Updated 3/1/21

SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the pneumonia-like illness COVID-19, emerged at the end of 2019. The virus spread at an alarming rate, prompting the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a pandemic and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency. Use these resources to help understand COVID-19 and be proactive about prevention.

See information for Patients and Health Professionals below.

COVID-19 News and Spotlights
Third COVID-19 Vaccine Receives Emergency Use Authorization

March 1, 2021

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization for the third vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19, which is caused by SARS-CoV-2. The Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine, administered as a single dose, can now be distributed in the U.S and given to adults age 18 and older.

The FDA analyzed data from an ongoing randomized study being conducted in South Africa, certain countries in South America, Mexico, and the U.S. The study included over 39,000 participants who had no evidence of COVID-19 prior to vaccination. Roughly half the participants received the vaccine and about half received a placebo. Findings show that overall, the vaccine was about 67% effective in preventing moderate to severe or critical COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe or critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination.

“After a thorough analysis of the data, the FDA’s scientists and physicians have determined that the vaccine meets the FDA’s expectations for safety and effectiveness appropriate for the authorization of a vaccine for emergency use,” Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said in an FDA press release. “With today’s authorization, we are adding another vaccine in our medical toolbox to fight this virus.”

Source: (February 27, 2021) FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Third COVID-19 Vaccine, FDA Press Announcement. Accessed March 1, 2021. Available online at

Tracking SARS-CoV-2 Variants with Genetic Sequencing

February 16, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to monitor for variants of SARS-CoV-2. Using genetic sequencing, scientists decode the virus’ genes and identify changes that can occur over time.

Changes (mutations) in the genetic material of viruses naturally occur. If the genetic change is favorable to the virus, allowing it to survive and spread, the virus variant can become the main type of variant within a population. It is important to detect virus variants because the genetic changes can give the virus the ability to spread more easily, cause more serious disease, avoid detection by established tests and resist current treatments.

Since November 2020, CDC regularly receives SARS-CoV-2 samples from state health departments and other public health agencies for sequencing. The agency is also partnering with commercial laboratories and collaborating with universities to monitor for SARS-CoV-2 variants. Thus far, a few variants of concern have been identified. Scientists are working to learn more about them, to determine how easily they spread and whether current vaccines provide some immunity against them.

Learn more about the CDC’s Genomic Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 Variants and the Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants.

You can also find out more about Infectious Disease Genetic Testing.