Archive for Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce

Pfizer’s vaccine cuts the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization in teens by 93% in a CDC analysis

A boy receives the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Tegucigalpa, on September 25, 2021, during a vaccination programme for teens aged 12 to 15
A boy receives the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Tegucigalpa, on September 25, 2021, during a vaccination programme for teens aged 12 to 15
  • Pfizer's vaccine strongly protects teens against severe COVID-19 after two doses, CDC data suggests.
  • 97% of US teens hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated in the cases the CDC studied.
  • Vaccines were "imperative" to reduce severe COVID-19 among young people, researchers said.

Pfizer's vaccine strongly protects teenagers against severe COVID-19 after two doses, real-world US data suggests.

An analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published on Tuesday, found that full vaccination "reduced the risk for COVID-19 hospitalization in persons aged 12 to 18 years by 93%."

The study was one of the largest of its kind to pinpoint vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 hospitalization in adolescents during a period where the highly infectious Delta variant was dominant, the study authors said.

It "reinforces the importance of vaccination to protect US youths against severe COVID-19," they said, adding that, as in-person school attendance increases, vaccines were "imperative" to reduce the incidence of severe COVID-19 among young people.

In early September, US pediatric hospital admissions reached their highest level since the start of the pandemic, the CDC's COVID-NET tracker shows.

As of Monday, 46% of US adolescents aged 12 to 15 years and 54% of those aged 16 to 17 years were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC. Pfizer's vaccine is currently the only shot in the US authorized for teens.

The researchers found that, in a study of 464 teens admitted to 19 hospitals across 16 states between June 1 and September 30, 179 had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 285 didn't have the virus.

Nearly all, 97%, of those admitted with COVID-19 were unvaccinated, the study authors said. About two-thirds of those in the non-COVID-19 group hadn't had a shot, they said. Adolescents who had received one vaccine dose were excluded from the analysis.

To get to the 93% figure, the researchers used statistical methods to compare the likelihood of being vaccinated among teens hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to teens hospitalized without the virus.

In the group hospitalized with COVID-19, 77 of the 179, or 43%, required intensive care and two died, the study authors said. All of them were unvaccinated, they said, cautioning that vaccination status was sometimes self-reported so misclassification was possible in a few cases.

Most people in the study, 72%, had an underlying medical condition, such as obesity, the authors said. But the study was too small to estimate vaccine effectiveness according to specific medical conditions, they said.

The majority of teens, 61%, were from southern states due to high levels of COVID-19 in that region at the time. This "might limit the representativeness of the sample", the authors said.

It was also not possible to tell from the study how long vaccine protection lasts, they said.

Despite its limitations, the study adds to a growing body of research that suggests vaccines protect teens from the most severe effects of COVID-19.

A previous CDC study published on September 3 found that the COVID-19 hospitalization rate among unvaccinated adolescents was about 10 times higher than adolescents who were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Late-stage trials of Pfizer's shot estimated that it had an efficacy of 100% against COVID-19 hospitalization in teens, but the numbers were small.

More recently, real-world data from Israel published in Emerging Infectious Disease on September 27 found Pfizer's vaccine was 91.5% effective against COVID-19 hospitalization in 12 to 15 year olds, but there weren't enough people in the study that caught COVID-19 to provide a precise estimate.

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AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 drug cuts the risk of severe disease in half. It’s the first antibody cocktail shown to both prevent and treat the disease in late-stage trials.

Dan Pelletier, a pharmacy technicinan specialist at Maine Medical Center, demonstrates the process of preparing anitibodies used to treat COVID19 patients.
Dan Pelletier, a pharmacy technician specialist at Maine Medical Center, demonstrates the process of preparing antibodies used to treat COVID19 patients.
  • AstraZeneca said its antibody drug cut the risk of severe COVID-19 in half in a late-stage study.
  • The drug, called AZD7442, is a combination of two antibodies given as an injection.
  • AstraZeneca said it's the only drug of its kind shown to both prevent and treat COVID-19.

