JWG via DTN 15 January 2023 JT and Rae have been reading the tar baby saga and are trying hard…
Coronavirus COVID-19: February 2021-
Our World in Data: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations
Everything you need to know. By country. Updated daily.
INTERPOL issues global alert as fraudsters target governments
with COVID-19 vaccine scams
What is COVAX?
Coronavirus COVID-19 Jan – April 2020
How 5 of History’s Worst Pandemics Finally Ended
Pandemics That Changed History
WHO refuses to accept Quebec’s Medicago COVID-19 vaccine over company’s tobacco ties
The World Health Organization has decided not to accept Quebec’s Medicago COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, citing the company’s ties to big tobacco.
The decision was anticipated, as the WHO paused the process for pre-qualification of the company’s new Covifenz shot last week. Marlboro cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris International, is a shareholder of the Quebec City-based company.
In a statement to CBC News on Friday, the WHO said the company’s request for emergency use listing of its vaccine was not accepted, effectively keeping it out of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program, a global vaccine-sharing initiative.
“It is our understanding that this decision is linked to Medicago’s minority shareholder and not the demonstrated safety and efficacy profile of our COVID-19 vaccine,” said president and CEO Takashi Nagao in a statement Friday.
WHO reviewing policy after rejecting emergency use of Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccine
Why is WHO pushing back on a Health Canada-approved Medicago COVID vaccine?
(Canadian Medical Association Journal CMAJ) Health Canada recently approved Covifenz, the first Canadian SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. But so far, Canada is the only country to do so, and a World Health Organization official said it’s unlikely the vaccine will be approved for emergency use internationally due to the company’s links to the tobacco industry.
Tobacco giant Phillip Morris International Inc. (PMI) owns a one-third equity stake in Medicago, the Quebec-based company that developed Covifenz with help from the federal government.
The deal raised eyebrows among public health advocates, some of whom argue the government’s partnership with Medicago conflicts with Canada’s international commitments on tobacco control.
Why does the Omicron sub-variant spread faster than the original?
Early studies suggest that the BA.2 lineage might prolong the Omicron wave, but won’t necessarily cause a fresh surge of COVID infections.
A laboratory study1 of BA.2 suggests that its rapid ascent is probably the result of it being more transmissible than BA.1. And other preliminary studies suggest that BA.2 can readily overcome immunity from vaccination and previous infection with earlier variants, although it is not much better than BA.1 at doing so.
If real-world epidemiological studies support these conclusions, scientists think that BA.2 will be unlikely to spark a second major wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths after Omicron’s initial onslaught.
Omicron subvariant appears more contagious, but not more severe, Denmark says
(Reuters) The BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which is dominant in Denmark, appears more contagious than the more common BA.1 sub-lineage but there is no evidence that it causes more disease, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said in a national address. The BA.1 lineage currently accounts for 98% of all cases globally but in Denmark has been pushed aside by BA.2.
Less than 10 percent of Africa is vaccinated as world reaches halfway mark
(WaPo) Half of the global population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization, but that number masks huge inequalities, with less than 10 percent of people in Africa having received their primary shots, let alone booster doses.
Leaders with WHO and other groups highlighted those numbers Tuesday at a panel for the World Economic Forum’s “Davos Agenda” conference, reiterating their calls for more equitable distribution of vaccines.
“The world is moving toward the 70 percent goal,” said Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, referencing the WHO and its partners’ global target for mid-2022. “The problem is, we are leaving huge swaths of the world behind.”
Pfizer CEO sees return to normal life ‘soon’
(Bloomberg) “We will soon be able to resume a normal life,” Albert Bourla told the French paper. “We are well positioned to get there in the spring thanks to all the tools at our disposal: tests, very effective vaccines and the first treatments that can be taken at home.”
Pfizer manufactures two of those three tools. Besides making the top-selling vaccine in collaboration with Germany’s BioNTech SE, the U.S. drugmaker is introducing an antiviral pill called Paxlovid that has been shown to sharply reduce hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in clinical trials.
Bourla echoed other executives and scientists who point to the Omicron variant’s lower virulence and its growing dominance as signs that the pandemic could soon move into an endemic phase in which countries learn to live with the virus, much as they do with the flu.
U.S. approves COVID-19 pill that decreases risk of hospitalization by 90%
Early supplies of the drug are expected to be extremely limited
(AP) U.S. health regulators on Wednesday authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.
The long-awaited milestone comes as U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all rising and health officials warn of a tsunami of new infections from the Omicron variant that could overwhelm hospitals.
The drug, Paxlovid, is a faster, cheaper way to treat early COVID-19 infections, though initial supplies will be extremely limited. All of the previously authorized drugs against the disease require an IV or an injection.
