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A U.S. Vaccine Surge Is Coming, with Millions of Doses Promised

February 19, 2021

(Bloomberg) – The U.S. vaccine supply is poised to double in the coming weeks and months, according to an analysis by Bloomberg, allowing a broad expansion of doses administered across the country. Currently, the U.S. is administering 1.6 million doses a day, constrained by the recent supply of about 10 million to 15 million doses a week. But Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers and U.S. officials have accelerated their production timelines and signaled that the spigots are about to open, providing hundreds of millions of doses to match the growing capacity to immunize people at pharmacies and mass-vaccination sites.

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Researchers Urge Delaying Pfizer Vaccine’s Second Dose as First Highly Effective

February 19, 2021

(Reuters) – The second dose of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine could be delayed in order to cover all priority groups as the first one is highly protective, two Canada-based researchers said in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The vaccine had an efficacy of 92.6% after the first dose, Danuta Skowronski and Gaston De Serres said, based on an analysis of the documents submitted by the drugmaker to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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U.S. Life Expectancy Fell by One Year in 2020, CDC Data Show

February 19, 2021

(Reuters) – Life expectancy in the United States fell by a year in the first half of 2020 – the biggest decline since World War 2 – and stood at the lowest levels since 2006, according to estimates issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday. While the estimates are provisional, and do not reflect the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC said it was publishing provisional data for the first time in order to assess the effect of excess deaths in 2020.

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New Data Boost Calls for Single COVID-19 Vaccine Dose

February 19, 2021

(Medscape) – A single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine offers 92.6% efficacy in new calculations based on data submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), researchers report. Together with previous findings that a single Moderna vaccine dose provides 92.1% efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 infection, investigators propose it is time to defer the second dose to extend protection to more people through single-dose mRNA vaccinations.

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South Africa Launches Vaccine Drive, First to Administer J&J Shot

February 17, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – South Africa launched its long-awaited coronavirus vaccine campaign on Wednesday while also becoming the first country worldwide to administer inoculations by US pharma giant Johnson & Johnson.  President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the first to be inoculated after the rollout was delayed earlier this month.

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Coronavirus Vaccine Nears Final Tests in Cuba. Tourists May Be Inoculated.

February 17, 2021

(New York Times) – People wait in line for four hours to buy detergent in Havana. Cuban pharmacies are out of pain medication. There are national bread shortages. And yet the Cuban government says it is on the brink of an extraordinary scientific achievement: the mass production of a coronavirus vaccine invented on the island. One of the four vaccines developed by Cuban scientists will enter a final phase of testing next month, a crucial step toward regulatory approval that, if successful, could put the island on the path to inoculate its entire population and begin exports abroad by year’s end.

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Up to 90 Volunteers in UK to Take Part in Pioneering Covid Infection Trial

February 17, 2021

(The Guardian) – The world’s first coronavirus human challenge study will begin in the UK in a matter of weeks, following approval from the country’s clinical trials ethics body, the business department said. Approval has been given for an initial trial that will involve up to 90 carefully screened, healthy, adult volunteers aged between 18 and 30. They will be exposed to the coronavirus in a safe, controlled environment. It is hoped further trials will follow.

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Bluebird Suspends Studies of Sickle Cell Gene Therapy Following Cancer Diagnosis in Two More Treated Patients

February 17, 2021

(STAT News) – Bluebird Bio said Tuesday that it has suspended clinical trials involving its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after receiving reports that two patients treated with the one-time therapy were diagnosed with cancer. The trials were placed on “temporary suspension” so that Bluebird can investigate the cancer cases to determine if they were caused by the re-engineered HIV virus used to deliver its gene therapy. No such link has been established yet, the company said.

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Give African Research Participants More Say in Genomic Data, Say Scientists

February 17, 2021

(Nature) – Many human genome studies ask participants to sign a form that gives them little direct control over how their data will be used. But a panel of researchers in Africa says that this can fuel distrust between researchers and participants, and needs to change. This stark message comes in a report published last week, Recommendations for Data and Biospecimen Governance in Africa, from a committee of 13 African scientists, whose expertise ranges from bioinformatics to genomics.

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After Delay, Israel Allows Vaccines into Hamas-Run Gaza

February 17, 2021

(Associated Press) – Israel allowed the Palestinian Authority to deliver the first coronavirus vaccines to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday despite objections from Israeli lawmakers who suggested they be used as a bargaining chip for the release of captives held by the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.

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Crippling Weather Hampers Vaccine Deliveries, Distribution

February 17, 2021

(Associated Press) – The icy blast across much of the U.S. injected more confusion and frustration into the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive Wednesday just when it was gathering speed, snarling vaccine deliveries and forcing the cancellation of countless shots around the country. Across a large swath of the nation, including Deep South states like Georgia and Alabama, the snowy, slippery weather either led to the closing of vaccination sites outright or held up the necessary shipments, with delays expected to continue for days.

