Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 COVID-19 News from Around the Web

Moderna says protection from its COVID-19 vaccine still strong six months on

Reuters - April 14, 2021

Moderna Inc said on Tuesday that its COVID-19 vaccine still showed strong protection against the illness six months after people received their second shot, with efficacy of more than 90 percent against all cases of COVID-19 and more than 95 percent against severe COVID-19. The vaccine maker, which will be updating investors on the progress of its vaccines at an event on Wednesday, said the six-month follow-up of its original late-stage study of the vaccine showed that vaccine efficacy remained consistent with its previous updates.

COVID-19 Infection May Up Mortality in Surgical Patients

HealthDay - April 14, 2021

COVID-19 infection is an independent risk factor for surgical mortality, according to a research letter published online April 12 in JAMA Network Open. … [Researchers compared the clinical outcomes of surgical patients and] found that among all hospitals, there were more than double the number of deaths among patients with COVID-19 (14.8 percent) versus those without COVID-19 (7.1 percent) -- a pattern seen for public hospitals and nonprofit hospitals, but not for private hospitals.

Newborns Won’t Get COVID Through Infected Mom’s Breast Milk: Study

HealthDay - April 14, 2021

A new study offers more reassurance that mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2 can safely breastfeed their babies. The study of 55 infants born to moms with COVID-19 found that none contracted the virus -- even though most started getting breast milk in the hospital. Researchers said the findings support existing advice from public health authorities. Last year, the WHO said that moms with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 can continue breastfeeding.

Biden to cancel Trump’s pandemic food aid after high costs, delivery problems

Reuters - April 14, 2021

The government hired hundreds of private companies last spring to buy food no longer needed by restaurants, schools and cruise ships and haul it to overwhelmed food banks. But the program faced spilled and spoiled food, high costs and uneven distribution nationwide, according to interviews with food banks and distributors, and an analysis of USDA invoice data obtained through Freedom of Information requests. … Under newly appointed Secretary Tom Vilsack, the USDA is focused on different hunger initiatives, including expanding food stamp benefits and increasing food purchases through existing government food distribution programs…

U.S. urges pause on use of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine after rare blood clotting cases

STAT - April 13, 2021

Federal authorities on Tuesday recommended that states stop using Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine while an investigation is conducted into six rare but serious cases of clotting problems that were reported among women who received the vaccine. The clotting issue is similar to the one reported after use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, which has not been authorized for use in the United States to date. And it is similar to an event that occurred during Johnson & Johnson’s U.S.-based clinical trial, an event that led to a temporary pause in that trial. The CDC and the FDA jointly announced the recommendation, which falls short of an order not to use the vaccine. The statement said a special meeting of CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will be held Wednesday to review the data around the issue.

Two New Studies Show That the U.K. COVID-19 Virus Variant Is Not Linked to Severe Disease—But Questions Remain

TIME - April 13, 2021

[In two studies] scientists provide comforting news about a new strain of the COVID-19 virus that emerged from the U.K. last December. It has since become the dominant virus in the region, accounting for nearly all of the new COVID-19 cases there—and has recently been implicated in spikes in parts of the U.S., as well as other parts of the world. The researchers report that the so-called B.1.1.7 variant of the virus is not linked to more severe disease or death, and that the virus isn’t causing different (or higher numbers of) symptoms among those infected compared to previous strains of SARS-CoV-2. But they also stress that their findings aren’t the final word on the impact of the variant.

Studies Confirm Racial, Ethnic Disparities In COVID-19 Hospitalizations And Visits

NPR - April 13, 2021

Days after declaring racism a serious public health threat, the CDC released a pair of studies further quantifying the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. The studies, published Monday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, examine trends in racial and ethnic disparities in hospitalizations and emergency room visits associated with COVID-19 in 2020. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a regular White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing that the new literature underscores the need to prioritize health equity, including in the country's accelerating vaccine rollout.