AstraZeneca's antibody drug cut the risk of severe COVID-19 by at least 50% in a late stage study, the company announced on Monday.

The injection, called AZD7442, contains two different antibodies developed from the the blood of people who previously contracted COVID-19. It's the drug first of its kind shown to both prevent and treat COVID-19 in late-stage trials, the company said in a press release.

The company has already requested Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to use AZD7442 to prevent COVID-19, after late-stage trial results in August showed it reduced the risk of COVID-19 with symptoms by 77%.

It would now discuss the latest data with health authorities, it said.

The results come after Merck, the US pharmaceutical company, said on Monday it would ask the FDA to authorize its oral COVID-19 pill, which halved the risk of hospitalization or death in a trial.

The latest AstraZeneca results, from the TACKLE trial, showed that the risk of severe COVID-19 or death was halved if people took the drug within seven days of COVID-19 symptoms, AstraZeneca said. Out of 407 people who got the drug, 18 developed severe COVID-19 or died - compared with 37 of 415 people who got a saline injection.

If AZD7442 was given earlier, within five days of symptoms, the risk of severe COVID-19 was reduced by 67%, the company said. On this timing, nine of 253 participants in the AZD7442 group got severe COVID-19 or died, compared with 27 out of 251 in the placebo group.

AstraZeneca tested the drug on 822 adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 in 13 countries, including the US and UK, it said. The drug, which works by stopping the virus that causes COVID-19 from binding to the body's cells, was "generally well tolerated," it said in the release. It didn't detail any side effects.

Protection for vulnerable people

Mene Pangalos, executive vice president at AstraZeneca, said in a statement that "early intervention with our antibody can give a significant reduction in progression to severe disease, with continued protection for more than six months."

AstraZeneca looked at the drug's impact at day 29 of the TACKLE study, which is expected to follow participants for up to 15 months. AstraZeneca's early stage studies have previously shown that antibodies last at least nine months after the drug is given.

Penny Ward, visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at Kings College, London, said in a statement that long lasting protection, up to 12 months, may be "a useful addition for immune-suppressed individuals whose response to vaccination is suboptimal."

Most people in the trial, 90%, had comorbidities that put them at high risk of severe COVID-19, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, chronic lung disease or asthma, cardiovascular disease, or immunosuppression, and 13% were aged over 65, AstraZeneca said.

Ward said that unlike oral pills, monoclonal antibody treatments given as an injection, such as AstraZeneca's, don't interfere with other medicines. This "may potentially make administration simpler for these patients," she said.

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2 experts describe how our COVID-19 antibodies adapt over time, creating an ‘arms race’ between our immune systems and virus variants

US Army nurse administers COVID-19 vaccine at Fort Meade in Maryland.
US Army nurse administers COVID-19 vaccine at Fort Meade in Maryland.
  • A virologist and immunologist say our immune systems can adapt to COVID-19 and fight emerging variants.
  • They describe how antibodies evolve over time to recognize more variants and bind tighter to the virus.
  • Booster shots could amplify these more potent antibodies, one professor said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is mutating and changing - but so are our antibodies.

Professor Paul Bieniasz, virologist at the Rockefeller University, told Insider that antibodies produced by the body after an infection or a vaccine can adapt over time, recognizing variants and binding tighter to a virus.

This could be manipulated by COVID-19 booster shots to help our bodies fight variants or emerging coronaviruses, he said.

"Neither infection nor vaccination in the current two shot form comes anywhere close to maximizing the capacity of the immune system to deal with variants," Bieniasz said. "There is a great deal of additional capacity there, which we can exploit using booster doses or by modifying the mRNA vaccine regimens to make them three doses, like many other viral vaccines."

Bieniasz said that over several months, antibodies can evolve to recognize variants that would otherwise be resistant. Antibodies present several months after an infection or vaccination also bind tighter to the virus that causes COVID-19 than at one month afterwards, he said, citing studies published in journals Immunity and Nature in the past two months.

Over time, the total amount of antibodies wanes - but the quality gets better because they adapt, he said.

