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Novavax and J&J COVID-19 Vaccines Are Effective, But the Virus Variant from South Africa Poses Problems

February 3, 2021

(Chemical & Engineering News) – The Novavax shots were only 60% effective in South Africa, and the J&J vaccine only 57% effective in that country. Both companies found that more than 90% of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 and had their virus samples sequenced were infected with the B.1.351 variant, supporting the growing concern that some new variants of the virus could hinder the effectiveness of the vaccines.

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COVID-19 Virus May Prompt Body to Attack Itself

February 3, 2021

(Medscape) – An international team of researchers studying COVID-19 has made a startling and pivotal discovery: The virus appears to cause the body to make weapons to attack its own tissues. The finding could unlock a number of COVID’s clinical mysteries. They include the puzzling collection of symptoms that can come with the infection; the persistence of symptoms in some people for months after they clear the virus, a phenomenon dubbed long COVID; and why some children and adults have a serious inflammatory syndrome, called MIS-C or MIS-A, after their infections.

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Fresh Data Show Toll South African Virus Variant Takes on Vaccine Efficacy

February 3, 2021

(Medscape) – Clinical trial data on two COVID-19 vaccines show that a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa is lessening their ability to protect against the illness, underscoring the need to vaccinate vast numbers of people as quickly as possible, scientists said. The vaccines from Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson were welcomed as important future weapons in curbing deaths and hospitalizations in a pandemic that has infected more than 101 million people and claimed over 2 million lives worldwide.

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The Virus Variant Spreading in Britain May Make Vaccines Less Effective, Study Shows

February 2, 2021

(New York Times) – A fast-spreading coronavirus variant first observed in Britain has gained a worrisome mutation that could make it harder to control with vaccines, Public Health England reported on Monday. And on Tuesday, a team of researchers reported an experiment suggesting that this mutation might make vaccines somewhat less effective against the variant. The variant, known as B.1.1.7, first came to light in December. Researchers determined that it had rapidly become more common across Britain in just a couple of months.

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Oxford Vaccine Could Substantially Cut Spread

February 2, 2021

(BBC) – The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could lead to a “substantial” fall in the spread of the virus, say scientists.  The impact of Covid vaccines on transmission has been a crucial unknown that will dramatically shape the future of the pandemic. The study, which has not been formally published, also showed the vaccine remained effective while people waited for a second dose. It was 76% effective during the three months after the first shot.

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Why Are So Many Health-Care Workers Resisting the COVID Vaccine?

February 2, 2021

(The New Yorker) – Despite confronting the damage of COVID-19 firsthand—and doing work that puts them and their families at high risk—health-care workers express similar levels of vaccine hesitancy as people in the general population. Recent surveys suggest that, over all, around a third of health-care workers are reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. (Around one in five Americans say they probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated; nationwide, hesitancy is more common among Republicans, rural residents, and people of color.) The rates are higher in certain regions, professions, and racial groups. Black health-care workers, for instance, are more likely to have tested positive for the virus, but less likely to want a vaccine. (Thirty-five per cent turned down a first dose.) Compared with doctors and nurses, other health professionals—E.M.T.s, home health aides, therapists—are generally less likely to say that they’ll get immunized, and a recent survey of C.N.A.s found that nearly three-quarters were hesitant to get the vaccine.

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Covid Deaths Are Starting to Drop in Every Part of the U.S.

February 2, 2021

(Bloomberg) – Covid-19 deaths have begun to decline in every section of the U.S., the latest sign of relief as cases continue to drop and the vaccination push accelerates. The virus has been receding in the U.S. for about three weeks, but reported deaths — the lagging indicator that’s the ultimate measure of Covid’s impact — had remained near record levels.

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The Sputnik V Vaccine And Russia’s Race to Immunity

February 2, 2021

(The New Yorker) – In fact, Russian scientists hadn’t published any data from their Phase I and Phase II trials, which test a vaccine’s safety and potential for efficacy among a limited number of volunteers, and hadn’t even started Phase III, which tests the vaccine in a much larger group of volunteers, using a placebo as a control. Still, Sputnik V had already begun to make its way through Russian society. In the Cabinet meeting, Putin mentioned that one of his daughters had been vaccinated. She’d had a slight fever afterward, he reported, but it had passed in a day or two. “She’s feeling well,” he said. An influential cultural figure who received the vaccine in August told me that he had “heard about it from people who pay attention and are careful.” He went on, “It felt a bit adventurous, but, the way the pandemic was going, I thought I’d give it a try.”

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Older Adults Without Family or Friends Lag in Race to Get Vaccines

February 1, 2021

(Kaiser Health News) – A divide between “haves” and “have-nots” is emerging as older adults across the country struggle to get covid-19 vaccines. Seniors with family members or friends to help them are getting vaccine appointments, even if it takes days to secure them. Those without reliable social supports are missing out.