FDA to Decide ‘Quickly’ on Pfizer Request to Approve COVID-19 Vaccine for Children 12 to 15

HealthDay - April 13, 2021

The Pfizer request to expand emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine to include children ages 12 to 15 years will be evaluated "as quickly as possible," the FDA says. "While the FDA cannot predict how long our evaluation of the data and information will take, we will review the request as expeditiously as possible using our thorough and science-based approach," FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said on Twitter, CNN reported.

The Gender Vaccine Gap: More Women Than Men Are Getting Covid Shots

Kaiser Health News - April 13, 2021

KHN examined vaccination dashboards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in early April and found that each of the 38 that listed gender breakdowns showed more women had received shots than men. Public health experts cited many reasons for the difference, including that women make up three-quarters of the workforce in health care and education, sectors prioritized for initial vaccines. Women’s longer life spans also mean that older people in the first rounds of vaccine eligibility were more likely to be female. But as eligibility expands to all adults, the gap has continued. Experts point to women’s roles as caregivers and their greater likelihood to seek out preventive health care in general as contributing factors.

Regeneron’s Covid antibody therapy can help prevent symptomatic disease, drugmaker says

NBC News - April 13, 2021

Regeneron will seek U.S. approval for its Covid-19 antibody cocktail as a preventative treatment after a trial showed it helped reduce the risk of symptomatic infections in households where someone else is ill, the U.S. drugmaker said on Monday. REGEN-COV, as the combination shot of casirivimab and imdevimab is called, reduced the overall risk of progressing to symptomatic Covid-19 by 31 percent, and by 76 percent after the third day. The trial also demonstrated that it shortened symptom duration and markedly lowered viral levels, Regeneron said in a statement.

COVID Vaccines Might Not Protect Certain Cancer Patients

HealthDay - April 13, 2021

People with cancers of the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes are at an increased risk of not making protective coronavirus antibodies after COVID-19 vaccination, a new study warns. The risk is particularly high for those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The researchers urged these patients and those who interact with them to get vaccinated but to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

As vaccinations keep rising, so do Covid-19 hospitalizations among those who aren’t vaccinated

CNN - April 12, 2021

First, the good news: The United States reported a record-high 4.6 million doses of vaccines administered in one day, according to data published Saturday by the CDC. "… Now the bad news: For the third straight week, new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walenky. "Cases and emergency room visits are up," Walensky said Friday. "We are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated."

Why There Will Be Fewer Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccines Next Week

NPR - April 12, 2021

There will be 86% fewer Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses allocated to states next week, new data from the CDC show, highlighting the company's yo-yoing vaccine supply from week to week. But next week's dip in supply isn't exactly the setback it appears to be. It's the other side of a recent surge in Johnson & Johnson doses. The surge occurred because one of Johnson & Johnson's third party manufacturers was finally able to release its stockpile.

Regeneron says antibody cocktail prevented Covid when given as simple injection, not an IV

STAT - April 12, 2021

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said Monday that a single shot of its monoclonal antibody cocktail reduced the risk that volunteers exposed to Covid-19 would develop the disease by 81%. The study enrolled 1,500 healthy volunteers, each of whom shared a home with someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and randomized them to receive a single dose of its antibody treatment, given subcutaneously, or placebo. After 29 days, 11 patients in the treatment group developed Covid-19 compared to 59 on placebo. And for the subjects who got Covid-19 despite treatment, their symptoms resolved after one week, compared to three weeks for those on placebo.

Top Chinese official admits vaccines have low effectiveness

AP - April 12, 2021

In a rare admission of the weakness of Chinese coronavirus vaccines, the country’s top disease control official says their effectiveness is low and the government is considering mixing them to get a boost. Chinese vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates,” said the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, at a conference Saturday in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

Nearly 40% of Marines have declined Covid-19 vaccine

CNN - April 12, 2021

Nearly 40% of US Marines are declining Covid-19 vaccinations, according to data provided to CNN on Friday by the service, the first branch to disclose service-wide numbers on acceptance and declination. As of Thursday, approximately 75,500 Marines have received vaccines, including fully vaccinated and partially vaccinated service men and women. About 48,000 Marines have chosen not to receive vaccines, for a declination rate of 38.9%.