Archive for Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce

Washington state recruits Starbucks to help with its COVID-19 vaccine rollout

starbucks new york coronavirus
People walk outside Starbucks in midtown as New York City moves into Phase 3.
  • Washington state has partnered with Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
  • Several Starbucks staff will work full-time on the rollout, choosing and designing vaccination sites.
  • "I just did the math, and figured out at this rate of vaccination, it's going to take six, seven, eight years for this country to get vaccinated," Starbucks' CEO Kevin Johnson told NBC News.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Coffee giant Starbucks will help with Washington's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in a partnership announced Monday by state governor Jay Inslee.

"Several" Starbucks employees will work full-time to help choose sites for vaccination, and help with the design of those sites, Starbucks said at a press briefing, per Forbes.

Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, approached the state to offer help. "I just did the math, and figured out at this rate of vaccination, it's going to take six, seven, eight years for this country to get vaccinated," Johnson said. "So we have to dramatically scale this up and accelerate the progress."

Starbucks is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, and the partnership is unique to the state.

Read more: Young, healthy people have figured out a loophole to get a COVID-19 vaccine without skipping the line

The Starbucks deal is one of a number of state partnerships with private companies announced Monday to try to get more Washington residents their shot. Microsoft, also headquartered in Washington, will supply technological expertise, and Kaiser Permanente will provide healthcare delivery support, NBC News reported.

Inslee said Monday the state wanted to give 45,000 vaccine doses every day, according to NBC News. So far, more than 242,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots have been given in Washington state, which has a population of 7.6 million people. 

Across the US, 12 million shots have been administered, according to CDC data - a figure that falls short of President Donald Trump's target to immunize 20 million Americans by the end of 2020.

"Starbucks is not a healthcare company, but we do operate 33,000 stores at scale, serving 100 million customers per week," Johnson said at the press briefing, per Forbes.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The world is ‘on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure’ by failing to get vaccines to poorer countries, the WHO warns

nigeria covid-19
Bidemi Aye receives a pre-paid debt card for cash and food provided by World Food Programme (WFP) in a makeshift home in the Makoko riverine slum settlement in Lagos, Nigeria on November 27, 2020.
  • The world was on "on the brink of catastrophic moral failure,' over vaccine distribution, the head of the World Health Organization said Monday.
  • Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries.
  • "A me-first approach leaves the world's poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, it's also self-defeating," Ghebreyesus said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The world is "on the brink of catastrophic moral failure" by failing to give vaccines to poorer countries, the head of the World Health Organization said Monday.

"It is not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general at the WHO, said during an executive board session.

Governments naturally want to prioritize their own health workers and older people - but they need to come together to prioritize those most at risk of severe diseases and death around the world, he said. 

"More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries, but just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country," Tedros said. 

A "me-first approach" was "self-defeating", ultimately prolonging the pandemic, as well as the restrictions needed to contain it and both the human and economic suffering, he said.

Research from Duke University's Global Health Innovation Center predicted that it could take years to roll out vaccines in poorer countries due to vaccine cost and availability, as well as a lack of infrastructure to transport, store, and distribute the shots.

Tedros said that countries and companies had promised equitable access by signing up to COVAX, a voluntary scheme to ensure vaccine distribution worldwide launched. COVAX was launched by the WHO, Gavi vaccine alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

But certain countries and companies have gone around COVAX, he said, putting themselves first and in doing so driving up prices.

Manufacturers had also prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries where profits are highest, he added. 

He did not name any specific countries or companies.

He urged countries that had circumnavigated COVAX - and that have control of supply - to be transparent about their contracts, and share any excess vaccines.

"My challenge to all member states is to ensure that by [...] April 7, COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in every country, as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges," he said.

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Fauci says a new COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for US approval within weeks

fauci vaccine timeline
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
  • Another COVID-19 vaccine could be ready in the US within weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.
  • The vaccines made by the drugmakers AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are in clinical trials.
  • President-elect Joe Biden's goal of 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely a doable thing," Fauci told NBC News' "Meet the Press."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US could have two more COVID-19 vaccines within weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Fauci predicted that the drugmakers AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson would submit their clinical-trial data to the Food and Drug Administration as soon as this week and within the next few weeks "at most," assuming the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, an independent board of experts, gives the go-ahead.

Although Fauci was asked about both vaccines, it's possible he was just referring to Johnson & Johnson's, which appears to be closer to submitting data than AstraZeneca. Data for AstraZeneca's shot is not expected to be ready until at least March because its trial is still recruiting participants.

Moncef Slaoui, the outgoing chief advisor to President Donald Trump's vaccine initiative known as Operation Warp Speed, said in December that the vaccine developers could seek FDA emergency-use authorization by February, with a rollout in April. Johnson & Johnson has said it is on track for March rollout.

Read more: What's coming next for COVID-19 vaccines? Here's the latest on 11 leading programs.

