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Staff reports | The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has until June to determine whether vaccine makers need to change existing COVID vaccines to target specific virus variants to avoid a possible fall outbreak, according to a CNBC report.

FDA leader Dr. Peter Marks told the agency’s advisory committee Wednesday the decision must be made by June in order for vaccine doses to be available in time for the fall. Marks said the U.S. could face another wave of infection around then due to the virus’ continuous evolution as immunity from the current vaccines wanes. 

At the same time, federal health officials announced they are allowing a broader group to get fourth doses of the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna. Adults 50 and older can get their second dose if it’s been at least four months since their first one. Those who got two doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can also get an additional mRNA dose four months after their last booster. 

Several unknowns have prompted questions from the general public about the frequency of booster shots and the prevalence of variants moving forward. Health officials have worked to address questions, but without knowing how long immunity lasts from each round of boosters, predictions are difficult to make. The effectiveness of most recent doses remains at 94%, according to a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Latest COVID-19 data

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) transitioned to weekly reporting of new COVID data last month, with Tuesday’s update being the most recent of reports including data taken from March 27-April 2.

South Carolina health officials on Tuesday reported 951 total new cases of COVID-19, with 632 confirmed, and two total new deaths, both of which were confirmed. As of April 2, 132 COVID-19-positive individuals are hospitalized, and 10 COVID-19-positive individuals are ventilated.

No positivity rate was reported by DHEC.

  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ with at least one vaccine: 66.8%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ who have completed vaccination: 57.7%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 with at least one vaccine: 19.8%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 who have completed vaccination: 16%

For more information, visit the S.C. SCDHEC COVID-19 dashboard.