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Early Results Suggest Pfizer Vaccine Will Work Against Coronavirus Mutations

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The COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech looks to be effective against 16 different mutations of the coronavirus, according to a study that has not yet undergone peer review.


As Reuters reported, the study, by researchers at Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch, suggests the vaccine will not need to be tweaked in order to work against a seemingly more contagious variant of the coronavirus that arose in the UK.

The British variant, known as B117, was recently detected in the United States among people who had not travelled to the UK, indicating community spread.

Viral mutations are a typical occurrence and is there no indication that any to date have made COVID-19 more dangerous than it already is. And while vaccines can be tweaked to address new variations, there is no sign that is necessary yet.

“So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news,” Phil Dormitzer, a scientist at Pfizer, said Thursday. “That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t.”

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New Evidence Suggests COVID-19 Immunity Can Last 6 to 8 Months After Infection

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We now have the best answer yet to a crucial, lingering question about COVID-19: how long immunity lasts.

New research suggests that recovered coronavirus patients likely have a robust immune memory that persists for at least eight months.


This memory relies on more than just antibodies; it also involves white blood cells known as T cells and B cells that have impressive powers of recollection.

Combined, these layers of protection enable the immune system to recognise and re-attack the coronavirus should it ever invade again, thereby preventing another infection.

To assess how long immunity to the virus lasts across these various layers of the immune system, scientists measured how many and what types of immune cells recovered coronavirus patients had months after they got sick.

Their research, though not yet peer-reviewed, offers hope that those who’ve already gotten infected likely won’t be ill again for quite some time.

“Most people are making most parts of the immune response to this virus, and those parts are still around six to eight months later,” Shane Crotty, a virologist at La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California and a co-author of the study, told Business Insider. “That looks like generally good news for having protective immunity.”

While antibodies wane, T cells and B cells persist

Some research has suggested that coronavirus antibodies blood proteins that protect the body from subsequent infection fade within a few months.

But concerns about those findings can discount the role of killer T cells, which identify and destroy infected cells, as well as helper T cells that inform B cells about how to craft new antibodies.


“All of those elements are designed to work together: If in any given person one’s not so great, the other arms of the immune system can compensate. So it makes sense to measure everything,” Crotty said.

So his group measured both types of T cells, as well as B cells and antibodies, in blood samples from 185 people who’d recovered from COVID-19.

Nearly 40 of the participants gave blood multiple times, some more than six months after their illness. This enabled the researchers to assess how patients’ immune responses changed over time.

Their results showed that patients’ levels of coronavirus-specific T cells declined slightly between four and six months, then held steady after that. The researchers think it’s likely that lT cells and antibodies stay consistent after that six-month mark, since that’s typical of other viruses.

“It takes one to two weeks for antibodies and T cell responses to develop after an infection. Those then increase and peak,” Alessandro Sette, an immunologist at La Jolla and Crotty’s coauthor, told Business Insider. “Between four and six months they go down, and then tend to plateau out around six months.


“What you see at six to eight months is what you get in terms of immune response, so that’s when you want to look for any indication whether you have developed a memory or not.”

The study results also indicated that patients’ B cell levels increased between the one-month and six-month marks. That’s especially good, Sette explained, since B cells are the source of future antibodies.

“Once the initial viral invasion is gone, B cells will stop fighting, stop making antibodies,” he said. “But they’re still there if the attack resumes: If you have an expanding army of B cells circulating in the body, that would regenerate a antibody response.”

Antibodies, however, declined measurably by the six-month mark, according to the study. But Crotty said that decline is “quite reasonable for any infection” and not on its own a reason to be concerned.

Coronavirus-targeting T cells could last for years

Sette and Crotty could only look at recovered coronavirus patients eight months post-infection, since the pandemic began about a year ago. But they think the slow rate of decline in patients’ T cell and B cell counts means those cells will last far longer than the time period analysed in the study.

“The immune responses are following the expected playbook, and they’re stable over at least eight months,” Sette said, adding that “the trajectory doesn’t indicate they’re going to crash at eight months and one day.”


White blood cells developed in response to other viruses can stick around for years. T cells specific to smallpox, for example, take about 10 years to disappear after an infection, while B cells for that virus stick around for 60 years.

T cells specific to SARS, another coronavirus that shares 80 percent of its genetic code with this new one, also seem to stick around long-term. 

A July study looked for T cells in blood samples from 23 people who survived SARS. Sure enough, those survivors still had SARS-specific memory T cells 17 years after getting sick.

A small number of patients had ‘weak immune memory’

Crotty’s study found that about 90 percent of people develop robust immunity to the coronavirus undergirded by antibodies, T cells, and B cells. But not everyone developed all three immune elements to the same degree, and a small subsection of participants developed only some, or none, of them.

Those patients seem to have “quite weak immune memory,” Crotty said, so could be susceptible to reinfection relatively quickly.