The FDA has already given the green light to two COVID-19 vaccines: one from Pfizer and BioNTech, and one from Moderna. More than 12 million shots have been given to Americans so far, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The AstraZeneca shot is a two-dose shot, like Pfizer's and Moderna's, and has already been approved in the UK, where on January 4 an 82-year-old named Brian Pinker was the first in the world to receive the vaccine outside a trial.

It was on average 70% effective at preventing people from falling ill with COVID-19 in trials, according to the vaccine maker, which created confusion when announcing that a mistake caused some trial participants to receive a different dosing regimen from the rest.

Johnson & Johnson's shot requires only one dose. Early data indicated it could help protect against COVID-19, but it's not clear how it compares with other vaccines because large clinical trials are still ongoing.

Fauci, who is set to become incoming President Joe Biden's chief science advisor, said the new administration would use "whatever mechanisms we can" to reach Biden's goal of 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office.

Speaking with the "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, Fauci said that goal was "absolutely a doable thing."

Fauci recommended that Americans double down on public-health measures while they wait for a vaccine, especially because new coronavirus variants, such as the one first identified in the UK but now found in 55 countries including the US, are probably more contagious.

"Be very compulsive, as the president-elect says, at least for the first 100 days and maybe more, everybody wear a mask, keep the distance, avoid congregate settings," he said.

More than 2.03 million deaths from the virus have been reported worldwide, per Johns Hopkins University, including more than 397,000 in the US.

Fauci urged people to get immunized to protect them from the disease.

"If there was ever a clarion call for people to put aside vaccine hesitancy, if we can get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, we'd be in very good shape," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Answers to 9 crucial questions about the coronavirus variants spreading around the world

uk coronavirus variant closer look 4x3
  • Experts worldwide are urgently studying three coronavirus variants to understand what risks they pose.
  • One variant first identified in the UK, one in South Africa, and one in Japan are probably more contagious than the original strain.
  • They have caused cases to surge and the three nations to lock down. Here are nine key questions about the variants, answered.

Experts are urgently investigating three different coronavirus variants - first identified in the UK, South Africa, and Japan - that have caused explosive outbreaks and are spreading around the world.

UK healthcare services risk becoming overwhelmed within weeks as the number of new infections surges. Certain hospitals in London have already run out of oxygen, essential for keeping people with coronavirus alive. 

Japan, meanwhile, has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo amid rising cases of the variant, which was brought into the country by travelers from Brazil, and the variant is spreading in Brazil too. South Africa tightened its lockdown restrictions on December 29 because of a variant causing cases to spike.

Often, small genetic changes that a virus makes when it replicates, called mutations, don't affect its behavior. But these three coronavirus variants, each evolved separately, appear to have developed similar characteristics that affect how they spread.

Read more: What it actually means that a new coronavirus strain is more transmissible - and how that changes your chances of getting sick

They all contain mutations in the code for their spike protein, the part of the virus that it uses to infect cells. Alterations in this area could enable the virus to infect cells more, and the spike protein is the target for COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca.

With information frequently changing, we've compiled a list of everything we know so far about the variants, answering nine key questions, such as whether vaccines work on them and whether they've spread to the US.

Here's what we know so far

The information available about the variant identified by the Japanese authorities, called P.1, is limited to its genetic make-up, and so has been excluded from certain questions. 

The variant found in the UK is called B.1.1.7 or VUI 20212/01 - Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01.

The variant identified in South Africa is called 501Y.V2 - after its key mutation - or B.1.351.

The variants were first detected in the UK, South Africa, and Japan 

  • UK - B.1.1.7

B.1.1.7 was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 14.

B.1.17 has been identified in 51 countries worldwide, including the US.

  • South Africa - 501.Y.V2

501.Y.V2 was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

The UK identified two cases of 501.Y.V2 on December 22, in people who had come into contact with someone who had traveled from South Africa.

501.Y.V2 has been found in 12 countries globally.

  • Japan -P.1

The variant found in Japan was first detected in four people, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It is not known how far it's spread.

Wendy Barclay, professor of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London told the Science Media Centre on January 15 that there are other variants that may have originated in Brazil. Some of these have reached the UK, she said.

The variants are more contagious

The B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the UK, is thought to be 30% to 50% more contagious than other forms of the virus, according to Public Health England estimates. This means it is 30-50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants.

501.Y.V2 is thought to be more contagious than other variants, because it has become the most common strain in people with COVID-19 in South Africa. 

It's not known precisely why the variants are more contagious

Research is ongoing, but working theories are that both variants have changes in the spike protein, meaning they could infect cells more easily.  The swabs of people infected with B.1.1.7 and 501.Y.V2 also appear to have more viral particles than the original virus, known as a higher viral load. The more viral particles an infected person expels, the more likely they are to infect others.

The variant first found in South Africa - 501.Y.V2 - has been shown in early lab studies to sometimes avoid antibodies, produced by the body to fight off infection. If this happens in humans, it could mean it infects people more easily and could increase the likelihood of catching coronavirus more than once.

