Health News

FDA panel meets on COVID-19 vaccine shots for kids under 12: Five things to know


(NEW YORK) -- COVID-19 vaccine shots for kids ages 5 to 11 may be available as soon as November, depending on the outcome of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel hearing happening Tuesday.

At the hearing, the FDA’s independent advisory committee is expected to have a public discussion and hold a non-binding vote on whether to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for the approximately 28 million children in the United States ages 5 to 11.

Once the FDA decides to authorize the vaccine, the issue goes before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine advisory group.

That group, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, is set to meet on Nov. 2 and 3, and from there, the CDC director must sign off on the recommendation.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said on "Good Morning America" Tuesday that getting more kids vaccinated will be key to ending the pandemic.

"If we can create a situation where more of these kids are not getting infected, we should be able to drive this pandemic down which is what we really hope to do, even as we face the cold other and other concerns about whether we might see another surge," said Collins. "We don't want that, and this would be one significant step forward in getting our country really in a better place."

As the countdown begins, here are five things parents should know about COVID-19 vaccines and kids under the age of 12.

1. Kids ages 5 to 11 are still not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Tuesday's public hearing does not mean that children under age 12 will immediately be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The final vote on whether the vaccine is authorized for use in kids ages 5 to 11 will happen in early November, and will come from the CDC director.

Once that decision is made, the vaccine would be able to be administered relatively quickly to children across the country.

At the same time, the FDA will continue to review data to decide whether to grant full FDA approval for the vaccine in kids ages 5 to 11.

The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for people ages 16 and older in August. It is currently authorized for emergency use in children ages 12 to 15.

The two other vaccines currently available in the U.S., Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are currently available only for people 18 years and older.

Moderna said Monday it plans to submit data to the FDA soon showing its vaccine for children ages 6 to 11 produces a strong immune response and appears safe.

2. The Pfizer dose is different for kids under age 12.

In Pfizer and BioNTech's clinical trial of more than 2,200 children, the COVID-19 vaccine was administered in two doses, but the doses were one-third the amount given to adults.

The clinical trial results, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, showed the antibody response in children at that dose was at least as strong as the full adult does in patients ages 16 to 25.

Pfizer and BioNTech say the vaccine produced minimal side effects in children ages 5 to 11, and the side effects were similar to those experienced by adults and older children.

For 12- to 15-year-olds, the FDA has authorized the same dosing as adults with the Pfizer two-dose vaccine.

3. The vaccine's focus is on kids' immune systems.

Children have different immune systems than adults, so it should be reassuring for parents that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be safe in kids.

Differing immune systems among people of different ages also help explain why the cutoffs for vaccine eligibility rest on age and not body size.

In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, other immunizations are also scheduled and administered based on age and not weight. This is partially due to the fact that the body’s immune responses to vaccinations and infection are known to be different based on age.

4. The vaccine will be distributed to kids through pediatricians, pharmacies, health clinics and more.

Once greenlighted, the pediatric doses of the vaccine will be sent to thousands of sites across the country, including more than 25,000 pediatricians’ offices, more than 100 children’s hospitals, tens of thousands of pharmacies, and hundreds of school and community-based clinics, the White House announced Oct. 20th.

Within days, more than 15 million doses are set to begin distribution across the country.

Though the White House has purchased 65 million Pfizer pediatric vaccine doses -- more than enough to fully vaccine all children ages 5-11 in America -- the first launch will dole doses out in waves based on states’ eligible population of kids. Shipments can recalibrate based on shifting demand.

The distribution plan will also include a national public education campaign to "reach parents and guardians with accurate and culturally-responsive information about the vaccine and the risks that COVID-19 poses to children," according to the White House.

White House officials told the nation's governors on Oct. 12th that it has enough pediatric doses on hand for the 28 million children ages 5 through 11 expected to become eligible once the FDA gives the green light.

To troubleshoot any confusion in distribution, federal health officials are outlining a new color-coded cap system for each formulation of the vaccine, though still "preliminary." Purple-capped vials will contain doses for adult and older adolescents, a chart offered to states said; orange-capped vials will contain doses for kids aged 5-11.

5. Families need to remain vigilant against COVID-19.

While there is a light at the end of the tunnel with younger kids having access to a COVID-19 vaccine, families need to stay vigilant against the virus as they wait for FDA authorization.

Unvaccinated children can not only become ill from COVID-19 themselves, but they can also spread the virus to more vulnerable family members and other adults with whom they interact.

Both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend universal mask-wearing in schools to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Experts said that in addition to unvaccinated children wearing face masks, parents and siblings who are vaccinated should also continue to wear face masks indoors because of the rates of breakthrough infections in the U.S.

Families should also continue to follow other safety guidelines shared throughout the pandemic, including social distancing and hand washing.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Pediatric vaccines will 'very likely' be available first or second week of November: Fauci


(NEW YORK) -- Vaccines for children will "very likely" be available the first or second week of November, White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

"If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval and the recommendation from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], it's entirely possible if not very likely that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November," Fauci told ABC This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is nearly 91% effective against symptomatic illness in children ages 5-11, according to new data. A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will meet Tuesday to discuss authorizing the vaccine for children, which is currently only available to those ages 12 and older.

The CDC issued recommendations for both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters for certain populations on Thursday evening, clearing the way for millions of Americans to receive additional shots. The CDC's authorization followed the FDA's, which it issued Wednesday.

The CDC is also permitting mix-and-match booster doses -- allowing people to get a different booster brand than was used for a primary vaccination.

Fauci said Sunday the new recommendations should not cause confusion, as they allow for flexibility in booster selection.

"We would hope that people, if available, would get the boost from the original product," Fauci said. "But if not, there's the flexibility of what we're calling 'mixing and matching.'"

Stephanopoulos pressed Fauci on whether receiving a different brand shot from the original dose yields better protection.

"I have read some studies that suggest that it's actually better to mix. Like, say, if you got the Johnson & Johnson the first time around, it's better to get Moderna the second time," Stephanopoulos asked.