An antiviral pill from Merck also is expected to soon win authorization. But Pfizer’s drug is all but certain to be the preferred option because of its mild side effects and superior effectiveness, including a nearly 90 per cent reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.
Here We Go Again: Chaos Rules Global Response to Omicron Variant
Almost two years into the pandemic, finger-pointing, lack of coordination, sparse information and fear are once again influencing policy.
World races to contain new COVID threat, the omicron variant
(AP) — Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world raced Friday to contain a new coronavirus variant potentially more dangerous than the one that has fueled relentless waves of infection on nearly every continent.
New ‘omicron’ variant prompts global travel restrictions
(PBS/AP) — The discovery of a new coronavirus variant sent a chill through much of the world Friday as nations raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks, which were largely unknown.
A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the delta variant. The WHO suggested omicron could pose greater risks than delta, which is the world’s most prevalent variant and has fueled relentless waves of infection on every continent.
Early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, the WHO said. That means people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again.
In response, the United States and Canada joined the European Union and several other countries in instituting travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa, where the variant brought on a fresh surge of infections and is thought to have originated.
The White House said the U.S. will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday. It did not give immediate details except to say the restrictions will not apply to returning U.S. citizens or permanent residents, who will continue to be required to test negative before their travel.
Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any overreaction before the variant was better understood. But a jittery world feared the worst nearly two years after COVID-19 emerged and triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.
Omicron: Everything You Need to Know About the New COVID-19 Variant
(Slate) Stock markets around the world plunged amid fears that the new variant could both be more easily transmissible and resistant to existing vaccines. For now though there are way more questions than answers about B.1.1.529.
Aislin the anthologist: Telling the story of COVID through cartoonists’ eyes
Editorial cartoonist Terry Mosher mapped out a project that is a worthy response to an unprecedented crisis.
Terry Mosher was in contented semi-retirement. Then came mid-March 2020.
The political cartoonist known to generations of Gazette readers as Aislin was relaxing with his wife on a beach in South Carolina when his suddenly frenzied Twitter feed made it known that COVID-19, a mysterious virus causing some localized anxiety but hitherto not a major global concern, was now a lot more serious: Canadians traveling abroad were being told, in no uncertain terms, to come back asap.
Once he was installed in his Lachine home, it wasn’t long before Mosher’s professional instincts kicked in and he began mapping out a project that would be a worthy response to an unprecedented crisis. The result is Aislin’s Favourite COVID Cartoons from Around the World (Aislin Publications, 336 pp, $30), an ambitiously conceived and brilliantly executed volume featuring the COVID-themed work of over a hundred cartoonists from 38 different countries.
“It’s been a labour of love,” said the 78-year-old last week of the self-published book, a significant portion of whose sales profits he intends to donate to Lachine Hospital.
Asked what compelled him to address COVID beyond the call of his official Gazette workload, Mosher cited simple curiosity.
“I think, initially, it was because it was such a puzzle,” he said. “There’s no bad guy in this story. It’s a thing, a little thing, that’s causing all the trouble. So how do you deal with that? I began to notice how other cartoonists were responding as COVID was evolving — a couple of phenomenal Norwegians, for example. The first person I approached was (Serge) Chapleau (of La Presse). I told him, ‘I want to do a book of my (COVID) cartoons, but I want to do an add-on when I feel other people have handled an angle better than I have.’ He thought it was a good idea, and it grew from there.”
The Dogs Trained to Sniff Out COVID-19
Gathered here are images from Russia, England, Chile, Australia, Iran, Finland, and more countries, where these canine COVID-19–detection programs are being developed.
Recently, the Miami Heat announced it will start doing so to screen attendees at its games – (Nick’s Gleanings) “This supposedly has a 90+% accuracy rate & requires no direct human contact. It likely is also cost-effective, for dogs don’t join unions, are ‘cheap keepers’ (typically living with their minders) & don’t draw pensions.”
Why We Can’t Turn the Corner on Covid
After a hot vax summer that wasn’t, it’s clearer than ever that there will be no easy end to the pandemic.
(Politico) — Coronavirus is “here to stay.” “Epidemiologists now expect the coronavirus to be endemic, meaning it’s here to stay. But even if the virus persists, it doesn’t mean a perpetual pandemic. Over time, human immunity will keep growing through vaccination and natural infection; that’s already started. Scientists will develop new treatments. Eventually, Covid can become one of many diseases that circulate, that sometimes even kill, without bringing the world to a deadly standstill. Until then, the challenge is to find out how to co-exist with it, tenuously, as safely as we can.”
The W.H.O. lists Mu as a ‘variant of interest.’
(NYT) The World Health Organization is monitoring a new coronavirus variant called “Mu” — known by scientists as B.1.621 — and has added it to the list of “variants of interest” because of preliminary evidence it can evade antibodies.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said the United States was also monitoring the new variant, which was first identified in Colombia in January and now makes up 39 percent of all cases there.