A mutation called E484K could be responsible for this - the variant from Brazil identified in Japan has it too. B.1.1.7, the variant first found in the UK, doesn't have this particular mutation.

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

They're probably not more deadly

The variants at present do not seem to cause more severe disease, the WHO said on January 11. However, a more contagious variant could cause more deaths, because more people get sick.

Adam Kucharski, an associate professor at the London School for Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has explained to Insider why the ability to spread more easily could make the variant more dangerous than a deadlier strain.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

The WHO has said that because the variants are more contagious, everyone should double down on precautions that stop their spread, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

"Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission - probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants," Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, previously told Insider.

Vaccines will probably work

It is too soon to know for sure, but it appears unlikely that the mutations will render vaccines totally useless. 

The vaccines available all target the coronavirus spike protein. The spike protein has multiple sites that all cause different immune responses in the body. Mutations could affect some of the sites, but are unlikely to affect all of them.

Existing vaccines could also be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months.

Pfizer said January 8 that its vaccine should work against variants that contain certain mutations, after testing on a lab-made variant. The variant, however, was not the exact variant found in the UK or South Africa.

  • B.1.1.7 - first found in UK

Experts think the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca will protect people against the B.1.1.7 variant found in the UK.

  • 501.Y.V2 - first found in South Africa

Studies suggest that the variant can escape some antibodies in the lab - researchers don't yet know how, or if, this will affect how well vaccines work in people. 

Tulio de Oliveira, who is leading South Africa's scientific effort to understand the variant, told the Financial Times that his group thinks a vaccine could be a little less effective, but is optimistic. "Between all the varieties of vaccines that are coming to the market, we still have strong belief that some of them will be very effective," de Oliveira said.

The variants could affect more young people 

Experts have said that the B.1.1.7 variant could affect kids more than previous variants, but evidence is still emerging. 

There is also anecdotal evidence that a larger proportion of healthy young people have been showing up at South African hospitals with severe COVID-19.

COVID-19 treatments could still work

There is no evidence currently to suggest the B.1.1.7 mutations mean that COVID-19 treatments are less effective against this variant.

Scientists think that a mutation found in the variant first identified in South Africa could mean that certain antibody drugs do not work as well.

But dexamethasone, a steroid, would probably still work just as well.

The variant found in the UK has been identified in the US - but not the other two variants

In the US, 76 cases of B.1.1.7 -  the variant first found in the UK - have been identified, according to the CDC. The variant has been found in multiple US states, including New York, Florida, and California. Experts believe it had been circulating in the US for several weeks.

No known cases of 501Y.V2, the variant identified in South Africa, have been detected in the US.

This could simply be because genetic sequencing isn't sufficiently widespread.

There are no known cases of P.1, the variant from Brazil first identified in Japan, in the US. 

There is a new variant, identified in Ohio

A new variant, called COH.20G/501Y, was identified by scientists in Ohio on Wednesday. It has one mutation that is identical to B.1.1.7, The Ohio State University said. Researchers think that it evolved separately to B.1.1.7 and 501Y.V2. It's not yet known how many people have the strain.

"It's important that we don't overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data," said Peter Mohler, study co-author and chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Answers to 9 crucial questions about the coronavirus variants spreading around the world

uk coronavirus variant closer look 4x3
  • Experts worldwide are urgently studying three coronavirus variants to understand what risks they pose.
  • One variant first identified in the UK, one in South Africa, and one in Japan are probably more contagious than the original strain.
  • They have caused cases to surge and the three nations to lock down. Here are nine key questions about the variants, answered.

Experts are urgently investigating three different coronavirus variants - first identified in the UK, South Africa, and Japan - that have caused explosive outbreaks and are spreading around the world.

UK healthcare services risk becoming overwhelmed within weeks as the number of new infections surges. Certain hospitals in London have already run out of oxygen, essential for keeping people with coronavirus alive. 

Japan, meanwhile, has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo amid rising cases of the variant, which was brought into the country by travelers from Brazil, and the variant is spreading in Brazil too. South Africa tightened its lockdown restrictions on December 29 because of a variant causing cases to spike.

Often, small genetic changes that a virus makes when it replicates, called mutations, don't affect its behavior. But these three coronavirus variants, each evolved separately, appear to have developed similar characteristics that affect how they spread.

Read more: What it actually means that a new coronavirus strain is more transmissible - and how that changes your chances of getting sick

They all contain mutations in the code for their spike protein, the part of the virus that it uses to infect cells. Alterations in this area could enable the virus to infect cells more, and the spike protein is the target for COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca.

With information frequently changing, we've compiled a list of everything we know so far about the variants, answering nine key questions, such as whether vaccines work on them and whether they've spread to the US.

Here's what we know so far

The information available about the variant identified by the Japanese authorities, called P.1, is limited to its genetic make-up, and so has been excluded from certain questions. 

The variant found in the UK is called B.1.1.7 or VUI 20212/01 - Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01.

The variant identified in South Africa is called 501Y.V2 - after its key mutation - or B.1.351.

