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CDC Latest to Endorse Johnson & Johnson Vaccine for Use in US

FILE - A vial and sryinge are seen in front of a displayed Johnson&Johnson logo in this illustration taken Jan. 11, 2021.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel Sunday endorsed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, voting overwhelmingly to recommend the shot for adults older than 18.

CDC recommendations are not binding but are widely respected by medical institutions and professionals. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky later approved the panel’s recommendations.

Sunday’s CDC endorsement came one day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally authorized the use of the one-dose vaccine.

Nearly 4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be distributed and available as early as Tuesday morning, according to a senior administration official. This vaccine, the third to be approved for use in the United States, will be distributed to states, tribes and territories proportional to their populations – the same way the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been distributed.

Health officials in the U.S. welcomed the third vaccine, which has been eagerly awaited largely because it requires only one shot, but officials urged Americans to receive whichever vaccine is first available to them, reiterating that all three have proved to be safe and effective.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85% effective against serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to data from a study that spanned three continents. The shot kept its protection even in the countries where the South African variant is spreading.

As of Sunday evening, about 28.6 million Americans have had COVID-19 and more than 513,000 have died from the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.

President Joe Biden praised the “exciting news for all Americans,” in a statement Saturday evening, also urging Americans not to let their “guard down now.”

“But I want to be clear: this fight is far from over,” he added. “I urge all Americans — keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks. As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse.”

An FDA advisory panel unanimously endorsed the vaccine Friday, paving the way for the agency’s authorization.

By the end of March, Johnson & Johnson has said, it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer, the Associated Press reported. Johnson & Johnson is also seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization.

In New Zealand, residents of Auckland, a city of nearly 2 million people, began a seven-day lockdown Sunday, the second in the month since the more contagious British variant of the coronavirus emerged there.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the lockdown Saturday because of a person who was infectious for a week but had not isolated.

"It is more than likely there will be additional cases in the community," Ardern told a press conference Sunday, although no new cases had been recorded.

New Zealand, a nation of 5 million people, identified its first COVID-19 case on February 29, 2020, and since then has seen almost 2,400 cases of COVID-19 and 26 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins data.

Japan reported 329 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, slightly down from 337 a day earlier, according to national broadcaster NHK.

While a state of emergency stays in effect in Tokyo and three other prefectures until after the first week of March, it was lifted in eight others a week earlier than scheduled.

In Russia, the coronavirus crisis center confirmed 11,359 new coronavirus cases on Sunday and 379 deaths in the past 24 hours. The total number of infections in the country stands at 4,246,079 to date and the death toll at 86,122.

Elsewhere, the Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq, Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, has tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement comes a week before Pope Francis' March 5-9 trip to the country.

Leskovar, whose title is apostolic nuncio, said in a statement that he was experiencing only light symptoms so far.

"This is not going to influence the pope's program, which is going on as planned," he said.

France will impose weekend lockdowns in Paris and 19 other regions in early March if coronavirus infections continue to accelerate.

The Czech government announced tighter restrictions beginning March 1.

In Latin America, new containment measures were imposed in several Brazilian cities and states.

The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of coronavirus infections, followed by India with more than 11 million infections and Brazil with more than 10.5 million.