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Here’s What You Need to Know About the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot Debate

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Here’s What You Need to Know About the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot Debate
Thai medical personnel receives a booster dose of COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration General Hospital in Bangkok. Vichan Poti/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Scientists are divided on the topic of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, and the debate hinges on whether it is more appropriate to give booster shots to the fully vaccinated population or if those doses should be saved for the unvaccinated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee is set to meet on Friday to vote on whether the agency should approve a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The vaccine committee, consisting of independent scientists and advisors, will review new data submitted by Pfizer about the safety and efficacy of a third booster shot based on real-world studies. The FDA doesn’t have to follow the committee’s recommendation, but it usually does.

The Biden administration has expressed strong support for giving booster shots to Americans, but said the ultimate decision will be left to the FDA and the CDC.

Pfizer data submitted to the FDA on Wednesday showed that a third dose of its mRNA vaccine six months after a second shot restores protection from infection to 95 percent. Without a third shot, protection wanes over time, dropping from the peak 95 percent a few weeks after the second dose to below 84 percent four months later.

However, some scientists say the added benefits don’t matter if a significant portion of the world’s population remain unvaccinated.

On Monday, a group of top scientists, including two senior FDA officials and several with the World Health Organization, authored an article in the medical journal The Lancet, arguing that “current vaccine supplies could save more lives if used in previously unvaccinated populations than if used as boosters in vaccinated populations.”

“Even if some gain can ultimately be obtained from boosting, it will not outweigh the benefits of providing initial protection to the unvaccinated,” the authors wrote. “If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants.”

They also reasoned that boosters are not needed in the general population, because existing vaccine regimes are still highly effective at preventing severe illness and death, even against the delta variant.

Nearly 58 percent of the world population hasn’t received any COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. In the U.S., despite ample vaccine supply, less than 55 percent of the population are fully vaccinated, still far from the coverage needed for herd immunity.

Last month, the WHO called on rich countries with vaccine surpluses to hold off on booster shots until the end of the year to ensure sufficient supply for poor countries. Yet, several developed countries have moved ahead with booster shots anyway—for certain groups.

The U.S. authorized the third booster shot of Pfizer vaccine for immunocompromised people in August. France began administering booster shots on September 1 to people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions. The U.K, Ireland and Greece have followed suit since then.

The Pfizer-BioNTech shot is the only fully approved COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. The other two popular vaccines, made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are authorized for emergency use only.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot Debate

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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7: Last-minute moves

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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7: Last-minute moves

UPDATE: 9:42 a.m. Sunday
The big roster news this morning concerns the NFL’s second-ranked tight end, Darren Waller. The Las Vegas standout with the injured ankle is expected to be a game-time decision, which is a huge problem for fantasy mavens since it’s a late afternoon game just off The Strip. Unless you can find a decent tight-end replacement prospect, we’re guessing you should roll the dice … get it, Vegas? … and keep Waller in your lineup when you set it in a couple of hours.

Two prominent running backs have been cleared to play. Chicago’s Damien Williams is off the COVID list and will start over Khalil Herbert, though the latter may still see goal-line duty. And Washington’s Antonio Gibson is also good to go, though possibly with a lightened load.

Other early injury notes: Indy WR T.Y. Hilton is out, Miami’s Devante Parker is doubtful and the Giants’ Evan Engram is a maybe.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s Pete Carroll says RB Alex Collins is good to go Monday night, so he’ll be the far-preferable fantasy choice over Rashard Penny against the Saints.

We’ll be back in an hour or so with any updates from the early inactive lists.

UPDATE: 10:54 a.m. Saturday
The Week 7 showdown between Jimmy Garoppolo’s injured calf and Trey Lance’s ailing knee has been settled, and the San Francisco 49ers head into Sunday’s game with Indianapolis with a questionable quarterback atop the lineup.

That QB is Garoppolo, who practiced in limited fashion on Friday. Lance is a no-go, so Jimmy G becomes a marginal starting option in this bye-depleted week.

The lineup news is a bit grimmer for two teams. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Antonio Brown in their game against Chicago, and the New York Giants will be even sadder this week without RB Saquon Barkley, and receivers Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay.

Seattle is facing a must-win against New Orleans, but the Russell Wilson-less team has more uncertainty at running back. Alex Collins, who played well last week, is said to be a game-time decision. So the starter could be Rashard Penny, who has been activated off the injured list.