The variants were first detected in the UK, South Africa, and Japan 

  • UK - B.1.1.7

B.1.1.7 was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 14.

B.1.17 has been identified in 51 countries worldwide, including the US.

  • South Africa - 501.Y.V2

501.Y.V2 was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

The UK identified two cases of 501.Y.V2 on December 22, in people who had come into contact with someone who had traveled from South Africa.

501.Y.V2 has been found in 12 countries globally.

  • Japan -P.1

The variant found in Japan was first detected in four people, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It is not known how far it's spread.

Wendy Barclay, professor of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London told the Science Media Centre on January 15 that there are other variants that may have originated in Brazil. Some of these have reached the UK, she said.

The variants are more contagious

The B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the UK, is thought to be 30% to 50% more contagious than other forms of the virus, according to Public Health England estimates. This means it is 30-50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants.

501.Y.V2 is thought to be more contagious than other variants, because it has become the most common strain in people with COVID-19 in South Africa. 

It's not known precisely why the variants are more contagious

Research is ongoing, but working theories are that both variants have changes in the spike protein, meaning they could infect cells more easily.  The swabs of people infected with B.1.1.7 and 501.Y.V2 also appear to have more viral particles than the original virus, known as a higher viral load. The more viral particles an infected person expels, the more likely they are to infect others.

The variant first found in South Africa - 501.Y.V2 - has been shown in early lab studies to sometimes avoid antibodies, produced by the body to fight off infection. If this happens in humans, it could mean it infects people more easily and could increase the likelihood of catching coronavirus more than once.

A mutation called E484K could be responsible for this - the variant from Brazil identified in Japan has it too. B.1.1.7, the variant first found in the UK, doesn't have this particular mutation.

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

They're probably not more deadly

The variants at present do not seem to cause more severe disease, the WHO said on January 11. However, a more contagious variant could cause more deaths, because more people get sick.

Adam Kucharski, an associate professor at the London School for Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has explained to Insider why the ability to spread more easily could make the variant more dangerous than a deadlier strain.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

The WHO has said that because the variants are more contagious, everyone should double down on precautions that stop their spread, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

"Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission - probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants," Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, previously told Insider.

Vaccines will probably work

It is too soon to know for sure, but it appears unlikely that the mutations will render vaccines totally useless. 

The vaccines available all target the coronavirus spike protein. The spike protein has multiple sites that all cause different immune responses in the body. Mutations could affect some of the sites, but are unlikely to affect all of them.

Existing vaccines could also be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months.

Pfizer said January 8 that its vaccine should work against variants that contain certain mutations, after testing on a lab-made variant. The variant, however, was not the exact variant found in the UK or South Africa.

  • B.1.1.7 - first found in UK

Experts think the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca will protect people against the B.1.1.7 variant found in the UK.

  • 501.Y.V2 - first found in South Africa

Studies suggest that the variant can escape some antibodies in the lab - researchers don't yet know how, or if, this will affect how well vaccines work in people. 

Tulio de Oliveira, who is leading South Africa's scientific effort to understand the variant, told the Financial Times that his group thinks a vaccine could be a little less effective, but is optimistic. "Between all the varieties of vaccines that are coming to the market, we still have strong belief that some of them will be very effective," de Oliveira said.

The variants could affect more young people 

Experts have said that the B.1.1.7 variant could affect kids more than previous variants, but evidence is still emerging. 

There is also anecdotal evidence that a larger proportion of healthy young people have been showing up at South African hospitals with severe COVID-19.

COVID-19 treatments could still work

There is no evidence currently to suggest the B.1.1.7 mutations mean that COVID-19 treatments are less effective against this variant.

Scientists think that a mutation found in the variant first identified in South Africa could mean that certain antibody drugs do not work as well.

But dexamethasone, a steroid, would probably still work just as well.

The variant found in the UK has been identified in the US - but not the other two variants

In the US, 76 cases of B.1.1.7 -  the variant first found in the UK - have been identified, according to the CDC. The variant has been found in multiple US states, including New York, Florida, and California. Experts believe it had been circulating in the US for several weeks.

No known cases of 501Y.V2, the variant identified in South Africa, have been detected in the US.

This could simply be because genetic sequencing isn't sufficiently widespread.

There are no known cases of P.1, the variant from Brazil first identified in Japan, in the US. 

There is a new variant, identified in Ohio

A new variant, called COH.20G/501Y, was identified by scientists in Ohio on Wednesday. It has one mutation that is identical to B.1.1.7, The Ohio State University said. Researchers think that it evolved separately to B.1.1.7 and 501Y.V2. It's not yet known how many people have the strain.