“You really want to have the whole orchestra of the immune system coming together to defeat the virus,” Sette said.

The reason for this person-to-person variation isn’t clear, but the study authors found that patients who fared better during their bout of COVID-19 had multiple types immune cells working for them. Those who fared poorly had one or less.

But until scientists have more time to study the virus, Sette and Crotty said, there won’t be a way to predict how long a given person’s coronavirus immunity will last after they’re infected.

“There’s just no way to do quick blood test to say you’re going to have immune memory for 10 years,” Crotty said. “So we’ll just have to wait and see.”

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‘Surge Upon a Surge’ of Virus Cases Now Threatens to Decimate The US For One Reason

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America should prepare for a “surge upon a surge” in coronavirus cases as millions of travelers return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, top US scientist Anthony Fauci warned Sunday.


The United States is the worst-affected country, with 266,074 COVID-19 deaths, and President Donald Trump’s administration has issued conflicting messages on mask-wearing, travel and the danger posed by the virus.

“There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel,” Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union.

Travel surrounding Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday made this the busiest week in US airports since the pandemic began.

“We may see a surge upon a surge” in two or three weeks, Fauci added. “We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s the reality.”

The trend is ominous, Fauci and other government scientists said, with the Christmas holidays soon bringing more travel and family gatherings.

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted a surge in COVID-19 after a holiday weekend in May.

“Now we’re entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country,’ she told CBS’s Face the Nation.

The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, was equally blunt.

“I want to be straight with the American people,” he told Fox News Sunday. “It’s going to get worse over the next several weeks.”


Desperate wait for vaccine

Elsewhere, thousands of health workers marched in Madrid in support of the public health system in Spain, one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

And guards opened fire to quell a prison riot in Sri Lanka, where four inmates were killed while protesting a surge of coronavirus infections.

In France, the highest administrative court ordered the government to loosen rules allowing no more than 30 people at religious services, in the face of angry objections from church leaders.

Around 9,000 runners – some wearing face masks – took part in the Shanghai International Marathon, according to Chinese media, a mass-participation sports event rare during the pandemic.

And New York City again took a small step back toward normality, as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that elementary schools would reopen for in-person instruction on December 7.

The US news media, meantime, reported that first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 – one of the first to claim high effectiveness, along with a Moderna product – had arrived in the United States from a Pfizer lab in Belgium.


Pfizer was using charter flights to pre-position vaccine for quick distribution once it receives US emergency authorization – expected as early as December 10 – the Wall Street Journal and other media reported.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both said to be safe and perhaps 95 percent effective, have introduced a glimmer of hope after months of gloomy news.

“This is the way we get out of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the US official overseeing coronavirus testing, told CNN.

But like Fauci and the other scientists, he expressed grave concerns about the months immediately ahead.

“About 20 percent of all people in the hospital have COVID, so this is a really dangerous time,” Giroir said.

Europe struggles to reopen

Until large numbers of Americans have been vaccinated – Giroir said half the eligible population might be by March – much will still depend on people taking precautions, including mask-wearing and distancing, he and Fauci said.

Giroir said it might take until the second or third quarter of next year for most Americans to be vaccinated, but that substantial benefits would accrue much sooner.


By first vaccinating those at highest risk, he said, “we can absolutely get 80 percent of the benefit of the vaccine by only immunizing a few percent of the population.”

Adams, the US surgeon general also expressed cautious optimism, saying, “We are mere weeks away from starting to vaccinate the vulnerable, and we can significantly protect people who are at risk for this virus.

“So hang on just a little bit longer.”

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,453,074 people worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.

Europe on Saturday crossed a grim barrier, registering 400,649 deaths.

Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe’s coronavirus nightmare, reached on Friday the mark of more than one million cases.

© Agence France-Presse


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A Day-by-Day Breakdown of Coronavirus Symptoms Shows How The Disease Progresses

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As doctors observe a growing number of coronavirus patients, they have identified a few patterns in how typical symptoms progress.

As many as 40 percent of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. And 20 percent of symptomatic cases become severe or critical.


Among patients who develop symptoms, a fever and cough are usually the first to arrive. They’re often followed by a sore throat, headache, muscle aches and pains, nausea, or diarrhoea (though in severe cases, gastrointestinal issues can appear earlier in the course of an infection).

Patients with severe infections tend to develop difficulty breathing – one of the virus‘ hallmark symptoms – around five days after symptoms start.

But symptoms generally don’t appear right after a person has been infected. The virus’ median incubation period is about four to five days, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

During that time, an infected person likely won’t yet know they’re sick, but evidence shows they could transmit the virus during the presymptomatic phase.

