Covid-19 Delta Variant More Easily Infects the Fully Vaccinated, Israel Finds

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Gizmodo 06 July, 2021 - 11:40am 49 views

COVID-19 cases were up in nearly half of U.S. states, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.  Latest COVID-19 news.

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COVID-19 restrictions are loosening around the country and travel is increasing at a rapid race. Here are the most surprising stats from June 2021. USA TODAY

COVID-19 cases were up in nearly half of U.S. states, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. 

Alaska and Arkansas more than doubled cases in just the last week. South Carolina and Kansas are up more than 50%.

In Missouri, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients jumped by nearly 30% over the Fourth of July weekend in a hard-hit area where immunization rates are low, leading to a temporary ventilator shortage and a public call for help from respiratory therapists.

The delta variant, first identified in India, is spreading rapidly throughout the state, straining hospitals in Springfield and raising fresh fears that the situation could soon grow worse as holiday gatherings seed fresh cases. Missouri leads the nation with the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days; 39.4% of residents there are fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 cases in Mississippi increased by almost 15% in June, and with Mississippi's fully vaccinated rate of 31% – the lowest rate in the nation – top disease expert Anthony Fauci said he would wear a mask while in the state.

“I might want to go the extra mile to be cautious enough to be sure that I get the extra added layer of protection, even though the vaccines themselves are highly effective,” Fauci told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The recent increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the state has been attributed to the rise to the delta variant's spread. About 95% of those hospitalizations have been in unvaccinated Mississippians, officials said.

"It feels very reminiscent of where we were in an early part of the pandemic," State Epidemiologist Paul Byers said during a June 29 press conference. "It feels like we're in the same situation now with the delta variant."

►Sri Lanka on Monday received a first batch of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first country in South Asia to get the U.S.-made COVID-19 jab.

►About 7,550 – out of 19.5 million fully vaccinated – Californians have been infected by COVID-19, a number far greater in those unvaccinated, according to an analysis by CalMatters of state data through June 23.

►Hundreds of Italian health care workers have sued local health authorities to avoid being suspended after they refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

►Fourteen people have been arrested in Mumbai, India, in connection with a scheme to administer fake COVID-19 vaccines to thousands of people, who actually got injected with salt water.

►Prime Minister Boris Johnson says people in England will no longer be required by law to wear face masks in indoor public spaces and to keep at least 3 feet apart as soon as later this month.

📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 605,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 184 million cases and nearly 3.98 million deaths. More than 157.3 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 47.4% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘What we're reading: Since the beginning of the pandemic, a third of the 64 people who oversee the nation’s vaccination programs have left. In the midst of the largest vaccination effort in the country's history, the nation lost a staggering amount of institutional knowledge. Read the full story.

More than 60 Indonesians died as a public hospital on Indonesia’s main island of Java ran out of oxygen as COVID rages around the country and oxygen supplies dwindled, said a senior health official.

At least 63 virus patients died during treatment for COVID-19 in the hospital since Saturday – 33 of them during the period when the central liquid oxygen supply ran out – even though the hospital switched to using oxygen cylinders during the outage, he said. Medical oxygen comes in liquid and compressed forms. The oxygen supply was stabilized early Sunday morning.

After a slow vaccination rollout, Indonesia is now racing to inoculate as many people as possible as it battles an explosion of COVID-19 cases that have strained its health care. But inadequate global supply, the complicated geography of the world's largest archipelago nation and hesitancy among some Indonesians stand as major roadblocks.

Residents of England got reassurances Monday that plans for the July 19 "Freedom Day'' remain in place, just as they were learning that Duchess Kate is self-isolating after coming in contact last week with a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

She has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The juxtaposition of the approaching end of COVID-19 restrictions in England with Prince William's wife being confined to home for 10 days underscores one of the key messages British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered with Monday's announcement:

"I want to stress from the outset that this pandemic is far from over," he said in a news conference. "It certainly won't be over by the 19th."

Johnson pointed out there has been a marked increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations recently, and the number of new infections could rise to 50,000 per day by July 19.