The W.H.O. says the variant has the potential to evade immunity provided by vaccines and antibodies, and because of that, it was listed as a “variant of interest” on Aug. 30.
Still, Mr. Fauci said it is not at all common in the United States, where the highly contagious Delta variant makes up 99 percent of all Covid-19 cases. He said the new variant “has a constellation of mutations that suggests it would evade certain antibodies,” but there is so far very little clinical data supporting that conclusion.
Fauci says the new mu Covid strain isn’t an immediate threat in the U.S.
(CNBC) Mu was first identified in Colombia but has since been confirmed in at least 39 countries, according to the WHO. Although the global prevalence of the variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%, its prevalence in Colombia and Ecuador has consistently increased, the agency warned.
Experts on WHO team say search for COVID origins has stalled
(AP) — The international scientists dispatched to China by the World Health Organization to find out where the coronavirus came from said Wednesday the search has stalled and warned that the window of opportunity for solving the mystery is “closing fast.”
Meanwhile, a U.S. intelligence review ordered up by President Joe Biden proved inconclusive about the virus’s origin, including whether it jumped from an animal to a human or escaped from a Chinese lab, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
In a commentary published in the journal Nature, the WHO-recruited experts said the origins investigation is at “a critical juncture” requiring urgent collaboration but has instead come to a standstill. They noted among other things that Chinese officials are still reluctant to share some raw data, citing concerns over patient confidentiality.
Chinese scientist collecting bat samples may have been first to catch COVID-19: WHO inquiry chief
Dr. Embarek said WHO investigators were forced to conclude that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” in their official report to avoid further arguments with the Chinese
(The Telegraph via National Post) In a documentary released this week by the Danish television channel TV2, Dr Peter Ben Embarek said it was a “likely hypothesis” that a lab employee could have picked up the virus while working in the field.
Embarek said WHO investigators were forced to conclude that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” in their official report to avoid further arguments with the Chinese.
He said the team had come to an impasse with China, which would only allow a lab leak scenario to be included if there were no recommendations to look further into the matter.
Atul Gawande on the COVID-19 Resurgence (audio)
(New Yorker radio) For a few brief moments this summer, in places where the vaccination rate was high, we could imagine getting back to life after COVID-19, but the Delta variant has quickly changed the picture. Atul Gawande discusses the latest wave of the virus, the state of vaccination, and a new variant, Lambda, that’s just landed on our shores.
Don’t panic about Delta. But also, panic, a little.
There are a whole slew of unanswered questions about Delta. At a recent online seminar for clinicians held by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, a scientific organization that does lots of Covid outreach, 23 questions were asked. Almost every response included a “we don’t know” or a “that’s being studied.”
(Politico Nightly) For public health officials and the Biden administration, the Delta variant is the biggest communication conundrum we’ve seen in a while.
Don’t panic, they tell us in one breath.
Well, maybe panic a bit, they tell us in the next, urging us to put our masks back on and think twice about how, when, where and with whom we gather indoors. Delta seldom makes vaccinated people seriously ill — but it can and does infect them, and then they in turn can infect others.
The “panic/don’t panic” conundrum breaks down into two parts. Don’t panic because the vaccines are pretty damn good, even for Delta. It’s rare for vaccinated people to get sick enough to go to the hospital and even better, it’s really rare for vaccinated people to die. This latest surge, as public health officials remind us, is largely an outbreak among the unvaccinated. The best way to protect ourselves and others, to contain the pandemic, is by getting vaccination rates way up.
An Uncertain New Phase of the Pandemic, in Which Cases Surge but Deaths Do Not
One reason for this strange situation is how heavily the coronavirus’s risk of death is concentrated among older people––most of whom are now vaccinated..
(The New Yorker) As the Delta variant has spread, the relationship between the virus and the most severe illnesses is different from what it has been in the past. Since mid-June, the seven-day average of new cases in the United States has grown by five hundred and fifty per cent, from about fourteen thousand to about seventy-seven thousand. But the number of deaths is almost exactly the same.
… the rise in cases also necessitates different calculations around personal risk. If vaccinated adults can still pass on the disease, that means they will likely begin to behave differently around their unvaccinated children and around elderly parents, for whom a rare breakthrough infection could be devastating. As the number of infected Americans swells, so will the number of those at risk for what is called long COVID—the pattern of neurological, respiratory, and other symptoms that seem to linger in some patients after the virus has run its course.
With the Delta variant, people now have to make different calculations about personal risk. The problem is that the parameters are not yet fully known.
COVID after the vaccines, and after the Delta variant, is in some ways a different disease than the prior versions. Or, at least, it has different characteristics. Even people who carefully studied their own risks early in the pandemic, and decided what they were and weren’t comfortable doing, now have to recalibrate for different risks, the dimensions of which are not yet fully known.
