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If you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, do you need another dose?

With reports of a thousand new Covid-19 cases every hour, there’s growing anxiety about how well protected some vaccinated Americans are against the highly contagious delta variant.

A new lab study posted online Tuesday has raised some concerns that the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine isn’t as robust in fighting off illness from coronavirus variants, including the delta variant, as the two-dose mRNA shots.

Since the beginning of the month, the U.S. has averaged 10,000 to 40,000 new cases a day, according to NBC News data. At least 13 million people in the U.S. have received the single Johnson & Johnson dose — but experts say people shouldn’t be rushing out to boost their Johnson & Johnson vaccinations with any other shots.

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In the study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine compared how well two doses of the mRNA vaccines — from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — stood up against the variants compared to the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In the lab experiment, researchers compared a small number of blood samples from 10 people who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 17 people who had received either the Pfizer or Moderna shots. The results suggested that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be less effective against some of the variants of concern.

The study looked only at the antibody response in the blood samples, according to the researchers. Other crucial components of the immune response, such as T cells that can protect the body against the virus, weren’t examined.

Early this month, researchers from South Africa reported on their real world data about health care workers who had received the one-dose vaccine. The research, which has yet to be published, showed that, overall, over 90 percent of breakthrough infections were mild.

Last week, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found in a laboratory setting that the antibody response from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine worked well against the delta variant and that the immune response lasted eight months. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was reassuring to the millions of people who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In a statement Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson responded that the new research doesn’t show “the full nature of immune protection.”

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On “The Beat with Ari Melber” on MSNBC on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the new study’s lab samples showed a lower antibody level from the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot compared to the two-dose vaccines but that it’s important to wait for clinical data to determine the impact on people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and whether they’re getting sick.

“We don’t have the clinical data that matched one [vaccine] against the other,” Fauci said. “What we need to do is wait for the clinical data. If the clinical data reflect the lab data, then you have to re-evaluate.”

I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. What should I do?

“I would not be worried,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist and chair of the department of global health at Emory University in Atlanta. “If I’m starting to see people getting hospitalized who all received J&J, I think that’s going to tell me something. At this point in time, I see no evidence that the J&J protection is less than with the other vaccines.

A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the NYU research is just one study of vaccine effectiveness. The agency’s position on boosters still stands: “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.”

Will Covid-19 boosters be necessary?

Fauci said Tuesday at a Senate hearing on the Covid response in the U.S. that studies are being conducted to determine whether or not boosters — third doses of the mRNA vaccines or second doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — will be needed to increase protection against variants or the possibility of waning immunity.

“We don’t want people to believe that when you’re talking about boosters that means that the vaccines are not effective,” he said. “They are highly effective.”

On Thursday, the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee will discuss booster shots, particularly for people with weakened or compromised immune systems. They are the people who would be likely to be first in line for booster shots when they are available.

Patrick Martin contributed.

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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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House passes John Lewis voting rights bill, sends measure to Senate for tougher fight

House Democrats on Tuesday passed a sweeping voting rights bill named after Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the late civil rights icon.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was approved 219-212. All Republicans voted against the legislation.

The bill is part of congressional Democrats’ broader campaign to strengthen voting laws at the federal level to fight restrictive voting laws passed in Republican-led states, such as Texas and Georgia. However, it faces steep opposition in the Senate, where Democrats hold a wafer-thin majority.

The House returned from its recess this week to take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a resolution for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, which includes funding for much of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. The procedural motion used to pass the multitrillion-dollar resolution paved the way for the House to vote on the voting rights bill, which was re-introduced last week by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

The legislation would require states with recent histories of discrimination to get federal “preclearance” to change their voting laws, which directly addresses the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The ruling gutted the preclearance system in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which civil rights advocates argue was successful in blocking proposed voting restrictions in states and localities with histories of racial discrimination.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement last week that Congress had “not only an ironclad Constitutional mandate, but a moral responsibility” to pass the bill.

Shortly before its passage, Pelosi said on the House floor that the bill would honor Lewis’ legacy.

“We should have the right to vote and shouldn’t be diminished by anyone. It is unpatriotic to undermine the ability of people who have a right to vote, who have access to the polls,” she said. “As John knew, this precious pillar of our democracy is under attack from one of the worst voter suppression campaigns since Jim Crow.”

It isn’t the first time House Democrats have tackled election law. In March, House Democrats passed the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that seeks to change campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

The bill would expand access to the ballot box by creating automatic voter registration across the country by registering eligible voters whenever they interact with government agencies, restoring the voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, expanding early voting and modernizing the country’s voting systems.

However, Senate Republicans filibustered the voting rights legislation in June, and the vote to advance an amended version of the For the People Act split along party lines 50-50, short of the 60 votes needed. All Democratic-aligned senators voted to begin debate, and Republicans unanimously voted to block the bill.

Passage of the voting measure was the final vote of the week for the House, whose members are leaving Washington and won’t return until Sept. 20.

Haley Talbot contributed.

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