The news is better in Tennessee, where WR Julio Jones is expected to play six days after exiting early during Monday night’s win over Buffalo. Good news for the Titans, and The Loop’s own Fantasy Juggernaut.

Notables ruled out over the past couple of days include two Ravens, RB Latavius Murray and WR Sammy Watkins, Carolina wideout Terrace Marshall and Washington WR Curtis Samuel.

Players listed as questionable as of this morning include Bears WR Allen Robinson, Jets RB Tevin Coleman, Indy wideout T.Y. Hilton, Miami receiver Devante Parker, and two Giants, tight end Evan Engram and WR Sterling Shepherd.

ORIGINAL POST: 12:00 p.m. Wednesday

With a newly expanded 17-game schedule, you would think the NFL has no reason to jam a ridiculous amount of byes into a single week. And you would be mistaken.

Some brilliant minds at 345 Park Avenue determined that the league should put six teams on hiatus this week, including some of the league’s top powers

Vikings fans are already well aware their cardiac-causing team is off for this week. They are joined on the sidelines by the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

When you break it down by position, the Week 7 absences range from serious to alarming:

Running back — Four of the top eight scoring leaders of 2021 are missing, and that doesn’t include the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook. How can you replace the likes of Austin Ekeler, Ezekiel Elliott, Najee Harris and James Robinson? You might still be able to pick up on waivers the Bucs’ Gio Bernard. Or the Colts’ Nyheim Hines. Maybe even Houston relic Mark Ingram.

Houston Texans running back Mark Ingram II (2) rushes for a gain against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Wide receiver — Four of the top 11 are out: Mike Williams, CeeDee Lamb and the Vikings’ duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. But the waiver wires in more than half of all leagues still have guys like Chicago’s Darnell Mooney, the Saints’ Marquez Callaway, Indy’s Zach Pascal and former Gophers star Rashod Bateman of the Ravens.

1634756656 294 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman runs with the ball after making a catch against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Quarterback — Need a sub for top-10 stars like Justin Herbert, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen or Kirk Cousins? You can pick up New Orleans’ Jameis Winston or New England’s Mac Jones. Feeling more adventurous? Then how about two currently struggling guys due for a rebound: the Panthers’ Sam Darnold or the Giants’ Daniel Jones.

1634756657 799 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (94) chases Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Tight end — Dallas surprise Dalton Schultz is the only top six TE off this week. There are plenty of options for those wishing to take a flyer, such as the Giants’ Evan Engram, New England’s Jonnu Smith or Hunter Henry, or the newest Arizona Cardinal, Zach Ertz.

1634756657 666 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) sprints to the end zone for a touchdown after catching a pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Defense — Among those missing are top-ranked Buffalo, third-ranked Dallas and ninth-rated Minnesota. So look for someone playing a really lousy offense, such as Arizona (vs. Houston), Carolina (vs. Giants) or Denver (vs. injured-plagued Cleveland).

1634756657 540 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Kicker — Four of the top 10 are out, including Greg Zuerlein, Greg Joseph and Tyler Bass. Kickers with good matchups this week include Miami’s Jason Sanders and New England’s Nick Folk.

1634756657 711 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Miami Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders (7) kicks a field goal during the first half an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

SITTING STARS
Probably not too many guys you can afford to sit during Byemegeddon but … Chicago fill-in running back Khalil Herbert looked very good last Sunday against Green Bay, but don’t even think he’ll repeat that performance against Tampa Bay. … Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon won’t post his usual strong numbers against the Ravens. … The Rams defense has been shutting down running backs all season. This week they’ll smother Detroit’s D’Andre Swift. … Seattle’s running game surprised with Alex Collins looking good in Pittsburgh, but he’ll have a tougher time Monday night against New Orleans. … And if we were playing by the rules of chess, you’d be better off resigning than starting any Texans against unbeaten Arizona.

1634756657 134 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift (32) slips past Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) to score with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter of an NFL game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. The Vikings beat the Lions, 19-17. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

MATCHUP GAME
Boy, is Matthew Stafford going to have fun going against his old Lions team on Sunday … Arizona will have no trouble with Houston, so we’re thinking Cards will be running more than passing, which means Chase Edmonds and James Connor are both worth starting . … Tampa Bay RB Leonard Fournette is now back in peak form and will score at least once vs. Chicago. … Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa looked good in his return last week and will look better against Atlanta for the now-desperate Dolphins. Same goes for WR Jaylen Waddle. … We said Green Bay TE Robert Tonyan would regress this year, and boy has he. But we smell a TD for him this week against Washington.

