The Rundown: Big questions surround J&J booster

Johnson & Johnson
In this July 30, 2021, file photo, Bradley Sharp, of Saratoga, N.Y., gets the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from registered nurse Stephanie Wagner in New York. Starting Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration convenes its independent advisers for the first stage in the process of deciding whether extra shots of Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines should be dispensed and, if so, who should get them and when. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo
Johnson & Johnson
In this July 30, 2021, file photo, Bradley Sharp, of Saratoga, N.Y., gets the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from registered nurse Stephanie Wagner in New York. Starting Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration convenes its independent advisers for the first stage in the process of deciding whether extra shots of Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines should be dispensed and, if so, who should get them and when. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

The Rundown: Big questions surround J&J booster

Good afternoon. It’s Wednesday, and thank you for all of the condolences on the death of my grandfather. My inbox was full, and I’m hoping to respond to everyone soon. Here’s what you need to know today.

(By the way, if you’d like this emailed to your inbox, you can sign up here.)

1. Federal regulators wrestle with big questions about Johnson & Johnson’s booster shot

An advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration later this week will review Johnson & Johnson’s request for federal authorization of its COVID-19 booster shot. And there are two major questions that will impact 15 million Americans who have taken the one-dose vaccine.

The first: When should the booster be given? The drugmaker says it should be at least 6 months after the initial dose. But the FDA says Johnson & Johnson’s recommendation hinges on a test that may not have been adequate enough to measure the vaccine’s effectiveness over time.

Instead, federal regulators point to a large trial from the company that showed potentially greater protection after two months. The FDA still maintains that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains effective in preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19. [AP]

The second big question is whether people who got the Johnson & Johnson shot are better off getting a booster from either Moderna or Pfizer. A study released today by the National Institutes of Health showed mixing-and-matching the vaccine provided more protection than getting a second J&J shot. [NPR]

2. Americans are paying more for food, housing and other goods and services

Consumer prices for new cars, food, gas, televisions and other goods shot up in September amid bottlenecks in the global supply chain, a changing American workforce and increased demand. And the pressure on prices could become a major political problem for Democrats when voters head to the polls in next year’s midterm elections.

The Consumer Price Index climbed more than expected to 5.4% last month when compared to last year, the Labor Department announced today.

The Biden administration and the Federal Reserve are betting that prices will cool off once the economy returns to normal. But some economists say inflation won’t ease up anytime soon as the global supply chain faces massive problems, such as a shortage of workers. [AP]

In an effort to relieve supply problems and drive down inflation, President Joe Biden will announce today that the Port of Los Angeles will operate around the clock. [CNBC]

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told the Chicago Tribune that the recent disappointing jobs report shows some Americans are rethinking their career paths. [Trib]

3. Illinois’ road to electric vehicles may be bumpier than officials expect

Gov. JB Pritzker’s ambitious green energy plan sets a goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. But some experts say the state may have to offer more incentives and significantly ramp up a network of charging stations to hit its goal, reports Jerome McDonnell for WBEZ.

“To reach 1 million [electric] vehicles on the road by 2030 would require about 50% growth year over year, which isn’t small by any means,” said David Gohlke, an energy and environmental analyst at Argonne National Laboratory.

To entice drivers to ditch gasoline-powered cars, Illinois will offer $4,000 rebates for new electric vehicles starting in July 2022. But the incentive drops to $2,500 in July 2026 and $1,000 two years later. And there’s only $6 million set aside for the rebates. [WBEZ]

4. The recent fiasco with Southwest Airlines could spell trouble for the holidays

You might want to start taking notes from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, because the upcoming holidays could be a complete mess at airports across the nation.

“I’m concerned that it’s going to be a very stressful holiday season when it comes to air travel,” industry analyst Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, told The Washington Post. “It’s already stressed with the potential for bad weather and of course, especially at Thanksgiving, very crowded flights.”

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights over the weekend, citing bad weather and problems with air traffic control. Experts say the situation illustrates how small-sounding problems can balloon into a full-blown disaster for the airline industry as it tries to rebound from the pandemic. [WaPo]

5. William Shatner becomes the oldest person to reach space

Star Trek actor William Shatner, 90, blasted into space today aboard a ship from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company. And he compared the thrilling experience to … dying?

Shatner said that going from the Earth’s natural blue sky to an abyss of blackness was a moving experience: “In an instant you go, ‘Whoa, that’s death.’ That’s what I saw.”

Well, sounds like a great view up there in death space. Anyway, I’m mostly including this story to once again share this link. Have fun washing that out of your brain! [AP]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Social Security recipients will see a 5.9% increase in their benefits, the largest boost in four decades, but rising prices will offset those gains. [CNN]
  • Chicago’s DePaul University offers a glimpse into what happens when a school doesn’t require the SAT and ACT. [WBEZ]
  • Transgender employees at Netflix will walkout in protest over comedian Dave Chappelle’s controversial special on the streaming service. [Los Angeles Times]
  • The creator of the wildly popular Squid Game talks about the show’s second season. [Hollywood Reporter]

Oh, and one more thing …

Iconic civil rights activist and historian Timuel Black — who strategized with Martin Luther King Jr., challenged the Democratic Party machine and fought to desegregate housing and public schools — died today at 102.

As WBEZ’s Natalie Moore writes: “Black, the grandson of slaves, lived more than a century and had a hand in electing the city’s first Black mayor and the first Black U.S. president. He fought Nazis in World War II, which earned him four bronze battle stars. But he came home angry. Returning to racial discrimination radicalized him and led to a life of civil rights and public service.”

In 2012, when he donated more than 250 archival boxes to the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature at Woodson Regional Library, Black said, “I am not an intellectual. I’m not a scholar. I’m not an academic. But I have lived a long time. And that does help.” [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

Halloween is getting closer and closer. So what’s the scariest spot in Chicago?

Beth Jozefowicz writes:

“Peabody’s Tomb, of course! Legend has it that if you get caught viewing the tomb after the cemetery is closed, the monks will cut off your legs and make you walk in salt. How, you ask? I do not know.”

Feel free to email me at therundown@wbez.org or tweet me at @whuntah, and your responses might be shared here this week.

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