"If you look at the level of antibodies that are induced -- if you originally had J&J, and you get, for example, a Moderna or a Pfizer, the level of antibodies, namely, the proteins that you would predict would protect you, those levels go up higher with the Moderna boost to J&J than the J&J boost," Fauci responded. "However, it's a little bit more complicated, because, in the clinical trial that J&J did, the clinical effect of the second dose of J&J was quite substantial."

"So, it really becomes an issue of, what's the most convenient? What do you feel is best for you?" Fauci added, recommending that people consult their physician.

Stephanopoulos also pressed Fauci on the controversy over to what extent the U.S. was funding bat coronavirus research in Wuhan after the NIH released a letter this week about a New York City-based nonprofit's research on bat coronavirus spike proteins. The letter states that the subcontractor had not disclosed some results in a timely manner.

"Now, some critics and analysts have seized on that to say you and others have misled the public about U.S. funding of this so-called gain-of-function research. The NIH says that's false. Our medical unit backs that up," Stephanopoulos said. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has called for Fauci's firing over the controversy.

"Well, I obviously totally disagree with Senator Paul. He's absolutely incorrect. Neither I nor Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the NIH lied or misled about what we've done," Fauci responded.

"What did we learn from the letter? Does it show that some of the research we were finding was riskier than we know?" Stephanopoulos pressed.

Fauci said they knew what the risk was and there's "no denial" that they should have put their progress report in a timely manner, but that the implication that the research led to COVID-19 is "unconscionable" and "molecularly impossible."

"There's all of this concern about what's gain-of-function or what's not, with the implication that that research led to SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19, which, George, unequivocally anybody that knows anything about viral biology and phylogeny of viruses know that it is molecularly impossible for those viruses that were worked on to turn into SARS-CoV-2 because they were distant enough molecularly that no matter what you did to them, they could never, ever become SARS-CoV-2," Fauci explained.

"And yet when people talk about gain-of-function, they make that implication which I think is unconscionable to do, to say, 'Well, maybe that research led to SARS-CoV-2'," Fauci added. "You can ask any person of good faith who's a virologist, and they will tell you, absolutely clearly, that that would be molecularly impossible."

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How did California go from the epicenter of the US pandemic to the lowest statewide transmission rate?


(ATLANTA) -- With the lowest COVID-19 infection rate among all states as of Friday, California, which has some of the strictest mask and vaccination mandates in the country, has managed to flip the script as the former U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.

"They've been very much forward-thinking in terms of policies around vaccination requirements and mandates," said epidemiologist Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor.

As of Friday evening, California had an infection rate of 61.1 cases per 100,000 over the past week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state was briefly the only to be classified with a "moderate" rate of transmission -- 10 to 49.99 cases per 100,000 over seven days -- before it went back up to "substantial," meaning 50 to 99.99 cases per 100,000 over seven days.

Over the previous week, Hawaii, Florida, Louisiana, Connecticut, New Jersey, Mississippi, Maryland, Georgia and Washington, D.C., each also reported "substantial" rates.

A rate of at least 100 cases per 100,000 is labeled as "high." Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Alaska, as of Friday, had the highest rates over the previous seven days, with each above 450 cases per 100,000 people. The U.S. average over that span was 150.9.

Experts said California's journey from worst to first is likely due to a combination of things.

"We can't know for sure which factors are responsible," Brownstein added, "but we know that the combination of interventions and policies can play a really strong role in driving transmission."

'Ending this pandemic'

More than 70% of California's population has received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the CDC, and the state also leads in total vaccinations administered, roughly 53 million doses. As of Friday, the national average rate was 66.2%.

Being the first state to announce a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for schools, California has some of the strictest mandates in the U.S. The state has mandated vaccines for state employees, health care workers, teachers and at large indoor gatherings.

"The more aggressive the vaccination campaign, the better," Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Health, told ABC News.

Given that vaccines are the most powerful tool we have in curbing the spread of COVID-19, experts said they believe California's emphasis on immunizations has provided big dividends.

"These results show quite clearly that vaccines offer protection for individuals who lack immunity, with important implications for finally ending this pandemic," Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

Idaho and Wyoming have some of the lowest vaccination rates and the highest transmission rates.

All three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have since shown high effectiveness in preventing death due to COVID-19, and as of Friday, California boasted the lowest death rate in the country, with 0.3 per 100,000 over the previous week. The U.S. average over that span was 2.7 per 100,000.

Additionally, experts told ABC News, having endured the harshest waves of infections last winter and the delta surge in July, formerly infected Californians may have acquired antibodies and more of a natural immunity to COVID-19 -- both factors that, in concert with vaccines, could be driving down case numbers.

'More work to do'

In addition to strict vaccine mandates, California has been unwavering on face-coverings, testing and social distancing policies.

"While California has administered more vaccines than any other state, we have more work to do," the California Department of Public Health said in a statement to ABC News.

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a mask on public transit, in health care settings and at educational and correctional facilities. Masks are required for all unvaccinated people and recommended for vaccinated people in settings such as theaters, retail stores, restaurants and bars.

Despite having a higher vaccination rate than California, states like Vermont are still falling behind on transmission rate rankings, which experts said points to the importance of distancing and masking. Breakthrough cases seen in Vermont can be further explained by its higher proportion of residents 65 and older.


Research shows mobility, or movement in populations, can be a predictor of disease spread, especially via air travel or mass transit. This became evident through the surge of COVID-19 cases the U.S. saw during holiday season.

Gov. Gavin Newsom pleaded with California residents on Christmas Eve to avoid holiday gatherings at a time when hospitals in the state were under "unprecedented pressure."

Californian cities experienced a huge surge of cases and hospitalizations following the holidays, although rates have since declined.

No stranger to stay-at-home orders, the California government imposed several lockdowns and restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. It celebrated its most recent reopening in mid-June, which replaced 15-month-long public health restrictions with conditions more akin to "business as usual."

"In the height of the pandemic, people were locked down, they weren't moving at all, they were staying at home," Brownstein told ABC News. "The more people move around, that's usually an indicator for increased transmission."

