COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Despite promises of solidarity on Covid-19, rich countries are snapping up the supply of promising vaccines
Tough months lie ahead, but the rollout of the first vaccine in record time and the likely imminent approvals of others, is a turning point for wealthy countries that can afford vaccines.

But for public health officials in the developing world, it is a harsh reminder that the race to end this deadly pandemic will separate the world's haves and the have-nots.

The alleged Covid-19 vaccine hoarding and bitter experience of past inequalities leave many feeling cynical about global solidarity.

Rich countries have been on a vaccine shopping spree for months. A continuously updated database compiled by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center shows bilateral deals worth billions of dollars by a handful of countries for emerging vaccines.

Several countries and regional blocks have preordered vaccines that could cover far more than their entire populations. The People's Vaccine Alliance, an international vaccine watchdog that includes Amnesty International and Oxfam, said this past week that rich countries have bought enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to immunize their populations three times over.

The Canadian government alone has secured enough inoculations to vaccinate their citizens five or even six times over, though not all the vaccine candidates it preordered may be approved for usage.

... "The moment that we have all talked about, of global solidarity and global cooperation, is now. The litmus test is actually now. It makes absolutely no moral sense to have excess doses of vaccines in certain countries and absolutely no doses of vaccines in other areas of the world," said the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention John Nkengasong.

... If the moral argument can't win over solidarity, officials on the continent hope the public health argument will do so. Stamping out Covid-19 everywhere is an epidemiological necessity.

"Until everybody is protected, nobody can be safe. We are living in an interconnected world and even if those countries can protect themselves, they will be living on an island. We need a world where we can interact. Not just socially, but economically," Mihingo said.

The long-term impact of any vaccination lag in poor countries will widen global inequalities, he believes. ... "We must provide the minimum supply to low-income countries to ensure they can not only protect the lives of the most vulnerable, but also open up to opportunities to commerce and help lift themselves out of poverty," he said.
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Regeneron says study shows its monoclonal antibody cocktail works against coronavirus variants
Regeneron's cocktail has been granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration, and it was used to treat former president Donald Trump when he was infected with coronavirus last year.

"As we expected, the virus continues to mutate, and these data show the continued ability of REGEN-COV to neutralize emerging strains, further validating our multi-antibody cocktail approach to infectious diseases," Regeneron president Dr. George Yancopoulos said in a statement.

"With two complementary antibodies in one therapeutic, even if one has reduced potency, the risk of the cocktail losing efficacy is significantly diminished, since the virus would need to mutate in multiple distinct locations to evade both antibodies."

... "If the rampant spread of the virus continues and more critical mutations accumulate, then we may be condemned to chasing after the evolving SARS-CoV-2 continually, as we have long done for influenza virus."

This means the world must vaccinate people faster and, in the meantime, double down on measures to stop the spread of virus, such as mask use, they said.
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The son of polio vaccine creator Jonas Salk got the Covid-19 vaccine. He wants you to do it, too
The 73-year-old retired doctor and geneticist living in Seattle remembered waiting in line at school with his classmates for a different vaccine -- it was the polio vaccine, which his father, Dr. Jonas Salk, developed.

Dr. Darrell Salk received the Covid-19 vaccine Monday and he hopes others will.
The younger Salk said he rarely capitalizes on his name -- but he felt this time it would make a positive difference, because now he was getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

"I publicly stepped forward so I could be vaccinated publicly and have a chance to say something because I hoped that it would make a difference," Salk told CNN. "I hoped that if I stepped forward from back in the shadows where I usually stay, it might help some people make up their minds. If so, I will be very grateful."

... Salk, who has felt fine since getting the vaccine, said he was "delighted" to get his first dose. Part of that is because he has several underlying conditions and is a high-risk patient, he said.

The other part is that he sees it as a feat of modern science. Salk has spent years as a vaccinologist studying the creation of vaccines, as well as how to manufacture and transport them.

"There's several aspects of it that were very impressive," Salk said. "The creation of a vaccine that's effective and safe in less than a year is astounding. It's an amazing thing. To develop the polio virus vaccine took seven years."

For him, the decision to get a vaccine was obvious, both for his health and those around him.

"The chances that you will be infected with Covid-19 is so much higher than the risk associated with the vaccine," he said. "That looks like an easy choice to me. I don't want to risk my life, or the life of someone I love."

... "The takeaway is that these vaccines are safe, they're effective and they will help us bring this pandemic under control," he said. "You should embrace the opportunity to be vaccinated and to be part of the solution."

... Simple acts like washing your hands, wearing a mask and avoiding crowds could have controlled the spread of Covid-19. How the US responded to the pandemic frankly embarrasses Salk, he said.

"It's really a shame that in this country, supposedly the epitome of advanced countries, the response was, I'm sorry, bungled so badly," he said.

"We're now swimming upstream," he said. "It embarrasses me that the United States is number one in problems with the Covid-19 virus, more cases than anyplace else, it's spreading faster than anyplace else. It's embarrassing to me that this country did not respond properly because it was not driven by the science."

