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Fauci says Johnson & Johnson vaccine may return with caution flag

Boxes and vials of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19

Boxes and vials of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, made by the pharmaceutical's Janssen unit. Credit: AP / David Zalubowski

Take J&J shot? Maybe, maybe not

Dr. Anthony Fauci says federal health agencies likely will decide by Friday whether to recommend resuming use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The halt came last week so medical investigators could look into a handful of cases — roughly 1 in a million — in which six J&J vaccine recipients, all women of ages 18 to 48, developed rare but dangerous blood clots.

On a tour of the Sunday talk shows, Fauci said a green light to unpause J&J vaccinations may come with cautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

"I don't want to get ahead of the CDC and the FDA and the advisory committee, but I would imagine that what we will say is: that it would come back and it would come back in some sort of either warning or restriction," said Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert and the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden. As for potential advisories, Fauci said he was "not sure what that will be, whether they’ll be age or sex or whether they’ll just come back with a warning of some sort."

Fauci added, "I doubt very seriously if they just cancel it. I don't think that's going to happen."

Half of all adults in the U.S. — almost 130 million people — have now received at least one COVID-19 shot, the CDC announced Sunday, with 96% of the inoculations using either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Almost 84 million U.S. adults, or about 32.5% of the adult population, have been fully vaccinated. The seven-day national average of cases remains over 60,000 new infections per day. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus is more than 567,000.

Fauci said health experts may say by late summer or early fall whether Americans will need vaccine booster shots — and when. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said recently it is "likely" that individuals who received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine probably will need a third shot — a booster — within a year. For more details, see Newsday's story by Scott Eidler.

Defending Afghanistan retreat

Top administration officials on Sunday defended Biden’s move to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, maintaining that the U.S. will still have the ability to detect and prevent threats from the region, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

"The president felt that as we’re looking at the world now, we have to look at it through the prism of 2021, not 2001," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on ABC's "This Week." "The terrorism threat has moved to other places, and we have other very important items on our agenda, including the relationship with China, including dealing with everything from climate change to COVID, and that’s where we have to focus our energy and resources."

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, appearing on CNN’s "State of the Union," said the U.S. will "retain sufficient capabilities" to monitor al-Qaida’s movements.

Former President Donald Trump weighed in with a statement on Biden's decision that was low-key by his standards, devoid of personal insults. He said that "getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do," but he contended the pullout should be completed "as close ... as possible" to May 1, the date he set. Trump also complained about the symbolism of the Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline, saying it "should remain a day of reflection and remembrance honoring those great souls we lost." Some observers pointed out that Trump two years ago arranged a secret meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David around the 9/11 anniversary. Trump's planned meeting was canceled after a bombing in Kabul killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier.

The New York Times writes about Afghans fearful of the prospect of the Taliban regaining power, particularly women who have enjoyed more rights under the Afghan governments that took over after the 2001 U.S. invasion. When the Taliban governed Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school, and practically made them prisoners in their own homes, the Times reported.

Blinken: May not meet refugee goals

Blinken said it would be "very hard" to meet Biden's goal from February of raising the cap on admitting refugees to 62,000 because the system left in place after Trump's curtailments lacked "the means to effectively process as many people as we hoped."

Refugee advocates and some Democrats in Congress protested the White House decision on Friday to keep this fiscal year's refugee cap of 15,000. The resident again reversed course on Saturday, saying his administration will increase the refugee cap.

Sullivan on "Fox News Sunday" could not say how many refugees Biden would ultimately allow.

In a rare commentary on current policy debates, former President George W. Bush wrote in a Washington Post op-ed: "We can be both a lawful and a welcoming nation at the same time." Bush, who has turned into an artist in retirement and is publishing a book due out Tuesday — "Out of Many, One" — with his painted portraits of immigrants, said, "New Americans are just as much a force for good now, with their energy, idealism and love of country, as they have always been." He favored paths to citizenship for Dreamers and undocumented immigrants.

Janison: Building the firewalls

The massive SolarWinds hack attributed to Russian intelligence agencies brought home a critical American vulnerability: The U.S. can't always respond to dangerous break-ins of vital computer systems because they can come through privately run cyber networks, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

"We are troubled in terms of being able to understand the depth and breadth of an intrusion based on the fact that, for a number of good reasons — some of them obviously legal — that much of the private sector does not share this information readily," Gen. Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency, told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

Bipartisan support has emerged for federal legislation that could require private companies to notify the government of breaches to their cybersystems.

But a potential expansion of NSA authority could raise concerns about online privacy. Unchecked domestic surveillance years ago blossomed into a major scandal after which legal controls were imposed.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), an Intelligence Committee member, suggested that U.S. cybercops could do better with the tools they already have. "The federal government failed to catch the SolarWinds hackers in any of the nine federal agencies that were hacked, where it had full legal authority to monitor every bit of activity on its own networks," Wyden said.

Iran deal coming back to life?

The U.S. and Iran edged closer to ending their standoff over the nuclear deal abandoned by Trump, with Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, describing the indirect talks as "constructive" during his Fox interview, Bloomberg News reported. Iran signaled it was ready to debate the details of how the two sides can revive the 2015 accord.

Negotiators, which include the European Union, Russia and China, have said the talks will continue this week.

Iran wants the U.S. to remove hundreds of sanctions that Trump imposed on its economy after he took office in 2017, including those that he reinstated when he broke away from the nuclear deal.

GOP 2024 hopefuls auditioning

The early betting that Trump's mulling of a comeback run in 2024 would freeze other potential Republican candidates into wait-and-see mode has turned out to be wrong.

The Associated Press writes that Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has launched an aggressive schedule, visiting states that will play a pivotal role in the 2024 primaries, and he has signed a contract with Fox News Channel that will mean more exposure to GOP voters. Former Vice President Mike Pence has started a political advocacy group, finalized a book deal and later this month will go to South Carolina, an early-primary state, to give his first speech since leaving office. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been courting donors.

"You build the ark before it rains," Michael Steel, a Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign, among others, told AP. "They’re going to do the things they need to do if he [Trump] decides not to run."

Trump's camp professes to be unconcerned. "It’s a free country. Folks can do what they want," Trump adviser Jason Miller said. But he added that "if President Trump does decide to run in 2024, the nomination will be his, if you’re paying any attention to public polling of Republican voters."

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments on Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • A majority of Americans want to end lifetime appointments for U.S. Supreme Court justices, either through term limits or age limits, according to an Ipsos poll for Reuters. The poll also found that only 38% would support expanding the size of the court by adding four more justices.
  • Biden went on his first golf outing as president Saturday, playing a round at the Wilmington Country Club near his Delaware home.
  • Amid reports that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's health is worsening, Sullivan said Sunday that the Biden administration has warned Vladimir Putin's government to not let Navalny die in custody. "We have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies," Sullivan said.
  • Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Sunday attended the confirmation in Delaware of grandson Robert "Hunter" Biden, 15, the White House told reporters. Robert's dad was the president's son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
  • Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s, Axios reports.
  • Eighteen current and former employees of OAN, including a producer still employed there who spoke on the record, told The New York Times that the far-right, slavishly pro-Trump network broadcasts reports that they considered misleading, inaccurate or untrue. Producer Marty Golingan said that when the pro-Trump mob incited by false election-fraud claims stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, "I was like, that’s not good. That’s what happens when people listen to us." Golingan said some OAN employees had hoped that Dominion Voting Systems, a target of the false fraud allegations, would sue the channel.

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