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Indiana coronavirus updates for Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021

The latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are Thursday'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.

RELATED: Here's everything we know about the COVID-19 vaccine

RELATED: Eligible Hoosiers can sign up for Pfizer’s booster shot, but not everyone needs to

ISDH update

The Indiana State Department of Health reports 26 more deaths from COVID-19 and 2,161 additional cases. The state's death toll now stands at 15,909.

It also reported 2,920 more Hoosiers are fully vaccinated. Nearly 3.35 million Hoosiers have now been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Pfizer booster shot restores vaccine efficacy to 95.6%, according to recent study

Pfizer announced Thursday morning that data from its Phase 3 trial found the booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine was highly effective in protecting against the coronavirus, including the delta variant. 

The company said its trial included more than 10,000 individuals and found the Pfizer-BioNTech booster showed a vaccine efficacy of 95.6% when compared to those who did not receive a booster.

Pfizer said booster shots were administered approximately 11 months, on average, after trial participants received their second dose of the vaccine. 

During the study, there were only five cases of COVID-19 in the booster group and 109 cases in the group of individuals who received a placebo.

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 45.21 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3:30 a.m. Thursday according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 731,200 deaths recorded in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 242.03 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 4.92 million deaths. More than 6.70 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 GOP push against vaccine mandate faces hurdles

Some conservative Indiana lawmakers wanting to stymie President Joe Biden's planned COVID-19 vaccine mandates for private employers are facing skepticism from their own Republican leaders and the state's largest business group. 

While Biden has promised federal vaccination-or-testing regulations for all companies with 100 or more workers, bills are planned by some Indiana legislators who want to join other Republican-led states in trying to prohibit private companies from requiring vaccine shots. 

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has opposed Biden's proposed federal mandate as a step too far. But Holcomb says he respects companies making their own decisions about vaccine requirements.

Clark-Pleasant testing site opens Thursday

Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation will open a COVID-19 testing site at the former Sawmill Woods Elementary School building beginning Thursday, Oct. 21. It is located at 700 Sawmill Road in New Whiteland.

The site will be open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Those tested will get results by 5 p.m. the following day. Testing is free.

The site is currently slated to test for COVID-19 through Dec. 31.

Gates Foundation to spend $120M on access for COVID-19 pill

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it will spend $120 million to boost access to generic versions of drugmaker Merck’s antiviral COVID-19 pill for lower income countries, if the drug gets approved by regulators.

The private foundation said in a statement released Wednesday it hasn’t determined how it will allocate the money but will use the funds to “support the range of activities required to develop and manufacture generic versions” of the drug, molnupiravir. The Gates Foundation says its funding is also intended to help ready regulatory, delivery and other pathways in order to make the pill more accessible, if it becomes available.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn't authorized the pill, and its outside experts are expected to meet on Nov. 30 to scrutinize the drug. If cleared by regulators, the drug will be the first pill available to treat COVID-19.

Reports: COVID vaccine boosters for 40 and older under strong consideration

Federal regulators may be getting closer to authorizing COVID-19 booster vaccines for all people as young as 40 years old, according to reports by The Washington Post and CNN. But, for now, priority is being given to extending vaccination authorization to younger children.

Both outlets, citing unnamed sources, report senior federal health officials have been concerned that some middle-aged people are getting sick despite being fully vaccinated, which is prompting the consideration for changing the booster age requirements.

FDA OKs mixing COVID vaccines; backs Moderna, J&J boosters

U.S. regulators on Wednesday signed off on extending COVID-19 boosters to Americans who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said anyone eligible for an extra dose can get a brand different from the one they received initially.

The Food and Drug Administration’s decisions mark a big step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign, which began with extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine last month. But before more people roll up their sleeves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consult an expert panel later this week before finalizing official recommendations for who should get boosters and when.

Specifically, the FDA authorized a third Moderna shot for seniors and others at high risk from COVID-19 because of their health problems, jobs or living conditions — six months after their last shot. One big change: Moderna’s booster will be half the dose that’s used for the first two shots, based on company data showing that was plenty to rev up immunity again.

For J&J’s single-shot vaccine, the FDA said all U.S. recipients should get a second dose at least two months following their initial vaccination.

The FDA rulings differ because the vaccines are made differently, with different dosing schedules — and the J&J vaccine has consistently shown a lower level of effectiveness than either of the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.