Archive for the ‘COVID-19’ Category

At 38.5% vaccinated, US may be running low on people eager for a shot

April 17th, 2021
Residents wear protective masks while waiting to be vaccinated at a West Virginia United Health System Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia, U.S., on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

Enlarge / Residents wear protective masks while waiting to be vaccinated at a West Virginia United Health System Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia, U.S., on Thursday, March 11, 2021. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The US logged another 4 million or so vaccinations Friday, bringing the total doses administered in the country over 200 million at the time of writing. Over 127 million adults—38.5 percent of the US population—have received at least one shot. Over 80 million adults—24 percent of the US population—are now fully vaccinated.

The seven-day rolling average of US vaccinations per day is now around 3.35 million and the Biden administration is on track to make its latest goal of 200 million vaccinations within the first 100 days in office.

Even with a current pause in use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, Biden officials expect availability of vaccine to remain strong.

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, immunity, Infectious disease, public health, science, vaccination, vaccines | Comments (0)

SARS-CoV-2 variant found in Brazil: More infectious, may limit immunity

April 16th, 2021
Aerial view of a large section of a cemetery.

Enlarge / COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll on Brazil. (credit: Michael Dantas / Getty Images)

Almost from the moment it made the jump to humans, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been picking up mutations and creating new lineages as it expands into different populations. In practical terms, the vast majority of these mutations makes absolutely no difference; the resulting virus has the same properties as the unmutated form it's derived from.

But there have been a number of cases where variants surge in frequency. Early on in the pandemic, this was often the product of the variant moving into a previously unexposed population—a matter of chance rather than a feature of the virus. Separating out these cases from instances where mutations make the virus more dangerous is a serious challenge. But this week, an international team of researchers has published evidence showing that a variant first characterized in Brazil is likely to represent a significant additional threat.

There's a lot of uncertainty about the details, but the virus appears to be more infectious and more likely to infect those who have immunity to other viral strains, and it might even be more lethal. And, as of when the paper was written, the lineage had been detected in over 35 countries.

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Posted in Biology, Brasil, COVID-19, epidemiology, SARS-CoV-2, science, virology | Comments (0)

99.992% of fully vaccinated people have dodged COVID, CDC data shows

April 15th, 2021
Residents wait in an observation area after receiving Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in Richmond, California on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Enlarge / Residents wait in an observation area after receiving Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in Richmond, California on Thursday, April 15, 2021. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Cases of COVID-19 are extremely rare among people who are fully vaccinated, according to a new data analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among more than 75 million fully vaccinated people in the US, just around 5,800 people reported a “breakthrough” infection, in which they became infected with the pandemic coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated.

The numbers suggest that breakthroughs occur at the teeny rate of less than 0.008 percent of fully vaccinated people—and that over 99.992 percent of those vaccinated have not contracted a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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Posted in Breakthrough, CDC, COVID-19, infection, Infectious disease, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, vaccines | Comments (0)

CDC expert panel punts on deciding fate of J&J COVID vaccine

April 15th, 2021
Boxes of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Florida.

Enlarge / Boxes of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Florida. (credit: Getty | Paul Hennessy)

An advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to vote on the fate of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, likely leaving in place a pause on the vaccine’s use until the committee reconvenes in seven to 10 days.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, expects that the coming week or so will provide additional data and analyses on the vaccine’s potential risks. Until it has more information, ACIP opted to provide no new recommendations on the use of the vaccine.

On the table, however, was everything from recommending against use of the vaccine altogether; recommending that only certain groups receive the vaccine, such as only men or only people over a certain age; or recommending that the pause be lifted and use continue in all adults as before.

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Posted in ACIP, CDC, COVID-19, CVST, Johnson & Johnson, platelets, science, vaccine | Comments (0)

The very common vaccine ingredient at the center of J&J, AstraZeneca drama

April 14th, 2021
Adenoviruses seen via transmission electron microscopy.

Enlarge / Adenoviruses seen via transmission electron microscopy. (credit: Getty | BSIP)

Out of an abundance of caution, US officials on Tuesday recommended pausing use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. Officials linked the vaccine to six peculiar illnesses in which people developed life-threatening blood clots in combination with low levels of blood platelets, the cell fragments in blood that form clots. One person died from their condition and another is in critical condition.

It’s unclear if the vaccine caused the illnesses. Even if it did, the illnesses would represent an exceedingly rare side effect. The six cases occurred among more than 6.8 million people in the US who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That would make it a side effect seen in fewer than one in a million. The risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, which the vaccine protects against, easily exceeds those odds. Without question, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks.

Still, with robust supplies of vaccine from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech—neither of which have been linked to these unusual cases—US officials took the cautious route of pausing Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine while they investigate the cases further and inform clinicians about how to spot and treat any others that may arise. This latter point is critical, because if doctors try to use standard blood clot treatments in these vaccine-linked cases, the outcomes can be fatal.

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Posted in adenovirus, Astrazeneca, CDC, COVID-19, fda, Features, Infectious disease, Johnson & Johnson, science, vaccine development, vaccines, viral vector | Comments (0)

J&J COVID vaccine use paused due to one-in-a-million complication

April 13th, 2021
Image of a woman receiving a vaccine.