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Executioners Sanitized Accounts of Death in Federal Cases

February 17, 2021

(Associated Press) – Executioners who put 13 inmates to death in the last months of the Trump administration likened the process of dying by lethal injection to falling asleep and called gurneys “beds” and final breaths “snores.” But those tranquil accounts are at odds with reports by The Associated Press and other media witnesses of how prisoners’ stomachs rolled, shook and shuddered as the pentobarbital took effect inside the U.S. penitentiary death chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana. The AP witnessed every execution. 

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How a Black Bioethicist Makes the Case for Vaccination to People of Color

February 16, 2021

(Vox) – Covid-19 vaccines are becoming available, but not everyone wants to get a shot. Which raises a fraught question: Should it be up to each individual to decide whether or not to get vaccinated against a disease that poses a real threat to public health? Or do we all have a moral obligation to get vaccinated?  This has been a long-running debate among ethicists since well before the coronavirus pandemic. Some philosophers argue that everyone has a moral obligation to be vaccinated against infectious diseases like measles, while others say it’s not so simple. It’s a debate that gets at fundamental questions about individual liberty, bodily autonomy, and communal obligation.

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Finicky COVID-19 Vaccines Raise the Stakes of Power Outages

February 16, 2021

(The Verge) – Rolling blackouts through Texas took out at least one set of freezers full of the Moderna vaccine; 5,000 doses were sent to a university, a jail, and a handful of hospitals before they expired. The Oregon Health Authority is moving vaccines to places with power, although the agency isn’t disclosing which storage sites have their systems down. As part of its storm preparations, Kentucky made sure places holding COVID-19 vaccines had contingency plans. 

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South Africa’s Health Care Workers Eager for First Vaccines

February 16, 2021

(Associated Press) – Health care workers at the Ndlovu Care Group in rural northeastern South Africa are eagerly awaiting the first jabs of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will be given out to medical staff starting this week. That’s despite the fact that the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — unlike the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines — has not been approved for general use anywhere in the world. No matter, say many South African health workers who are enthusiastic about getting the J&J jab, which comes amid a huge shift in the government’s vaccination strategy.

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To Get Their Lives Back, Teens Volunteer for Vaccine Trials

February 16, 2021

(New York Times) – To reach students, some researchers have tapped school connections, local pediatricians and social media campaigns. While waiting for appointments in the vaccine research clinics, some teenagers, ignoring advice to keep their vaccine volunteering off of social media, have posted TikTok videos, which have inspired friends to sign up. But the adolescent Covid vaccine trials will be much smaller than the adult trials — two or three thousand subjects instead of 30,000.

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What We Know About the Impact of Covid-19 on Children

February 16, 2021

(Bloomberg) – Young children typically are “superspreaders” of respiratory germs, so it’s puzzling that they don’t seem to be major transmitters of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. They’re also relatively absent among hospitalized patients. Initially, that was thought to be because they’re less likely to become seriously ill if infected. Later studies indicate that those of primary school age, at least, may be less likely to catch the virus in the first place. Still, they’re not immune to an array of indirect Covid-19 harms, including physical abuse, learning gaps, anxiety and depression stemming from school closures, social isolation and other stress-inducing consequences of the pandemic. That’s informing considerations for how to safely keep kids in school.

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North Korea Accused of Hacking Pfizer for Covid-19 Vaccine Data

February 16, 2021

(BBC) – North Korea attempted to steal Covid-19 vaccine technology from US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, according to South Korean intelligence officials.  It is currently unclear as to what, if any, data was stolen.  South Korea’s National Intelligence Agency privately briefed lawmakers about the alleged attack, reported local news agency Yonhap. The BBC has asked Pfizer for a comment but it has yet to respond .

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‘I Put My Life on Hold:’ Disability Groups Plead for Vaccine

February 15, 2021

(Associated Press) – Though many people with disabilities are more vulnerable to COVID-19, in some U.S. states they fear being left behind in a massive effort to get limited vaccines into the arms of those who need them most. People with disabilities have been pushed down the priority list in places like North Carolina and California, where the state reversed course after days of public pressure. In Minnesota, parents are begging unsuccessfully to give their vaccination spots to their children whose Down syndrome makes them up to 10 times more likely to die if they catch the virus.

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You Think the U.S. Has Vaccine Issues? 130 Countries Haven’t Even Started Vaccinating

February 15, 2021

(NPR) – In some countries, citizens are grumbling about the inefficient rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. It’s unclear exactly when doses will be available. Websites for appointments keep crashing. Lines are long. And then there are the 130 countries that “are yet to administer a single dose,” according to UNICEF. That’s 2.5 billion people who so far have been completely shut out of the global vaccine campaign. Many of these low- and middle-income countries are urgently shopping for vaccines.

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