The great outdoors

The virus has been shown to spread more indoors and with people in close proximity to one another. California's sunny climate means more people spend more time outside.

"When we spend most of our time indoors, that's when transmission is greatest," Ellerin said.

Added Brownstein: "More close contacts with people outside your household indoors is what creates additional risk."

This effect is also compounded by the rise in the virus' effective reproductive number during the winter season with research suggesting that a drop in temperature encourages virus growth.

Compared to many other states, especially as winter draws nearer, California is in "quite a good spot," Brownstein said. "In all likelihood, the trends that we're seeing are realistic and very much driven by compliance with masking and other interventions, plus the well-covered vaccination strategy in the state."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Dentists warn against these vampire fangs Halloween hacks on TikTok


(NEW YORK) -- Just when you didn't think things could get any creepier this season, a DIY vampire fang Halloween hack gone wrong has made its way to TikTok.

Popular TikTok personality Whitney Kait, known as @muawk, shared a video of herself trying to remove fake fangs where she appears to breathe hysterically and panic after realizing they aren't budging.

Since posting, Kait's video has received more than 10 million views and more than 6,000 comments from other TikTokkers who were just as freaked out by her experience.

"The panicking, I felt that!" one person said, with another chiming in, "please tell me you got them off" along with a surprised face emoji.

Her viral vampire fang fiasco might be even more dangerous than it first appears. She later posted a video update where she's seen brushing her teeth with the fangs still stuck in place. She also admitted in her caption, "Okay I need actual help!!!! I used nail glue (yes I'm dumb) but how do I get them off!!!!!!!"

A few people directly entertained Kait's plea for help responded with "try eating an apple and see if they fall off." Someone else suggested for her to embrace her new look, saying, "just accept that you are now a vampire for life."

There was a response video posted by Illinois-based dentist Dr. Julie Davis, who advised Kait to call a dentist for safe removal. "Be really careful until they fall off or a dentist removes them," she captioned the video, along with a look of concern. She also offered to help Kait if she is in Chicago.

Another Michigan-based dentist, Dr. Zainab Mackie, also known as "Your TikTok Dentist," posted a video informing everyone not to use nail glue. "It's poisonous and won't come off," she says.

As an alternative, Mackie suggests if you are using acrylic nails as your fangs to try using denture glue as it is safe and easy to take off. She also said orthodontic wax is an alternative that won't stay on but is great for pictures.

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Ukraine's black market in COVID vaccine certificates


(KYIV, Ukraine) -- It doesn't take long to buy a fake COVID-19 vaccine certificate in Ukraine. Just typing the words into Google brings up a slew of advertisements offering a certificate "without visiting a doctor."

A would-be customer sends their passport details, address and a phone number through the Telegram messenger app, and the next day, a document showing fake proof of vaccination with Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine arrives in the post, according to several people who have bought one of the fake certificates, and who spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity because the practice is illegal. They said prices for the certificates can vary anywhere from $20 to $200 (USD) with some fetching as much as $380.

The COVID vaccination certificate black market is becoming a growing concern in Ukraine, which is suffering from a worsening third wave of the pandemic amid low vaccination numbers and as the government tries to impose restrictions on the unvaccinated. The number of people who have already bought fake certificates is unknown, but some Telegram app channel advertising them have thousands of subscribers.

Svitlana is one of them. She said she bought a fake certificate in September showing she was inoculated with Pfizer/BionTech's vaccine.

"I don't trust neither vaccines nor the government,'' she told ABC News, explaining her decision and declining to give her last name.

The demand for fake vaccine certificates exists despite the ease of getting a free COVID vaccine in Ukraine. As of late September there are over 11 million doses of different coronavirus vaccines in Ukraine now for a population of 44.1 million, according to Ukraine's health ministry. The vaccine is free for all Ukrainians and in Kyiv, walk-in vaccination centers are even open in some shopping malls.

But despite the availability of vaccines, Ukraine is among one of the least vaccinated countries in Europe, with only around 30.2% of the population having received one dose and 14.7% fully vaccinated, according to a vaccine tracker published by Bloomberg. In late September the health minister Viktor Lyashko said 34,000 doses of Pfizer would be dumped because they had expired.

The low numbers are the product of widespread vaccine hesitancy among Ukrainians: 56% don't plan to get vaccinated at all, according to a poll from the Ilko Kucheriv Foundation, a well-known independent think tank that conducts sociological studies.

"We observe this trend globally, however in Ukraine, misinformation about vaccination is extremely politicized and is spread both among the general public and the medical community," Murat Shahin, head of the UNICEF office in Ukraine told ABC News this month.

Another problem is lack of quality medical education on vaccination which leads to incorrect practices and confuses patients, Shahin said.

"We also observe a suboptimal level of trust to state institutions," he said. "Meanwhile, people trust their relatives, local leaders and their doctors and nurses."

Some of the social media channels offering fake vaccine certificates are part of that ecosystem pushing anti-vaccine sentiment, sharing anti-vax information and news stories, while urging people to buy fake certificates to avoid getting the shot.

According to the same Ilko Kucheriv Foundation poll, some are reluctant because they are not sure about the safety of the vaccines. Some of those who spoke to ABC News said they resist just because they are forced to vaccinate.

There is no mandatory vaccination in Ukraine, except for teachers and civil servants, meaning there is little pressure to vaccinate. But some companies are pressing their employees to vaccinate, threatening to cut salaries or reduce vacation days.

And a vaccine certificate is necessary to travel. Ukraine has created its own digital certificate in an app, called Diya ("Action") that is valid in EU countries.

Wanting to go abroad, some Ukrainians are refusing the free shot of the real vaccine and instead are paying money for a fake certificate. On a site listing the phone number of one seller, users reviewed the service.

"We've just crossed the border in Rava Russka [in Poland], our border service scanned the certificate and let us go without any problems," one wrote. "I took it to Germany. All worked," another said.

Some services provide paper certificates. A fake official stamp is applied using the real names of doctors and clinics, based on samples posted by some of the Telegram channels offering them.

