The following points are highlights from the free newsletter, “Smart, useful, scientific stuff on COVID-19. ”Register here to receive daily newsletters in your inbox.
Novavax reports that its two-dose protein-based vaccine against COVID-19 was 100% effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and deaths from COVID-19, and 90.4% effective against COVID-19 symptoms in large landscaped people studies. These studies, which involved thousands of people in the US and Mexico, showed that the vaccine was also highly effective against “Alpha”, the SARS-CoV-2 variant first identified in the UK, Carl Zimmer reports to the New York Times (6.). / 14/21). “Novavax plans to apply for approval in the UK, EU, India, South Korea and possibly the US,” read an unbiased SciPod post (6/15/21).
A 6/17/21 story by Scientific American’s Tanya Lewis describes some of the incentives people are offered to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – including lottery tickets, college scholarships, train tickets, firearms, cash payouts, cannabis joints, donuts, free rides , Cruises and gift certificates. “Public health professionals are constantly providing incentives to encourage people to quit smoking, exercise, and so on,” the story describes the director of the Health Decision Sciences Center of the general medicine department at Massachusetts General Hospital. An unpublished study by the Mass General researcher suggests that incentives could be effective in getting people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Lewis reports. But for some people, the best incentive is a way to give up wearing a mask and achieve a general return to normal, the story goes.
Some positive news for people who have transplanted organs and are therefore taking immunosuppressive drugs: A third dose of an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 provoked a stronger immune response in organ transplant patients, at least in the form of antibodies, than the standard two doses did, according to various To report. The results of a small study of patients who received a third dose this spring were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on 6/15/21. The results are “part of a broader discussion about whether and when people at risk should be offered additional doses,” writes Jennifer Couzin-Frankel at Science (14/06/21). In previous studies, organ transplant patients who received a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine were far less likely to develop protective antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 than the general population. Some larger three-dose studies in people with compromised immune systems are underway, Couzin-Frankel reports. A medical oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania isn’t very concerned about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in cancer patients, the story says. The story then describes two recent studies in cancer patients that showed they produced antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. However, a third study found much lower antibody levels in vaccinated cancer patients than in their healthy family members who were also vaccinated, Couzin-Frankel reports.
The Unbiased SciPod has published some helpful informational graphics on Pfizer’s ongoing studies of its COVID-19 vaccine in children under the age of 12 (11/6/21). The article states that the dosages were determined based on the first smaller studies in children (one third of the adult dose for ages 5 to 11 years and one tenth of the adult dose for ages 6 months to 5 years) and that the Researchers will enroll 4,500 children at 90 locations worldwide for larger safety and efficacy studies. “Children have stronger components of the immune system than adults. You may not need such a high dose for protection. Age criteria relate to the development of the immune system, not to body size, ”says the article. The results are likely to be available for review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this fall, with an initial batch – of studies in children ages 5-11 – expected in early September, the Post said.
Almost a quarter of all people in the US who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 last year, including 19% of those who never reported COVID-19 symptoms of their infection, had new medical problems within a month or more of recovery Virus, according to a large study by Pam Belluck in the New York Times (6/15/21). Belluck writes: “All age groups were affected, including children. Her most common new health problems were pain, including nerves and muscles; Difficulty breathing; high cholesterol; Malaise and fatigue; and high blood pressure. Other problems were bowel symptoms; Migraine; Skin problems; Cardiac abnormalities; Sleep disorders; and mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. ”The study, which was conducted by the nonprofit FAIR Health and not formally reviewed by experts for deficiencies, included evaluating electronic health insurance records.
A 6/11/21 story by Emily Anthes in the New York Times highlights some evidence-based approaches employers can take to reduce the risk of SARS-Cov-2 infection and other health problems as workers return to offices across the country. Employers should flush unused faucets and other plumbing to remove any accumulated metal or Legionella bacterial colonies, the story says. Employers should also upgrade their ventilation and filtration systems, the story goes. The goal is four to six air changes per hour, the story says, which corresponds to completely refreshing air every 10 to 15 minutes in a room. Portable air purifiers or even “desktop-level HEPA filters” can help. And keep washing your hands routinely, for at least 20 seconds each time, advises a Northwestern University environmental microbiologist quoted in the story. No solutions: desk shields (plexiglass barriers are a good idea in grocery stores, however), fog machines, fumigators, ionizers, ozone generators and other “air cleaning devices”, so the story goes. In most non-medical or non-laboratory settings, wiping surfaces with bleach solutions or disinfectant solutions or wipes does little to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Inhaling these substances is also harmful. “The no. One thing is to get vaccinated,” the story quotes Joseph Allen of the Harvard School of Public Health.
A debate among scientists about whether SARS-CoV-2 spreads primarily through dropped breath droplets on surfaces that touch people or spread in the air hampered public health efforts to contain the pandemic and prevent deaths. The implications for this debate were crucial, as Wired’s Megan Molteni writes (5/13/21). Officials need to know whether public health messages should focus on hand washing or masking and isolating or both, especially before vaccines become available. The general debate is over, as you probably know – the virus mainly spreads in indoor air. But why did researchers disagree until recently? In part, it’s because the airborne arguments against SARS-CoV-2 were all based on the assumption that only particles less than 5 microns in size could hang in the air; larger, also called droplets, fall on surfaces. But in reality, larger particles can stay afloat and behave like aerosols, many scientists and engineers have known, including aerosol expert Linsey Marr of Virginia Tech, Molteni, and others have written. Molteni’s story masterfully traces the events, conversations, and research that uncover the “fallacy of the 5 micrometer limit”. The heroine of this compelling story is Katie Randall, a PhD student who specializes in detective work to find out how some of that knowledge is passed on over time through published research.
The April US Centers for Disease Control guidelines stated that international and domestic travel are for low-risk individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 (unfortunately this does not apply to US children under the age of 12 who COVID-19 vaccines are available.) Are not yet approved). In response to this update, Ceylan Yeginsu of the New York Times wrote answers to some of the questions vaccinated travelers have these days (6/15/21). A summary of the responses (again, this information only applies to vaccinated individuals in the US): 1) Yes, you must still wear a mask at the airport and on flights; 2) No, you do not need to be quarantined or tested when traveling domestically unless a state or territory requires it; 3) No, you don’t need to take a coronavirus test before flying to international destinations – at least not for the US; check your goal; 4) Yes, even if you are vaccinated, you must have a test three days before your return trip to the USA; 5) Checklists of countries that accept US residents under certain conditions, including some travel destinations in Europe and the Caribbean.
Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland are working on a vaccine that could protect us from all coronaviruses. On this 6/9/21 podcast on Scientific American, Emily Mullins interviews Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, who leads Walter Reed’s efforts to develop what is known as a universal coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine candidate tested “combines nanoparticles from a blood protein called ferritin with coronavirus proteins”. (Sorry, I’m not sure what that means either.) Modjarrad says that 200 different combinations of spike proteins (a type of complex molecule found on the surface of all coronaviruses), types of ferritin, and ways to get them Ultimately, it revealed a candidate vaccine that repeatedly elicited strong immune responses to SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 and three of its variants in several animal species, from rodents to sharks. The vaccine is now being used on a small group Human tested “If it works and is safe, it could form the basis of a universal coronavirus vaccine,” says Mullin.
You might like Jay Martel’s A Lexicon for the Late Pandemic for The New Yorker (6/14/21).