FDA decide on boosters as health officials worry about incoming flu season, health officials worry about hospital staffing as winter grows near

Published 1:35 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Mississippi is seeing a steady decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations although the number of deaths persists and health officials worry about the strain hospitals are facing in preparation for the incoming flu season.

The Mississippi State Department of Health has reported 1,278 more cases of COVID-19, 18 deaths, and 36 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. The state has a total of 499,838 cases and 9,957 deaths. The county has a total of 8,538 cases, 138 deaths and 199 LTC facility outbreaks.

“There is improved availability of intensive care unit beds, but you know we are still seeing stress on hospital staffing,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “As we go into the winter, there are concerns that there is going to be additional stress.”

As of Oct. 18, 2,916,169 vaccination doses were administered and 1,354,644 Mississippians have been fully vaccinated making up 46% of the state population. The number of booster doses given to immunocompromised individuals has increased to 96,522, majority of those shots were given to those ages 64 to 75.

Federal regulators are expected to authorize the mixing and matching of COVID-19 booster doses this week in an effort to provide flexibility as the campaign for extra shots expands. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is anticipated to authorize boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots after approving Pfizer booster shots last month. 

The FDA was expected to say that using the same brand for a booster was still preferable, especially for the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that have shown better results in resisting the coronavirus. The agency was still finalizing guidance for the single-shot J&J vaccine.

In coming weeks, the FDA will also review the data on Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 years old. Pfizer conducted a pivotal trial showing the vaccine is safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11.

The immunity offered to people 12 years and older could potentially be extended to children in this age group who have been vulnerable to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Pfizer and BioNTech shared their results with the FDA in hopes that the vaccine could be used under Emergency Use Authorization. Pfizer will follow up with the FDA so it can be officially approved. Pfizer is expecting vaccine results from the trials with children 2 to 5 years of age and children 6 months to 2 years of age later this year.