Getting the digital proof of vaccination without being vaccinated is more difficult. It is still possible for a bribe, according to some people ABC News talked to on condition of anonymity.

Some Ukrainians are simply paying doctors to sign off on their digital vaccine certificates, by entering them as vaccinated in Ukraine's state vaccination register. After that, a digital certificate appears in the official Diya app, which is also valid in the EU.

Oleksiy Vyskyb, Ukraine's deputy minister for digital transformation, told ABC News that some doctors were charging a fee to falsely enter people's name into the state register showing vaccinated citizens.

One of the sellers confirmed that in a Telegram chat with an ABC reporter posing as a potential customer. ABC News did not actually purchase a fake certificate.

"We put the data into the register," a person who identified themselves as a support manager responded when asked by the reporter how it would work.

Another channel said that the clinic where the false vaccination happens "dumps" two real doses of Pfizer and VaxZevria after pretending the client has received them.. They also offer "to save" these doses for the client to be vaccinated later if they change their mind before the vaccine expires two months later. Both options cost around $60.

According to some advertisements you can get a forged vaccination certificate even if you're a foreigner. It will cost a bit more than for a Ukrainian citizen -- $380 if you're abroad, according to one ad.

Besides becoming part of a dangerous invisible pool of unvaccinated people that undermine restrictions and spread infection, those buying fake certificates may be unable to get a real shot later on since they are already recorded as having received one in the state registry, Shahin said.

Ukraine's authorities say they are now trying to crackdown on the practice. Ukraine's security service, the SBU, together with the country's cyberpolice, said they have opened nearly 500 criminal proceedings relating to the selling of forged paper vaccination certificates and that more than 50 web resources have been blocked. So far, only three cases have been opened against doctors for allegedly entering false information into the register. Those detained face up to six years in prison. But government says it wants to increase the punishment.

This week, Ukraine imposed a full lockdown in four regions as Ukraine's daily numbers continue to worsen, recently hitting its highest level since the country's second wave in the spring. Ukrainian authorities reported 22,415 new confirmed infections and 546 deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest numbers since the start of the pandemic. Most experts also believe the real number of cases and deaths are likely higher, since not all are recorded with testing.

"People who use fake certificates create a dangerous space for others," Maria Karchevych, Ukraine's deputy health minister said at a press conference in Kyiv last week.

She said the fake COVID vaccine certificate industry also threatens Ukraine's international image since Ukraine was among the first non-European Union countries to have its national vaccine pass recognized by the EU for travel.

"EU countries expect transparency and honesty in using such documents," she said.

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Walmart recalls aromatherapy spray linked to rare bacterial illness, 2 deaths

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(NEW YORK) -- Walmart has recalled an aromatherapy spray after it identified a bacteria in the product that has now been linked to four illnesses and two deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that it had identified the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei in the aromatherapy spray.

The spray, “Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones," was found Oct. 6 in the home of a Georgia resident who became ill with melioidosis in late July, according to the CDC.

The CDC said it will continue to test the bacteria in the bottle to potentially match the bacteria identified in the four patients. The symptoms of melioidosis are similar to that of a cold or flu, according to the CDC.

The contaminated spray was sold at about 55 Walmart stores and on Walmart’s websites between February and Oct. 21.

Walmart has pulled the remaining bottles of this spray and related products from the shelves and its websites.

"Our hearts go out to the families that have been impacted by this situation," Inger Damon, director of the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said in a statement. "We at CDC have been very concerned to see these serious related illness spread across time and geography. That is why our scientists have continued to work tirelessly to try to find the potential source for the melioidosis infections in these patients. We hope this work can help protect other people who may have used this spray."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Walmart issued a recall for the lavender and chamomile room spray along with five other scents in the same product line.

The CDC will continue to investigate whether other related aromatherapy scents and brands may pose a risk.

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More disease, more suicide: Study shows human cost of climate change


(NEW YORK) -- Climate change is not only warming the planet, it's negatively affecting human health in myriad ways, with researchers reporting surges in heat-related illnesses, infectious diseases, poor sleep and an increase in suicides, according to a major report by The Lancet Countdown that's been cosigned by health experts from more than 70 institutions worldwide.

"There is no safe temperature rise from a health standpoint," Dr. Renee Salas, an author of the report and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard, said at a press briefing on Tuesday. "The take-home message of this year's brief is clear: Climate change is first and foremost a health crisis."

Additionally, the report shows how decades of racial inequity has deepened divides when it comes to health outcomes, especially in the U.S. over the last few decades, as researchers have observed an increase in the intensity, duration and frequency of heat waves, wildfires and droughts.

We could be investing in a healthier future. This is a pivotal moment in history.
More than a third of urban heat-related deaths in the 1990s and early 2000s can be attributed to climate change, and extensive research also has shown that exposure to heat waves poses a range of health risks, from heat rashes to heat exhaustion to heatstroke.

"During the last heat wave, I saw paramedics with burns on their knees from kneeling down on the sidewalk to take care of patients with heatstrokes," said Dr. Jeremy Hess, a co-author of the report and a professor of environmental and occupational health services at the University of Washington. "I have seen patients die of heatstroke this year. These are preventable problems."

Warmer temperatures also contribute to people sleeping less and observable increases in suicide and crime.

"Patients tend to complain more about sleep disturbances during heat waves, which generally go away once the weather passes," said Dr. Shehram Majid, a New York City-based psychiatrist. "I have seen a rise in patients struggling with mood and anxiety disorders during periods of extreme weather in NYC."

One study estimates that in the U.S., suicide rates rise 0.7% for every 1 degree Celsius increase in average temperature.

Climate change also creates and exacerbates droughts, which can lead to more wildfires that burn for much longer, which means more dust and smoke that destroys air quality. Agriculture suffers. Pollen levels can increase, affecting those with allergies.

And poor air quality can be felt thousands of miles away from fires. In July 2021, smoke from California's Dixie Fire reached the Eastern Seaboard, contributing to the worst air quality in New York City in 15 years.