A day-by-day breakdown

After observing thousands of patients during China’s outbreak earlier this year, hospitals there identified a pattern of symptoms among COVID-19 patients:


  • Day 1: Symptoms start off mild. Patients usually experience a fever, followed by a cough. A minority may have had diarrhoea or nausea one or two days before this, which could be a sign of a more severe infection.
  • Day 3: This is how long it took, on average, before patients in Wenzhou were admitted to the hospital after their symptoms started. A study of more than 550 hospitals across China also found that hospitalized patients developed pneumonia on the third day of their illness.
  • Day 5: In severe cases, symptoms could start to worsen. Patients may have difficulty breathing, especially if they are older or have a preexisting health condition.
  • Day 7: This is how long it took, on average, for some patients in Wuhan to be admitted to the hospital after their symptoms started. Other Wuhan patients developed shortness of breath on this day.
  • Day 8: By this point, patients with severe cases will have most likely developed shortness of breath, pneumonia, or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), an illness that may require intubation. ARDS is often fatal.
  • Day 9: Some Wuhan patients developed sepsis, an infection caused by an aggressive immune response, on this day.
  • Days 10-11: If patients have worsening symptoms, this is the time in the disease’s progression when they’re likely to be admitted to the ICU. These patients probably have more abdominal pain and appetite loss than patients with milder cases.
  • Day 12: In some cases, patients don’t develop ARDS until nearly two weeks after their illness started. One Wuhan study found that it took 12 days, on average, before patients were admitted to the ICU. Recovered patients may see their fevers resolve after 12 days.
  • Day 16: Patients may see their coughs resolve on this day, according to a Wuhan study.
  • Day 17-21: On average, people in Wuhan either recovered from the virus and were discharged from the hospital or passed away after 2.5 to 3 weeks.
  • Day 19: Patients may see their shortness of breath resolve on this day, according to a Wuhan study.
  • Day 27: Some patients stay in the hospital for longer. The average stay for Wenzhou patients was 27 days.

5f7dee2b94fce90018f7ba8d(Shayanne Gal/Insider)

Just because patients leave the hospital, though, doesn’t mean their symptoms are fully gone. Some coronavirus patients report having symptoms for months, including chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, heart palpitations, and loss of taste and smell.

People who got sick and were never hospitalized can have lingering symptoms, too.


July report from CDC researchers found that among nearly 300 symptomatic patients, 35 percent had not returned to their usual state of health two to three weeks after testing positive.

Patients who felt better after a few weeks said their symptoms typically resolved four to eight days after getting tested. Loss of taste and smell usually took the longest to get back to normal, they said: around eight days, on average.

COVID-19 may be a vascular disease more than a respiratory one

Though the coronavirus attacks the lungs first, it can infect the heart, kidneys, liver, brain, and intestines as well. Some research has suggested that COVID-19 is a vascular disease instead of a respiratory one, meaning it can travel through the blood vessels. This is the reason for additional complications like heart damage or stroke.

Scientists have a few theories about why some coronavirus patients take a rapid turn for the worse. One is that immune systems overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” – a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.


Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonary physician at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Centre, compared that process to an earthquake – generally, it’s the falling buildings that kill someone, not the quake itself.

“Your infection is a rattling of your immune system,” he said. “If your immune system is just not well structured, it’s just going to collapse.”

The most concerning symptom: shortness of breath

Once symptoms appear, some early signs should be treated with more caution than others.

“I would of course always ask about shortness of breath before anything, because that’s somebody who has to be immediately helped,” Megan Coffee, an infectious-disease clinician who analysed the Wenzhou data, told Business Insider.

Patients who develop ARDS may need to be put on a ventilator in ICU. Coffee estimated that one in four hospitalized COVID-19 patients wind up on the ICU track. Those who are ultimately discharged, she added, should expect another month of rest, rehabilitation, and recovery.

But viewing coronavirus infections based on averages can hide the fact that the disease often doesn’t progress in a linear fashion.

“Courses can step by step worsen progressively. They can wax and wane, doing well one day, worse the next,” Coffee said.

“An 80-year-old man with medical issues can do quite well. Sometimes a 40-year-old woman with no medical issues doesn’t.”

This story was originally published February 21, 2020. It has been updated over time with additional research findings.

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On The Eve of Thanksgiving, The US Recorded Its Highest COVID-19 Death Toll Since May

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Thanksgiving could not be better designed to be a coronavirus superspreading event.

Already, COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are skyrocketing around the US, approaching a new peak. Thanksgiving will likely accelerate that uptick, allowing the virus to enter millions of densely-packed and insufficiently-ventilated homes.


As of Thursday, at least 12.8 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University

The COVID Tracking Project reported that nearly 90,000 people in the US were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, with hospitalizations breaking national records daily for the past 16 days.

More than 262,400 Americans have died of COVID-19, and more than 2,300 of them died on Wednesday alone. This week marks the first time the US has surpassed 2,000 daily deaths since early May, per The New York Times.

It’s been more than 10 months since the first coronavirus case was detected in the US, but these grim milestones are becoming more frequent.

