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The vaccines are working. That’s why we shouldn’t panic about variants.

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Several new coronavirus variants have been identified in the United States in recent weeks, and scientists are grappling with whether these strains threaten the country — and, if so, how.

One thing experts agree on, though, is that the available vaccines have outperformed expectations — even when it comes to what are known as the “variants of concern.”

“This virus is not invincible, and despite all these variants, the vaccines are working great,” said Jeremy Kamil, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport. “That is really outstanding and people should be celebrating that.”

While it’s likely that other variants will continue to emerge as pockets of outbreaks simmer around the country, Kamil said that alone isn’t cause for alarm. Rather than fret over each new strain that is identified, he said the most important thing Americans can do now is try to contain the virus by staying safe and getting vaccinated, particularly because the vaccines are so effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/vaccines-are-working-shouldnt-panic-variants-rcna372

Biden to announce plan to purchase additional 100 million Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine doses

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President Joe Biden will announce plans Wednesday to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, giving the U.S. more than enough supply to vaccinate the entire U.S. population.

Biden will announce that he is directing his Health and Human Services team to procure the additional doses during a meeting with executives from J&J and Merck, according to two administration officials.

“This order allows for the president to plan for the future and the latter part of the year,” said White House senior adviser on Covid response Andy Slavitt. “This is war time, and as facts still emerge it gives us maximum flexibility for our upcoming needs.”

Biden said this month that the U.S. was on track to have enough vaccine doses for every adult in the country to get vaccinated by the end of May after the Food and Drug Administration gave clearance for use of the J&J vaccine. Slavitt said it was too early to say when the additional doses would become available.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/biden-announce-deal-additional-100-million-johnson-johnson-covid-vaccine-n1260408

Lab test shows Pfizer Covid vaccine is effective against Brazil variant

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The coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was able to combat a new variant that was rapidly circulating in Brazil, a new study has found.

The research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the engineered version of the virus, containing the same mutation carried on the spike protein as the highly contagious P1 variant first identified in Brazil, was effectively neutralised among people who were given the jab.

The new variants are observed to carry changes in the spike, which is used by the virus to enter the human cells. These changes, in turn, affects how transmissible the virus is and therefore, is the primary target of the many coronavirus vaccines.

Scientists from the two companies and the University of Texas Medical Branch said that the neutralising ability of the vaccine on the new variant was equivalent to the effect on the less contagious version of the virus from the last year.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/covid-brazil-variant-pfizer-vaccine-b1814332.html

Eli Lilly’s combo therapy for COVID-19 cuts serious illness and death in large study

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Eli Lilly and Co said on Wednesday that its combination antibody therapy to fight COVID-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 87% in a study of more than 750 high-risk COVID-19 patients.

It is the second large, late-stage study to show that combination therapy of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, is effective at treating mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.

The previous study, which published data in January, used a higher dose of the drugs and reduced risk of hospitalization by 70%.

“I expect this data to continue to drive more utilization” of the antibodies,” said Daniel Skovronsky, chief scientific officer at Eli Lilly.

“We have few other diseases where we have drugs that can offer this magnitude of benefit.”

U.S. regulators authorized the combination therapy in February for use in COVID-19 patients 12 and over with a high risk of developing serious complications. European regulators greenlighted its use in March.

The United States agreed in February to purchase a minimum of 100,000 doses of the combination treatment.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-lilly/eli-lillys-combo-therapy-for-covid-19-cuts-serious-illness-and-death-in-large-study-idUSKBN2B21C0

More people in US fully vaccinated than people who have had the disease since the pandemic began

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There are now more people in the United States who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 than the total number of confirmed coronavirus infections the country has seen so far during the pandemic, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Numbers posted to the CDC website on Sunday show that more than 30 million people in the United States have received both their first and second doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

Specifically, as of Monday, 30,686,881 people have received two doses, according to the CDC. 

That number is more than the nearly 29 million Covid-19 cases that have been reported in the United States so far, according to Johns Hopkins University data as of Monday morning. Experts maintain the actual number of total infections is likely underreported and much higher.

https://edition.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-vaccine-updates-03-08-21/h_b737b11bd67ac986214fbe97b6f79d15

New York City High Schools Will Reopen in Pandemic Milestone

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New York City will welcome high school students back into classrooms starting on March 22, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday, a major milestone in the city’s sometimes halting efforts to resume in-person instruction for some of its one million students.

At a time when instruction in some cities in the Northeast and many on the West Coast remains completely remote for high school and even some elementary school students, New York’s decision to bring back high school students — a vast majority of them low-income, Black and Latino — will be viewed as an important precedent. The city’s public school system is by far the largest in the country.

Reopening high schools will be the first major task faced by the new schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, who will take over from the outgoing chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, on March 15.

About half of the city’s 488 high schools will offer full-time instruction for most or all of their in-person students, while the other half will offer hybrid instruction. The city will also restart high school sports for all students starting next month, including those who have decided to learn remotely. The sports season will run through the summer this year, rather than ending with the school year, and students will be required to wear masks at all times.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/nyregion/nyc-high-schools-reopen.html

U.S. administers 92.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines: CDC

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The United States has administered 92,089,852 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Monday morning and delivered 116,378,615 doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The tally of vaccine doses are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech PFE.N vaccines as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Monday, the agency said.

According to the tally posted on March 7, the agency had administered 90,351,750 doses of the vaccines and delivered 116,363,405 doses.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-cdc/u-s-administers-92-1-million-doses-of-covid-19-vaccines-cdc-idUSKBN2B02A3

US – Amount of people hesitant to get Covid-19 vaccine dropping rapidly

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The release of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine and its partnership with Merck means that President Joe Biden expects the US to have enough Covid-19 vaccines delivered to cover every adult by the end of May.

If Johnson & Johnson and fellow vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer meet their vaccine pledges, the bigger question we may soon be facing isn’t whether we have enough doses of Covid-19 vaccines, but whether people will actually take them.

Recent polling suggests a continued drop in the vaccine hesitant population as more and more people get vaccinated in the US.

The past two weeks alone, there were two polls that show just how much vaccine hesitancy has declined. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 55% of adults say they now want a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible or have already received their first dose. That’s up from 47% in January and 34% in December.

While the percentage of hardline “get it only if required” or “definitely not” has remained fairly consistent at or just north of 20%, the hesitant population of “wait and see how it’s working” has dropped by nearly half during the last two months from 39% to 22%.

Axios/Ipsos polling shows a similar trendline. A mere 13% of adults said in September they would get a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it was made available to them. That jumped to 27% in early December to 43% in early January. Now, 57% say they have already received the vaccine or will get it as soon as possible.

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/06/politics/covid-vaccine-analysis/index.html

Israel – Less than 3% of serious COVID cases are fully vaccinated, proving effectiveness

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Less than three percent of all seriously ill COVID-19 patients in Israel have been fully vaccinated, according to Health Ministry figures released Sunday, in the latest figures proving the success of coronavirus vaccines,

Of the 6,095 coronavirus patients hospitalized in serious or critical condition since the start of Israel’s vaccination campaign, only 175, or 2.87 percent, had received the second vaccination dose, the figures show.

At the same time, 4,589 patients, or 75% of those in serious or critical condition, had not received a first dose.

The promising figures come as Israel enters the next exit phase from its third nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

On Sunday, much of the economy reopened, including restaurants, cafes, school grades 7-10 in low-to-medium infection areas, event venues, attractions and hotels.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/less-than-3-of-serious-covid-cases-are-fully-vaccinated-proving-effectiveness/