Enlarge / A nurse practitioner named Heidi Johnson administers a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. (credit: Tom Williams / Getty Images)

On Tuesday morning, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a release acknowledging an extremely rare clotting disorder was associated with the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. The problem is actually less than a one-in-a-million issue; in data from the US, where 6.8 million doses of this vaccine have been used, there have only been six instances of the clotting problem detected.

Because the clots call for an unusual treatment, however, the organizations are calling for a pause in administering the shot. This will provide them with time to ensure the medical community is aware of the appropriate treatment.

This is not the first vaccine to create extremely rare clotting issues. They've also been seen following use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The problem appears to be caused by the harmless virus (an Adenovirus) that carries a single gene from SARS-CoV-2 in order to elicit an immune response.

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Posted in Astrazeneca, CDC, clotting, COVID-19, fda, Johnson & Johnson, medicine, science, vaccine | Comments (0)

It’s too late for vaccines to save Michigan, CDC director explains

April 12th, 2021
A woman adjusts her face mask while sitting in front of a microphone.

Enlarge / Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adjusts her protective mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Highly effective COVID-19 vaccines are simply too slow to stop surges like the one underway in Michigan, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday.

Dr. Walensky’s explanation during the White House COVID-19 press briefing comes amid mounting requests and calls for federal authorities to flood Michigan with vaccine supply. The state has seen a 400 percent spike in cases since March 5, when state officials eased restrictions on residential gatherings and occupancy limits for bars, restaurants, venues, and stores. Since then, the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has also increased in prevalence. Now, the state’s seven-day average for new daily cases is over 7,377, and hospitals are filling up.

On March 30, when the surge was already in full swing, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appealed to the White House for additional vaccine shipments. However, the White House declined, opting to stick to its largely population-based strategy for dolling out vaccine supply to each state and jurisdiction.

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, Infectious disease, lockdown, Michigan, outbreak, science, social distancing, surge, vaccine, WHO | Comments (0)

Coronavirus variant that spreads easily doesn’t do so by surviving in air better

April 5th, 2021
People practice social distancing in white circles in Domino Park in Williamsburg during the coronavirus pandemic on May 17, 2020, in New York City.

Enlarge / People practice social distancing in white circles in Domino Park in Williamsburg during the coronavirus pandemic on May 17, 2020, in New York City. (credit: Getty | Noam Galai)

The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant is estimated to spread about 50 percent more than previous versions—but it doesn’t seem to manage that higher transmissibility by surviving in the air better than other versions of the virus, according to a new study.

In lab experiments looking at virus survival in artificially produced aerosolized particles, a B.1.1.7 lineage virus had about the same survival rate as a strain of the virus that was circulating in Wuhan, China in January 2020, according to the study, which published recently in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

For the study, government researchers created aerosolized particles that mimic those spewed from deep in a person’s lungs, then tested how well the viruses survived in those particles under different temperature, humidity, and light conditions.

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Posted in B.1.17, COVID-19, Infectious disease, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, Transmission, variant, virus | Comments (0)

Real-world data shows vaccines kicking butt—including against scary variant

April 2nd, 2021
A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine inside the Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University in San Diego, California, US on Thursday, April 1, 2021.

Enlarge / A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine inside the Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University in San Diego, California, US on Thursday, April 1, 2021. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

In a small trial, the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine fully protected people from symptomatic COVID-19 caused by the worrisome B.1.351 coronavirus variant widely circulating in South Africa, the companies announced in a press release.

Though researchers will need more data to confirm the result, it is just the latest bit of positive news to come out this week about how the vaccines are performing with real-world conditions and in real-world settings.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released real-world data showing that the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine and Moderna mRNA vaccine were, collectively, 90 percent effective at preventing infections in fully vaccinated health care, frontline, and essential workers.

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Posted in BioNTech, coronavirus, COVID-19, Infectious disease, Pfizer, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, vaccine, variant | Comments (0)

Factory mix-up spoils 15 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine

April 1st, 2021
A sign at the Johnson & Johnson campus on August 26, 2019 in Irvine, California.

Enlarge / A sign at the Johnson & Johnson campus on August 26, 2019 in Irvine, California. (credit: Getty | Mario Tama)

About 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine were ruined, and future vaccine shipments will be delayed. This all follows a mix-up at a manufacturing facility in Baltimore, according to multiple media reports.

Johnson & Johnson had partnered with Emergent BioSolutions to manufacture the active ingredient of its vaccine. But according to two US officials who spoke with Politico, workers at the West Baltimore facility mixed up the ingredients in Johnson &Johnson’s vaccine with those for a different coronavirus vaccine. Emergent BioSolutions is also a manufacturing partner of AstraZeneca, according to the New York Times, which first reported the problem.

The mishap with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine began before the Food and Drug Administration had authorized the facility to produce the vaccine. Now, that authorization has been delayed and shipments are stalled.

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Posted in Biden, biden administration, COVID-19, fda, Infectious disease, Johnson & Johnson, pandemic, public health, science, vaccine | Comments (0)