Still, President Donald Trump, who tested positive in October, has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus, insisting that the country is “rounding the turn” and that COVID-19 will “just disappear”

The White House is even planning indoor holiday parties over Christmas and Hanukkah, officials told Axios.

The opportunity to ‘translocate disease’ across the US

Health experts have urged Americans to reimagine Thanksgiving and the 2020 holiday season and avoid situations where they can contract or transmit the virus. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has asked people to avoid mixing households and to hold small, brief, and masked gatherings that are outdoors, if possible.

Travel has been a major point of concern with the CDC categorising medium-sized events with people travelling from outside the area as “higher-risk”.

“Right now, as we’re seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Dr. Henry Walke, the COVID-19 incident manager at the CDC, told reporters on November 19.


One in 3 Americans aren’t changing their plans

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, made a “final plea before the holiday” while speaking to ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday.

“We all know how difficult that is because this is such a beautiful, traditional holiday. But by making that sacrifice, you’re going to prevent people from getting infected,” said Fauci, whose own daughters declined to travel home for Thanksgiving in a bid to protect their 79-year-old father.

He added: “If we can just hang in there a bit longer and continue to do the simple mitigation things that we’re talking about all the time – the masks, the distancing, the avoiding crowds, particularly indoors. If we do those things, we’re going to get through it.”

Still, not everyone has heeded this advice. An Insider poll of 1,110 people in the US revealed that nearly one in three people surveyed – or 37 percent – are not doing things differently this year. And 57 percent of respondents said they plan to bring different households together around their dinner tables in the absence of masks and open windows.

Airports are also seeing a surge in travellers. The Transportation Security Administration reported screening more than 1 million passengers last Friday and then again on Sunday and on Wednesday. These have been the biggest days for air travel since March 16, per the agency’s logs.


Daily COVID-19 deaths could double in the next 10 days

Meanwhile, the CDC published a forecast on Wednesday projecting an increase in coronavirus deaths over the next four weeks, with between 10,600 and 21,400 new deaths likely to be reported the week of December 19.

“The national ensemble predicts that a total of 294,000 to 321,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by this date,” the CDC said.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, predicted to CNN that daily recorded deaths will not simply jump but double in the coming 10 days.

5fbfe16d037cbd0018612804Daily new COVID-19 deaths in the US. (Worldometers)

There’s about a two-week lag between people getting infected and winding up in hospitals, with symptoms showing up around five to seven days in.

“We’ll be seeing close to 4,000 deaths a day,” he said on Thursday.

And as it gets colder and people move indoors, experts are concerned about a “humanitarian crisis,” Dr. John Brownstein from Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News.

“If we layer in travel and large indoor gatherings which we know are drivers of transmission, we expect to see a massive surge on top of an already dire situation,” he said.


Michael Osterholm, the director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, echoed that sentiment.

“I worry that the Thanksgiving Day surge will then just add into what will become the Christmas surge, which will then make this one seem as if it wasn’t so bad,” he told CNN, adding, “We have to understand we’re in a very dangerous place. People have to stop swapping air. It’s just that simple.”

Already, medical resources across the country are being stretched thin, with nurses and doctors working around the clock and risking exposure to the coronavirus themselves.

Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Centre in Houston, Texas, told CNN that the pandemic has forced him to work 251 days in a row. His hospital is at maximum capacity, and scrambling to open two new wings in preparation for an influx of patients after Thanksgiving.

Varon described treating people amid the pandemic as “a never-ending story,” and warned of a rapidly deteriorating situation nationwide, without proper precautions.

“My concerns for the next six to 12 weeks is that if we don’t do things right, America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history,” he said.

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Moderna Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Is 94.5% Effective. Here’s What You Need to Know

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We just took another big step forward in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Moderna on Monday said that its experimental vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The findings come from a massive and well-designed study, but they haven’t been reviewed by outside experts or by regulators.


The news comes just one week after Pfizer shared that its vaccine was effective in preventing COVID-19, sending markets soaring on the hope that an effective vaccine would help end the pandemic.

There’s a lot to keep in mind about what the results mean for the pandemic and for when Americans might be able to get a shot now that two vaccines have proven successful.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Moderna’s vaccine is 94.5 percent effective

As of Moderna’s initial analysis of its late-stage, 30,000-person trial, its vaccine is 94.5 percent effective. Pfizer reported that its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.

Those numbers may change as we get more data on trial participants who’ve gotten infected with COVID-19.

Even so, the results are better than many experts expected. Prior to Moderna and Pfizer’s announcements, Dr Paul Offit, a vaccine expert, told Business Insider he hoped to see a shot that reduced the chances of getting moderate or severe disease by 70 percent, adding that anything more than 50 percent would be valuable.

Vaccine effectiveness varies. Some, like the seasonal flu vaccine can be as low as 44 percent effective, while shots that prevent polio and measles are 99 percent and 97 percent effective, respectively.

