Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The FDA is stepping up efforts to allow additional doses of coronavirus vaccines for immunocompromised Americans. Experts say it’s a safer alternative to patients seeking to get the vaccine themselves, as many are doing now.
It’s not just immunocompromised people who would benefit: According to recent research, coronavirus infections in patients with weaker immune systems can end up giving rise to more transmissible or virulent variants.
To allow immunocompromised people to receive additional injections, the FDA may change the emergency clearances of at least two of the vaccines, if CDC data supports such a decision, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
The regulatory change is expected this month, and it could also be a first step towards booster shots for other potentially vulnerable Americans – a more controversial strategy that the Biden administration is now considering, despite an outcry from the Organization world health.
Separately, data from a clinical trial in South Africa suggested that a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was very effective in preventing serious illness and death from Delta and Beta variants of the virus, even without booster shots. .
Researchers evaluated a dose of the vaccine in nearly 500,000 healthcare workers at high risk of Covid-19. It was up to 95% effective against Delta variant death and up to 71% against hospitalization, the researchers reported. The vaccine performed slightly worse against the beta variant, which is said to be better at bypassing the immune response than Delta.
Ed Yong on the future of the pandemic
The coronavirus is making headlines again. But sometimes, especially on summer Fridays, I like to take a break from the deluge of virus information.
As part of a series of occasional interviews that will unfold in this newsletter, I will speak with some of the most prominent people about the pandemic, asking them to reflect on the past 18 months and look at what lies ahead.
First, I spoke with Ed Yong, science journalist at The Atlantic, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting for his work on the pandemic. (His answers have been condensed and slightly edited.)
Before the coronavirus, you wrote on possible pandemics. How specific were you about what would happen?
I think the basic theses that we weren’t prepared, and that a pandemic during Donald Trump’s presidency would be catastrophic, were correct. Reality, unfortunately, confirms the predictions. I also explained how overwhelmed our healthcare system is – how we rely on fragile supply chains. And I talked about the overconfidence that some countries have when they haven’t seen a big pandemic in a while.
But there were also things that I didn’t talk about, and those questions have been crucial over the past year. Things like the role of disinformation and the staggering inequalities that Covid has made clear.
As a science journalist, I think I saw pandemic preparedness as a story of science and health. But what I learned last year is that it’s obviously much more than that. The Covid is an omni-crisis. It touches all aspects of society and exposes the failings and vulnerabilities of society everywhere.
Overall, how well has the media covered the pandemic?
It’s really hard to say because we all know the media is not a monolith. So I think you’ve seen great heroic efforts, and you’ve seen work that made it worse – it’s just our industry.
Much of what I have written about the pandemic has argued that our failures are almost always as systemic as they are individual. So what Covid is good at doing is exposing loopholes in entire institutions and entire systems – and the same is true of media and journalism. The Atlantic did a great job, and I was able to do the best job I was capable of because I had a newsroom and writers who gave me time and a mandate to make the big stories. that would really help make sense of this crisis for our readers. And that’s a very privileged position in journalism. Criticism therefore does not fall only on individual journalists. It depends on what kind of ecosystem we’ve all created and allowed to flourish.
What do you think the pandemic will look like over the next year?
I feel like we are in a time that is going to be confusing and uncertain in a slightly different way than last year. In May of last year, I wrote an article on the patchwork pandemic in the United States – on how the spread of Covid is so uneven across the country that people in one state have drastically experienced different with each other. And I think that momentum will only increase over the next year.
So some people are vaccinated, others are not. Some people live in highly immunized communities, others do not. Most people who are vaccinated will be incredibly well protected, some will not. There will just be a huge amount of variation. A lot of people were hoping that the advent of vaccines would be like a global switch for the pandemic, and it’s just going to be more complicated and longer than that.
What about the pandemic that worries you the most?
The legacy of it. I remain very concerned about the long term impacts of the pandemic, and I fear they will be forgotten. There are still who knows how many long-haul travelers are still suffering from the long-term effects of Covid, and there aren’t enough services for them.
Likewise, we do not have the mental health infrastructure to support the people who will suffer the psychological ramifications of the pandemic and the horrors of the past year. Our health care system is going to be weakened because many health care workers have quit, some have died, and others are exhausted and traumatized. We will have massively widened inequalities in terms of gender, race and ability.
Even in the miraculous situation, when everyone, let’s say, gets vaccinated in the world tomorrow, and it actually goes away – everything we’ve been through has already been bad enough. And it’s going to leave scars that we’ll have to deal with for decades to come. And it worries me that we forget to do all of this work because people want so much to forget about the pandemic.
Find out how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.
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What do you do
I am a nurse practitioner and vaccinated. I wear a mask both at work and when I am in public. I have friends and colleagues who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated, and masked and unmasked. My 8 year old grandson just tested positive. My granddaughter will probably be positive soon. Their parents are teachers. I’m done being polite with my words. To get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Think of someone other than yourself and close your mouth on your rights. What are your responsibilities?
– Diane Wright, Connecticut
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