"It's important that we don't overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data," said Peter Mohler, study co-author and chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Catching coronavirus gives 83% protection against reinfection for up to 5 months, a study suggests – but you could still spread the virus

Covid Vaccine Senior Care
A CVS pharmacist gives the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a resident at the Emerald Court senior living community in Anaheim, California.
  • Catching coronavirus gives you about 83% protection from reinfection for up to five months, a large preliminary UK study suggests.
  • This is comparable to the protection offered by vaccines.
  • Work is ongoing to find out how long immunity lasts, whether vaccines work in people previously infected, and if people with immunity can pass on the virus.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Catching coronavirus once makes it highly unlikely you'll catch it again for up to five months, and the protection is comparable to a COVID-19 vaccine, a large preliminary study of health workers suggests.

Public Health England's "SIREN" study  involved 20,787 people from across the UK's National Health Service. It found that only 44 out of 6,614 participants who had antibodies - suggesting previous COVID-19 infection - were potentially reinfected over five months.

Researchers said that overall, antibodies gave subjects about an 83% protection rate from reinfection. This compares to roughly 95% protection after immunization with Pfizer and BioNTech or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines.   

Study lead Susan Hopkins, senior medical advisor at Public Health England, said in a statement that the study provided "the clearest picture to date" of whether antibodies protect against COVID-19. 

The participants had blood tests for antibodies against coronavirus, and swab testing for the virus itself at one-to-four weekly intervals between June 18 and November 24, per the study protocol.

Tang said that the results were not surprising, because we already knew that other coronaviruses produce long-lasting antibodies. Antibodies to the seasonal common cold last for 12 months, for example. 

The paper is a pre-print, and has not been scrutinized by experts in peer review, or published in a paper. The pre-print is not yet publicly available due to technical issues, the Science and Media Centre said.

Critical not to misunderstand findings

It is critical that people do not misunderstand these early findings, Hopkins said.  

Hopkins explained that not everyone with antibodies was protected from reinfection, and that it's not known how long immunity lasts for.

"Crucially we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on," she said.

Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of Molecular Oncology at Warwick Medical School said in a statement to the Science Media Centre that the preliminary study showed some of the participants with antibodies still carried a high number of coronavirus particles, called "viral load."

This means that even if people protected themselves, they could continue to spread the virus to others, he said.

It is also not known whether people who catch coronavirus but don't produce antibodies are protected. This study was done in healthcare workers, and there are published surveys in the UK that have shown healthcare workers have higher levels of antibodies than the general public.

The study also took place before the coronavirus variant found in the UK, B.1.1.7, was identified. Some reports suggest people that have been infected with the original coronavirus variant can be re-infected with another. 

"It will be important to determine whether previous infection with the old virus variant is able to offer protection from reinfection with the new virus variant," Young said.

The study is ongoing, and will continue to follow up the health workers for 12 months to work out how long protection lasts, whether vaccines work, and whether people with immunity can pass on the virus.

"These data reinforce the message that, for the time being, everyone should consider themselves to be a potential source of infection for others and should behave accordingly," said Eleanor Riley, professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh

Read the original article on Business Insider

Catching coronavirus gives 83% protection against reinfection for up to 5 months, a study suggests – but you could still spread the virus

Covid Vaccine Senior Care
A CVS pharmacist gives the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a resident at the Emerald Court senior living community in Anaheim, California.
  • Catching coronavirus gives you about 83% protection from reinfection for up to five months, a large preliminary UK study suggests.
  • This is comparable to the protection offered by vaccines.
  • Work is ongoing to find out how long immunity lasts, whether vaccines work in people previously infected, and if people with immunity can pass on the virus.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Catching coronavirus once makes it highly unlikely you'll catch it again for up to five months, and the protection is comparable to a COVID-19 vaccine, a large preliminary study of health workers suggests.

Public Health England's "SIREN" study  involved 20,787 people from across the UK's National Health Service. It found that only 44 out of 6,614 participants who had antibodies - suggesting previous COVID-19 infection - were potentially reinfected over five months.

Researchers said that overall, antibodies gave subjects about an 83% protection rate from reinfection. This compares to roughly 95% protection after immunization with Pfizer and BioNTech or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines.   

Study lead Susan Hopkins, senior medical advisor at Public Health England, said in a statement that the study provided "the clearest picture to date" of whether antibodies protect against COVID-19. 

The participants had blood tests for antibodies against coronavirus, and swab testing for the virus itself at one-to-four weekly intervals between June 18 and November 24, per the study protocol.

Tang said that the results were not surprising, because we already knew that other coronaviruses produce long-lasting antibodies. Antibodies to the seasonal common cold last for 12 months, for example. 

The paper is a pre-print, and has not been scrutinized by experts in peer review, or published in a paper. The pre-print is not yet publicly available due to technical issues, the Science and Media Centre said.

Critical not to misunderstand findings

It is critical that people do not misunderstand these early findings, Hopkins said.  

Hopkins explained that not everyone with antibodies was protected from reinfection, and that it's not known how long immunity lasts for.

"Crucially we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on," she said.

Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of Molecular Oncology at Warwick Medical School said in a statement to the Science Media Centre that the preliminary study showed some of the participants with antibodies still carried a high number of coronavirus particles, called "viral load."

This means that even if people protected themselves, they could continue to spread the virus to others, he said.