"September 2020, we saw the max wildfires to date, with about 80,000 wildfires in the U.S., which is eight times greater than 2001," Salas added.

Emerging evidence, cited in the report, also shows that wildfire smoke may be more harmful than many other types of smoke, especially for children. Exposure has been linked to an increased risk of heart and pulmonary disease, premature death, worsened mental health and greater risk of preterm birth.

More flooding can create conditions that lead to increased mosquito breeding, which means diseases such as Dengue fever, a dangerous viral infection, can spreader wider more quickly via the insects.

"New Dengue transmission potential is five times higher than 1950," Salas added.

Longer warm seasons also means more ticks are spreading Lyme disease.

"We spent many years talking about the pandemic, yet we were not prepared. We are bound to make the same mistake again with climate change. We have not invested in the mitigation and adaptation necessary," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "The health sector is already stressed, and when you add these natural disasters it pushes things to the breaking point."

Policymakers need to get serious about taxing carbon and reaching zero-emission targets, said Benjamin, adding: "This is an opportunity to invest differently in a green recovery that isn't fueled by fossil fuels. We could be investing in a healthier future. This is a pivotal moment in history."

Yalda Safai, M.D., M.P.H., a psychiatry resident in New York City, is a contributor to ABC News Medical Unit.

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Northern states see uptick in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations as weather gets colder

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(NEW YORK) -- There is a growing sense of optimism across the country, with national coronavirus infection rates steadily falling, booster shots available for many Americans and pending vaccine approval on the horizon for young children.

In southern states like Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia, which were hit early on by the delta surge, hospitalizations are on the decline.

But despite the good news, experts are pleading with Americans to remain alert, as the highly infectious delta variant continues to circulate.

Despite vaccination rollouts, several states, particularly those in colder climates, are beginning to see a rise in infections.

"You're starting to see an uptick in cases in the colder parts of the country and as people are driven indoors without masks on," former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNN earlier this month. "The delta wave has not run through the United States... I think we have a couple of months to go."

Experts have been warning for weeks that colder areas may see an uptick in cases this winter.

"We may be starting to see the delta surge in the northern parts of the country that were relatively spared over the summer," said John Brownstein, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor.

In recently released forecasts, the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reported that infection rates in parts of the Midwest and Mountain states remained "stubbornly high," and that despite declining transmission in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and in California, a period of resurgence may be on the horizon for northern regions of the country.

"We can take some comfort this week in the fact that national daily case counts have dropped below 100,000 and national adult and pediatric hospital censuses have declined by 50% since late summer," the group wrote, adding that the country must still be prepared to see a resurgence.

In the Midwest, many counties throughout Minnesota and Michigan have had a significant rise in cases, while other states (Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming) are reporting high transmission in nearly every county, according to federal data.

"Coronaviruses tend to thrive in winter months and colder weather," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said. "Right now is not the time, as cases are coming down to become complacent because we do know colder weather is ahead of us."

These local increases in cases are being accompanied by an uptick in hospitalizations. Ten states (Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wyoming) are already seeing a higher number of hospital admissions.

In Montana, forecasters noted that cities are experiencing the highest rates of case incidence and hospitalizations they have seen throughout the pandemic, mirroring what happened in Idaho last month. Similarly, in Utah, the outlook continues to worsen, specifically in the Salt Lake City region, as resurgence spreads to a wider geographic area.

According to the PolicyLab, the regional variation across the country makes predicting the trajectory of this period of the pandemic challenging. While the team wrote that the likelihood of a fall and winter resurgence in northern areas "seems more probable," there is "uncertainty about the magnitude, duration and breadth of geographic regions that will be impacted."

"We need to expect that, as we enter a season of shorter, colder days that will push more people to gather indoors, we will soon see a widening geographic distribution of resurgent transmission in many locations," forecasters wrote.

The group noted that the Northeast did not experience a significant surge last year, until the holiday season in November and December, and added that nationally, case incidence increased rapidly just after Halloween last year, surging through the New Year.

"As winter approaches, indoor mixing, especially among the remaining unvaccinated populations, means that we will likely continue to see increases in cases. The biggest remaining question is whether we have vaccinated enough of the population to see a decoupling with hospitalizations and deaths," added Brownstein.

People who have not been fully vaccinated are 6.1 times more likely to test positive with the virus and 11.3 times more likely to die from it, compared with people who are vaccinated, according to federal data.

Although nearly two-thirds of Americans have now received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, more than 112 million Americans remain completely unvaccinated. Approximately 64 million of those unvaccinated Americans are people over the age of 12, and thus, are currently eligible to get the shot.

PolicyLab experts say it is therefore critical for communities to act now in order to "maximize vaccinations among children and adults so that we can prevent local surges in all regions this winter and finally move toward the waning days of the pandemic."

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CDC signs off on Moderna, J&J boosters, mixing and matching doses


(ATLANTA) -- CDC Director Rochelle Walensky gave the final signoff on Thursday evening to recommend both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters for certain populations.

The CDC's independent panel voted unanimously to support that decision earlier Thursday.

The panel recommended a third dose for Moderna vaccine recipients at least six months after a person’s initial course for those 65 and older, and those as young as 18 who are at higher risk due to their underlying health conditions, or where they work or live.

This aligns with what was recommended for a third booster dose for recipients of the Pfizer vaccine.

A second dose for those that received a one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine was recommended for anyone 18 years and older, at least two months after their first dose.

The panel also cleared the way for allowing mixing and matching of booster doses, meaning they will allow for people to get a different brand as a booster than was used for a primary vaccination.

Echoing the FDA however, CDC advisors today did not say any booster combination was preferred over another.

MORE: As White House announces vaccine plan for kids ages 5-11, states prepare for complex rollout
CDC’s advisory vote follows -- and falls in line with -- FDA’s move Wednesday to authorize those boosters, and aligns with what FDA and CDC authorized for the Pfizer vaccine booster shots last month.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must now give the final signoff to the panel's recommendation, which is typically expected within a day.

