Pfizer says it is developing a Covid booster shot to target the highly transmissible delta variant

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CNBC 08 July, 2021 - 05:50pm 52 views

Delta variant is 'Covid-19 on steroids,' expert says, with cases increasing in nearly half of US states

CNN 08 July, 2021 - 05:10pm

Updated 10:19 AM ET, Thu July 8, 2021

CNN's Deidre McPhillips, Jacqueline Howard, Keri Enriquez, Virginia Langmaid and Hannah Sarisohn contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Kaiser Health News 08 July, 2021 - 05:10pm

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Mesa County is a breeding ground for the covid-19 delta variant, but few would guess with tens of thousands of people flocking to the state’s largest country music festival. (Rae Ellen Bichell, 7/8)

Hesitancy about the vaccines among prison staffers has led to a striking disparity: Inmates are better protected than corrections officials. (Amy Worden, 7/8)

The state will be the first to offer comprehensive counseling services to parents during pediatric visits as part of Medicaid. (Samantha Young, 7/8)

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Caution'" by Rina Piccolo.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

COVID-19 Crisis

The World Health Organization warns nations against reopening too soon, as the global death tally surpasses a heartbreaking 4 million humans. In the U.S., it's estimated that an additional 250,000 lives would've been lost by now if it weren't for vaccinations.

In related news about the covid death toll in the United States —

A new report identifies undervaccinated pockets in the Midwest and Southwest that leave local residents unprotected from the delta variant and threaten progress nationwide. Meanwhile, a federal surge team arrives in Missouri, which currently ranks 40th among 50 states in vaccination rates. Elsewhere, new cases are also on the rise in Arkansas, Utah, Iowa, Texas and Colorado.

And a bit of good news from California —

Public health experts are weighing any policy changes in light of the uptick in U.S. covid cases in almost half the states.

Experts are keeping a close watch on lambda and epsilon —

The New York Times reports on questions over the death toll from the prison system since some prisoners were released before they died of covid. A report from here at KHN notes that while many inmates are vaccinated, their guards are likely not.

Data from wearable health tech devices seem to show that long-term effects from a covid infection include an elevated heart rate that persists for weeks or months. Other reports note that low testosterone in men is linked to a severe covid infection.

Vaccines

Texas' Attorney General Ken Paxton said "not on my watch!" in reaction to President Joe Biden's plan to go door to door to promote covid shots. News outlets from different states investigate reasons for vaccine hesitancy, including politics and concerns of side effects.

In updates on vaccine lotteries —

Pharmaceuticals

A report in CIDRAP explains how the Food and Drug Administration tried to prevent drug shortages by "flexing" its rules and expedited new drug applications and supplements. Separately, reports note Pfizer's heart meds are bringing in billions of dollars for the drugmaker.

Public Health

A new report finds the biggest improvements among the rate of people dying from lung cancer and melanoma. But death rates against major cancers, like colorectal or breast, are either flat or higher.

Reports say the recent record-breaking temperatures and hundreds of heat-related deaths in the northwest would be "virtually impossible" without human influence on climate. A separate study says climate change is linked to 5 million deaths yearly.

The heat wave isn't relenting —

In other public health news —

As part of their divorce negotiations, Bill and Melinda French Gates agree to continue jointly running their foundation for the next two years. If that arrangement is unsuccessful, he can buy her out after that period.

Opioid Crisis

Fifteen states have dropped their objections to the OxyContin maker's reorganization plan, moving the company closer to transforming itself into a new entity that helps combat the opioid epidemic through its own profits, AP reported.

In other news about the opioid epidemic —

Health Industry

During probation, a school is at risk of losing its accreditation if it doesn't fix the issues by the next review cycle, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which issued the citation, has said previously. Aetna, Cleveland Clinic, UnitedHealth and more are also in the news.

In other health industry news —

And in health tech news —

Global Watch

Japan declared a new pandemic state of emergency, which will last though the Olympics. The move means it's likely that no fans will be permitted at events. Separate reports say Japan is battling to remove vaccine bottlenecks that are slowing rollout efforts.

Novilia Sjafri Bachtiar was the lead scientist for trials of China's covid vaccine, in a country where it has been widely used. Other reports note that the CoronaVac vaccine has proved inferior to Pfizer's covid shot where both shots were used simultaneously.

Health Policy Research

Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.

Editorials And Opinions

Opinion writers weigh in on covid, the delta variant and vaccines.

Editorial writers delve into these various public health issues.