It is also not known whether people who catch coronavirus but don't produce antibodies are protected. This study was done in healthcare workers, and there are published surveys in the UK that have shown healthcare workers have higher levels of antibodies than the general public.

The study also took place before the coronavirus variant found in the UK, B.1.1.7, was identified. Some reports suggest people that have been infected with the original coronavirus variant can be re-infected with another. 

"It will be important to determine whether previous infection with the old virus variant is able to offer protection from reinfection with the new virus variant," Young said.

The study is ongoing, and will continue to follow up the health workers for 12 months to work out how long protection lasts, whether vaccines work, and whether people with immunity can pass on the virus.

"These data reinforce the message that, for the time being, everyone should consider themselves to be a potential source of infection for others and should behave accordingly," said Eleanor Riley, professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh

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The Trump administration will recommend giving all Americans over 65 a COVID-19 shot as soon as possible, in new guidance reportedly arriving Tuesday

Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump.
  • The Trump administration will on Tuesday recommend expanding vaccine eligibility to everyone over 65 years old, Axios reported.
  • Currently, only essential workers and those over 75 are getting their COVID-19 shots.
  • Axios cited an unnamed senior administration official.
  • The vaccines available in the US require two doses. The guidelines also prioritize more people getting their first shot, rather than holding back doses to give people their second dose, Axios reported.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Trump administration will on Tuesday recommend that everyone over 65 years old gets a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible, Axios reported.

Previously, only essential workers and those over 75 have been eligible to receive shots. Individual states are taking charge of vaccine rollouts, but the new guidelines are designed to get Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible against COVID-19, Axios reported, citing an unnamed senior administration official.

The New York Times also reported the incoming guidelines.

The two vaccines approved in the US - one from Pfizer and BioNTech, and one from Moderna - require two doses. The proposed guidelines will recommended prioritizing more people getting their first shot, rather than holding back doses to give people their second, Axios reported.

This is the strategy that President-Elect Joe Biden has said he plans to adopt when he takes office on January 20.

The guidelines reportedly recommend expanding vaccination sites to include more pharmacies and community health centres.

The US vaccine strategy got off to a slow start in December, with experts blaming patchwork, state-specific rollout for slow uptake.

"People need to know how to get the vaccine, when to get the vaccine, and who should get the vaccine, and then how those decisions are being made," Marissa Levine, a public-health professor at the University of South Florida, told Business Insider on January 2.

So far, 9.27 million doses have been administered in the US, according to a tally by Bloomberg and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with at least 379,862 people completing the two-dose vaccination regimen.

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A top scientist explains why a more infectious coronavirus variant is a bigger problem than a deadlier strain

coronavirus hospital
A nurse puts on her Personal Protective Equipment before tending to a COVID-19 patient on October 21, 2020 in Essen, Germany.
  • The deadly coronavirus that's spread across the world has mutated. One variant, called B.1.1.7, is more infectious, and has forced the UK into national lockdown.
  • The variant has also been discovered in multiple US states, and in other countries around the world.
  • The variant does not appear to be more deadly, and experts believe existing vaccines should work against it.
  • But Adam Kucharski, assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that, in general, a variant that's 50% more transmissable is a bigger problem than a variant that's 50% more deadly.
  • "A really severe disease that one person gets won't necessarily have as much impact as a 'sometimes-severe' disease that a huge number of people get," he told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The new, more infectious coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK could potentially deal more damage than a variant that is more deadly, a leading public health expert has warned.

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that has spread across the globe like wildfire and killed 1.85 million people worldwide has mutated, and experts believe the new variant, B.1.1.7, is much more infectious.

Scientists say this variant is to blame for the surging numbers of people infected with the virus in the UK, which has seen hospitals filling up with COVID-19 patients, forcing the UK into a national lockdown. UK government advisors said on December 18 that the UK variant has a roughly 71% higher growth rate than other variants. The growth rate is how quickly the number of infections changes daily.

Early studies led by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggest the variant is unlikely to cause more serious illness, and experts have said vaccines should still work against it. But according to Adam Kucharski, associate professor at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the fact the variant is more easily spread means it is potentially more dangerous than a deadlier strain would be.

Kucharski, a scientific advisor to the UK government, tweeted on December 28 that a SARS-CoV-2 variant that's 50% more transmissible would, in general, be a much bigger problem than a variant that's 50% more deadly. 

In an interview with Business Insider on Monday, Kucharski explained his maths and described what he thinks needs to happen next.

Adam Kucharski London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine assistant professor headshot
Adam Kucharski, associate professor at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Questions and responses have been lightly edited for clarity

Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce: What were you trying to say with your tweet?

Adam Kucharski: I think for me the key message is getting people to understand how much more of a problem an increase in transmission is, especially when we're so close to being able to vaccinate a whole bunch of people.

CSB: Can you explain the maths?

AK: A general principle for every disease out there is a variant that is 50% more transmissible would, in general, be a much bigger problem than a variant that's 50% more deadly.