CDC study shows three-fourths of people infected in Massachusetts coronavirus outbreak were vaccinated but few required hospitalization
(WaPo) A sobering scientific analysis published Friday found that three-quarters of the people infected during an explosive coronavirus outbreak fueled by the delta variant were fully vaccinated. The report on the Massachusetts cases, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers key evidence bolstering the hypothesis that vaccinated people can spread the more transmissible variant and may be a factor in the summer surge of infections.
Pfizer data shows vaccine protection remains robust six months after vaccination even as the company argues that boosters will be needed
Pfizer’s paper, which has not yet undergone peer review, showed a slight drop in efficacy against any symptomatic cases of covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, from 96 percent protection in the first two months after vaccination to 84 percent after four months.
Company officials also presented data showing that a third shot could boost disease-fighting antibodies many times higher than the level achieved by the standard two-dose regimen. They said on a quarterly earnings call that they planned to seek authorization for a booster by mid-August, reiterating the company’s belief that a third dose would be needed to enhance immunity within a year of vaccination.
Pfizer data suggest third dose of Covid-19 vaccine ‘strongly’ boosts protection against Delta variant
Messenger RNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó shares her long journey to Covid-19 vaccines
(STAT) In the span of the Covid-19 pandemic, and thanks to the success of two of the currently available vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, messenger RNA, or mRNA, went from being an obscure cell biology concept understood and mentioned only by scientists to being a household term.
But the technology behind the mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech is anything but new. Developed over an arduous 40 years, it was the result of an unlikely success story. One of the key figures behind this achievement was Katalin Karikó, senior vice president of the German biotech company BioNTech and adjunct associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
This scientist’s decades of mRNA research led to both COVID-19 vaccines (NY Post 5 December 2020)
Pandemic and climate change: The search for new models of sustainable development
Is there a correlation between the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change?
(Modern Diplomacy) Apparently not. The virus is supposed to weaken with high temperatures….
A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that a mild climate should inhibit the virus vitality, but the spread of cases in the southern hemisphere shows that this pathogen is more resistant to heat than “traditional” influenza viruses.
Now, with the so-called “Delta variant”, the number of infections seems to be rising throughout Europe, a sign that the virus maintains its aggressiveness even at high temperatures.
In fact, according to many experts and scholars, the pandemic that has caused a global crisis can be related to climate change insofar as the latter is connected to the increase in pollution rates caused by the disproportionate use of non-renewable energy sources (first and foremost, oil and coal).
Pfizer and BioNTech will test a vaccine against the Delta variant.
(NYT) Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Thursday that they are developing a version of the coronavirus vaccine that targets Delta, a highly contagious variant that has spread to 98 countries. The companies expect to launch clinical trials of the vaccine in August.
The Delta variant, first identified in India, is believed to be about 60 percent more contagious than Alpha, the version of the virus that tore through Britain and much of Europe earlier this year, and perhaps twice as contagious as the original coronavirus. The Delta variant is now driving outbreaks among unvaccinated populations in countries like Malaysia, Portugal, Indonesia and Australia.
Delta is also now the dominant variant in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week.
A pandemic list you want to be first on
(Politico Nightly) Here’s a look at trends around the world with countries split into four broad categories:
High vaccination rates, low deaths: Israel has dominated the world’s vaccine race, with 57 percent of its population fully vaccinated against Covid, according to data from the New York Times. Only a handful of places, like Gibraltar and Malta, have higher vaccination rates.
Cases in Israel have soared recently even among vaccinated people because of the Delta variant first detected in India. But only one death has been recorded in the country in the past two weeks, another sign of how effective mRNA vaccines like those from Pfizer and Moderna have been in preventing serious illness.
This lucky category includes the U.S., where vaccination rates remain high in most areas, and hospitalizations and deaths are falling.
Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines Likely to Produce Lasting Immunity, Study Finds
Immune cells are still organizing to fight the coronavirus months after inoculation, scientists reported.
(NYT) The vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna set off a persistent immune reaction in the body that may protect against the coronavirus for years, scientists reported on Monday.
The findings add to growing evidence that most people immunized with the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters, so long as the virus and its variants do not evolve much beyond their current forms — which is not guaranteed. People who recovered from Covid-19 before being vaccinated may not need boosters even if the virus does make a significant transformation.
The Only Way We’ll Know When We Need COVID-19 Boosters
Research can tell us only so much. The rest is a waiting game.
By Katherine J. Wu
(The Atlantic) as people inch toward something tantalizingly resembling pre-pandemic life, a cloud hangs over our transcendent summer of change: the specter of vaccine failure. We spent months building up shields against the virus, and we still don’t know how long we can expect that protection to last.