The way to get the virus under control lies in enough people getting the vaccine and Salk hopes that Americans opt to get it.

"Vaccines are safe and effective, and they should be widely used," he said. "We will get out of this, but it will take individuals doing the proper behavior in order to get rid of it."
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Companies hope people will buy the idea of antibody treatments to prevent Covid
The treatments made by Regeneron and Eli Lilly and Co. are only authorized for use with non-hospitalized patients at high risk of severe disease. If they get the FDA's OK, it's still an open question as to how many people will use them.

The United States has been slow to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, and for different reasons, it's been even slower to adopt monoclonal antibodies. The companies are gambling that maybe Americans will be quicker to embrace these lab-engineered immune system proteins as prevention.

However, the treatments are not as simple as swallowing a pill. A nurse wearing full protective gear needs to administer the treatment for about an hour and then monitor the patient for another.

Monoclonal treatments have a lot of advantages. They work right away, unlike a vaccine that takes a few weeks to kick in.

Plus, they'll cost the patients nothing under an agreement the companies reached with the government, although there may be an administration fee.

Regeneron said if its treatment is authorized for prevention, a doctor could always prescribe it for the person being treating and for their household.

Eli Lilly said if people really want these treatments, they may have to ask for them directly.

"I think patients and providers, in some cases, have to be persistent to navigate our health care system as is, unfortunately, often the case with different diseases, to get optimal therapy," Skovronsky said. "But for patients who want it and qualify and providers who think it's right for their patients, it's widely available."
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The variant that emerged in South Africa is reported in the U.S. for the first time.
Health officials in South Carolina said on Thursday that they had detected two cases of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus that emerged in South Africa. It was the first report of that variant being detected in the United States.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said it had identified one case on Wednesday, and was notified of a second case the same day by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variant, known as B.1.351, was originally identified in South Africa and has since been found in about 30 countries.

The United States is conducting little of the genomic sequencing necessary to track the spread of new variants that have caused concern. They include B.1.1.7, first found in Britain and since seen in more than 46 countries and 24 U.S. states, and the P.1 variant, first found in Brazil, which officials in the United States reported detecting this week in Minnesota.

While the two coronavirus vaccines now in use in the United States, developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, appear to be protective against the new variants, they may be somewhat less effective against the one found in South Africa. Moderna has begun developing a new form of its vaccine that could be used as a booster shot against the variant in South Africa. The new variants are also believed to spread more readily than other versions of the virus, and the one found in Britain may lead to more severe disease.

... The statement from South Carolina’s health department said that the cases involved no known travel to South Africa and no connection between the two patients, both adults, suggesting that the variant is circulating in the community. One patient was in the southern Lowcountry region of the state, and the other in the Pee Dee region in the northeast.

... The C.D.C. said in a statement on Thursday that it was aware of South Carolina’s finding and that it would work to increase genomic sequencing across the country to track virus variants. The agency reiterated its warning against travel at this time.
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Biden signs orders aimed at expanding health care access, including abortion, and opening Obamacare enrollment.

President Biden, seeking to expand access to health care and strengthen the Affordable Care Act, used his executive authority Thursday to order the reopening of enrollment in the health law’s marketplaces and a re-examination of Trump administration policies that undermined protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

His aim, he said in a brief signing ceremony in the Oval Office, was to “undo the damage Trump has done.”

Mr. Biden also moved to protect reproductive rights and expand access to abortion, and took separate executive action to overturn his predecessor’s restrictions on the use of taxpayer dollars for clinics that refer or counsel patients to terminate pregnancies, both in the United States and overseas.
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Tanzania’s president says ‘vaccines don’t work,’ earning a rebuff from the W.H.O.
Tanzania’s president cast doubt on coronavirus vaccines and other measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, doubling down on his line of reasoning that only God could protect the East African nation. His comments came a day before the World Health Organization urged the nation to take measures to protect its population.

President John Magufuli of Tanzania, speaking to a large, unmasked crowd in the country’s northwest on Wednesday, questioned the efficacy of vaccines and discouraged the Ministry of Health from pursuing doses, saying the shots were not “beneficial” to the East African nation.

“Vaccines don’t work,” Mr. Magufuli, 61, said in his speech. “If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, then vaccines for AIDS would have been brought. Vaccines for tuberculosis would have made it a thing of the past. Vaccines for malaria would have been found. Vaccines for cancer would have been found.”

On Thursday, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the regional director for the W.H.O. in Africa, urged the Tanzanian government to share data, establish measures to protect its citizens from the virus and prepare for the vaccine. “Science shows that #VaccinesWork,” Dr. Moeti tweeted.

... “I do not expect to announce a lockdown even for one day because our God is living, and he will continue to protect Tanzanians,” Mr. Magufuli said to applause.

... Mr. Magufuli was re-elected to a second, five-year term in October in a vote marred by accusations of widespread fraud, a clampdown on the opposition and social media restrictions.
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia