COVID-vaccine maker Moderna announced early Thursday that it will make as many as 1 billion doses of its shots this year and up to 3 billion next year. Most of next year’s doses will go toward vaccinating young children and for booster shots, which are likely to be needed as immunity wanes with time and in the face of new variants.

The production increase will take place in factories in the United States and in Spain, the company said in a news release.

Three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for use in the United States, including Moderna’s, one based on similar mRNA technology made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, and a single-dose shot by Johnson & Johnson.

“As we follow the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, we believe that there will continue to be a significant need for our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and our variant booster candidates into 2022 and 2023,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, said in a prepared statement.

Moderna also announced that tests show the current vaccine can be safely stored for three months in a refrigerator, an increase of two months from the current standard, and up to seven months in a freezer. It is working to reformulate the vaccine to extend its refrigerated shelf life even longer.

President Joe Biden celebrated his administration passing its goal of delivering 200 million COVID-19 vaccines in his first 100 days in office, urging all Americans to get vaccinated and describing the nationwide effort as one of greatest “logistical achievements this country has ever seen” in his first address to Congress on Wednesday.

Also in the news:

►Cruising could restart in mid-summer in American waters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Wednesday in a letter to the cruise industry that USA TODAY obtained.

►Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday said she expects New Mexico to open by the end of June as long as the state reaches its goal of having at least 60% of residents fully vaccinated by then.

►Britain says it is buying 60 million more doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to give booster shots in the fall.

►South Africa has resumed giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to health care workers after a more than two-week pause in the use of the only vaccine in the country.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 574,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 149 million cases and 3.1 million deaths. More than 301.8 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 234.6 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Have a loved one who doesn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Here’s how to talk to them.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

US relief reaching overwhelmed India

The first of several emergency relief shipments to India was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi today from Travis Air Force Base in California. The shipment includes 440 oxygen cylinders and regulators donated by the state of California, 960,000 Rapid Diagnostic Tests and 100,000 N95 masks to protect India’s frontline healthcare heroes, U.S. Aid for International Development said. USAID said it has already provided over $23 million in assistance since the start of the pandemic, directly reaching nearly 10 million Indians.

India’s coronavirus problem continues to worsen, with 379,308 cases reported and 3,645 deaths reported on Wednesday alone, Johns Hopkins University data shows. The death toll has doubled in just the last 10 days. Cases have doubled in the last 15 days. India accounted for 42% of the world’s cases on Wednesday, and the share continues to increase quickly.

Mike Stucka

Biden mum on push for fourth stimulus check

Biden did not raise the issue of a possible fourth stimulus check when he spoke before Congress Wednesday night. Democratic lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are clamoring for a fourth round of checks to help Americans who are still struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic. Such a move could lift more than 7 million people out of poverty, according to a recent analysis from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.

“Are we recovered? Are people still hurting? There’s some evidence that we’re not out of the woods yet,” Elaine Maag, a principal research associate for the center.

Vaccines aplenty but some Californians struggle to get one

Hearing of excess vaccine and unfilled appointments frustrates Dr. Aaron Roland, a family physician who has been lobbying for doses to inoculate his patients, many of whom are low-income, immigrants or elderly. The San Francisco Bay Area doctor has more than 200 patients who have inquired when he will offer inoculations against the coronavirus. One patient, who is 67, said he walked into a Safeway supermarket because signs said doses were available.

“But they said, ‘Oh no, they’re not really available. You just have to go online, just sign up online.’ It’s not something he does very easily,” said Dr. Roland, whose practice is in Burlingame, south of San Francisco.

California, swimming in vaccine, is in far better shape than just weeks ago when scoring an appointment was cause for celebration. Today, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego and other populous counties are advertising that anyone can walk in for a shot and the state is texting reminders that plenty of appointments are available. Rural Humboldt County even declined 1,000 extra doses last week due to lackluster demand.

More than 18 million of an estimated 32 million eligible for vaccine in California are fully or partially vaccinated, including nearly half of people in economically vulnerable ZIP codes hardest hit by the pandemic and 73% of residents 65 and older. The country’s most populous state, like much of the U.S., appears to have hit a vaccine plateau.

But that doesn’t mean everyone who wants a vaccine can get one — as some of Dr. Roland’s patients can attest.

– Janie Har, Palm Springs Desert Sun

US may finally be turning corner on pandemic

Potential COVID surges may have collapsed in nearly all states, a USA TODAY analysis of the data shows. National case-count leaders New York, Michigan and now Florida all have reported falling case counts. But the threat has also fallen in most states with smaller populations.

“We should be mostly heading down toward a new normal,” tweeted Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University’s school of public health, noting that most U.S. adults are now at least partially vaccinated. Clinical trials are underway for vaccinating children as young as 6 months old.

Florida, which still leads the nation in new cases, has seen those case counts fall 12% from the previous week. It only became the leader because counts in Michigan have plunged more than 36% from earlier this month.

– Mike Stucka

Contributing: Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID updates: Moderna to make 1B vaccine doses; Biden stimulus plan



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