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Fresh whole onions linked to salmonella outbreak in 37 states: CDC


(NEW YORK) — A salmonella outbreak in 37 states has been linked to fresh whole red, white, and yellow onions sold to restaurants and grocery stores throughout the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 652 people have reported illness with 129 hospitalizations due to the onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed by ProSource Inc, according to the CDC.

The company said these onions had import dates from July 1 to Aug. 27. It said they can last up to three months in storage and may still be in homes and businesses.

These onions may have stickers or packaging to indicate the brand, ProSource Inc., and the country where they were grown. They were sold in 37 states.

Investigators are working to determine if any other onions or suppliers are linked to this outbreak.

ProSource Inc. said it voluntarily agreed to recall these onions.

"While investigations into various potential sources of salmonella remain ongoing, to date no onions marketed through ProSource have tested positive for Salmonella," the company said in a statement Wednesday. "This voluntary recall is being conducted out of an abundance of caution, in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), based on reported illnesses which have been associated with the possible consumption of fresh onions that originated in Chihuahua, MX."

CDC recommendations

Check storage coolers and coolers for these onions. If you can't tell where they are from, don't buy them or eat them, throw them away, the agency said.

Wash and sanitize any surfaces or containers that may have touched these onions with hot soapy water.

Do not buy or eat any whole fresh red, white, or yellow onions if they were imported and distributed from the above places.

Throw away any whole red, white, or yellow onions you have at home that do not have a sticker or packaging.

Salmonella symptoms

The CDC urges anyone to call their health care provider if they have any of these severe salmonella symptoms:

-Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F

-Diarrhea for more than three days that is not improving

-Bloody diarrhea

-So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down

-Signs of dehydration, such as not peeing much, dry mouth and throat, feeling dizzy when standing up

Most people infected with salmonella experience diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Symptoms typically start six hours to six days after swallowing the bacteria.

Recovery for most people without treatment is four to seven days, but people with weakened immune systems like children under 5 and adults over 65 may experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization.

For more information about salmonella, see the CDC Salmonella Questions and Answers page here.

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First lady Dr. Jill Biden speaks out on her mission to get people screened for breast cancer

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- First lady Dr. Jill Biden is speaking out about two causes close to her heart: access to community colleges and breast cancer awareness.

In a new interview with Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts, Biden, a professor of writing at Northern Virginia Community College, said she plans to continue to advocate to make community colleges more accessible to more Americans.

Tuition-free community college was included in President Joe Biden's social-spending package, but it is now reportedly one of the latest big-ticket items to be dropped from the package.

When asked by Roberts what she would say to families who were hopeful about the prospect of free community college access, the first lady replied, "I would say we're not giving up. We are not giving up. This is round one. This is year one. I'm going to keep going."

Biden, the country's sole first lady to hold a job outside the White House, said she is also committed to another cause important to her -- making sure breast cancer screenings are accessible to all Americans.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many doctors saw a drop in cancer screenings due to limited non-essential, in-person visits and patients opting to put off routine examinations -- including annual cancer screenings -- to curb risky face-to-face interactions.

The number of screening and mammograms given to people in the U.S. fell by as much as 80 percent during the pandemic, according to research published in July in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Now, Biden is making it her mission to make sure people do not miss their screenings.

“We were afraid of the pandemic, afraid of the virus, but now I think that we’ve moved on a little bit and people are vaccinated," Biden said. "We have to make sure that we have to get the message out.”

Urging people to get mammograms, Biden continued, "The next thing you have to do today is call your doc and get in there and get your screenings. If you go get that mammogram and they catch it early, you have a fighting chance.”

Why breast cancer research matters to the first lady

For Biden, who has been advocating for breast cancer research since the early 1990s, her fight for breast cancer prevention and awareness is personal.

“I had four friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time,” Biden said. “Unfortunately, we lost one of those friends, and I was so upset. I thought, what can I do? There has to be something. I thought, I know education inside and out, and so let's start to educate people."

Biden started to spread the message about breast cancer awareness in schools.

“I went into all the schools in Delaware and we taught them about early detection and breast health and the importance of good habits,” said Biden, whose husband served as a Democratic senator from Delaware for several decades. “Not only that, then they went home and sort of spread the word. When your kids say it, you do it, you know?”

Detecting breast cancer early

Biden spoke to Roberts at the Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center in New York City, where doctors have also seen a drop in the number of people getting mammograms.

“We screen about 41,000 patients getting mammograms every year, and with the pandemic here, that dropped to almost 31,000, and that's disheartening," Dr. Amanda Rivera, an attending radiation oncology physician at Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center, told “GMA.” “We really just want people to get their cancer detected early so that we have more treatment options."

For 52-year-old Sandra Cruz, her hesitancy around the pandemic pushed back her annual mammogram. It wasn’t until this past April, after her doctor urged her to get screened, that she learned of her Stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis.

Like Biden, Cruz -- who does not need chemotherapy but will be starting radiation soon -- is urging other women to get screened early.

“I was one of those women during the pandemic that had the fear of coming in, getting screened,” Cruz said. “I for one didn’t know what COVID was all about except for the fear of catching it, so I was one of those individuals that waited until things calmed down.”

Biden noted she took time within the first month of moving to the White House earlier this year to get a mammogram.

"As soon as we got into office, there I was, off and getting my mammogram," she said. "There's nothing more important than your health. Nothing."

Improving access to screenings

As first lady, Biden said she is also working to make sure the federal government makes it a priority to provide access to mammograms to all women.

“It’s the responsibility of the federal government to make sure that we have access, that all communities have access,” Biden said. “Whether that’s urban, whether that’s rural, so that’s one of the things that we plan to do.”

Medical centers like Montefiore are also working to make sure their efforts to increase screenings reach all people, including those who face barriers when it comes to health care.

“We know that in communities of color, in communities where there's less access to health care, we have barriers to overcome in terms of getting that population in for cancer screening,” Rivera said. “When you add a pandemic onto that, those disparities only grow further.”

Rivera said one of the ways Montefiore is reaching communities of color is through its clinical trials.

