More of the Vaccinated and Boosted Landing in Hospital With COVID
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:
As summer once again brings signs of a coming COVID-19 wave, an unusual trend has emerged: The Georgians who are fully vaccinated and boosted are increasingly winding up in the hospital with serious COVID-19 symptoms.
The rate of hospitalizations for boosted Georgians fell again this week but still remains higher than the rate of hospitalizations for those with only the primary vaccine series (2 shots).
CDC’s Independent Vaccine Advisers Will Meet to Discuss COVID Boosters for Kids
CNN Health reported:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet Thursday to discuss updates on COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness for children ages 5-11 years, CDC guidance on boosters for that age group and the framework for that booster dose.
The committee will vote in the afternoon on whether or not this age group should be eligible for a booster.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the eligibility for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children 5 to 11 years of age. The children would be able to get the booster at least five months after they have completed their primary series of shots.
AstraZeneca’s Ambitious Vaccine Dreams Are Finally, Officially Dead
STAT News reported:
AstraZeneca was once the world’s best bet to develop a speedy COVID-19 vaccine, and the company got a bigger initial contract from Operation Warp Speed than any other drugmaker. But AstraZeneca’s unfortunate vaccine saga came to an end in December, when the White House quietly canceled its contract, documents published by STAT show.
AstraZeneca told us that its contract for 300 million doses was structured so payments would be sent upon delivery. The government only ended up paying for 70 million doses, the documents show, which means the cancellation did save some money.
Depending on when it’s released, that extra cash could be helpful to the White House while it scrounges for more COVID-19 relief funds. (Actually canceling the contract wasn’t a huge surprise, since AstraZeneca decided not to file for emergency use authorization in the United States.)
According to a recent report released by the House Oversight Committee, at least 105 million AstraZeneca doses were destroyed following manufacturing issues at an Emergent Biosolutions plant. The White House still hasn’t publicly announced the cancellation and didn’t respond to a request for comment.
WHO: COVID Deaths Dropped by 21% Last Week but Cases Rising
Associated Press reported:
The number of coronavirus deaths globally dropped by about 21% in the past week while cases rose in most parts of the world, according to the World Health Organization.
In its weekly report on the pandemic released Thursday, the U.N. health agency said the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to have stabilized after weeks of decline since late March, with about 3.5 million new cases last week, or a 1% rise. WHO said cases increased in the Americas, Middle East, Africa and the Western Pacific, while falling in Europe and Southeast Asia. Some 9,000 deaths were recorded.
Pfizer’s Grip on Paxlovid Thwarts Research on COVID Treatment
Pfizer Inc. is resisting requests for study supplies of its COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, disappointing researchers who say combining the $22 billion therapy with other drugs might stave off resistance.
Pfizer hasn’t started any combination trials in people, and a review of the clinicaltrials.gov database shows no outpatient studies combining Paxlovid, the mainstay U.S. COVID therapy, with other antiviral drugs or antibodies. Some academic researchers and advocacy groups say they can’t get Paxlovid for human studies that could maintain or improve its effectiveness and expand use.
Pfizer’s apparent reluctance to share its antiviral with collaborators has been “disturbing,” said Reshma Ramachandran, a postdoctoral fellow in Yale University’s National Clinician Scholars Program who studies transparency in drug company trials. “It’s all very puzzling,” she said. “It really makes me wonder what’s going on.”
COVID: Second Boosters May Benefit at-Risk Groups but Have ‘Minimal’ Impact for Others, Says WHO
The BMJ reported:
Short-term benefits are seen after a second COVID-19 vaccine booster — normally a fourth vaccine dose — in health workers, over 60s and people with immunocompromising conditions, the World Health Organization has said.
But early data show that the benefit may be “minimal” in healthy younger populations, it added. WHO said that evidence on the usefulness of these doses in all groups was sparse, with studies available only for mRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
WHO’s evidence review included seven studies, six of which were conducted in Israel and one in Canada. Six of the studies evaluated the relative effectiveness of a fourth dose four months after a third dose of mRNA vaccine, compared with people who received three doses.
The other study provided data on absolute vaccine effectiveness, comparing the fourth dose schedule with unvaccinated people. The maximum follow-up in the available studies was short, ranging from two to 10 weeks after the fourth dose.
Woman Pleads Guilty in $1.2M COVID Fraud Scheme
Associated Press reported:
A woman plead guilty Tuesday in Virginia federal court, to a $1.2 million scheme that defrauded COVID-19 pandemic relief programs using victims’ personal information that she obtained through her state government employment, a prosecutor said.
U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber said court documents show that in one scheme, from May 2020 to August 2021, Sadie Mitchell, 30, of Midlothian, with help from a co-conspirator, defrauded the Virginia Employment Commission by filing at least 20 fraudulent unemployment applications using inmates’ personal information.
As an employee of the Virginia Motor Vehicle Dealer Board, Mitchell had access to a government database, officials said. The conspirators filed at least 30 fake applications in the names of other people whose personal information was obtained, in part, through Mitchell’s database queries, officials said.
Through this scheme, the conspirators collected approximately $1 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and unemployment insurance benefits.
White House Warns the U.S. Can’t Buy Updated COVID Vaccines ‘for Every American Who Wants One’ Without More Funding
CNN Politics reported:
White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha warned Wednesday that without more funding from Congress the U.S. will not be able to buy enough COVID-19 vaccines for every American wanting an updated shot later this year.
Scientists are working to develop new vaccines that would offer additional protection from infection and severe illness from new variants, including the possibility of a bivalent vaccine, a vaccine that would combine a currently approved vaccine with an Omicron-specific vaccine, for example.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may make a decision as soon as next month based on data from manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer for distribution in the fall.
1 in 3 Americans Now Live in Areas Where Indoor Masks Advised, CDC Says
U.S. News & World Report reported:
Masks may not be required, but Americans are asked consider wearing one anyway if they live in an area where COVID-19 case numbers are high, federal health officials said Wednesday.
That advice currently applies to about one-third of Americans, all of whom now live in areas with high levels of community transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of those areas are in the Northeast.
In those regions, “we urge local leaders to encourage the use of prevention strategies like masking in public indoor settings, and increasing access to testing and treatment for individuals,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, The New York Times reported. She spoke at the first pandemic-focused White House COVID briefing in six weeks.
U.S. Pedestrians Dying at Highest Rate in 40 Years
U.S. News & World Report reported:
U.S. pedestrian deaths in 2021 were the highest in four decades, with an average of 20 deaths every day, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
An estimated 7,485 pedestrians were killed in 2021, which was 12% more than in 2020, preliminary data show. The findings are “heartbreaking and unacceptable,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the highway safety association.
“The pandemic has caused so much death and damage, it’s frustrating to see even more lives needlessly taken due to dangerous driving,” he said in an association news release.
The reasons are clear: speeding, impaired, distracted driving and other dangerous driving behaviors in recent years, according to the association’s report.
WHO Clears China’s CanSino COVID Vaccine for Emergency Use
Associated Press reported:
The World Health Organization said Thursday that it has granted an emergency use authorization for the coronavirus vaccine made by China’s CanSino Biologics, the 11th such shot to receive the green light.
The U.N. health agency said the single-dose CanSino vaccine was found to be about 92% effective against severe COVID-19 and 64% effective in preventing people from getting symptoms of the disease. WHO’s expert vaccine group recommended the vaccine for everyone age 18 and over.
The CanSino vaccine uses a harmless virus called an adenovirus to deliver the spike protein of the coronavirus into the body, which then prompts an immune response. The technology is similar to vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which use different adenoviruses.