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COVID-19 cases up in nearly half of US states: analysis | TheHill

The Hill 06 July, 2021 - 01:02pm

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Colleges requiring COVID vaccines consider how to enforce these requirements for international students

Inside Higher Ed 06 July, 2021 - 01:02pm

What foreign COVID vaccines should colleges accept? What protocols should be in place for international students who weren't able to be vaccinated at home prior to coming to campus?

AstraZeneca or Moderna? Sinopharm or Sputnik?

For the more than 500 American colleges that plan to require COVID-19 vaccines for students coming to campus this fall, a major challenge will be implementing this requirement for international students who might not have access to one of the three vaccines currently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in the U.S.

Some of those students may have access to a different vaccine authorized by a different national regulator in their home country, or they might not have access to a COVID-19 vaccine at all.

“It runs the gamut,” said Edythe-Anne Cook, associate director for administrative services at the Student Health Center at American University in Washington, D.C. “As you can imagine, every country has their own access to vaccines, and they have their own policies and plans for how they’re distributing them.”

For the purposes of its COVID-19 vaccine requirement, American is accepting any COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by either the FDA -- the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines -- or any vaccine listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, a list that includes the AstraZeneca vaccine and the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, both of which are made in China, among others.

A review of dozens of colleges’ mandatory vaccine policies suggests that many are going the route American has taken of accepting either FDA- or WHO-authorized vaccines. This aligns with interim guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for individuals vaccinated outside the U.S., which says that people who have received all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization do not need additional doses of an FDA-authorized vaccine. By contrast, those who have been vaccinated with a vaccine that is not authorized by the FDA or WHO “may be offered a complete FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine series” assuming a minimum of 28 days has passed since their last dose of a different vaccine.

According to the CDC, only people who have received all recommended doses of an FDA- or WHO-listed vaccine should be considered fully vaccinated for purposes of public health guidance.

Gerri Taylor, co-chair of the American College Health Association’s COVID-19 task force, said colleges already have a track record of accepting international versions of vaccines for more long-standing vaccine requirements, such as those for preventing meningitis, measles, mumps and rubella.

“Each college has to make their own decision, and the WHO is a good standard, as is the CDC,” said Taylor. “If we follow what they’re recommending, I think schools will be in good shape.”

Not all vaccines available internationally are currently recommended for emergency use by the WHO: among the notable vaccines not listed by the WHO currently are Covaxin, which is available in India, and Sputnik V, which is available in Russia. Many colleges have plans in place to help students who are unable to be vaccinated with WHO- or FDA-approved vaccines prior to coming to campus get vaccinated after arrival.

But that raises the question of what special precautions students might need to take in the weeks until they are fully vaccinated: according to the CDC, a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after a single-dose Johnson & Jonson vaccine or two weeks after a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Taylor, of the American College Health Association, said colleges with COVID vaccination requirements are struggling with how to house students who arrive on campus without being fully vaccinated for whatever reason.

“This is not just an international issue; it’s all students,” Taylor said. “Do you house somebody who’s vaccinated with somebody who’s not vaccinated? ACHA is in discussions right now trying to make a decision” about what to recommend in this regard.

Whitman College, in Washington, posted guidance last week saying that students “who are unable to obtain a COVID vaccination in their community before coming to campus will be given quarantine housing, assuming that they agree to work with the college to be vaccinated as soon as possible.”

A Whitman spokesman said decisions about whether these students could attend in-person classes would be made on an individual basis. "We are working to bring students in this situation to campus early enough for them to be fully vaccinated by the start of the semester," he said. "For those who are not able to be on campus that early, we will work closely with them and their professors to find individual solutions that do not put our students, faculty and staff at additional risk."

Cook, the student health center administrator at American, said the university will let international students who have not yet been vaccinated with an approved vaccine move into residence halls and attend in-person classes, but they will have to wear face masks and participate in surveillance testing. They will also be subject to any city health department requirements related to COVID testing and restriction of activities upon arrival. She said these students will be able to attend in-person classes while they get vaccinated.

“We know that there will be some members of our campus community who aren’t vaccinated right away, but we’re confident that they’ll agree to continue to follow the health and safety guidelines to keep everyone safe,” Cook said.