1634756657 275 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan (85) catches a pass in front of Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (24) during an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

INJURY WATCH
Cleveland’s injured list is bursting, but more on that later. … Baltimore lost RB Latavius Murray to an injured ankle, so both Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman snagged touchdowns last week. And they could again this week … It’s a tossup at the moment who will be quarterbacking the 49ers against Indy: ailing Jimmy Groppolo or ailing Trey Lance. … Washington RB Antonio Gibson was slowed again last week, so be wary. On the positive side, Seattle RB Rashaad Penny is expected to return, as is Cleveland WR Jarvis Landry. Players listed as questionable for this week include Giants WR Kadarius Toney, Bears RB Damien Williams, Cleveland WR Odell Beckham Jr., and two Indy wideouts, T.Y Hilton and Parris Campbell.

1634756657 917 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Baltimore Ravens running back Latavius Murray (28) scores a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

THE DEEPEST SLEEPER
You know we’re scrounging if we’re picking a running back who has yet to rush the ball during his short NFL career. But Cleveland running back Demetric Felton stands a good chance of seeing big duty Thursday night because of the injuries to starters Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and the substitution of Case Keenum for injured Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. This rookie from UCLA, who has caught six passes, one for a touchdown, this season, Someone has to constitute the Cleveland offense. Keep an eye on Chubb’s status on Thursday, as he could return. A lot of folks will flock to D’Ernest Johnson, but if you’re especially bye-week desperate, give this Bruin a try.

1634756657 575 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Cleveland Browns running back Demetric Felton (25) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson, right, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

THE THURSDAY PICK
Broncos at Browns (-3½):
Pick: Browns by 1

1634756657 466 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 7 Many stars watching
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) throws a pass during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

BREAKING NEWS
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.

You can hear Kevin Cusick on Wednesdays on Bob Sansevere’s “BS Show” podcast on iTunes. You can follow Kevin on Twitter — @theloopnow. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Explainer: Will lawmakers dig into Kristi Noem, appraisers?

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Explainer: Will lawmakers dig into Kristi Noem, appraisers?

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota lawmakers will be taking a look at a state agency that has been at the center of questions about whether Gov. Kristi Noem used her influence to aid her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license.

At first glance, the first item of business for the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee on Thursday appears routine: “Department of Labor and Regulation to discuss the Appraiser Certification Program.”

But it could have a big impact for the Republican governor, who has generated speculation about a possible 2024 White House bid. Noem has come under scrutiny after The Associated Press reported that she held a meeting in her office last year that included her daughter, Kassidy Peters, and the director of the Appraiser Certification Program, which had moved days earlier to deny Peters’ application for a license. Peters received her certification four months later.

Here’s what to know about the committee’s meeting:

WHO WILL BE SPEAKING?

Lawmakers have carved out a few hours in a packed schedule to hear from four people.

One is the Appraiser Certification Program’s former director, Sherry Bren. She was called into the July 2020 meeting in the governor’s office and was pressured to retire shortly after Peters received her license that November.

Another official slated to speak is Secretary of Labor and Regulation Marcia Hultman. She was also in the meeting and later pressured Bren to retire. Hultman has defended her actions by saying there have been positive changes at the agency since Bren left.

Lawmakers have also called the president of the state’s professional appraiser association, Sandra Gresh. She has raised concerns about the new direction of the state program.

The director of the state’s Office of Risk Management, Craig Ambach, also is expected to appear. His office helped negotiate a $200,000 payment to Bren for her to retire and withdraw an age discrimination complaint. Both Bren and Hultman are bound by a clause in that settlement that bans them from disparaging each other.

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED AT THE MEETING IN NOEM’S OFFICE?

It is not entirely clear. The governor hasn’t answered detailed questions about the meeting. Bren told the AP it covered the procedures for appraiser certification and that she was presented with a letter from Peters’ supervisor that criticized the agency’s decision to deny the license.

Noem has said she didn’t ask for special treatment for her daughter. She has cast the episode as yet another way she has “cut the red tape” to solve a shortage of appraisers and smooth the homebuying process.

