But there are concerns about the low supply of what experts say may be a game-changing pill, Paxlovid from Pfizer, which is used to treat COVID-19.
Most Americans won’t have access to it for months, according to an ABC analysis.
Also, the FDA recently removed authorization of monoclonal antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lily.
Here are more of today’s COVID-19 headlines:
Millions of routine vaccinations missed amid pandemic
Adults and adolescents have missed more than 37 million routine vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis of insurance claims by Avalere, a health care consulting firm. The firm compared monthly claims from January 2020 through June 2021 against baselines from 2019. On average, the analysis found, monthly claims were down 32% for adults and 36% for adolescents compared with 2019. Vaccinations ticked up briefly in March 2021 but otherwise consistently lagged behind 2019 levels in all markets. Along with flu and HPV, vaccinations tracked in the analysis included hepatitis, chickenpox and shingles, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), meningococcal, pneumococcal and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis).
LI nurses accused of making $1.5M selling fake vaccine cards
Two nurses on Long Island are accused of forging COVID-19 vaccination cards and pocketing more than $1.5 million from the scheme, prosecutors and police said. Julie DeVuono, the owner of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, and her employee, Marissa Urraro, are both charged with felony forgery, and DeVuono also is charged with offering a false instrument for filing. Both were arraigned Friday.
Could there be a universal vaccine for any type of coronavirus, not just COVID-19?
At the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine makers raced to design a shot that perfectly matched the new virus’s genetic code. Their efforts were successful, resulting in highly effective vaccines in record time. But the virus has continued to evolve into new, concerning variants, each with a slightly different genetic code. Although current vaccines still work well against new variants, they are no longer a perfect match. Vaccine makers like Pfizer and Moderna are now exploring tweaked booster shots to match the now-dominant omicron variant, but the U.S. government is aggressively pursuing a different approach: a pan-coronavirus vaccine that would work equally well against any COVID-19 variant.
“Since September of 2020 there have been five SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern — alpha, beta, gamma, delta and now, the current, omicron,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a White House task force briefing Wednesday. “So, obviously, innovative approaches are needed.”
Russia’s daily COVID-19 count soars above 110,000
Russia’s daily count of new coronavirus infections has spiked above 110,000 as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads through the vast country. The state coronavirus task force reported 113,122 new infections Saturday, an all-time high and a sevenfold increase from earlier in the month, when daily case counts were about 15,000. The task force said 668 more people died of COVID-19, bring Russia’s total fatality count for the pandemic to 330,111. That is by far the highest toll in Europe. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that “it is obvious that this number (of infections) is higher and possibly much higher,” because “many people don’t get tested” or have no symptoms.
Austria to loosen coronavirus restrictions in February
Austrian officials say they plan to loosen coronavirus restrictions next month. Starting Feb. 5, restaurants will be allowed to remain open two hours later, until midnight. In addition, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said at a Saturday press conference, rules effectively barring unvaccinated people from stores and restaurants will be phased out. The new loosened restrictions were announced just days before the country’s national vaccine mandate comes into effect on Feb. 1, and come in spite of record-high case numbers in recent days. Officials have said they expect the omicron wave to peak in Austria during the first week of February.
Third COVID wave looms in Indonesia as omicron spreads
Indonesia is bracing for a third wave of COVID-19 infections as the highly transmissible omicron variant drives a surge in new cases. The country reported over 11,500 new confirmed infections and 17 deaths in the last 24-hour period. It was the highest daily caseload since August last year when Indonesia was struggling to contain a delta-driven wave. It was among the countries in the region hit hardest until daily infections had fallen to about 200 by December. Now cases are rising again just weeks after it reported its first local omicron transmission. The health minister says the current wave would likely peak at the end of February or in early March. Some experts doubt the measures will be enough given the lax enforcement.
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern isolates after virus exposure
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is self-isolating after coming into close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus. The exposure came on a flight from the town of Kerikeri to the largest city of Auckland. New Zealand’s Governor-General Cindy Kiro was also on the Jan. 22 flight and has also gone into self-isolation. Ardern’s office says the prime minister is asymptomatic and feeling well, and will isolate until Tuesday. Health officials listed a dozen flights as exposure events late Saturday, a possible indication that one or more of the flight crew was infected. New Zealand has managed to stamp out or contain the virus for much of the pandemic, but an outbreak of the omicron variant is starting to take hold.
In France, anti-vax fury, politics make public service risky
In France, election-time politics and fury among opponents of COVID-19 vaccinations are making public service increasingly risky. An upsurge of physical and verbal attacks directed at public office-holders is ringing alarm bells. Apparent arson attacks in December targeted a lawmaker and a mayor, both aligned with President Emmanuel Macron. Violence has also increased as France’s government has steadily increased pressure on the non-vaccinated to get COVID-19 jabs. In a village in southern France’s Provence region, the mayor has come up with a novel solution to the problem of how to get involved in France’s presidential election without ruffling feathers.