Nearly all the experts I spoke with for this story said that the need for boosters is looking more and more likely, but no one knows for sure when they’ll arrive, what the best ones will look like, or how often they’ll be needed, assuming they’re part of our future at all.
What We Know About the Dangerous COVID B.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant
The B.1.617.2 coronavirus variant originally discovered in India last December has now become one the most — if not the most — worrisome strain of the coronavirus circulating globally. Recent research suggests it may be the most transmissible variant yet and has fueled numerous waves of the pandemic around the world. B.1.617.2 has already spread to at least 62 countries. The strain undoubtedly contributed to the massive wave of cases that has inundated India in recent months, and makes up more than 90 percent of new cases in the U.K. and about 10 percent of new infections in the U.S. It’s driven a resurgence of infections, with the U.K. racking up more than 11,000 daily cases for the first time in nearly four months on June 17. On top of that, it may be more likely to infect people who are only partially vaccinated than other strains; low-income and minority communities have a deficit in vaccinations, making them all the more vulnerable.
Experts weigh in on the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis
(Politico) The hypothesis that Covid-19 was leaked from a Wuhan lab has leaped from its original host — Trump administration officials and people dismissed as conspiracy theorists — into the body of mainstream debate. Last week, 18 leading scientists published a letter in the academic journal Science calling for further investigation to determine the origin of the pandemic that has killed 3.4 million people worldwide. “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” the scientists wrote.
The letter echoes a similar call from WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. During a Senate hearing last week on the U.S. response to the pandemic, Anthony Fauci said he was “fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China” after sparring with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) about the origins of the virus.
David Frum: The Pro-Trump Culture War on American Scientists
Some are trying to turn the lab-leak theory into a potent political weapon.
While Chinese officials had tried to stifle the flow of information to the rest of the world, Chinese scientists had generally proved highly cooperative with their Western counterparts. When Chinese scientists cracked the virus’s genetic code early in January 2020, they promptly posted full results for all to read. That did not seem to most Western scientists to be the behavior of conspirators.
…earlier this month, the science reporter Nicholas Wade published an argument for taking the laboratory-origin hypothesis seriously. Wade’s case was fortified by thick scientific detail and the prestige of his byline: He was for many years an eminent science reporter at Nature and The New York Times. And the article was spiced with an extra-exciting ingredient: It accused not only the Chinese state but also the U.S. scientific community of complicity in a cover-up.
The US government shares a strange common interest with the Chinese authorities: Neither is keen on drawing attention to the fact that Shi’s coronavirus work was funded by the US National Institutes of Health. One can imagine the behind-the-scenes conversation in which the Chinese government says, “If this research was so dangerous, why did you fund it, and on our territory too?” To which the US side might reply, “Looks like it was you who let it escape. But do we really need to have this discussion in public?”
Republicans in the House and Senate are now demanding formal investigations not only of the virus’s origin, but of the American scientific community’s role as well.
Pro-Trumpers want to use Chinese misconduct—real and imagined—as a weapon in a culture war here at home. They are not interested in weighing the evidence. They want payback for the political and cultural injuries inflicted on them by the scientists. They want Fauci to have time in the barrel.
… More than scientific expertise may be required to reach the truth. The truth may depend less on analysis of the virus itself and more on intelligence from inside the Chinese government. Very possibly—and this theory is often heard from intelligence officials—the Chinese national authorities themselves do not know for certain how the virus originated.
The world may need to learn to live with the virus.
(NYT) Early in the pandemic, there was hope that the world would one day achieve herd immunity, the point when the coronavirus lacks enough hosts to spread easily. But over a year later, the virus is crushing India with a fearsome second wave and surging in countries from Asia to Latin America.
Experts now say it is changing too quickly, new more contagious variants are spreading too easily and vaccinations are happening too slowly for herd immunity to be within reach anytime soon
COVID-19 Lays Bare the Price of Populism
A raging outbreak in Brazil threatens gains against the virus.
If Your Brain Feels Foggy And You’re Tired All The Time, You’re Not Alone
(NPR) The fatigue and fog so many are feeling now also could be symptoms of other mental health issues that flared over the last year, says Dr. Jessica Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis. “After this long, most people have had some degree of anxiety, depression, trauma, something,” she says.
As studies have shown, rates of anxiety and depression in the population have gone up during the course of the pandemic.
For most of us, the brain fog will likely fade away when we are able to resume some normalcy in our lives, say Gold and others.
“Most people are resilient to traumatic events, and we should always keep that in mind,” says Galea of Boston University. “Most people bounce back fairly quickly once the trauma resolves.”
COVID-19 restrictions take a toll on brain function, but there are techniques to help you cope
(The Conversation) Confinement — which has been frequent during the pandemic — has undeniable effects on the brain. There’s the inability to concentrate enough to read or write, the lack of perseverance in tasks, agitation. All this is normal! The brain is not working the way it usually does and it’s being used differently.