Up next, Moderna plans to submit the vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization. It’s waiting on key safety data before submitting.


2. Having two effective vaccines is great news for society

Stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus will require wide-scale vaccination efforts around the world.

Should the FDA authorise the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer, we will have a limited supply of shots at first.

Having two effective vaccines, however, should help increase distribution. Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, said he anticipates 20 million Americans will get coronavirus vaccines in December, if both vaccines are approved.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Sunday said he anticipates a return to “relative normal” in 2021 if the majority of Americans get vaccinated.

Both vaccines are given as two doses. Pfizer’s regimen is space out by 21 days, while Moderna’s second dose comes 28 days after the first.

3. The pandemic’s end could be in sight, but a vaccine’s impact won’t be immediate

Success on vaccines is reason for celebration. But it will still take many months to roll out a vaccine to everyone, and people need to continue wearing masks and social distancing.

The pandemic is raging across the US with surges in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The shots are still experimental and the process to authorise a shot will likely take weeks, Peter Marks, the FDA’s director of the Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told Business Insider in a November 13 interview.


“We all need to still be very focused,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said, emphasising that masks and social-distancing are the best tools we have.

Bancel, for instance, said he won’t see his in-laws in Seattle or any friends for Thanksgiving, as he typically does.

“That’s just the price we going to have to pay to play our role so that we minimise the risk of contamination and we protect those who are at highest risk,” Bancel said in a Sunday evening interview.

4. Moderna’s vaccine can be stored in standard refrigerators for up to 30 days

Moderna’s vaccine won’t require a deep-freeze, unlike Pfizer’s shot.

Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be shipped and stored at negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature colder than what’s needed to store most other vaccines. That can be challenging in the US and presents even more of an obstacle in some other countries.

Pfizer will ship the vaccine by air and land using dry ice, along with reusable GPS temperature-monitoring devices.

Moderna’s meanwhile can be stored using standard refrigeration for up to 30 days, the company said on Monday. That greatly simplifies the distribution challenge compared to Pfizer’s shot.


The shot is stable for a month at anywhere from 36 degrees Fahrenheit to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the standard temperatures of refrigerators.

Moderna’s vaccine can also be stored for up to six months at -4 degrees Fahrenheit, a typical temperature requirement that hospitals and clinics are used to.

Pfizer is already working on a next-generation version of its shot that wouldn’t need to kept at extremely cold temperatures, the company’s chief scientific officer told Business Insider.

5. Moderna’s success signals that Pfizer’s vaccine results weren’t a fluke

Pfizer and Moderna both developed messenger-RNA vaccines, which require just the genetic code of the virus to engineer an experimental vaccine. Pfizer’s results in November were the first data from a large-scale study to indicate that the technology works in humans.

While it might not necessarily signal success for other coronavirus vaccines in development, it does mean that Pfizer’s success wasn’t a one-off incident.

The successful results from Pfizer and Moderna should also validate the target that all the frontrunners are going after. All these shots target the same portion of the coronavirus: its spike protein.

Finally, the findings are a huge moment for mRNA as a platform. Moderna is working on several other vaccine candidates for Zika, influenza, cytomegalovirus or CMV, and respiratory syncytial virus or RSV. Bancel said he now has greater confidence in finding success against other diseases.

“It’s copy and paste,” Bancel said. “So the Zika vaccine, the CMV vaccine, if this vaccine shows high efficacy, they are going to have high efficacy. It’s just science.”

6. All 11 severe cases of COVID-19 in Moderna’s trial happened in participants who received a placebo shot

Moderna noted in its release that it has recorded 11 severe cases of COVID-19 among trial participants.

All of the participants who had severe cases of COVID-19 were a part of the placebo arm, Moderna said.

This is the piece of data that excited Moderna’s CEO the most, Bancel said. While he emphasised these aren’t the final study results, the early findings mean “we might have a chance to prevent severe disease.”

That means they hadn’t received the experimental vaccine.

Moderna also broke down the 95 COVID-19 cases it documented by age and background. Among the cases, 15 were in adults 65 and older, and 20 participants who got COVID-19 identified themselves as being part of a diverse community.

7. Nearly 10 percent of participants experienced fatigue that was severe enough to interfere with daily life

Moderna’s vaccine comes with some notable side effects.

While most side effects from Moderna’s shots were mild or moderate, some volunteers did have severe side effects, which are medically significant but not immediately life-threatening.

These mainly happened after the second injection. Even so, the most common severe side effects were fatigue in 9.7 percent of participants, and severe muscle pains or aches, which occured in 8.9 percent of participants. Known as Grade 3 events, these are side effects so severe that they interfere with daily life or activities for a period of time. Moderna said they were mostly “short-lived.”

5.2 percent of participants experienced severe joint pain, 4.5 percent had bad headaches, 4.1 percent experienced injection-site pain, and 2.0 percent had redness at the injection site.