Professor John Wherry, director at the Institute for Immunology at University of Pennsylvania, explained that there are two types of antibodies. First, "emergency" antibodies that are produced quickly, and second, those that evolve over a longer period of time in lymph nodes.

"What we see in the blood is a mixture of antibodies made quickly as part of the body's early emergency plan and 'better ones' that trickle out from lymph nodes," he told Insider.

Bienasz said that if a vaccine dose was given "some months after" initial vaccination or an infection, it could amplify these more potent antibodies, allowing them to "diversify even more."

Simply relying on existing clinical trial results to decide policy wouldn't work, he said. We must take into account how our immune system adapts, and prepare it for the future, he said.

"It is an evolutionary arms race, our immune systems against the virus," he said. "We should be trying to think one step ahead of the virus, not one step behind."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans over 65, health workers, or those with underlying health conditions should get an extra COVID-19 booster shot six months after they're fully vaccinated.

Wherry said that we don't yet know the level of antibodies needed to offer protection. Six months was "about right," he said, adding that he would "worry" if the gap between initial vaccines and boosters was shorter.

"You can think of the immune response a bit like exercise, the immune system needs to recover in between doses" he said. "If you exercise and rest in between you have improved performance over exercising very hard every day."

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70% of fully vaccinated prisoners caught COVID-19 in a Texas Delta outbreak, the CDC says – but the vaccine protected against severe disease

A nurse fills up a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site at a senior center on March 29, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas
A nurse fills up a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site at a senior center on March 29, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas
  • About 70% of fully vaccinated prisoners caught COVID-19 at a Texas prison outbreak, the CDC said.
  • The data suggests Delta can spread among vaccinated people but that vaccines protect against severe COVID-19.
  • 93% of unvaccinated prisoners caught COVID-19, and one died, the data showed.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

More than two-thirds of fully vaccinated prisoners caught COVID-19 during an outbreak at a Texas prison, but the vaccine protected against severe illness, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study showed.

Out of 185 fully vaccinated prisoners at the unnamed prison, 129 caught the virus, data compiled by the CDC and Federal Bureau of Prisons showed. This was a much lower rate than unvaccinated prisoners - 93% of 42 unvaccinated prisoners caught COVID-19 during the outbreak, according to the study, published Tuesday in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Four people needed hospital treatment, and three of them were unvaccinated, the data showed. One unvaccinated person died, the data showed.

The study adds to growing evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cut the risk of hospitalization and severe disease. Prisons tend to have higher rates of COVID-19 and death due to cramp living conditions and underlying health conditions among prisoners, according to the CDC.

Another CDC study from September 10 showed that unvaccinated Americans were 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people. About 45% of people in the US are unvaccinated, according to the CDC.

The latest CDC study showed that the Delta can spread among both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. The CDC said "infectious virus was cultured from vaccinated and unvaccinated persons."

Masks and regular testing are "critical" where physical distancing is "challenging," even when vaccine rates are high, the CDC said.

Most prisoners were white men and had received Pfizer's vaccine at least four months prior, the data showed.

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A COVID-19 booster shot that could protect against multiple variants at once is being tested in humans for the first time

Moderna vaccine
A person receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in Boston, Massachusetts on December 24, 2020.
  • A COVID-19 booster shot that may protect against multiple variants is being tested in humans.
  • It uses new vaccine technology that self-replicates once injected in the muscle.
  • The vaccine may need a lower dose than existing shots, potentially reducing side effects.

A COVID-19 booster vaccine that could protect against multiple virus variants at once is being tested in humans for the first time.

The vaccine, called GRT-R910, uses a new technology called self-amplifying messenger-ribonucleic acid (mRNA), which replicates itself once injected into muscle. COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA, which teaches our body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response, but it cannot self-replicate.

Self-amplifying mRNA promises lower doses than existing vaccines, which means it's potentially cheaper and has fewer side-effects, Insider previously reported.

The trial, which is sponsored by the US National Institute of Health, will eventually recruit 20 volunteers, all over the age of 60, the company said.

