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

Fauci says Omicron-specific version of Covid-19 vaccines may not be necessary

STAT - December 10, 2021

Anthony Fauci isn’t convinced Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers are going to need to produce an Omicron-specific version of their vaccines … suggested to STAT in an interview Thursday, it’s possible the current vaccines will provide enough protection against the new variant for most vaccinated and boosted individuals. Fauci stressed that he was hypothesizing…

Health Experts Worry CDC’s Covid Vaccination Rates Appear Inflated

Kaiser Health News - December 10, 2021

For nearly a month, the CDC’s online vaccine tracker has shown that virtually everyone 65 and older in the United States — 99.9% — has received at least one covid vaccine dose. That would be remarkable — if true. But health experts and state officials say it’s certainly not. They note that the CDC as of Dec. 5 has recorded more seniors at least partly vaccinated — 55.4 million — than there are people in that age group — 54.1 million, according to the latest census data from 2019.

1 in 10 Americans say the COVID-19 vaccine conflicts with their religious beliefs

NPR - December 10, 2021

Only 10% of Americans believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine conflicts with their religious beliefs, and 59% of Americans say too many people are using religious beliefs as an excuse not to get vaccinated, a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core shows. A majority of Americans, 60%, also say there is no valid religious reason to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine …

Companies rethink return-to-office plans amid omicron cases

AP - December 10, 2021

Alphabet’s Google and the nation’s second largest automaker Ford Co. are among those once again delaying their return-to-office plans, while other businesses whose employees have already returned are considering adding extra precautions like requiring masks. … Meta, formerly known as Facebook, and ridesharing company Lyft separately announced Tuesday that they’re letting workers delay their return when offices fully reopen early next year.

The Omicron variant can likely outcompete Delta — and that could worsen the U.S. Covid-19 epidemic

STAT - December 10, 2021

As the Omicron variant snowballs in South Africa and widens its inroads in Europe, evidence is mounting that it can outcompete the highly transmissible Delta variant — a potential warning signal for the United States. Viruses perform differently in different places, depending on what other variants are circulating and on what the landscape of immunity looks like. But Omicron is picking up speed in Europe, which has often served as a preview of what was headed the U.S.’s way.

Early data from South Africa hints Omicron variant may cause less severe Covid, but more research is needed

STAT - December 6, 2021

[Early] clinical data emerging from South Africa hint at a virus that may cause less severe cases of Covid-19. The South African Medical Research Council posted a report Saturday of the early experiences at several hospitals in Gauteng Province, where Omicron was first spotted in the country. Strikingly, most hospitalized patients who tested positive for Covid did not need supplemental oxygen. Few developed Covid pneumonia, few required high-level care, and fewer still were admitted to intensive care. Experts caution against reading too much into these early reports, which are based on small numbers of patients.

As omicron is reported now in at least 15 states, officials push again for vaccines, boosters, masks: COVID-19 updates

USA Today - December 6, 2021

Vaccinations and booster shots continue to be the best defense against the coronavirus for the U.S., even with the spread of the new omicron variant, which now has been reported in at least 15 states, health officials said Sunday. Vaccines developed to fight the original COVID-19 strain have offered good protection against the delta variant, the dominant strain in the U.S., said Dr. Anthony Fauci … He believes they will help with omicron, especially for those who also get a booster shot.

Pfizer could have vaccine data for kids under age 5 by year-end, CEO says

NBC News - December 6, 2021

Pfizer could have data on how well its Covid-19 vaccine works in kids under age 5 by the end of the year, according to CEO Albert Bourla. "We have a study in children 6 months to 2 years and then another cohort of children 2 to 5 years," Bourla told NBC News chief White House correspondent Kristen Welker. "So [by] end of the year, beginning of next year, when we see the data, we will know more."

Is It Time to Change the Definition of ‘Fully Vaccinated’?

Kaiser Health News - December 6, 2021

As more indoor venues require proof of vaccination for entrance and with winter — as well as omicron, a new covid variant — looming, scientists and public health officials are debating when it will be time to change the definition of “fully vaccinated” to include a booster shot. It’s been more than six months since many Americans finished their vaccination course against covid; statistically, their immunity is waning.

Pro-Trump counties now have far higher COVID death rates. Misinformation is to blame

NPR - December 6, 2021

Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. That's according to a new analysis by NPR that examines how political polarization and misinformation are driving a significant share of the deaths in the pandemic.

US drugstores squeezed by vaccine demand, staff shortages

AP - December 6, 2021

A rush of vaccine-seeking customers and staff shortages are squeezing drugstores around the U.S., leading to frazzled workers and temporary pharmacy closures. Drugstores are normally busy this time of year with flu shots and other vaccines, but now pharmacists are doling out a growing number of COVID-19 shots and giving coronavirus tests. The push for shots is expected to grow more intense…

Omicron COVID-19 variant detected in 5 states, a day after first case was reported in U.S.

CBS News - December 3, 2021

The Omicron variant has now been detected in at least five states, after multiple states announced their first cases of the strain on Thursday night. At least 10 total cases have now been reported in the U.S., as local leaders are warning that the variant is now spreading within some communities. New York, California, Hawaii, Minnesota and Colorado have now reported cases.

Tighter travel rules, free at-home tests and boosters: Biden unveils COVID-19 winter plan

USA Today - December 3, 2021

Requiring travelers entering the country by air to test negative for the coronavirus within a day of departure, regardless of vaccination status or nationality, instead of within three days. … Extending through March 18 the requirement that masks be worn on airplanes, trains and public transportation. … Requiring private health insurance companies to cover 100% of the cost of at-home tests for the coronavirus. … Launching a public education campaign to encourage 100 million adults to get boosters, with a special focus on seniors.

WHO says measures used against delta should work for omicron

AP - December 3, 2021

Measures used to counter the delta variant should remain the foundation for fighting the coronavirus pandemic, even in the face of the new omicron version of the virus, WHO officials said Friday, while acknowledging that the travel restrictions imposed by some countries may buy time. … That means continuing to push for higher vaccination rates, abiding by social-distancing guidelines, and wearing masks, among other measures, said WHO Regional Emergency Director Dr. Babatunde Olowokure.

Covid: Trigger of rare blood clots with AstraZeneca jab found by scientists

BBC - December 3, 2021

Scientists believe they have found "the trigger" that leads to extremely rare blood clots after the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. The team - in Cardiff and the US - have shown in exquisite detail how a protein in the blood is attracted to a key component of the vaccine. They think this kicks off a chain reaction, involving the immune system, that can culminate in dangerous clots. The vaccine is thought to have saved about a million lives from Covid.

New Harvard study declares winner between Pfizer and Moderna vaccines

The Hill - December 3, 2021

A new study from researchers at Harvard compared the efficacy of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines. Researchers used the health records of close to 400,000 veterans for the study. While both vaccines are highly effective in offering protection against the virus, the Moderna vaccine is slightly better, the study claims.