths: 1,140 versus 1,077 a week ago
Cumulative hospital stays: 1,929 versus 1,879 a week ago
Current hospital stays (AHCA): 162 versus 205 a week ago
Overall positive tests: 3,293 versus 3,292 on Friday and versus 3,261 a week ago
Age range: 0 to 103
Deaths: 55, as a week ago
Cumulative hospital stays: 171 versus 169 a week ago
Current hospital stays (AHCA): 0 versus 4 a week ago
Total positive tests: 16,695, down from 16,673 on Friday and up from 16,500 a week ago
Age range: 0 to 104
Deaths: 304 versus 297 a week ago
Cumulative hospital stays: 843 versus 826 a week ago
Current hospital stays (AHCA): 22 versus 33 a week ago
Overall positive tests: 7,706, up from 7,701 on Friday and up from 7,579 a week ago
Age range: 0 to 103
Deaths: 112, down from 107 a week ago
Cumulative hospital stays: 289 versus 285 a week ago
Current hospital stays (AHCA): 5 versus 4 a week ago
Overall positive tests: 5,834, up from 5,828 on Friday and down from 5,775 a week ago
Age range: 0 to 100
Deaths: 126, down from 119 a week ago
Cumulative hospital stays: 499 versus 493 a week ago
Current hospital stays (AHCA): 2 versus 4 a week ago
Total positive tests: 20,048, down from 20,007 on Friday and down from 19,799 a week ago
Age range: 0 to 106
Deaths: 195 versus 185 a week ago
Cumulative hospital stays: 704 versus 698 a week ago
Current hospital stays (AHCA): 4 versus 8 a week ago
Sources: Florida Department of Health, Agency for the Administration of Health Care