Moderna launches clinical trial for HIV vaccine that uses mRNA technology used in COVID shot
Moderna announced that it’s launched early-stage clinical trials of an HIV mRNA vaccine. The biotechnology company has teamed up with the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to develop the shot, which uses the same technology as Moderna’s successful COVID-19 vaccine. The first participants in the Phase I trial were given doses at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., according to a company statement.
“We are tremendously excited to be advancing this new direction in HIV vaccine design with Moderna’s mRNA platform,” Dr. Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of IAVI, said in a statement. “The search for an HIV vaccine has been long and challenging, and having new tools in terms of immunogens and platforms could be the key to making rapid progress toward an urgently needed, effective HIV vaccine.”
How many times can I reuse my N95 mask?
How many times can I reuse my N95 mask? It depends, but you should be able to use N95s and KN95s a few times. The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says health care workers can wear an N95 mask up to five times. But experts say how often the average person can safely wear one will vary depending on how it’s used. Using the same mask to run to the grocery store, for example, is very different than wearing it all day at work.
What to know about BA.2, new omicron subvariant detected in several US states
Even as the omicron COVID-19 variant continues to sweep the globe, scientists are now monitoring a new mutation of omicron, dubbed BA.2. The World Health Organization maintains that BA.2 is not a “variant of concern,” meaning there is no current evidence to suggest this new subvariant will worsen COVID-19 transmission, illness severity, or efficacy of vaccines and public health efforts like masking and social distancing. BA.2 numbers around the world are rising, with at least 40 countries reporting cases to a global variant tracking database, but the subvariant has spread rapidly in Denmark and the UK, with almost half of recent cases in Denmark attributed to BA.2. The subvariant has already been detected in several U.S. states, with Washington State confirming two cases Monday.
Americans’ trust in science now deeply polarized, poll shows
Republicans’ faith in science is falling as Democrats rely on it even more, with a trust gap in science and medicine widening substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic, new survey data shows. It’s the largest gap in nearly five decades of polling by the General Social Survey, a widely respected trend survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago that has been measuring confidence in institutions since 1972. That is unsurprising to more than a dozen scientists reached for comment by The Associated Press, but it concerns many of them.
“We are living at a time when people would rather put urine or cleaning chemicals in their body than scientifically vetted vaccines,” University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd told the AP in an email. “That is a clear convergence of fear, lack of critical thinking, confirmation bias and political tribalism.”
Here’s how to get free N95 masks from pharmacies or community health centers
The rollout of free N95 masks for the public began this week across the United States, with some pharmacies already handing out the masks and others expecting to do so in the coming days. The program is part of the Biden administration’s effort to distribute 400 million free N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile via pharmacies and community health centers. The program is expected to be fully up and running by early February.
The masks are arriving at their destinations with accompanying flyers and signage from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which paid for the masks. Here’s what you need to know about getting a free N95 mask through this program.
What is MIS-C in children? TX mom shares son’s story of ‘scary’ battle with rare COVID complication
A 6-year-old Houston boy and his mom are reflecting on his scary battle with a rare COVID-19 complication in children that left him hospitalized in the ICU for more than two weeks. Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, also known as MIS-C, in children is a rare condition where different parts of the body become inflamed, including the heart, lungs and brain. It usually happens three to four weeks after contracting the virus. It is extremely rare, with only 1% of kids with COVID getting it. Last January, Sara Cantu took her son, Santana, who was 5 at the time, to the hospital when he began experiencing symptoms weeks after contracting COVID.
COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility for women or men, study finds
A new study adds to the growing evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for both pregnant people and people hoping to become pregnant. The study, which looked at more than 2,000 couples in the United States and Canada, found “no adverse association” between getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and fertility, for both men and women. On the other hand, men who contract COVID-19 may experience a temporary reduction in fertility. Couples who had a male partner test positive for COVID-19 within 60 days of their partner’s menstrual cycle were 18% less likely to conceive in that cycle, according to the study, published on Jan. 20 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
When am I contagious if infected with omicron?
When am I contagious if infected with omicron? It’s not yet clear, but some early data suggests people might become contagious sooner than with earlier variants – possibly within a day after infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the few days before and after symptoms develop. But that window of time might happen earlier with omicron, according to some outside experts. That’s because omicron appears to cause symptoms faster than previous variants – about three days after infection, on average, according to preliminary studies. Based on previous data, that means people with omicron could start becoming contagious as soon as a day after infection.
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