An electric current enables the brain to co-ordinate our movements, control our breathing, feel hunger, pain and emotions. This current must circulate properly. The more intense the electrical activity of the brain, the more we will need sleep or feel the effects of lack of sleep. This can affect physical health in many ways, such as weight gain and developing conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Mental health effects can include behavioural changes, difficulties in concentration and mood swings. (22 April)
U.S. reverses stance, backs giving poorer countries access to COVID vaccine patents
(Reuters) President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, bowing to mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers and more than 100 other countries, but angering pharmaceutical companies.
Biden voiced his support for a waiver – a sharp reversal of the previous U.S. position – in remarks to reporters, followed swiftly by a statement from his top trade negotiator, Katherine Tai, who backed negotiations at the World Trade Organization.
Jeffrey D. Sachs: Share the Intellectual Property on COVID-19
The governments of South Africa, India, and dozens of other developing countries are calling for the rights on intellectual property (IP), including vaccine patents, to be waived to accelerate the worldwide production of supplies to fight COVID-19. They are absolutely correct. IP for fighting COVID-19 should be waived, and indeed actively shared among scientists, companies, and nations.
(Project Syndicate) The pharmaceutical industry and the governments of several vaccine-producing countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Commission, have been resisting the IP waiver, while 150 public leaders and experts have sent an open letter to US President Joe Biden in support of it. There is no longer any question about who is right. Given the surge of COVID-19 in several regions, most recently in India, the continuing emergence of new and deadly variants of the virus, and the inability of the current vaccine producers to keep pace with global needs, an IP waiver or its equivalent has become a practical urgent need as well as a moral imperative.
One Vaccine to Rule Them All
What if a single vaccine could protect us against SARS, MERS, COVID-19, and every other coronavirus-related disease, forever and ever?
(The Atlantic) Dozens of research teams have already taken up the challenge, and meeting it is within their reach. But doing so would be just the beginning. “A universal SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is step one,” Fauci said. Step two would be a universal coronavirus vaccine, capable of protecting us not only from SARS-CoV-2 in all its forms, but also from the inevitable emergence of new and different coronaviruses that might cause future pandemics. The race to create such a vaccine may prove one of the great feats of a generation.
Pfizer is testing a pill that, if successful, could become first-ever home cure for COVID-19
Classed as a ‘protease inhibitor’, it has been formulated to attack the “spine” of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and stop it replicating in our nose, throats and lungs
(The Telegraph via Montreal Gazette) The molecule being tested is a bespoke antiviral code-named PF-07321332. Classed as a “protease inhibitor”, it has been formulated to attack the “spine” of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and stop it replicating in our nose, throats and lungs. It was protease inhibitors that turned the tide on the spread of HIV in the UK and around the world. Now researchers hope they may be on the brink of a similar pandemic-busting breakthrough.
Bill Gates says no to sharing vaccine formulas with global poor to end pandemic
Health advocates blast Microsoft billionaire for saying patent protections on life-saving vaccines must remain
(Salon) The reference is to the Serum factory in India, the largest such institute in the country, which has contracts with AstraZeneca to manufacture their COVID-19 vaccine, known internationally as Covishield
The thing that’s holding “things back” in terms of the global vaccine rollout, continued Gates, “is not intellectual property. It’s not like there’s some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines. You know, you’ve got to do the trial on these things. Every manufacturing process needs to be looked at in a very careful way.”
I Run the W.H.O., and I Know That Rich Countries Must Make a Choice
If they keep their vaccine promises, the pandemic can end.
By Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO
Many countries all over the world are facing a severe crisis, with high transmission and intensive care units overflowing with patients and running short on essential supplies, like oxygen.
Why is this happening? For several reasons: The rise of more transmissible variants, the inconsistent application and premature easing of public health measures like mask mandates and physical distancing, populations that are understandably weary of adhering to those measures and the inequitable distribution of vaccines.
Since the ACT Accelerator’s birth a year ago, many of the world’s biggest economies have given strong support to Covax politically and financially, but …vaccine nationalism has weakened Covax, with a handful of rich countries gobbling up the anticipated supply as manufacturers sell to the highest bidder, while the rest of the world scrambles for the scraps. Some countries have placed orders for enough doses to vaccinate their entire population several times over, promising to share only after they have used everything they need, perpetuating the pattern of patronage that keeps the world’s have-nots exactly where they are.
The United States can’t ignore China’s vaccine diplomacy in Latin America
(WaPo) China has abused its power at every stage of the covid-19 pandemic to bully countries and advance its interests — and Beijing is now using vaccine supplies to pressure governments across the Western Hemisphere. The Biden administration ignores China’s pernicious vaccine diplomacy in our neighborhood at the peril of the safety and security of the entire region.