Gritstone, the US pharmaceutical company that developed GRT-R910, said in a press release on Monday that the vaccine could boost the immune response of "first generation COVID-19 vaccines" to a "wide array" of coronavirus variants.

Dr. Andrew Allen, chief executive officer at Gritstone, said the immune response could provide "more benefit than an additional dose of the same vaccine."

Results of the trial are expected in early 2022, Gritstone said.

Andrew Ustianowski, honorary clinical chair at University of Manchester and study local lead investigator, said in a statement that "we think GRT-R910 as a booster vaccination will elicit strong, durable, and broad immune responses, which are likely to be critical in maintaining protection of this vulnerable elderly population who are particularly at risk of hospitalisation and death."

Andrew Clarke, 63, and his wife Helen Clarke, 64, were the first to receive GRT-R910 as part of an early stage trial at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, UK, on Monday.

Self-amplifying mRNA could potentially be developed on hospital sites tailored for specific outbreaks, rather than in large centralized factories.

Professor Ian Bruce, chair at the Manchester COVID-19 Research Rapid Response Group, said in a statement that future studies will examine GRT-R910's efficacy in other-vulnerable populations.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration recommended an extra dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for fully vaccinated Americans aged 65 and older, and for younger people at risk of severe illness.

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Period changes after COVID-19 vaccines were reported 27,000 times in 9 months, but experts say you should still get a shot

A member of the public is given a Covid vaccination by NHS staff during the first day of the Cornwall Pride LGBTQ+ festival on August 27, 2021 in Newquay, England.
A person is given a COVID-19 vaccine by UK NHS staff during the first day of the Cornwall Pride LGBTQ+ festival on August 27, 2021 in Newquay, England.
  • The UK's medicines regulatory agency got 27,199 reports of menstrual-cycle changes after COVID-19 shots.
  • An OB-GYN said pandemic-related stress could have caused some of these changes.
  • People trying to get pregnant should get vaccinated or risk getting "seriously ill," another doctor said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The UK's medicines regulatory agency has received more than 27,000 reports of period changes after COVID-19 vaccines in the past nine months, but leading doctors still urge people who are trying to get pregnant to get vaccinated.

Dr. Jo Mountfield, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a statement on Thursday that any period changes after COVID-19 vaccines generally revert back to normal after one or two cycles. Plus, she added, unvaccinated pregnant women were more at risk of "becoming seriously ill from COVID-19."

"There is no evidence to suggest that these temporary changes will have any impact on a person's future fertility or their ability to have children," Mountfield said.

Dr. Jackie Maybin, a gynecologist at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement that it was "very difficult to know if these changes are a direct effect of the vaccine itself or are due to wider effects of the pandemic."

"In times of stress, the female system is designed to temporarily downregulate to prevent against pregnancy and conserve energy. This brain-level effect may explain some of the changes in menstruation observed during the pandemic, with COVID-19 or with vaccination," Maybin said.

She added that any effects related to the vaccine are likely to be short lived and much less severe than a coronavirus infection.

A study from September 2020 of menstruating women showed that around a quarter of those who got COVID-19 experienced period problems.

Mountfield cautioned that anyone who experiences unusual heavy bleeding, especially after menopause, should speak to a healthcare professional.

27,000 reports of period changes after the COVID-19 vaccine

Data from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) released on Thursday showed that it received 27,199 reports of period changes after a COVID-19 vaccine - including heavier-than-usual periods, delayed periods, and unexpected vaginal bleeding - between December 9, 2020, and September 8 of this year.

Most changes were short-lived, it said. Providers gave 47.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to women during that time period, the MHRA said.

Maybin said the immune response from COVID-19 vaccines may cause inflammation that temporarily affects the ovaries, altering hormone production over one or two cycles and leading to irregular or heavier menstrual bleeding.

The immune response could also temporarily affect how the womb lining sheds, causing a heavier period, she added.

"These effects could lead to temporary changes in menstrual symptoms that should spontaneously resolve," Maybin said.