I think the point is, a small risk of death with a very large number of people infected, means more deaths than a slightly higher risk of death amongst a much smaller outbreak. A really severe disease that one person gets won't necessarily have as much impact as a 'sometimes-severe' disease that a huge number of people get. It's a trade-off between how many people get it, and what the impact is.

Given where we are with this coronavirus and the fact we've got vaccines, the question is around what the impact is going to be in the window before vaccines become useful. In that situation, higher transmission is, in general, going to be a much bigger problem than the equivalent change in intensity - even if it's not more severe, you end up having more impact than a virus that's spreading more slowly.

CSB: The same principles would apply in the US and the UK?

AK: Yeah, because essentially they're referring to the underlying epidemic that's happening, which in reality, we just measure a glimpse of with testing.

CSB: Would an infectious disease expert or genomics expert agree with you?

AK: Well, I hope so. I think it depends. I mean, there's obviously uncertainty around the exact values here, but I think we've got a clear surge in spread in the UK. So even if it turns out to be something else, you've got that increased transmission, which is an enormous problem when you've got a vaccine on the horizon.

Even if it turns out that some component of it was behavior and another component was changes in the virus, that's still an increase in transmission, which is going to be an accelerating problem to deal with.

I think increasingly there's consensus that something unusual is going on here. If it's genuinely 50% more transmissible, we've got a real problem.

CSB: Do we know whether the variant causes less severe disease?

AK: We don't currently. There's not a perfect study at this point that can give us a complete answer.

And there's nothing that's emerged that points strongly to this [variant] being far more severe, but there are now quite a few evidence threads that suggest it is more transmissible. In turn this means that you're going to get more infections with more impact.

Read more: Scientists are investigating whether the new COVID-19 variant is more infectious in kids. Here's what we know so far.

CSB: Why is there a difference in the numbers of people with the variant in the US?

AK: One of the most obvious differences is the ability to sequence the virus to find the variant. In the UK about 5% of all cases that get tested positive are being sequenced, and that's much smaller in the US. It doesn't mean there aren't people infected with the variant, it just could mean they haven't found it. If it's indeed spreading much faster, by the time you start to spot it, you've already got a very big problem.

CSB: Does the theory account for other factors that could impact how the virus transmits from one person to another, like socializing for example?

AK: We've seen in the UK that this new variant has come up really dramatically through Autumn - even in places where there was quite a lot of infection already, this strain has really come up faster. So it's completely accurate to say that it's spreading faster than [the variants] already there.

The question is whether it's spreading faster because the inherent property of the virus, or does it just happen to be in groups that for some reason are behaving in a way that's generating more transmission?

I think particularly at the start, that's always the thing we have to watch out for, but I think there's been this accumulation of evidence that it becomes harder and harder to see it purely as a behavioral aspect. It's more and more likely that there's something different about this virus that's making it easier to spread.

In particular one of the UK studies that was all preliminary but came out of Public Health England, suggested it wasn't just that people with this variant are having more contacts, it actually seems that for every contact they have, there's a higher risk. This again, is another indication that might be something to do with the virus.

So of course we have to be careful about generalizing and I think I'm always a bit cautious about it sort of saying, it's "56%" or whatever, more contagious. I think we have to put quite a bit of uncertainty around that, but ultimately if it's 30% more contagious or 70% more contagious, both of those are a massive problem.

CSB: Could the variant be a scapegoat for people not following the rules?

AK: I think there's always that chance that there's an element of behavior to what's going on. But I think that the patterns we're seeing have become increasingly hard to explain that it's just to do with behavior.

What would generally happen in the data is you'd get this kind of 'dilution effect.' Say by chance, a new variant that didn't have any intrinsic differences got into a population that just weren't following the rules, and there was a lot more transmission in that group. That variant would start to rise in prominence because you'd have more transmission in that group, but then it would get out into the wider population where there's other things circulating and into other groups that aren't necessarily spreading more. So you'd start to expect its prominence to 'dilute', and it wouldn't necessarily become dominant in every group, across every part of the country.

I think the key thing to watch is what happens in other European countries. Denmark, for example, are sequencing more and more. Based on what we see in the UK, we think [the variant] should become more and more prominent. If this is genuinely [71%] more transmissible, this is going to be a big problem for any other European country that has it.

Read more: A new variant of coronavirus has sparked panic and travel bans - but experts say COVID-19 vaccines should still work against it. Here's why.

CSB: Are there any other like stats or misconceptions that you think would be useful to demystify?

AK: I think the one throughout has been the challenge that by the time you're seeing a massive impact of an infectious disease, you haven't got a problem. You had a problem weeks ago, it wasn't tackled and you're only now seeing the impacts of this.

CSB: From your point of view, what do you think the main challenge now is?

AK: An enormous challenge in any epidemic is people's behavior. We've seen in some countries, the level of restrictions might be quite similar on paper to what they were earlier in the year. But then if you look at human mobility data, people are interacting and going around a lot more. So that's just a change in behavior relative to what's going on.

