COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
FDA Authorizes Johnson & Johnson's One-Shot COVID-19 Vaccine
A third COVID-19 vaccine is on the way, and this one requires only one shot for immunization.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for emergency use Saturday, a day after a panel of advisers to the agency voted unanimously (22-0) in its favor.

"The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States," said a statement by Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested in an international study of about 40,000 people, half of whom got the vaccine and half of whom got a placebo. The study found the company's vaccine to be 66% effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease. For disease judged severe or critical, the effectiveness was 85%. The study was conducted in the U.S., South America and South Africa.

The main study included in the company's application found that 28 days or more after immunization, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine prevented hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19.

The overall efficacy figures are lower than Pfizer's 95% in preventing COVID-19 disease and 94% for Moderna. But direct comparisons are challenging because of differences in the clinical trials and emergence of new strains of the coronavirus.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine "is very effective ... at preventing severe disease after a single dose and it induces the kind of response, so-called cellular immune response, that looks like it's going to have fairly long-lived memory, which is all good," Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA's advisory panel, told NPR's Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday. "This certainly provides protection against what you care about, which is hospitalization, ICU admission and death. It's virtually 100% effective at doing that." Offit is also director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
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Obesity Specialist Says BMI Is A 'Good Measure' For Vaccine Priority Group
Several cities across the country that count obesity as an underlying condition have opened COVID-19 vaccine appointments to people with a body mass index of 30 or higher — the medical benchmark for obesity.

While BMI isn't a foolproof standard by which to assess potential health risk factors, obesity medicine physician Dr. Fatima Stanford told NPR, "overall, it's a good measure" in this case.

It would be dangerous for people with obesity to not get vaccinated, she said, given that obesity is a risk factor for both severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19.

"We're talking about two inflammatory conditions. We have chronic inflammation associated with obesity, the disease, not playing well with the acute inflammatory process of COVID-19," said Stanford, who works at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

More than 42% of adults in the U.S. have obesity, one of the country's most prevalent chronic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity is more common in Black people, and slightly more common in Hispanic people, compared to white people. Black and Hispanic people have been suffering from COVID-19 at disproportionately higher rates.

"BMI by itself is an arbitrary cutoff, but it's a decent population-wide measure," Stanford said. "It's important though if you're talking with physicians and their work with individual patients to not use BMI as the sole cutoff for how we navigate treatment strategies for patients that have this disease of obesity."
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Covid-19 vaccines allegedly stolen, expired and inappropriately administered in Tennessee county, state investigation finds
A total of 2,500 doses were either expired or wasted in Shelby County over a 20-day period from February 3 to February 23, according to a timeline of findings released by the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) as part of an investigation.

Additionally, two children were "inappropriately vaccinated" for Covid-19 at a Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) vaccination site on February 3 with no report made to state or federal partners, according to TDH's timeline.

The same day, a volunteer was suspected of stealing multiple doses of vaccine at a different vaccination site without a report being made, according to the TDH timeline.

TDH also found that the county had 51,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses in its inventory, which amounts to an excess of about 30,000 doses, according to a statement from the agency.
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The statement also said that Shelby County lacked "standard operating procedures for storage and handling of the vaccine," had insufficient record keeping and had "no formal process for management of soon-to-expire vaccine doses."

... On Friday, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced that Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter had resigned. During a Shelby County Commission special meeting, Harris said March 15 would be Haushalter's the last day in the office.

Shelby County is the most-populated county in Tennessee and home to Memphis, the state's second-most populous city.
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'SNL' has Dr. Fauci hand out coronavirus vaccines on a game show - CNN

"Saturday Night Live" opened with Kate McKinnon's Dr. Anthony Fauci hosting a new game show called "So You Think You Can Get The Vaccine."

Alongside host Fauci, "So You Think You Can Get The Vaccine" had three judges: California Gov. Gavin Newsom, played by Alex Moffet; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, played by Pete Davidson, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, played by Cecily Strong.
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House Republicans callously turn their backs on Americans in need
The reasons given by the House Republicans for their rejection of the bill combine so much of what we've come to expect from today's GOP, namely lies and hypocrisy. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy summed up the party line when he falsely declared on Fox News that, "This is supposed to be a Covid bill. Only 9% of it goes to Covid." This baseless 9% claim was repeated by numerous other House Republicans to justify callously turning their backs on Americans in need.

