In The News

FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccine

Approval Signifies Key Achievement for Public Health 

For Immediate Release: August 23, 2021

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.” 

Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products. For all vaccines, the FDA evaluates data and information included in the manufacturer’s submission of a biologics license application (BLA). A BLA is a comprehensive document that is submitted to the agency providing very specific requirements. For Comirnaty, the BLA builds on the extensive data and information previously submitted that supported the EUA, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality, and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made. The agency conducts its own analyses of the information in the BLA to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective and meets the FDA’s standards for approval. 

Comirnaty contains messenger RNA (mRNA), a kind of genetic material. The mRNA is used by the body to make a mimic of one of the proteins in the virus that causes COVID-19. The result of a person receiving this vaccine is that their immune system will ultimately react defensively to the virus that causes COVID-19. The mRNA in Comirnaty is only present in the body for a short time and is not incorporated into - nor does it alter - an individual’s genetic material. Comirnaty has the same formulation as the EUA vaccine and is administered as a series of two doses, three weeks apart. 

“Our scientific and medical experts conducted an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation of this vaccine. We evaluated scientific data and information included in hundreds of thousands of pages, conducted our own analyses of Comirnaty’s safety and effectiveness, and performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “We have not lost sight that the COVID-19 public health crisis continues in the U.S. and that the public is counting on safe and effective vaccines. The public and medical community can be confident that although we approved this vaccine expeditiously, it was fully in keeping with our existing high standards for vaccines in the U.S."

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New Regulations to Require Staff Vaccinations at Nursing Homes

Comagine Health / August 18, 2021

New regulations will be developed that require staff members of nursing homes be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the regulation would affect more than 15,000 facilities in the country. About 1.3 million workers are employed by these nursing homes.

“Keeping nursing home residents and staff safe is our priority. The data are clear that higher levels of staff vaccination are linked to fewer outbreaks among residents, many of whom are at an increased risk of infection, hospitalization or death,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. 

As of Aug. 8, about 62% of nursing home staff were vaccinated, and vaccination among staff at the state level ranges from a high of 88% to a low of 44%. With the emergence of the COVID-19 delta variant, case rates among nursing home residents have gone from 319 cases on June 27 to 2,696 cases on Aug. 8. According to CMS, many recent outbreaks are occurring in facilities in areas of the country with low staff vaccination rates.

press release from CMS states the agency expects to issue the new guidelines in September.

The new nursing home regulation was one of several actions Biden announced Wednesday regarding the fight against COVID-19.


Joint Statement from HHS Public Health and Medical Experts on COVID-19 Booster Shots

[Public] health and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the following statement on the Administration’s plan for COVID-19 booster shots for the American people.

The statement is attributable to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General; Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); Dr. Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health; Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer for the COVID-19 Response; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force:

“The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States continue to be remarkably effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. Recognizing that many vaccines are associated with a reduction in protection over time, and acknowledging that additional vaccine doses could be needed to provide long lasting protection, we have been analyzing the scientific data closely from the United States and around the world to understand how long this protection will last and how we might maximize this protection. The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination, and in association with the dominance of the Delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout. For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.

“We have developed a plan to begin offering these booster shots this fall subject to FDA conducting an independent evaluation and determination of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issuing booster dose recommendations based on a thorough review of the evidence. We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose. At that time, the individuals who were fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination rollout, including many health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors, will likely be eligible for a booster. We would also begin efforts to deliver booster shots directly to residents of long-term care facilities at that time, given the distribution of vaccines to this population early in the vaccine rollout and the continued increased risk that COVID-19 poses to them.

“We also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Administration of the J&J vaccine did not begin in the U.S. until March 2021, and we expect more data on J&J in the next few weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well.

“Our top priority remains staying ahead of the virus and protecting the American people from COVID-19 with safe, effective, and long-lasting vaccines especially in the context of a constantly changing virus and epidemiologic landscape. We will continue to follow the science on a daily basis, and we are prepared to modify this plan should new data emerge that requires it.

“We also want to emphasize the ongoing urgency of vaccinating the unvaccinated in the U.S. and around the world. Nearly all the cases of severe disease, hospitalization, and death continue to occur among those not yet vaccinated at all. We will continue to ramp up efforts to increase vaccinations here at home and to ensure people have accurate information about vaccines from trusted sources. We will also continue to expand our efforts to increase the supply of vaccines for other countries, building further on the more than 600 million doses we have already committed to donate globally.”

Elsa Ramirez
Acting Regional Director
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Delta Variant Rise and Decreased Immunity Fuel Breakthrough Infections

As reported by The Washington Post : “A growing number of studies suggest that coronavirus vaccines continue to provide strong protection against severe disease and hospitalization, but their ability to prevent mild illness is less robust today than the original clinical trial studies demonstrated a year ago. The virus has mutated. The delta variant is rampant. Some elements of immunity may be gradually waning for people who got shots many months ago. New research studies in the United States, Israel, Britain and Qatar have shown a partial erosion in the effectiveness of vaccines against mild to moderate infections. Immunocompromised people are winding up hospitalized despite being vaccinated.” 


APTA Colorado's Nominating Committee Announces 2021 Ballot

The APTA Colorado Chapter's 2021 elections will OPEN on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 and will conclude on Saturday, September 25, 2021 during the annual conference. The results will be announced during the conference and online. Only CURRENT APTA Colorado Chapter Members (PTs & PTAs) are eligible to vote and will only be allowed to cast one ballot.

The Nominating Committee of the APTA Colorado Chapter presents the following slate of 9 candidates for the 2021 ballot.

Vice President: 
  • Patty Pennell Noel, PT, ScD
  • Raymond Vigil, BSPT, DPT
  • Cynthia Rauert, PT, DPT
Director at Large - Practice Director 
  • Tyler Luke, PT, DPT
Director at Large - Young Professionals Director 
  • Samantha Cohen, PT, DPT, OCS
Chief Delegate Elect
  • Rebekah Griffith, PT, DPT, NCS
  • Mary Jane Rapport, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA
Nominating Committee Member
  • Kelli Baggett, PT, DPT, OCS
  • Erin Hayden, PT, DPT, OCS

To learn more about the candidates, click here

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