In a YouTube video responding to the AP’s report, Noem pointed out that Bren had been in her position for decades, and she charged that the system “was designed to benefit those who were already certified and to keep others out.”

IS THERE A SHORTAGE OF APPRAISERS?

Yes. Industry experts have long said that’s a problem, especially in rural states. In South Dakota, many experienced appraisers are nearing retirement age.

However, the governor’s ability to “streamline” requirements for a license would be limited because they are mostly set at the federal level.

As governor, Noem has worked to ease licensing requirements for an array of professions. She said she had been working on appraiser regulations for years.

Asked for examples of that work prior to last year, her spokesman Ian Fury pointed out that Noem, during her eight years in Congress, twice signed onto GOP-sponsored bills that would have, among other financial reforms, adjusted federal appraiser regulations.

HOW CAN THE SHORTAGE BE SOLVED?

Since Bren’s departure, Noem’s administration has moved to waive certification requirements that go beyond the federal standards, such as an exam for entry-level appraisers.

But the leadership of the Professional Appraisers Association of South Dakota has raised concerns about those moves. The group says the biggest barrier to becoming an appraiser is a lack of supervisors who can train new appraisers.

Before Bren left her job, she was working to launch a first-of-its-kind program that would allow appraiser trainees to take hands-on courses and avoid the traditional apprenticeship model that has become a bottleneck. Bren helped the state win a $120,000 annual federal grant and later testified in the Legislature in support of a bill to create the training program. Noem signed it into law this year.

WHAT WILL THE COMMITTEE DO?

It’s not clear. Republican lawmakers said they will start by asking about the state agency and why there are difficulties to becoming an appraiser. But they also acknowledged that the meeting was an opportunity to question the governor’s conduct. Just two Democrats sit on the 10-person committee.

If lawmakers are satisfied, they could move on from the issue.

They also could decide to delve deeper. The committee has the power to subpoena witnesses and records, but that would require approval from the Executive Board, a ranking committee of top legislators.

Kathleen Clark, a law professor who specializes in government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, said she would not be satisfied with the governor’s explanation that she was simply trying to “cut the red tape.”

“It is conceivable that the agency processes needed improvement,” she said. “But the presence of the daughter and the timing of the meeting suggest that this was not a meeting aimed at improving processes in general, but instead aimed at pressuring the agency to change its mind.”

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Biden hosting budget talks in Delaware with Schumer, Manchin

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Biden hosting budget talks in Delaware with Schumer, Manchin

By ALAN FRAM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden was hosting two pivotal senators for meetings in Delaware on Sunday in hopes of resolving lingering disputes over Democrats’ long-stalled effort to craft an expansive social and environment measure.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., were scheduled to attend the session, the White House said.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., two of their party’s most moderate members, have insisted on reducing the size of the package and have pressed for other changes.

Democrats initially planned that the measure would contain $3.5 trillion worth of spending and tax initiatives over 10 years. But demands by moderates led by Manchin and Sinema to contain costs mean its final price tag could well be less than $2 trillion.

Disputes remain over whether some priorities must be cut or excluded. These include plans to expand Medicare coverage, child care assistance and helping lower-income college students. Manchin, whose state has a major coal industry, has opposed proposals to penalize utilities that do not switch quickly to clean energy.

The White House and congressional leaders have tried to push monthslong negotiations toward a conclusion by the end of October. Democrats’ aim is to produce an outline by then that would spell out the overall size of the measure and describe policy goals that leaders as well as progressives and moderates would endorse.

The wide-ranging measure carries many of Biden’s top domestic priorities. Party leaders want to end internal battles, avert the risk that the effort could fail and focus voters’ attention on the plan’s popular programs for helping families with child care, health costs and other issues.

Democrats also want Biden to be able to cite accomplishments when he attends a global summit in Scotland on climate change in early November. They also have wanted to make progress that could help Democrat Terry McAuliffe win a neck-and-neck Nov. 2 gubernatorial election in Virginia.

The hope is that an agreement between the party’s two factions would create enough trust to let Democrats finally push through the House a separate $1 trillion package of highway and broadband projects.

That bipartisan measure was approved over the summer by the Senate. But progressives have held it up in the House as leverage to prompt moderates to back the bigger, broader package of health care, education and environment initiatives.

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