McCarthy and these other Republicans must know that the 9% number is a lie given that fact checkers ripped it to shreds as misleading in the days before Saturday's vote. These Republicans dishonestly claim that just 9% goes to fight the pandemic because only $160 billion of the $1.9 trillion package directly funds vaccinations, testing and other specific virus containment efforts. But every American needs to knows this bill also seeks to address the economic pain Covid-19 has wrought upon millions by including other healthcare spending like extending paid sick leave and subsidizing insurance coverage for those who've lost their jobs.

... Then there's the overpowering stench of hypocrisy emanating from the GOP's opposition to this relief bill by claiming it will add to the deficit. These included the same politicians who supported the 2017 GOP tax cut that is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to increase the national debt by $1.9 trillion by 2028. Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, for example, gleefully supported the 2017 cut but now opposes the Covid-19 relief bill because it's "a debt junkie."

While the Covid-19 relief bill is targeted to help Americans hit hardest by the pandemic, the 2017 tax cut helped the wealthy over the middle and lower class. In fact, by 2027 that GOP cut is expected to result in the top 1% receiving roughly 83% of the tax cut benefits if there are no changes to the law before then. This GOP boondoggle for the rich, which people like Rep. McCarthy sold to the American people with false statements like "every American" would get a tax cut if the bill is passed, also included other goodies for the wealthy such as raising the exemption for estate tax from $11 million to $22 million.

Why would Republicans oppose this desperately needed Covid-19 relief? It appears the Republican Party's own cold calculations have concluded that opposing this measure is good for them politically. Despite 68% of Americans supporting the Biden Covid-19 relief bill in a recent Quinnipiac poll, GOP House representatives apparently believe that their base would rather have the "red meat" of fighting Democrats than the actual red meat that this relief bill could provide them the funds to afford. Tragically for our nation, today's GOP is more concerned with rejecting Democratic proposals than with helping Americans in need.
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A Covid Vaccine Side Effect, Enlarged Lymph Nodes, Can Be Mistaken for Cancer
Coronavirus vaccinations can cause enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit or near the collarbone, which may be mistaken for a sign of cancer.

As vaccines are rolled out across the country, doctors are seeing more and more of these swollen nodes in recently immunized people, and medical journals have begun publishing reports aimed at allaying fears and helping patients avoid needless testing for a harmless condition that will go away in a few weeks.

The swelling is a normal reaction by the immune system to the vaccine, and occurs on the same side as the arm where the shot was given. It can also occur after other vaccinations, including those for flu and the human papillomavirus (HPV). Patients may or may not notice it. But the enlarged lymph nodes show up as white blobs on mammograms and chest scans, resembling images that can indicate the spread of cancer from a tumor in the breast or elsewhere in the body.
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Trump and his wife received coronavirus vaccine before leaving the White House.
Mr. Trump’s concern about the vaccine has generally been about whether he is getting credit for its development while he was president. He never publicly encouraged people to take it while he was in office; the first vaccines were approved shortly after Election Day.

The adviser did not say whether Mr. Trump received both his first and second shots of the vaccine in January, or if the second one was at another time.
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A man refused to mask up at a high school basketball game. Then he killed an officer who intervened, police say.
The George Washington Carver High School basketball team had built a huge early lead in its playoff game in New Orleans on Saturday when John Shallerhorn tried to walk into the gym. But Shallerhorn, 35, wasn’t wearing a mask, so a staffer blocked his way, police said.

When Shallerhorn punched the staffer, Tulane University police officer Martinus Mitchum, who was working security for the team, rushed to help. That’s when Shallerhorn pulled a gun, police said, and fatally shot Mitchum, 38, in the chest, sending players and fans scurrying for safety.

Shallerhorn, who was quickly arrested and charged with multiple felonies including murder of a police officer, had also robbed someone outside the game before coming inside, according to a criminal complaint reviewed by

... The fatal shooting is the latest deadly incident over mask mandates meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including several that have targeted police and guards trying to enforce the policies. Last May, a Family Dollar security guard in Michigan was killed after ordering customers to mask up, and in August, a Pennsylvania man was charged with firing an AK-47 at police after arguing about a mask policy at a cigar shop.
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A Trader Joe’s employee called for stronger coronavirus measures. The company fired him.
The Trader Joe’s employee appealed directly to the CEO.

