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Indiana coronavirus updates for Friday, Sept. 17, 2021

The latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic from Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are Friday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest news on COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in Indiana.

Registrations for the vaccine are now open for Hoosiers 12 and older through the Indiana State Department of Health. This story will be updated over the course of the day with more news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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FDA advisory panel rejects widespread Pfizer booster shots

An influential federal advisory panel has soundly rejected a plan to offer Pfizer booster shots against COVID-19 to most Americans.

The vote Friday, 16-2, was a blow to the Biden administration’s effort to shore up people’s protection against the virus amid the highly contagious delta variant.

Over several hours of discussion, members of the Food and Drug Administration panel of outside experts voiced frustration that Pfizer had provided little data on safety of extra doses.

And they complained that data provided by Israeli researchers about their booster campaign might not be suitable for predicting the U.S. experience.

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ISDH daily update

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 4,368 new positive cases of COVID-19 Friday and 32 additional deaths. In total, there have been 926,604 positive cases of COVID-19 in Indiana and 14,615 deaths.

The state also reported there were 17.9% of ICU beds available. Of the ICU beds in use, 32.4% of them were for COVID patients.

Nearly 6,500 more Hoosiers are fully vaccinated. There are a total of 3,194,602 fully vaccinated Hoosiers.

FDA advisory panel to debate Pfizer COVID booster shots Friday

Influential government advisers will debate Friday if there's enough proof that a booster dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective — the first step toward deciding which Americans need one and when.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday posted much of the evidence its advisory panel will consider. The agency struck a decidedly neutral tone on the rationale for boosters — an unusual and careful approach that's all the more striking after President Joe Biden and his top health advisers trumpeted a booster campaign they hoped to begin next week.

Pfizer’s argument: While protection against severe disease is holding strong in the U.S., immunity against milder infection wanes somewhere around six to eight months after the second dose. The company gave an extra dose to 306 people at that point and recorded levels of virus-fighting antibodies threefold higher than after the earlier shots.

More important, Pfizer said, those antibodies appear strong enough to handle the extra-contagious delta variant that is surging around the country.

To bolster its case, Pfizer pointed the FDA to data from Israel, which began offering boosters over the summer.

That study tracked about 1 million people 60 and older and found those who got the extra shot were far less likely to become infected soon afterward. Pfizer said that translates to “roughly 95% effectiveness” when delta was spreading, comparable to the protection seen shortly after the vaccine’s rollout earlier in the year.

The Israeli data, also published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, cannot say how long the boosted protection lasts.

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The FDA's reviewers, however, suggested they would mainly look to research on how the vaccines are working among Americans, saying that “may most accurately represent vaccine effectiveness in the U.S. population.”

Overall, the data show that the Pfizer and other U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccines “still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death in the United States,” the agency said, summarizing the evidence.

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 41.78 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3:30 a.m. Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 670,000 deaths recorded in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 227.07 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 4.67 million deaths. More than 5.81 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness like pneumonia, or death.

Indiana testing and vaccine clinics this week

The Indiana Department of Health is offering mobile vaccination clinics in the following counties this week to provide testing and vaccinations: Boone, Carroll, Clark, Delaware, Elkhart, Floyd, Franklin, Gibson, Johnson, LaPorte, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Martin, Monroe, Morgan, Orange, Pulaski, St. Joseph, Sullivan, Tippecanoe, Vigo and Wells.

COVID-19 vaccines will also be offered on the following schedule:

Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.:
Wendell Willkie Days
Edward Jones Parking Lot, 325 N. Main St., Rushville, IN 46173

Hoosiers in the ZIP codes where the clinics are located will receive a text message or email informing them of the locations and services offered.

Southwest Airlines offers extra pay to vaccinated employees

Southwest Airlines is adding a pay perk for employees who get fully vaccinated from COVID-19 while taking away another for those who don't.

"We will be offering roughly two days of pay to employees who are, or become, fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and share their vaccination status with the airline by November 15," an airline spokesperson said by email.

That is in line with a report from CNBC, which said it obtained an internal memo that fully vaccinated workers would get 16 hours of pay while flight crews would be paid the equivalent of 13 trip segments. 

Southwest said it will also continue its quarantine pay program for vaccinated workers. Bloomberg reports the program offers full pay for up to 10 days a worker is in quarantine if the worker was exposed to COVID-19 on the job. But employees who are not fully vaccinated by Nov. 16 will no longer be eligible and will have to use their remaining sick time or personal time off instead.