I think we've also seen in the US and UK in some areas when epidemics get quite large and hospitals start getting overwhelmed, people will change their behavior, even if they're not being told to. If you've got a massive epidemic in your community, quite clearly, you're not going to go about your daily business as if there's nothing going on.

It's also quite difficult to work out the impact of measures. We saw in the UK that some of the measures in November didn't have the same impact that the March/April measures had.  To what extent this is because specific things were opened or closed, or just because people are now behaving very differently because we're nine months into a pandemic, is a challenge to work out.

covid vaccine trial
Model Lisa Taylor receives a COVID-19 vaccination, as she takes part in a vaccine study at Research Centers of America on August 07, 2020 in Hollywood, Florida.

It needs to be measures combined with government action, because a lot of [the impact] isn't just people not going to work to stop the virus spreading, for example. If people don't go to work then that has implications for them. If the schools are closed, it has implications. And so, I think government does have a role to make sure that that kind of damage is mitigated. There's huge implications for things like inequality. It's clearly not a level playing field in terms of some of these impacts. I think governments have an important role to try and work out how to reduce the damage of those things.

The balance of actions is very different to what it was earlier in the year because we have a vaccine on the horizon. Essentially a vaccine gives us an ability to massively cut the hospitalization and fatality rate of this virus. That opportunity is certainly - in the US and Europe - about two or three months away.

I think there's potentially a much stronger argument to be made for preventing infections and their impact now, because those are going to be events that you're going to potentially prevent forever, because those people will then be vaccinated.

CSB: Do you think that this new variant is so transmissible that any lockdown measure isn't going to work?

AK: I think that's the key question. I think it is a massive difference that we have vaccines available because that really gives a clear incentive that we're not taking action with some uncertain future. I think we really need to bear that in mind with what happens next.

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The coronavirus variant in South Africa seems to evade antibody drugs, which is ‘very concerning,’ ex-FDA chief Scott Gottlieb says

dr. scott
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb with Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation" in Washington, DC, on March 8.
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner,  said Tuesday that a coronavirus variant identified in South Africa was "very concerning" because it might get around antibody drugs that try to help the body fight infection.
  • Speaking on CNBC, he said evidence from the Seattle-based Bloom Lab, which hasn't been peer-reviewed, suggested that the variant in South Africa could partially escape antibodies that fight the coronavirus.
  • This means antibody drugs used to treat COVID-19 — or the antibodies in someone previously infected with the coronavirus — might not be effective against the new variant, he said.
  • No cases of the variant, which appears to be more infectious and is known as B.1.351 or 501Y.V2, have been detected in the US.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the US Food and Drug Administration, has warned that a coronavirus variant identified in South Africa may evade antibody drugs that treat COVID-19.

Speaking on CNBC on Tuesday, he said that early evidence from the Seattle-based Bloom Lab, which hasn't been peer-reviewed, suggested that the new variant could partially escape antibodies that fight the coronavirus.

This means drugs that use antibodies from someone previously infected by the coronavirus might not be effective against the new variant, known as B.1.351 or 501Y.V2, he said.

No cases of the variant, which also appears to be more infectious, have been detected in the US.

Gottlieb said the US was in a race against time to get vaccines into people's arms before new variants became more prevalent.

"We don't know exactly because we don't know exactly how this variant has behaved in people who have been treated with these different approaches," he said, adding: "Vaccines can become backstop against variants really getting a foothold here in the United States, but we need to quicken the pace of vaccination."

A different fast-spreading coronavirus variant, known as B.1.1.7 and first identified in the UK, has been detected in several US states and has most likely been circulating for several weeks.

Gottlieb: Stockpile fewer vaccines to make them more available

Gottlieb did not advocate changing the vaccine schedule - for example prioritizing the first dose, as the UK has done - but instead pushing out more vaccines to the public. He said this could be done by "taking a risk" and stockpiling 25% of the vaccine doses that are manufactured, rather than 55%, to make more doses available.

It's normal for viruses to mutate over time, and eventually certain combinations of mutations can create new variants. The variants identified in South African and the UK are causing concern because they have an unusual number of mutations including in the spike protein, the part of the virus that binds to human cells to infect them. It's likely that this makes them more contagious.

The variant in South Africa has also been associated with a higher viral load, or higher concentration of virus particles in the body, possibly contributing to higher levels of transmission, per Reuters.

Read more: AstraZeneca's vaccine is expected to work on new COVID-19 strains, CEO says

Scientists are still investigating exactly how the different mutations change the virus' behavior, including whether the vaccines available will work against them. Experts have predicted that vaccines will still work against the variant identified in the UK, but it's less clear for the one in South Africa.

John Bell, a professor of immunology at the University of Oxford, told Times Radio on Sunday that there's a "big question mark" as to whether vaccines would work for the variant in South Africa because there's not much information about it.

Richard Lessells, an infectious-disease expert at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is investigating that question. He told the Associated Press on Monday that this is "the most pressing question facing us right now." 

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