In a letter citing a medical journal and experts who study respiratory transmission of the coronavirus, Ben Bonnema called on the grocery chain’s head, Dan Bane, to adopt more stringent safety protocols. Among his requests: improving filtration, requiring masks without exception and adopting a “three-strikes” policy for removing uncooperative customers from stores.

“We put our lives on the line everyday by showing up to work,” wrote Bonnema, who was a crew member at a New York location. “Please, show up for us by adopting these policies.”

The company responded soon after, he says. It fired him.

Bonnema’s story went viral over the weekend after he posted about it on Twitter, prompting outrage and threats to boycott the chain.
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S.D. Gov. Kristi Noem says she nailed the pandemic response. Fauci: The numbers ‘don’t lie.’
South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R), a conservative favorite, received a standing ovation at the Conservative Political Action Conference when she criticized Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for being “wrong a lot” — which the nation’s top infectious-disease expert said was unhelpful.

While making a dig at Fauci at the Orlando conference, Noem touted her personal liberties approach to the coronavirus pandemic, forgoing recommendations to mandate masks and instead allowing a massive motorcycle rally later tied to a national surge in infections. Despite Noem’s claims of success, her state has reported more infections per resident than any state besides North Dakota.

“South Dakota is the only state in America that never ordered a single business or church to close,” she said to applause and cheers. “We never instituted a shelter-in-place order. We never mandated that people wear masks. We never even defined what an essential business is.”

On Sunday, Fauci said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Noem’s remarks were “unfortunate” and “not very helpful,” especially while more contagious variants are proliferating in the United States and the nation is ramping up a massive vaccination effort.

... South Dakota ranks second nationally for the most coronavirus cases reported per capita, eighth for total deaths per capita and ninth for peak hospitalized count per capita, according to data gathered and analyzed by The Washington Post. ... “Her science denialism has resulted in the propagation of that disease unnecessarily throughout her state mercilessly,” Reiner told CNN’s Ana Cabrera, “so I side with Tony Fauci.”
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The Surprising Key to Combatting Vaccine Refusal
It’s not just one problem—and we’re going to need a portfolio of approaches to solve it.

Why wouldn’t someone want a COVID-19 vaccine?

Staring at the raw numbers, it doesn’t seem like a hard choice. Thousands of people are dying of COVID-19 every day. Meanwhile, out of the 75,000 people who received a shot in the vaccine trials from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax, zero died and none were hospitalized after four weeks. As the United States screams past 500,000 fatalities, the choice between a deadly disease and a shot in the arm might seem like the easiest decision in the world.

Or not. One-third of American adults said this month that they don’t want the vaccine or are undecided about whether they’ll get one. That figure has declined in some polls. But it remains disconcertingly high among Republicans, young people, and certain minority populations. In pockets of vaccine hesitancy, the coronavirus could continue to spread, kill, mutate, and escape. That puts all of us at risk.

... Dissent. Deliberation. Distrust. Indifference. Vaccine hesitancy is not one thing. It’s a portfolio. And we’re going to need a portfolio of strategies to solve it.

... Today, resistance among the GOP seems to be the most significant problem for vaccinating the country. Just half of Republicans say that they plan to get the shot, while the share of pro-vaccine Democrats has increased to more than 80 percent.

... When we disentangle the constituent parts of vaccine hesitancy—conspiracy theorizing, wait-and-see deliberation, frustration, and distrust—it becomes clear that vaccine reluctance will never be solved by one big thing. Better national messaging on how vaccines could change our lives might encourage young people to get the shot, but would do little to change inequities at the community level. Clearer eligibility rules and more equitable distribution could accelerate vaccination in low-income neighborhoods, but might not solve vaccine indifference among young white Republicans. Motivational interviewing might bring along the skeptical, but more information is unlikely to convert the full-blown conspiracists. The multiple-choice question of combatting vaccine resistance has an obvious answer: We need all of the above.
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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