There will be a return to normal life within a year, Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla said on Sunday, adding that it’s likely annual Covid vaccination shots will be necessary.
“Within a year I think we will be able to come back to normal life,” Bourla said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
Returning to normal life will have caveats, he said: “I don’t think that this means that the variants will not continue coming, and I don’t think that this means that we should be able to live our lives without having vaccinations,” Bourla said. “But that, again, remains to be seen.”
Bourla’s prediction about when normal life will resume is in keeping with that of Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. “As of today, in a year, I assume,” Bancel told the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung, according to Reuters on Thursday, when asked for his estimate of a return to normal life.
In order to make that happen, Pfizer’s Bourla suggested it is likely annual coronavirus vaccine shots will be needed.
The idea of waning immunity has picked up steam in recent weeks, with some countries using it to justify rolling out third-dose COVID-19 vaccine boosters to their populations. But immunologists say the concept has been largely misunderstood.
While antibodies – proteins created after infection or vaccination that help prevent future invasions from the pathogen – do level off over time, experts say that’s supposed to happen.
And it doesn’t mean we’re not protected against COVID-19.
Jennifer Gommerman, an immunologist with the University of Toronto, said the term “waning immunity” has given people a false understanding of how the immune system works.
“Waning has this connotation that something’s wrong and there isn’t,” she said. “It’s very normal for the immune system to mount a response where a ton of antibodies are made and lots of immune cells expand. And for the moment, that kind of takes over.
“But it has to contract, otherwise you wouldn’t have room for subsequent immune responses.”
Antibody levels ramp up in the “primary response” phase after vaccination or infection, “when your immune system is charged up and ready to attack,” said Steven Kerfoot, an associate professor of immunology at Western University.
They then decrease from that “emergency phase,” he added. But the memory of the pathogen and the body’s ability to respond to it remains.
The World Health Organization said there were about 4 million coronavirus cases reported globally last week, marking the first major drop in new infections in more than two months. In recent weeks, there have been about 4.4 million new COVID-19 cases.
In its weekly update released on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said every region in the world saw a drop in COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week.
WHO also said children and teenagers continue to be less affected by COVID-19 when compared to adults, adding that deaths of people under 24 due to the disease account for fewer than 0.5% of global deaths.
Exposure to the rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of the common cold, can protect against infection by the virus which causes COVID-19, Yale researchers have found.
In a new study, the researchers found that the common respiratory virus jump-starts the activity of interferon-stimulated genes, early-response molecules in the immune system which can halt replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus within airway tissues infected with the cold.
Triggering these defenses early in the course of COVID-19 infection holds promise to prevent or treat the infection, said Ellen Foxman, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine and senior author of the study. One way to do this is by treating patients with interferons, an immune system protein which is also available as a drug.
Since earlier studies by Foxman’s lab showed that common cold viruses may protect against influenza, they decided to study whether rhinoviruses would have the same beneficial impact against the COVID-19 virus. For the study, her team infected lab-grown human airway tissue with SARS-CoV-2 and found that for the first three days, viral load in the tissue doubled about every six hours. However, replication of the COVID-19 virus was completely stopped in tissue which had been exposed to rhinovirus. If antiviral defenses were blocked, the SARS-CoV-2 could replicate in airway tissue previously exposed to rhinovirus.
The same defenses slowed down SARS-CoV-2 infection even without rhinovirus, but only if the infectious dose was low, suggesting that the viral load at the time of exposure makes a difference in whether the body can effectively fight the infection.
Eran Segal, a computational biologist from the Weizmann Institute of Science and a top adviser to the government’s coronavirus cabinet, says that Israel is seeing additional signs that it is successfully curbing the latest coronavirus outbreak.
Segal, speaking with Channel 12 news, says “we are seeing falling numbers in several key criteria,” noting that there were some 80 new serious cases in the last week, compared to over 100 the week before.
He says that Israel’s current R-number, the basic reproduction rate of the virus, is now 0.84.
“My careful estimate is that we will continue to see a curbing of the virus,” Segal says.
Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) have created a facemask using silver and copper nanolayers that neutralizes SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the university’s official gazette said on Thursday.
UNAM is calling the triple-layered antimicrobial facemask SakCu; Sak means silver in Mayan and Cu is the chemical symbol for copper.
To test the mask, researchers took drops with the virus from COVID-19-positive patients at the Hospital Juarez in Mexico and placed them on the silver-copper film deposited in polypropylene.
UNAM said that if the viral concentration was high, the virus disappeared by more than 80% in about eight hours and if the viral load was low, in two hours none of the virus RNA was detected.
The facemask is reusable and can be washed up to 10 times without losing its biocide properties.
The breast milk of lactating mothers vaccinated against COVID-19 contains a significant supply of antibodies that may help protect nursing infants from the illness, according to new research from the University of Florida.
“Our findings show that vaccination results in a significant increase in antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — in breast milk, suggesting that vaccinated mothers can pass on this immunity to their babies, something we are working to confirm in our ongoing research,” said Joseph Larkin III, Ph.D., senior author of the study and an associate professor in the UF/IFAS department of microbiology and cell science.
When babies are born, their immune systems are underdeveloped, making it hard for them to fight infections on their own. They are also often too young to respond adequately to certain types of vaccines, said Josef Neu, M.D., one of the study’s co-authors and a professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics, division of neonatology.
During this vulnerable period, breast milk allows nursing mothers to provide infants with “passive immunity,” Neu explained.
“Think of breast milk as a toolbox full of all the different tools that help prepare the infant for life. Vaccination adds another tool to the toolbox, one that has the potential to be especially good at preventing COVID-19 illness,” Neu said. “The results of our study strongly suggest that vaccines can help protect both mom and baby, another compelling reason for pregnant or lactating women to get vaccinated.”
The study was conducted between December 2020 and March 2021, when the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines first became available to health care workers.
Children have reduced severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection rates and a substantially lower risk for developing severe coronavirus disease 2019 compared with adults confirmed by study.
It has repeatedly been reported that younger individuals have a substantially lower risk for developing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), despite a similar risk of infection, as reflected in dramatically increased mortality with increasing age1,2,3. These observations suggest that children may have a higher capability of controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection.
To understand the higher capacity of children for controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection at an early stage, we systematically characterized the transcriptional landscape of upper airways, an airway region with high susceptibility for SARS-CoV-2 infection7, in SARS-CoV-2-negative and SARS-CoV-2-positive children and adults.
The findings showed different cellular composition in the upper airways of children and adults.