Other factors that affect periods include contraception, herbal supplements such as soya, sexually transmitted infections, and other medical conditions.

More research is needed

The MHRA said that its data, which is all self-reported by patients, couldn't be used to "derive side-effect rates" because many factors could influence the reports. Several groups are still reviewing the data, the agency said: the MHRA itself, independent experts from the Commission on Human Medicines' COVID-19 Vaccines Benefit Risk Expert Working Group, and the Medicines for Women's Health Expert Advisory Group.

Dr. Victoria Male, a reproductive immunologist at Imperial College London, wrote in an opinion piece published in the British Medical Journal on Thursday that clinical trials should investigate COVID-19 vaccines' impact on periods.

"Clear and trusted information is particularly important for those who rely on being able to predict their menstrual cycles to either achieve or avoid pregnancy," she said.

Not knowing whether there is a link could fuel vaccine hesitancy, she added.

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18 leading scientists, including 2 outgoing FDA officials, say COVID-19 booster shots lack evidence and shouldn’t yet be given to the general public

A health workers is seen as Israelis receive the third doses of coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in West Jerusalem on September 03, 2021.
A health workers is seen as Israelis receive the third doses of coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in West Jerusalem on September 03, 2021.
  • Eighteen leading experts said "widespread use" of COVID-19 vaccine boosters isn't backed by evidence.
  • The group included two FDA officials who resigned over the Biden administration's booster shot plan.
  • Current COVID-19 vaccines still protect against severe illness caused by the Delta variant, they said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Eighteen top scientists from across the world have warned against giving COVID-19 booster shots to most fully vaccinated people.

In an review published in the Lancet on Monday, the experts said that the idea of boosting immunity to reduce COVID-19 cases was "appealing." But current evidence didn't support "widespread use of booster vaccination" in the general population, they said, citing 93 references.

"Careful and public scrutiny of the evolving data will be needed to assure that decisions about boosting are informed by reliable science more than by politics," the review authors said.

The group included Philip Krause and Marion Gruber, the two Food and Drug Administration officials who resigned over the Biden administration's booster shot plan earlier in September.

The US is expected to start rolling out booster shots from September 20 to shore up immunity against the Delta variant, which has mutations that can help it avoid the immune response.

Immunocompromized Americans can already get an extra shot. Insider's Hilary Brueck has reported on other experts' concerns about the lack of booster data.

The group, which included scientists from the US, UK, Mexico, Jamaica, France, Portugal, South Africa, and Colombia, said that there could be a significant risk of side effects if boosters were "widely introduced too soon, or too frequently."

This was especially the case for vaccines with "immune-mediated side-effects," such as a type of heart inflammation, called myocarditis, that has been reported in very rare cases after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna's vaccines.

The researchers warned that if lots of people got side effects with the extra doses, this could reduce vaccine acceptance.

Dr. Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo, the lead author of the review and a scientist at the World Health Organization, said in a statement that "even if some gain can ultimately be obtained from boosting," the world should focus on getting shots to unvaccinated people.

The WHO has urged countries with good vaccine coverage to hold off boosters until every country has fully vaccinated at least 10% of its population.

The group said that current vaccine supplies could "save more lives" if they weren't used for boosters.

"Unvaccinated people are still the major drivers of transmission and are themselves at highest risk of serious disease," they said.

Existing COVID-19 vacccines were holding up against newer variants like Delta, the review authors said.

The antibody response for vaccination can decrease over time, but this is just one aspect of the immune response. Other parts of the immune system, such as memory cells and T cells, are often longer-lived, and can also provide protection, they said.

The scientists said that an increasing numbers of breakthrough infections were "inevitable" as more people become fully vaccinated and people's behavior changed.

The study authors did not rule out boosters entirely. Boosters tailored to the variants most likely to evolve could "ultimately be needed."

"Now is the opportunity to study, before there is a widespread need," they said.