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6 Reasons Why Herd Immunity Without a Vaccine Is a Terrible Idea in This Pandemic

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It’s a tantalising prospect to think that herd immunity could end the coronavirus pandemic. If true herd immunity were achieved, the coronavirus would no longer spread, and we could go back to normal life as we knew it before.


But herd immunity is tricky to pull off. It can only be achieved in two ways: by getting lots of people sick, or by giving lots of people an effective, safe vaccine.

The goal is the same: to get a sizeable majority of the population resistant to infection, so that a disease can no longer spread among our collective ‘herd’.

The consensus among epidemiologists is that chasing herd immunity without a vaccine would not work. It risks too many unnecessary deaths.

Even so, the concept has become a topic of conversation in households, on social media, on TV, in bars – with people asking: “Why not try it?” Those conversations gained steam last month when the White House propped up The Great Barrington Declaration, a document drafted at a Libertarian think tank suggesting that most people should try to go for herd immunity, encouraging infections among the world’s young, healthy population.

“For people who are under … let’s say 60 or 50, the lockdown harms are, mentally and physically, worse than COVID,” Jay Bhattacharya, one of the authors of the declaration said last week, during a debate hosted by the medical journal JAMA.


Opposite him was epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch from Harvard, one of the thousands of leading experts who signed on to a stinging rebuttal of the declaration, who explained why the approach is so dangerous.

“I think it’s a great idea to look for creative solutions, but nobody responsible would abandon what we know works, which is controlling viral spread,” Lipsitch said.

Their conversation threw up six overarching reasons why achieving natural herd immunity – the kind that doesn’t require a coronavirus vaccine – won’t work.

One: Nobody thinks it’s a good idea to get everybody infected, but just targeting the young is near impossible

You’d be hard pressed to find a serious public health expert who thinks natural herd immunity will work.

Leaders in Sweden recently backtracked on their unique stab at herd immunity against the virus because it killed so many people in their nursing homes.

Bhattacharya name-checked Sweden as a good example of herd immunity done right.

But, when pressed, he agreed that letting anyone in the population get sick in order to drive up disease resistance in the community is not a good idea. “You should social distance when you can, definitely use masks when you can’t social distance,” he said. “All of the mitigation measures are really important.”


Even Sweden’s approach did not follow what the Great Barrington Declaration suggests: “focused protection” for the vulnerable, and focused infection of the young and healthy.

Bhattacharya asked listeners for their ideas about how to achieve this focused approach, and added a few of his own ideas, including employing rapid testing in nursing homes and multi-generational households, and isolating cases.

“We protect the vulnerable with every single tool we have,” he said. “We use our testing resources. We use our staff rotations in nursing homes. We use PPE. We do all kinds of things.”

The problem is, those ideas are already being tried across the US, to only mixed success.

Nevada has found the US’s new federal rapid testing protocol in nursing homes so unreliable that the state sought to ban them last month, a nursing home workforce already spread thin is getting sick, and case isolation is near-impossible to achieve in the dangerous pre-symptomatic phase of many illnesses, when people may transmit their virus to others before they even know they have it.

Two: COVID-19 has many long-term side effects that will impact lives and the healthcare system for years to come

The second issue with this idea of “focused protection” is that we don’t actually know who we need to protect.

“For younger populations, and people who are less at risk, frankly, COVID is less of a risk than the lockdown,” Bhattacharya said, reiterating that such closures harm people’s psychological, mental, and physical health.


But COVID-19 doesn’t just kill people. It also has devastating long-term effects on many of its survivors, including debilitating brain foghair lossswollen toes and scaly rashestinnitus, and loss of smell.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention notes that nearly half (45.4 percent) of the adult population in the US is at risk for COVID-19 complications – including death – “because of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, hypertension, or cancer.”

Three: We don’t actually know who COVID-19 kills and why

The argument for “focused protection” also ignores the reality of what we have learned about the coronavirus: it has killed people of every age, race, and sex, as it tears through community after community across the planet.

In the US, more than 45,500 people under the age of 65 have died from the coronavirus to date, according to the CDC.

It’s impossible to know, before someone becomes infected, what their true risk is. Children have died. So have college students, and many others who did not necessarily have hallmark preconditions.

Scientists are still studying the virus to better understand how it works, but a unifying thread among severe cases may be how many ACE-2 receptors (which the virus uses to invade our cells) we have.

Four: Lockdowns save lives

Lockdowns, though they are an extreme disease-fighting measure, have saved tens of thousands of lives around the world, on nearly every continent.

It’s true that there have been adverse consequences. Many people have lost their jobs, shuttered their businesses, missed doctor’s appointments, experienced more loneliness, and started drinking more alcohol.

When schools are closed, more kids go hungry, and education gets interrupted too. Domestic abuse, child abuse, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation have all gone up in recent months in the US.

“I have not been able to go to church in person, really, in seven months,” Bhattacharya lamented.