Loss of smell and COVID-19: Up to 80% of those infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus report losing their sense of smell
Gaia Remerowski, MS, Science Journalism
Anosmia has been a hot topic ever since it was recognized as a symptom of COVID-19, but what actually causes our bodies to lose their senses of smell, and how can we get it back?
(McGill OSS) Take-home message:
-30 to 80% of people with COVID-19 report loss of smell, known as anosmia.
-The likely targets of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are supporting cells in the nose that support growth of the nerve cells that allow us to smell
-Anosmia treatments being studied include: Retraining the brain to smell, calming nasal inflammation and finding ways to regrow damaged nasal cells
What Experts Are Saying About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause
(New York) On Tuesday, the FDA and CDC recommended pausing the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine while the agencies investigate an extremely rare possible side effect. Six women in the U.S. who received the J&J vaccine — all between the ages of 18 and 28 — experienced a blood- clotting disorder called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in the days after getting their shots, and one has died. It’s not yet clear if the clots were related to the vaccine, though a similar disorder has occurred abroad among some recipients of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine, which uses the same adenovirus-vector technology as Johnson & Johnson’s. As scientists continue to research the cases to determine if and how they may be related to the shot, U.S. regulators’ sudden decision to pause J&J’s distribution has prompted widespread reaction from across the COVID-expert community.
WHO report says animals likely source of COVID
(AP) — A joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press.
The findings offer little new insight into how the virus first emerged and leave many questions unanswered, though that was as expected. But the report does provide more detail on the reasoning behind the researchers’ conclusions. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.
The report, which is expected to be made public Tuesday, is being closely watched since discovering the origins of the virus could help scientists prevent future pandemics — but it’s also extremely sensitive since China bristles at any suggestion that it is to blame for the current one. Repeated delays in the report’s release have raised questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew its conclusions.
The Logic of China’s Vaccine Diplomacy
An in-depth look at where China’s vaccines are going hints at the motivations behind the campaign.
(The Diplomat) Since May 2020, when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at a World Health Assembly meeting that China considered its COVID-19 vaccines to be a “global public good,” China has been busy offering its products to the world. But it does not necessarily follow that Chinese vaccines would be provided for free. Even less so does China treat its customers equally. Some countries received vaccines in the form of donations, while others purchased them or were offered a loan to buy them – an alternative aimed primarily at the Latin American and Caribbean countries.
… China is having to compete with various other vaccine producers. In addition, the producers have to deal with “borders” erected by medical regulatory institutions as the requirements for vaccines are stricter in comparison to regulations on masks and other protective material. In order not to clash directly with the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, bound mostly for developed countries, Chinese vaccines based on inactivated virus were first offered to its neighbors, the developing world, and countries in the semi-peripheries.
The growing list of countries suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine may be doing much more harm than good, experts say
(Business Insider) A growing list of nations has pulled the shot from use, with most of the biggest nations in Europe deciding to stop on Tuesday.
The European Medicines Agency, the World Health Organization, and AstraZeneca have insisted that there is no evidence for such a connection. AstraZeneca said its data showed that such clots are occurring less in vaccinated groups than in the general population.
Experts say that a stop-start approach is undermining confidence while COVID-19 is still spreading.
A year on, WHO still struggling to manage pandemic response
(AP) — When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic one year ago Thursday, it did so only after weeks of resisting the term and maintaining that the highly infectious virus could still be stopped.
A year later, the U.N. agency is still struggling to keep on top of the evolving science of COVID-19, to persuade countries to abandon their nationalistic tendencies and help get vaccines where they’re needed most.
The agency made some costly missteps along the way: It advised people against wearing masks for months and asserted that COVID-19 wasn’t widely spread in the air. It also declined to publicly call out countries — particularly China — for mistakes that senior WHO officials grumbled about privately.
President Joe Biden’s support for WHO may provide some much-needed breathing space, but the organization still faces a monumental task ahead as it tries to project some moral authority amid a universal scramble for vaccines that is leaving billions of people unprotected.
… WHO still appears hamstrung. A WHO-led team that traveled to China in January to investigate the origins of COVID-19 was criticized for failing to dismiss China’s fringe theory that the virus might be spread via tainted frozen seafood.
That came after WHO repeatedly lauded China last year for its speedy, transparent response — even though recordings of private meetings obtained by The Associated Press showed that top officials were frustrated at the country’s lack of cooperation.
What the Coronavirus Variants Mean for the End of the Pandemic
The virus is mutating—but we can still beat it, one vaccination at a time.