“As we learn through science, through research, we know that certain differences exist,” Rivera said. “Until we get more representation on those clinical trials, we’re not adequately assessing that patient population. So it’s very important to get more clinical trial enrollment from communities of color.”

According to federal guidelines, women ages 40 to 44 should have access to annual breast cancer screening with mammograms, while women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

Starting at age 55, women should switch to mammograms every two years or continue annual screenings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Largest nurses union applauds possible OSHA action against three states over PPE


(NEW YORK) -- The country's largest nurses' union praised the federal government on Wednesday after officials said three states tasked with implementing their own safety measures for health care workers would lose that right unless they adhered to agreed-upon guidelines.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration had announced Tuesday it was considering stripping Arizona, Utah and South Carolina of their abilities to oversee workplace safety enforcement because they're not in compliance with an emergency standard order passed over the summer that guarantees certain protections.

OSHA had allowed 22 states to oversee work conditions for health care workers -- measures including the wearing of personal protective equipment, or PPE, enforcing social distancing, providing paid sick leave -- so long as local workplaces adopted requirements at least as strong as those agreed to at the federal level.

Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, which represents over 175,000 nurses, said in a statement on Wednesday that health care workers from coast to coast have been pushing for better protections as they put themselves at risk working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We urge federal OSHA to act expeditiously to put in place the necessary elements for federal OSHA to resume enforcement in Arizona, Utah, South Carolina and any other states which fail to enforce the [emergency standard] to ensure protections for health care workers," Burger said in a statement. "We will never emerge from this pandemic if we don't make sure nurses and health care workers are safe at work."

The Republican governors of Arizona, Utah and South Carolina defended their states' action and accused OSHA of overreach.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey contended that the Industrial Commission of Arizona's OSHA, or ICA, the state's workplace overseer, intends to comply with the emergency standards but is seeking public input on the mandate. Ducey accused the federal government of not justifying its threat to revoke oversight powers.

"The federal government's threat to strip the ICA of its OSHA authority is nothing short of a political stunt and desperate power grab," Ducey said in a statement.

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox said in a statement that he had concerns over the emergency standard, saying it "would place an unfair burden on the health care industry" and his state didn't "have regulatory authority to require employers to pay their employees sick leave."

"We reject the assertion that Utah's State Plan is less effective than the federal plan," Cox said.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said his office is preparing for "a vigorous and lengthy legal fight" and that OSHA's announcement Tuesday was "clearly a preemptive strike by the federal government."

Burger stressed that all three states needed to prioritize the safety of health care workers and come together to make sure they're protected as hospitalizations keep increasing.

"Arizona, South Carolina, and Utah had the duty -- legally and morally -- to come into compliance and protect workers," Burger said. "They did not, and we could not be more proud that OSHA is standing up to hold them accountable today."

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FDA authorizes boosters for Moderna and J&J vaccines


(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized COVID-19 boosters for millions more Americans, giving a green light for third shots to Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients.

The FDA also said it will allow people eligible for a booster to mix and match doses. So no matter which shots you initially received, you can choose your preferred brand for a third shot.

The FDA decision paves the way for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make an official recommendation to the public. An independent advisory committee to the CDC planned to meet Thursday with a final agency decision expected by the end of the week.

Dr. Peter Marks, a top FDA official, said allowing people to mix boosters makes sense, particularly when people might not remember what brand they initially received.

"Most people don't know what brand flu vaccine they received. And although they're somewhat more standardized, perhaps, this is something that is probably a good next step for us to be able to have the flexibility that people can get vaccinated easily," he told reporters.

Under the new rules, if the CDC signs off, Moderna recipients would qualify for a booster shot of their choice if they are older than 65 or younger with medical conditions or a high-risk job. The FDA and CDC had already cleared Pfizer recipients to get a third shot, and now they too can choose which brand booster they want.

Marks confirmed the agency is looking at whether to lower the age of boosters for Moderna or Pfizer recipients. But he said the situation is "very dynamic" and has to be data driven.

The news was considered particularly welcome by those who had gotten the single shot of J&J, which was shown to be only 70% effective against moderate to severe symptoms. That effectiveness climbed to 94% with two doses, prompting the FDA to allow for boosters for anyone 18 and older two months after their last shot.

"That is great news," Rose Tamberino of Hudson Valley, New York, who had gotten the J&J shot, told ABC News.

After losing her brother-in-law to COVID-19 in 2020, Tamberino was among the 15 million Americans who got the one-shot dose.

But she grew increasingly nervous this summer with the arrival of the delta variant and after hearing reports that J&J was less effective and testing her own antibodies with low results.

Six days ago, frustrated that Washington hadn't acted, she took matters into her own hands. After being turned down from a medical facility because she was already considered vaccinated -- and the FDA hadn't acted yet -- she went to a pharmacy and lied. She omitted details of her past J&J shot and got a Pfizer dose.

After going rogue, her vaccine record will now be consistent with federal recommendations.

"I'm just such a by-the-book person so for me to do something like this was really out of my comfort zone, you know?" she told ABC News in an interview.

"For me to take this upon myself and just go against what the government was doing at the time, felt really strange for me," she added. "But I felt better doing it than not though, because I just wanted to be protected."

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CNN's John King say he hopes revealing his MS diagnosis helps people do 'easy things' to protect against COVID-19

Good Morning America

(NEW YORK) -- One day after making a surprise revelation on live television that he has multiple sclerosis , CNN anchor John King said he hopes his openness inspires people to take precautions against COVID-19 seriously.

"I'm not supposed to be part of the story, I'm supposed to cover stories," King said Wednesday on "Good Morning America, adding, "If my personal experience can help anybody or help people understand, again, that the person next to you, you may not know, on the subway, or on the bus, in a coffee shop might need your help and you can do a couple easy things to make them feel safer, if I can help with that, then so be it."

The "Inside Politics" host opened up about his own MS battle Tuesday during a segment in which COVID-19 vaccine mandates were discussed, following the death of former secretary of state Colin Powell, who died Monday morning due to complications from COVID-19.