However, these measures have bought critical, life-saving time for developing vaccines, formulating drugs, and discovering best practices for patient treatment. “Six months from now, [a] case might be prevented by vaccination, or might be treated by a better therapeutic,” Lipsitch said.

Bhattacharya also argued that lockdowns are “the single biggest generator of inequality since segregation.”

But that is a deeply misleading statement. Racial inequality, for example, has not been generated by the pandemic, if anything it’s only been unmasked.

“Obviously, the African-American community has suffered from racism for a very, very long period of time,” Dr. Fauci told members of Congress in June. “

And I cannot imagine that that has not contributed to the conditions that they find themselves in, economically and otherwise.”

Five: Getting rid of the virus is possible, and it doesn’t require killing people

Bhattacharya, and other backers of herd immunity, often peddle a false dichotomy between lockdowns and “normal life,” with no grey area or room for virus-fighting in between.

But that either-or approach doesn’t take into account how much mitigation measures like distancing, avoiding crowds, and getting everybody wearing masks can really help slow viral transmission.

Besides, the US hasn’t ever really, truly tried to lock down yet. Even in the spring, “we really functionally shut down only about 50 percent,” Fauci recently told members of Congress.

Countries including AustraliaNew Zealand, and China have already achieved the “impossible goal” of zero (or, near zero) COVID, and have largely gone back to normal life after strict lockdowns

Taiwan even did it without locking down at all, by instituting strict screening and surveillance measures, effective isolation and quarantining, and widespread masking.

Six: Natural herd immunity probably won’t work for this pandemic, no matter how hard we try

The US, like everywhere else in the world, still has a long way to go to hit even some of the lowest posited herd immunity thresholds, which require 50 percent (or more) of the population to be exposed, and subsequently immune. At best, only around 10 percent to 20 percent of people nationwide have been exposed.

But even if everyone was to become exposed to the virus, natural herd immunity likely still wouldn’t work.

This is because of the way that our immunity against all coronaviruses – from common colds to this novel coronavirus – wanes over time. Immunity to this virus through prior infection is not definitive, or lasting: coronavirus reinfections are possible, and they’re happening in some rare cases already.

That’s why serious scientists agree it’s better to wait for a vaccine, and build up our collective immunity against the virus simultaneously.

“Humans are not herds,” the WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies Mike Ryan said in May, slamming the idea.

“I think we need to be really careful when we use terms in this way around natural infections in humans, because it can lead to a very brutal arithmetic which does not put people, and life, and suffering at the centre of that equation.”

One projection suggests that attempting herd immunity in the US would result in 640,000 deaths by February 2023.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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US Could Have 1 Million Daily Virus Cases by The End of The Year, Report Finds

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In March, when New York City hospitals were reeling from an overwhelming surge of coronavirus cases, the US was only catching a glimpse of the bigger crisis to come.

The highest number of cases ever recorded in one day this spring was around 35,000, though many went uncounted. Now, the US has recorded an average of more than 112,000 daily cases over the last seven days. Cases reached an all-time peak of more than 132,000 on Friday.


On Monday, the US surpassed 10 million total cases – just 10 days after cases topped 9 million. Before that, it took two weeks for cases to rise from 8 million to 9 million, and three weeks for cases to jump from 7 million to 8 million.

The nation’s weekly per cent positivity rate – the share of coronavirus tests that come back positive – has reached 9 percent. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said the rate should ideally sit below 3 percent. Only six states and Washington, DC, currently meet that threshold. Half of states have test-positivity rates in the double digits. South Dakota’s rate is highest, at around 54 percent.

Experts predict this fall-winter surge will be the largest, and perhaps deadliest, yet. Indeed, the second surge the country experienced over the summer, from June through August, resulted in nearly 4.2 million cases. Since September, the US has already recorded about 4 million more.

According to a recent prediction from Pantheon Macroeconomics, the US could be on track to record 1 million daily coronavirus cases by the end of 2020 if average cases continue to grow 34 percent from week to week, as they are currently.

new daily cases bi chart

The US is ‘about to enter COVID hell’

Other models offer more conservative, albeit still troubling, estimates.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, for instance, predicts that daily cases could peak at nearly 306,000 on December 31. (The institute defines daily cases as all infections on a given day, not just new cases identified through testing.)


If states continue to relax restrictions, the model suggests the fall-winter surge could be even worse, reaching a peak of nearly 793,000 daily cases on January 23. The institute’s model predicts that 160,000 more people in the US could die of the coronavirus from now through February 1.

“I am tremendously concerned,” Megan Ranney, an emergency-medicine physician at Brown University, told Business Insider.

“The other surges were very localised,” she added. “This is different because it is truly nationwide.”

Weekly hospitalizations have also risen about 18 percent from week to week. If that trend continues, daily hospitalizations could triple to 180,000 by the end of the year.