Delta Variant Surges in Colorado as the Bands Play On

Most Inmates Have Had Their Covid Shots — But Their Guards Likely Haven’t

A Family Wellness Check: California Invests in Treating Parents and Children Together

As Covid Vaccinations Slow, Parts of the US Remain Far Behind 70% Goal

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What Canadians need to know about Lambda COVID-19 variant

Global News 08 July, 2021 - 05:10pm

Covid-19 Delta variant spreads to all 50 US states

TRT World 08 July, 2021 - 05:10pm

Opinion: The best way to beat the Delta variant

CNN 08 July, 2021 - 05:10pm

Updated 2:27 PM ET, Wed July 7, 2021

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How does the Delta variant dodge the immune system? Scientists find clues.

The New York Times 08 July, 2021 - 10:00am

“This week, the Delta variant is estimated to be the most prevalent variant in the United States, representing over 50 percent of sequenced samples across the country, up from 26 percent from the week ending June 19. And in some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher. For example, in parts of the Midwest and upper mountain states, C.D.C.’s early sequenced data suggest the Delta variant accounts for approximately 80 percent of cases. Although we expected the Delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling. We know that the Delta variant has increased transmissibility and it is currently surging in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates. We also know that our authorized vaccines prevent severe disease, hospitalization and death from the Delta variant and these results have been observed not just here in the United States, but in other countries as well. Of course, widespread vaccination is what will truly turn the corner on this pandemic. Please know if you are not vaccinated, you remain susceptible, especially from the transmissible Delta variant, and are particularly at risk for severe illness.” “If you are an elderly person or if you have a person with an underlying disease, you might want to go the extra mile of protection of wearing a mask if you were indoors in an environment with a high degree of infection in the community and a low level of vaccination.”

The Delta variant of the coronavirus can evade antibodies that target certain parts of the virus, according to a new study published on Thursday in Nature. The findings provide an explanation for diminished effectiveness of the vaccines against Delta, compared with other variants.

The variant, first identified in India, is believed to be about 60 percent more contagious than Alpha, the version of the virus that thrashed Britain and much of Europe earlier this year, and perhaps twice as contagious as the original coronavirus. The Delta variant is now driving outbreaks among unvaccinated populations in countries like Malaysia, Portugal, Indonesia and Australia.

Delta is also now the dominant variant in the United States. Infections in the country had plateaued at their lowest levels since early in the pandemic, though the numbers may be rising. Still, hospitalizations and deaths related to the virus have continued a steep plunge.That’s partly because of relatively high vaccination rates: 48 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 55 percent have received at least one dose.

But the new study found that Delta was barely sensitive to one dose of vaccine, confirming previous research that suggested that the variant can partly evade the immune system — although to a lesser degree than Beta, the variant first identified in South Africa.

French researchers tested how well antibodies produced by natural infection and by coronavirus vaccines neutralize the Alpha, Beta and Delta variants, as well as a reference variant similar to the original version of the virus.

The researchers looked at blood samples from 103 people who had been infected with the coronavirus. Delta was much less sensitive than Alpha to samples from unvaccinated people in this group, the study found.

One dose of vaccine significantly boosted the sensitivity, suggesting that people who have recovered from Covid-19 still need to be vaccinated to fend off some variants.

The team also analyzed samples from 59 people after they had received the first and second doses of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

Blood samples from just 10 percent of people immunized with one dose of the AstraZeneca or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were able to neutralize the Delta and Beta variants in laboratory experiments. But a second dose boosted that number to 95 percent. There was no major difference in the levels of antibodies elicited by the two vaccines.

“A single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca was either poorly or not at all efficient against Beta and Delta variants,” the researchers concluded. Data from Israel and Britain broadly support this finding, although those studies suggest that one dose of vaccine is still enough to prevent hospitalization or death from the virus.

The Delta variant also did not respond to bamlanivimab, the monoclonal antibody made by Eli Lilly, according to the new study. Fortunately, three other monoclonal antibodies tested in the study retained their effectiveness against the variant.

In April, citing the rise of variants resistant to bamlanivimab, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked the emergency use authorization for its use as a single treatment in treating Covid-19 patients.

Separately, Pfizer announced on Thursday that it was developing a version of its vaccine that targets the Delta variant and expects to launch clinical trials in August.

The company also reported promising results from studies of people who received a third dose of the original vaccine. A booster given six months after the second dose increases the potency of antibodies against the original virus and the Beta variant by five to 10-fold, the company said in a news release.

Antibody levels may decline six months after immunization, Pfizer said, and booster doses may be needed to fend off variants. But antibodies are not the only part of the body’s immune response, and other studies have suggested that immunity induced by full vaccination is likely to remain robust for years, even against variants.

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