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Getting sick with the Delta variant doubles hospitalization risk compared with Alpha, a large study of mostly unvaccinated people shows

louisiana covid hospital
Clinicians work on intubating a COVID-19 patient.
  • The Delta variant doubled the risk of hospitalization compared to the formerly-dominant Alpha variant.
  • About 74% of people in the UK-based study were unvaccinated, and few were fully vaccinated.
  • The study authors said it was "crucial" to get people fully vaccinated to protect against Delta.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

People who get sick with the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus have more than twice the risk of being hospitalized compared with those who catch the Alpha variant, a large UK study suggests.

Scientists from Cambridge University and Public Health England who led the study, said in a statement Friday that Delta could be a "greater burden" on health services than the Alpha variant, "particularly in unvaccinated people and other vulnerable populations".

The paper, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal late on Friday, analyzed 43,340 COVID-19 cases. About 74% of the cases were in people who were unvaccinated, while less than 2% were in people who were fully vaccinated. The rest were in partially vaccinated individuals.

Delta is more infectious and increases your risk of hospitalization

Overall, just over 2% of people who contracted COVID-19 were hospitalized within 14 days of testing positive. The researchers found that the risk of being hospitalized was 2.26 times greater for people who were sickened by the Delta variant, compared with Alpha, taking into account factors that may affect someone's propensity to develop severe COVID-19, such as age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic factors. They didn't take into account pre-existing medical conditions.

The study's findings are focused on the risks to unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people. The authors said that they were unable to draw firm conclusions about whether Delta increases the risk of hospitalization in vaccinated people, because there weren't enough vaccinated people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 during the study period.

Other research has shown that fully vaccinated people have strong protection against being hospitalized, should they become sick with the Delta variant.

Delta is at least 50% more infectious than the Alpha variant, which overwhelmed UK hospitals over Christmas, and has additional mutations that help it avoid the immune response.

The study is the largest to date and first to look at the genetic code of the virus in the lab to determine the variant - the most accurate technique.

Delta was detected in the UK in March and overtook Alpha as the dominant variant in June . The proportion of Delta tests increased from 20% to 74% during the study period, which ran from March 29 to May 23, the authors said. Overall, they looked at 8,682 Delta cases and 34,656 Alpha cases.

The study confirms previous data from Scotland in June that found Delta increased the risk of hospitalization compared with Alpha. The Scottish researchers used a proxy measure to determine the variant that caused COVID-19.

Vaccines are 'crucial'

Dr. Anne Presanis, one of the study's lead authors, said in a statement Friday that getting fully vaccinated was "crucial" to protect against Delta. "For reducing an individual's risk of symptomatic infection with Delta in the first place, and, importantly, of reducing a Delta patient's risk of severe illness and hospital admission," she said.

Dr. David Strain, senior clinical lecturer at University of Exeter, said in a statement to the Science Media Centre on Friday that the study confirmed what "we are seeing in clinical practice." Strain wasn't involved in the research.

"In addition to the Delta variant being more infectious than the original or the Alpha variants, it is also causing more severe illness, in populations that previously would have had only mild infections," he said.

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A single COVID-19 case in New Zealand has sparked another full national lockdown. ‘We need to again go hard and early,’ the Prime Minister said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden
  • New Zealand has gone back into lockdown after a single suspected Delta case in the community.
  • A 58 year-old-man tested positive for COVID-19 with no immediate evidence that he'd traveled abroad.
  • PM Jacinda Arden said New Zealand needed to go "hard and early" to stop the Delta variant spreading.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

New Zealand is back in strict national lockdown after one 58 year-old-man tested positive for COVID-19, with no immediate evidence that he'd traveled abroad.

Officials assume that the infection was caused by the highly-infectious Delta coronavirus variant.

National statistics suggest that all of New Zealand's cases since February have been detected at its border, rather than in the community. The country, of nearly 5 million people, has recorded just 26 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, and has favored strict lockdowns.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said in a briefing on Tuesday that Delta, which had caused all but one of New Zealand's COVID-19 infections since late June, was a "game changer."

"It means we need to again go hard and early to stop the spread. We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to go on top of it. We only get one chance," she said.