Powell, who was fully vaccinated, was being treated for multiple myeloma, which compromises the immune system. He had also been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, according to his spokesperson.

"I'm going to share a secret I have never spoken before. I am immunocompromised," King said on his show. "I have multiple sclerosis. So I am grateful you are all vaccinated. I am grateful my employer says all of these amazing people who work on the floor, who came in here in the last 18 months when we are doing this, are vaccinated now that we have vaccines. I worry about bringing it home to my 10-year-old son who can't get a vaccine. I don't like the government telling me what to do. I don't like my boss telling me what to do. In this case, it's important."

King, 58, who is CNN's chief national correspondent, told "GMA" that he had not planned to reveal his MS diagnosis live on-air, but felt compelled in order to help combat what he called "reckless and dangerous" rhetoric around COVID-19 vaccines and other safety measures.

"We should be willing to do hard things to help other people," he said. "Rolling up your sleeves and getting a safe vaccine is easy. Putting on a mask in a crowded place is easy. So why can't we do the easy things?"

"These steps are easy and they could help a friend or a neighbor or a stranger get through the day," King added.

Currently, just 66.8% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

King said he has taken extra safety precautions himself during the pandemic, for his own health but also to protect his family, including his 10-year-old son, who is currently too young to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Studies have shown vaccinated individuals are significantly less likely to spread coronavirus to family members within a household, National Institutes of Health director Frances Collins wrote in a blog post Tuesday on the safety of the vaccines.

In addition to being fully vaccinated, the CNN anchor said he also received a vaccine booster shot.

"I don't like being told what to do. I don't want my employer telling me you have to get a vaccine. I don't want the government telling me I have to do things, but this is bigger than that," he said. "Moments in American history when we're all challenged, when we're all at risk, we're supposed to come together and set the politics stuff aside and just love thy neighbor, protect thy neighbor."

King said he has relapsing-remitting MS, which is the most common disease course, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

He said he takes medication to slow the progression of the disease and considers himself "lucky," but still faces days where the MS is "very frustrating."

"Today I'm having a problem with my hands. I have not been able to really have full sensation in my legs since late in the Clinton administration," he said, noting that his MS diagnosis came several years later. "There are some days this knocks me on my you know what, there are other days it's just a little nagging."

"But it has made me stronger. I hope, I certainly hope it has made me a better person," King continued. "And it's made me aware, again, that a lot of these symptoms, a lot of the stress people are going through is hidden. You cannot see it, but we should just be aware that it's out there."

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Relief, eager anticipation for many Americans ahead of FDA decision on booster shots

Bill Oxford/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- For Mitchell Kronenberg, answers on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can't come soon enough.

A 42-year-old dad living outside Charlotte, North Carolina, Kronenberg enrolled in a clinical trial for the single-dose vaccine and got his shot last January. Since then, he's been patiently waiting for U.S. federal regulators to tell him what to do next to stay safe: Should he get another Johnson & Johnson shot? Switch to Moderna or Pfizer? Is his single-shot vaccination enough to protect him from spreading the virus to his unvaccinated 4-year-old son?

"Why is it taking so long? You have people out on a ledge out here," he said of the process.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide as early as Wednesday whether the 15 million Americans who got the single-dose J&J shot by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies should get a second dose. The decision comes after studies suggested effectiveness against moderate and severe symptoms climbed from 70% with one dose to 94% with two doses.

Also anticipated is a decision on possible third booster shots for Moderna recipients and whether Americans can mix vaccine brands when getting a booster.

With a decision expected soon, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention planned to meet Thursday to offer the public a final recommendation.

Typically a wonky endeavor ignored by most Americans, the FDA and CDC regulatory process is now being closely followed by millions of Americans. People describe joining private Facebook groups to swap the latest research and repeatedly getting their antibody levels checked, even if experts warn it's an incomplete measure of a person's immunity.

Some have even opted to mix booster shots on their own even without the federal government's blessing.

"Every day, I was researching, Googling, reading everything I could get my hands on," said Lynne Conway, a 59-year-old development officer for an animal shelter in Ithica, New York.

Conway said she experienced mild heart inflammation following her first dose of Moderna last March. After ruling out other causes, her doctor recommended she get the J&J so she can be fully protected against COVID-19. She got that shot in August, despite there being no official green light from regulators to mix shots in such a way.

"The relief of finally deciding to get the (J&J) vaccine, and have it over with, was monumental," she said.

J&J recipients are among those who expressed being most on edge emotionally, with the 70% effectiveness after one shot -- lower than the two doses of Pfizer or Moderna.

Jadzia Pierce, who lives outside of Washington, D.C., said she was relieved regulators were inching toward a decision. In her early 30s, Pierce isn't at serious risk of major complications from COVID-19.

But she also would like to visit higher-risk relatives this holiday season and to know she's not at risk of infecting them.

"Even if the answer is (that it puts) other people around at risk, then I guess I just won't go home," she said. "I just feel like safety is the most important thing at this point and that's really all that matters to me."

J&J declined to comment for this article, citing pending action by regulators. But last Friday, after a meeting of FDA advisors, a top company official told ABC News the J&J vaccine likely protects people by triggering the protection of a person's T-cells, which is harder to measure than antibodies.

J&J's "biggest, most impressive components are T-cells, which contribute to both efficacy and durability of our vaccine," said Mathai Mammen, global head of R&D at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

For its part, the FDA says its staff is working around the clock to comb through technical data. The CDC too has to hear from its own advisory panel before making a decision.

Kronenberg, who has to travel for work as a director for a medical device company, said he still worries about spreading the virus to his son. He says he understands wanting to get it right but wishes the various agencies could get in a room together and hash it out immediately, rather convene separate meetings and reviews that can drag on for weeks.

Pierce, also in limbo having received the J&J, said she's torn on whether to be frustrated with the regulatory bureaucracy.

"I'm trying to be patient. I do realize that this stuff takes time, and I don't want to be following advice that is too rushed and not complete," she said.

ABC News' Sony Salzman contributed to this report.

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