On Monday, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a recent appointee to President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, told CNBC that the US was “about to enter COVID hell.”

But public-experts say the US can lower daily cases – and consequently, deaths – this winter, before a vaccine hits the market. The solution would involve more lockdown restrictions.

Lockdown measures could prevent a worst-case scenario

In a Monday report, Pantheon Macroeconomics’ chief economist, Ian Sherpherdson, warned that the US should brace for the worst-case scenario of 1 million daily cases this winter. The longer states and cities wait to impose lockdown restrictions, he added, the more likely that scenario becomes.

“When it gets as bad as it appears to be in some parts of the country, and potentially others in the weeks to come, you really have little choice left than to do a short-term lockdown, trying to get the numbers down to a point where testing and contact tracing can actually have an impact,” Marissa Levine, a public-health professor at the University of South Florida, told Business Insider. “I hate to say that because we didn’t necessarily have to be in this position.”


Many states are taking the opposite approach, however.

In October, Texas began allowing counties with relatively few coronavirus hospitalizations to reopen bars and other businesses at limited capacity. Pennsylvania, too, started permitting venues like concerts and stadiums to operate at 10 percent to 25 percent occupancy. Restaurants in South Carolina have been able to operate at full capacity since October 2.

Other states have reinstated some restrictions, but not nearly to the extent that they did in the spring.

Illinois, Massachussetts, and New Mexico recently imposed curfews that limit how late certain businesses can remain open. Illinois began prohibiting indoor dining in bars and restaurants earlier this month. And at the end of October, Michigan reduced the maximum capacity at indoor venues from 500 people to 50.

Some other states – including Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, and North Carolina – have simply put their reopening plans on pause.

Public-health experts say it’s likely that under a Biden administration, states may get more concrete guidelines as to when they can safely reopen or should enact new restrictions. Biden’s campaign website at one time stated that if elected, he would tailor reopening guidelines to individual communities based on their levels of transmission.


But any lockdown is likely to be met with some opposition, due to a combination of pandemic fatigue and politics.

“Even if we make it completely clear: ‘This is the line, if you cross this line, you should shut down,’ it’s still ultimately a political decision,” Ingrid Katz, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, told Business Insider. “If decisions are being driven by forces other than science, then they are not always going to be decisions that are in people’s best interests.”

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Here’s a Timeline on How The COVID-19 Vaccine Might Reach People, if All Goes Well

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Drugmaker Pfizer said on Monday that its coronavirus vaccine had succeeded in the final stage of clinical trials, and is more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

As Business Insider’s Andrew Dunn reported, developing a vaccine for a brand-new virus in less than a year is something that has never been achieved.


But announcing a vaccine and having large numbers of people receive it are two different things.

Here is Business Insider’s summary of what needs to happen next, and how long it might take:

  • Pfizer wants more data on the vaccine’s safety before moving ahead. It says the data will be available the week of November 16.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration then needs to decide whether to give emergency approval. It is unclear how long this might take, but the agency has said it wants to move fast. (Another caveat: The authorization at first may only be for the most at-risk groups like the elderly and healthcare workers.)
  • Pfizer said some doses can be delivered this year – but only 50 million for the whole world.
  • Each dose takes two shots, so the 50 million doses are only good for 25 million people. Patients also have to wait three weeks between their first and second shots.
  • 2021 is when the bulk of doses will arrive – up to 1.3 billion. This is when people who aren’t considered high risk might start to get it.
  • The vaccine has to be moved at ultra-cold temperatures – as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 70 degrees Celsius – which could make it hard to get to some places quickly.
  • Other logistical issues – like a shortage of glass vials – could stand in the way of a smooth vaccine rollout.

A number of countries have already put in orders for millions of doses of the vaccine, in the hopes that it will work to protect their populations, including the US, the UK, Canada, Japan, and countries across the European Union.

Other companies around the world are also working on producing coronavirus vaccines, with results expected soon.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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It’s Official. The World Has Surpassed 50 Million Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

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There are over 50 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

With about 10 million cases, the United States is the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases, followed immediately by India and Brazil. At least 230,000 people have died from the disease in the United States.


The World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.

The coronavirus has killed more Americans than every war US troops have died in since 1945 combined, Business Insider’s John Haltiwanger reported. The leading cause of death for Americans, heart disease, typically kills fewer than 650,000 people a year in the US.

The pandemic has created uncertainty and instability, leading to roiled marketsshuttering many small businesses nationwide, and forcing the world to adapt to a new normal.

For nearly nine months, people have been learning to live under once unfamiliar laws and recommendations from health officials. Quarantining, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks have become the relative norm in most countries.

But as the numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise, health officials say practices will remain the new norm well into 2021 and possibly 2022.

Meanwhile, scientists and pharmaceutical companies have been racing to create a vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

But it will take more time to release safe and effective shots – and even longer to inoculate enough of the global population to achieve herd immunity.

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