By Dhruv Khullar
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have said that they can develop booster shots within six weeks that work against these variants; Moderna has already started working on one that targets the South African version. From a scientific perspective, developing variant-specific vaccines is a straightforward proposition—one simply swaps the new genomic material for the old. Testing, manufacturing, and distribution could still take months. But the F.D.A. has released guidance designed to streamline the approval process for coronavirus boosters, indicating that it will review them using roughly the same approach it employs for annual flu shots.
… Confronting the variants, we should be cautious but hopeful. They are a worrying development but not a devastating blow. Every coronavirus vaccine available in the U.S. appears likely to prevent the more concerning consequences of infection—severe illness, hospitalization, death—even for the new variants. (In South Africa, where B.1.351 dominates, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine prevented a hundred per cent of COVID-19 deaths a month after inoculation.) Vaccinated people, therefore, should feel confident in the protection they’ve gained, and in the knowledge that booster shots, should they become necessary, can quickly be developed and approved. Even for those who have been inoculated, the risk of illness has not been, and may never be, eliminated—but it remains vastly lower than it was before vaccination, despite the new variants in our midst.
Coronavirus live news: WHO ‘to scrap’ interim Wuhan report; UK investigating new variant
(The Guardian) The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a World Health Organization team investigating Covid’s origins is planning to scrap an interim report on its recent mission to China amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington over the investigation and an appeal from one international group of scientists for a new inquiry.
It reports that a group of two dozen scientists have written an open letter calling for a new international inquiry, claiming that the WHO team that was in Wuhan last month had insufficient access to investigate conceivable sources of the virus, including a possible laboratory leak.
In Geneva, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in via email: “The full report is expected in coming weeks”.
28 February – 1 March
Why Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot
(Business Insider) Johnson & Johnson’s shot has benefits: It’s cheap, easy, and mild, and it performs against variants.
The truth is you can’t pick out which vaccine you get anyway, so it’s a good thing they all work.
While it may not eliminate disease, J&J’s jab holds its own in preventing the worst outcomes of COVID-19 — hospitalization and death. What’s more, it’s cheap to make, simple to give and get, and you’ll gain some good viral protection in just a matter of weeks, without ever having to return for a second shot. As a bonus, you just might be better protected than anyone else against some new variants that are spreading fast.
Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine gets CDC panel backing, nearly ready for shipping
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel voted unanimously on Sunday to recommend Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 shot for widespread use, a final clearance for the vaccine a day after it was authorized by U.S. regulators.
J&J’s shot will be the only one-dose COVID vaccine available in the United States. It is also the easiest to ship and store, as it can be kept in a refrigerator rather than a freezer.
CDC epidemiologist Dr. Sara Oliver said during a Sunday presentation that there are not yet any studies comparing J&J’s vaccine directly to the other approved vaccines from Pfzier-BioNTech and Moderna Inc but that all vaccines were highly effective at reducing hospitalizations and deaths.
Let the global vaccine brawl begin (audio)
In the scramble to get the entire world vaccinated, countries like China and Russia are trying to use vaccine sales and donations to lift their standings on the global stage. POLITICO’s Ryan Heath breaks down the tricky world of vaccine diplomacy.
David Cameron, Former Prime Minister of the UK
(Amanpour) Ghana today received a planeload of COVID-19 vaccines, becoming the first country in the developing world to benefit from the COVAX vaccine sharing program. In the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, tens of millions have already been vaccinated. But most people in the world’s poorest nations are still waiting. The pandemic has exposed the global gap between rich and poor as never before. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron wants the world to focus on the world’s most fragile states — those beset by conflict and corruption and lacking in basic infrastructure. He joins the show to discuss his new call for an investment in local, green technology to enable greater access to electricity – and a more equitable recovery.
‘COVID zero’ is unattainable, acceptable risk is the goal
(NYT via Globe & Mail) In coming months, COVID will probably recede, as a result of vaccinations and growing natural immunity. But it will not disappear. … The reasonable goal is to make it manageable, much like the seasonal flu. Fortunately, the vaccines are doing that.
… The vaccines will not produce “COVID zero.” But they are on pace – eventually, and perhaps even by summer – to produce something that looks a lot like normalcy. The extremely rare exceptions won’t change that, no matter how much attention they receive. As Dr. Stefan Baral, a public health researcher and infectious disease expert, put it on Twitter: “Risk assessment? Absolutely! Risk mitigation? Absolutely! Risk management? Absolutely! Risk communication? Absolutely! Risk Elimination? Impossible.”
How one tiny country is beating the pandemic and climate change
The small Himalayan country of Bhutan, mainly known for measuring national happiness instead of GDP, is the only carbon-negative country on the planet. Believe it or not, it has only had one single death from COVID-19. Is that a coincidence?
Madeline Drexler’s new article in The Atlantic, “The Unlikeliest Pandemic Success Story,” dives into the reasons that Bhutan has managed to fare so well against the novel coronavirus while rich countries and middle-income have struggled to keep it in check.