Arden said that the decision was made on the basis it was "better to start high and go down levels" of lockdown.

"We've seen the dire consequences of taking too long to act in other countries," she said.

From midnight on Tuesday, New Zealanders can only leave the house for exercise, supermarket shopping, essential medical care including pharmacy visits, and for getting a test, Arden said. They must wear a mask.

This is New Zealand's second "Level 4" lockdown, the nation's strictest level.

Arden said that it would last three days for most of the country except Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, where the man lived, and the Coromandel, where the man traveled to over the weekend.

Arden also suspended the nation's vaccine rollout, which already lags behind most other countries, for 48 hours, while measures were put in place to continue it safely.

New Zealand has fully-vaccinated 18.6% of its population, according to Johns Hopkins University. The world average is 23.6%.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: 'The possibilities are endless'

Dr. Ashley Broomfield, chief executive of the Ministry of Health, said in a briefing that the man, who was unvaccinated, developed symptoms on Saturday when on a weekend trip to the Coromandel on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, and was tested by his family doctor in Auckland on Monday.

He was now self-isolating, Broomfield said. The man's wife, who was vaccinated, had tested negative.

Health officials said the man had no obvious travel history or contact with anyone who had traveled. They were trying to establish how he got infected, they said.

The country first went into Level 4 lockdown on March 26, 2020, when it had recorded fewer than 300 cases, and no deaths. The country has recorded 2,927 COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

There are currently 43 New Zealanders with COVID-19, and an average of 1.07 daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people, as of Monday, according to Oxford University's Our World in Data's most recent stats. For comparison, on the same date, the US had an average of 394.89 daily new confirmed cases per million and the UK had 418.85 new cases per million.

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Some experts who had Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine are now getting extra shots of Pfizer or Moderna to try to protect against the Delta variant

Pharmacist Madeline Acquilano fills a syringe with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine before inoculating members of the public at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 3, 2021. - Some 7,400 vials of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 single shot vaccine were delivered and an initial offering of the vaccine was given to ten members of the public. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
A pharmacist at the Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, fills a syringe with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Some experts who got Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine are topping it up with a dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
  • They did it for extra protection against the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant, they said.
  • The FDA and CDC don't recommend getting an extra shot, after a J&J vaccine or otherwise.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Some experts who got Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine are trying an extra shot of Moderna or Pfizer's vaccines to try to protect against the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant.

Officials have not recommended getting a booster shot after J&J's vaccine or any other vaccine, and two experts said everyone should wait for more data.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, said on Twitter Tuesday that she got the Pfizer vaccine to "top off" the J&J vaccine she received in April.

Rasmussen said that the rise of the Delta variant in the UK - where more than 95% of new infections are caused by Delta - showed the "crucial importance" of getting as many people vaccinated as possible.

Rasmussen said that we don't know whether an extra vaccine dose after a J&J shot boosts protection against variants, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or CDC haven't made any recommendations. But it was likely to work, given that boosters work for nearly every other vaccine in use, she said.

"We shouldn't wait to make recommendations about this," she said.

Rasmussen encouraged people who'd had J&J's shot, especially those living in communities with low vaccination rates, to speak with healthcare providers about getting an extra dose.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said Wednesday that the Delta variant accounted for more than 20% of new infections in the US and was the "greatest threat" to the nation's efforts to eradicate COVID-19.

There's no data on how well J&J's vaccine works against the Delta variant. More than 9 million Americans have been given the single dose vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: 'The possibilities are endless'

Jason Gallagher, clinical professor in infectious diseases at Temple University's School of Pharmacy, told Reuters Monday that he got J&J's vaccine in a trial in November, and recently had a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine.

Gallagher said he was concerned about data that suggested a single shot of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca's vaccine was only 33% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant. "So I took the plunge," he said.

Professor Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said in a tweet on Thursday that adding a second J&J dose, or an extra shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, could provide broader protection against variants, "but we need data and CDC-FDA guidance."

Dr. John Beigel, associate director for clinical research at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), told Reuters Monday that J&J recipients should wait for more data.

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