COVID Vaccine Updates: Pfizer vaccine can be stored at normal freezer temperatures, FDA says

NEW YORK (WABC) — Pfizer can now store its COVID vaccine at normal freezer temperatures.

The FDA issued the authorization that should help get the vaccine to more facilities.

The decision will also ease some of the constraints that had made the vaccine difficult to transport and store.

Previously, the agency recommended the Pfizer vaccine be stored at subzero temperatures.

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Here are more of today’s headlines:

Indoor dining increases to 35% in NYC
Indoor dining in New York City expands to 35% capacity today. That is a 10% increase since inside seating resumed on February 12. The intention is to ease competitive pressures on restaurants and bars. The new 35% limit puts the city on the same page as restaurants in New Jersey, which, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, had been making the city’s restrictions ineffective, since people can cross the Hudson River to dine in the Garden State.

NYC expands hours, appointments at some sites
The city has a surplus of vaccines after delayed shipments from last week arrived this week. Overnight appointments were added at the vaccination centers at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Bathgate Industrial Park in The Bronx, and Citi Field in Queens. The overnight appointments will be offered until the supply is gone.

Lincoln Center to emerge from COVID pandemic with outdoor shows
Lincoln Center intends to emerge from the novel coronavirus pandemic by creating 10 outdoor stages for performances and rehearsals in New York City starting April 7. Venues announced Thursday as part of the Restart Stages initiative include a cabaret-style stage on Lincoln Center’s Hearst Plaza, areas for public school graduations, dedicated space for arts activities for young people and an outdoor reading room created with The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

New York’s new nursing home visitation guidelines still keep visitors out
The new New York State guidelines on nursing home visits go into effect on Friday, but most people will still not be able to visit their loved ones because of a long-standing COVID rule.

The new guidelines still incorporate a restriction by which if anyone in the nursing home – staff or resident – is diagnosed with the coronavirus, the nursing home cannot allow any visitors for 14 days. For most of the pandemic, it was 28 days, but the state relaxed the restriction in September to two weeks.

NYPD loses another member to COVID
On Thursday afternoon, School Safety Agent Ardette Arnold passed away from complications related to COVID-19. Ardette served with the NYPD for more than 12 years, keeping thousands of New York City students in the Bronx safe.

Nursing home directive didn’t lead to COVID deaths, NY health commissioner testifies
The New York Department of Health commissioner testified before state lawmakers Thursday about COVID-19 in nursing homes, as criticism continues to mount over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of data related to deaths at such facilities.

Concern over new COVID variant found in NYC area
Another new COVID variant has been identified and this one is circulating in the New York City area, two studies have found. It is not yet known if the variant is more contagious, deadly, or if it impacts the vaccine, but more will be learned as scientists continue to study it. The new variant was identified separately by two research groups — one at CalTech and another at Columbia. Both published their findings ahead of a formal scientific peer-review process. So far, Columbia researchers say they have identified at least 80 cases of the new variant across the Tri-State area, indicating the variant isn’t confined to a single outbreak.

People with antibodies after COVID-19 may have short-term virus protection: Study
There’s new evidence that connects testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies from a prior infection with a significantly lower risk of becoming infected again in the future. A study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Wednesday, found that people who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies were at a decreased risk of coronavirus infection compared with those who tested negative for antibodies.
“The results from the study are basically a 10-fold reduction, but I would have caveats around that,” said Dr. Douglas Lowy, principal deputy director of the National Cancer Institute, who was an author of the study. “In other words, it could be an overestimate of the reduction. It could be an underestimate of the reduction.”

Pfizer studying effects of 3rd COVID vaccine dose
Pfizer announced it has begun studying a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, part of a strategy to guard against mutated versions of the coronavirus. Health authorities say first-generation COVID-19 vaccines still protect against variants that are emerging in different parts of the world. But manufacturers are starting to prepare now in case a more vaccine-resistant mutation comes along. Pfizer said it will offer a third dose to 144 volunteers, drawing from people who participated in the vaccine’s early-stage U.S. testing last year. It wants to determine if an additional booster shot given six to 12 months after the first two doses would rev up the immune system enough to ward off a mutated virus.

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