Boston University plans to accept any COVID-19 vaccine, including those without WHO or FDA authorization or approval. But the university notes on its website “that while BU will accept all vaccines, current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance exempts only fully-vaccinated individuals who have received a WHO/FDA-authorized or approved vaccine from having to quarantine after travel or close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. If this remains the case in the fall, students who arrive on campus with a vaccine from another country may still be subject to close contact quarantine, travel quarantine, or other requirements set by the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts].”

David Hamer, professor of global health and medicine at the BU School of Public Health and BU School of Medicine, cited a few reasons why BU decided to accept all COVID-19 vaccines for the purposes of its institutional vaccination requirement.

“One is we’re worried about what students will have access to,” he said. “If we do not accept certain vaccines, then when they arrive, they would have to be basically in quarantine and not able to attend class until they’ve been fully vaccinated, and that could take three or four weeks. That means those students might be at risk for not being able to start their semester on time unless they came early, and then there could be added costs if that would be the case.”

“The other reason is we just don’t know enough yet about mixing different vaccines,” Hamer said. “We don’t want to force people to have a second vaccine when we don’t know how a series would be in terms of reactions.”

Some smaller colleges are considering each international student’s situation individually. This is the case for Albion College in Michigan, which expects to enroll about 30 international students this fall, according to Matt Arend, the college's COVID-19 coordinator and associate dean for wellness and director of athletics.

“We are truly evaluating on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We’re working with our local health department in trying to assess the different vaccines that are out there.”

Sudhanshu Kaushik, executive director of the North American Association of Indian Students, urged colleges to have “a little bit more empathy and a lot more context in terms of understanding” what their vaccine requirements mean for international students.

“Just putting it on them and saying you have to get this vaccine or you won’t be allowed to enter on campus or attend in-person classes” is inappropriate, he argued, noting that this comes after nearly a year and a half of many international students paying tuition to take their classes remotely.

Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for international affairs at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, said questions about Lehigh’s vaccination requirement are “hands down the biggest set of questions we’re getting” from international students.

She said Lehigh officials are fielding questions from students in India, for example, who can get one dose of a COVID vaccine before they travel to the U.S. but not a second, and are questioning whether they should get that first dose. University officials are also getting many questions from students about quarantine and what that means: students who are not vaccinated with a FDA- or WHO-approved vaccine will need to arrive on campus seven days prior to the Aug. 15 orientation to quarantine.

Added to that, Matherly said students from many countries are finding it difficult to find flights to the U.S. at affordable prices.

“We have people trying to balance time to quarantine with availability of flights,” she said.

“Each individual piece has to line up to make it possible for the student to get here, and it’s requiring that we be extraordinarily flexible with students on everything from arrival dates to housing to how we’re going to handle orientation to even the start of classes,” Matherly said. “At the end of the day, it’s requiring that as an institution we be consummately flexible.”

We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Letters may be sent to [email protected].

Pfizer vaccine less effective against delta variant

The Hill 06 July, 2021 - 09:08am

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the Pfizer vaccine protected 64 percent of immunized people during an outbreak of the delta variant, a sharp drop when compared to the 94 percent of people it had previously been shown to protect. However, the shot was still 94 percent effective at preventing severe illness, a slight decrease from the 97 percent that were kept from experiencing severe illness previously.

The data for the study was collected from June 6 through early July, according to officials from Israel’s Health Ministry. The data and the methodology of the study was not released, according to the Journal.

Some health experts expressed skepticism about the Israel study, saying mRNA vaccines like Pfizer have been shown to offer strong protection against COVID-19 infection.

"Speaking to colleagues in Israel, real skepticism about 64% number," Brown University School of Public Health Dean Ashish Jha wrote on Twitter. "Best data still suggest mRNA vaccines offer high degree of protection against infection."

"And superb protection against severe illness," Jha added. "Lets await more data but as of now If you're vaccinated, I wouldn't worry."

Jha clarified that he was not saying the results of the study were incorrect, but stressed that most data has suggested a high efficacy rate in protecting against the delta variant, pointing to a British study that found it was 90 percent effective.

The Journal noted that the results of this study have come out as Israel is currently experiencing a slight increase in new cases, with experts finding that 90 percent of new cases have likely been caused by the delta variant. Despite this increase, the number of cases in Israel still remains low by global standards.

Over 80 percent of Israel's adult population has been fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the Journal reports.

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