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Vaccine Skepticism Lurks in Town Famous for Syphilis Study

February 1, 2021

(Associated Press) – Lucenia Dunn spent the early days of the coronavirus pandemic encouraging people to wear masks and keep a safe distance from each other in Tuskegee, a mostly Black city where the government once used unsuspecting African American men as guinea pigs in a study of a sexually transmitted disease. Now, the onetime mayor of the town immortalized as the home of the infamous “Tuskegee syphilis study” is wary of getting inoculated against COVID-19. Among other things, she’s suspicious of the government promoting a vaccine that was developed in record time when it can’t seem to conduct adequate virus testing or consistently provide quality rural health care.

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Drop in COVID-19 Cases Seen in Nursing Homes as U.S. Vaccine Effort Makes Headway

February 1, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – As America’s vaccination campaign begins to gain momentum, a promising sign has emerged: Federal data shows that coronavirus cases in nursing homes have declined over the past four weeks.  The country recorded 17,584 cases in nursing homes during the week ending Jan. 17, The New York Times reported. A month earlier, during the week ending Dec. 20, more than 32,500 cases were reported.

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The Case of the Serial Sperm Donor

February 1, 2021

(The New York Times) – Exactly how many donor children Mr. Meijer has around the world is impossible to say. But Ties van der Meer, the director of the Dutch Donor Child Foundation, and his colleagues have calculated that if Mr. Meijer’s known pattern of clinic and private donation was any indicator, the number could run to several hundred, even 1,000.

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Additional Covid-19 Vaccines Bring Choices–and Complications–to the Rollout

February 1, 2021

(STAT News) – It’s always good for consumers to have options, right? And indeed, the United States should soon have three Covid-19 vaccines being injected into people’s arms, with more potentially on the way in the coming months, accelerating the race to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people as quickly as possible. But all vaccines are not equal, and increasingly, health authorities and providers will be dealing with shots with varying attributes: different storage requirements, efficacy, dosing regimens, and manufacturing platforms.

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COVAX to Send AstraZeneca Shot to Latin America, Some States to Get Pfizer Too

February 1, 2021

(Reuters) – The COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme expects to deliver 35.3 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to 36 Caribbean and Latin American states from mid-February to the end of June, the World Health Organization’s regional office said. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said the Americas region needed to immunise about 500 million people to control the pandemic. It said WHO would complete its review in a few days of the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL).

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J&J Vaccine 85% Efficacious Against Severe COVID Globally

February 1, 2021

(Medscape) – The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson single-dose adenovirus vaccine provides 85% efficacy globally against severe COVID-19 illness, and it is 72% efficacious against moderate-to-severe illness in the US, according to highly anticipated interim Phase 3 results announced this morning. The efficacy against severe disease provided by the Janssen/J&J vaccine held true regardless of age, race/ethnicity, absence or presence of comorbidities, and geography. The 44,000-participant ENSEMBLE study was conducted in the United States, South America, and South Africa.

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COVID-19: Novavax Jab ‘Effective Against UK Variant’

February 1, 2021

(Medscape) – The MHRA is continuing its rolling assessment of the coronavirus vaccine from the US drug company Novavax after the company reported it was effective against the UK variant with an overall efficacy of 89.3%. The phase 3 UK trial in collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) vaccine registry involved 15,000 participants aged 18-84, with 27% aged over 65. There were 62 positive cases, 56 of them in the placebo group. Half the cases were the UK variant of the virus.

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As Vaccine Rollout Expands, Black Americans Still Left Behind

January 29, 2021

(Kaiser Health News) – Black Americans are still receiving covid vaccinations at dramatically lower rates than white Americans even as the chaotic rollout reaches more people, according to a new KHN analysis. Almost seven weeks into the vaccine rollout, states have expanded eligibility beyond front-line health care workers to more of the public — in some states to more older adults, in others to essential workers such as teachers. But new data shows that vaccination rates for Black Americans have not caught up to those of white Americans.

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The Ethics of Vaccinating Teachers–and Keeping Schools Closed

January 29, 2021

(Wired) – The question then is this: Is it appropriate to continue to keep children out of school until teachers or reticent politicians feel they have a degree of certainty about risk that may not arise for a long time, if ever? More broadly, was it ethical to prioritize education workers to be vaccinated without an explicit promise that schools would fully reopen immediately after? “Whenever we think of the consequences of prioritizing one group, we need to think about the consequences of de-prioritizing other groups,” said Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, a professor of medical ethics at Baylor College of Medicine.

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Pfizer Vaccine Effective Against ‘U.K.’ Strain of COVID-19, Study Finds

January 29, 2021

(UPI) – Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine effectively prevents infection from the “U.K. strain” of the virus, according to a study published Friday by Science. Antibodies in blood collected from 40 people who received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 21 days apart, were able to neutralize the B.1.1.7 strain of COVID-19, which was first identified in England in the fall, the researchers said.

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EU Regulator Authorizes AstraZeneca Vaccine for All Adults

January 29, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – Regulators authorized AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for use in adults throughout the European Union on Friday, amid criticism the bloc is not moving fast enough to vaccinate its population. The European Medicines Agency’s expert committee unanimously recommended the vaccine to be used in people 18 and over, though concerns had been raised this week that not enough data exist to prove it works in older people, and some countries indicated they may not give it to the elderly.

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