COVID-19 Update: Pfizer Vaccine Can Protect Against Brazil Variant; First Case of South African Variant Discovered in Michigan; and more

As of Tuesday, March 9, 2021, here are the latest COVID-19 numbers around the world, according to statistics aggregator, Worldometer. 

  • World Cases: Over 117.8 million.
  • World Deaths: 2,613,951 deaths.

Countries Outside of the US with Most Infections:

  • India: 11,246,380 confirmed cases; 157,985 deaths.
  • Brazil: 11,055,480 confirmed cases; 266,614 deaths.
  • Russia: 4,342,474 confirmed cases; 89,809 deaths.
  • UK: 4,223,232 confirmed cases; 124,566 deaths.
  • France: 3,909,560 confirmed cases; 88,933 deaths.

WHO Director Warns Against Vaccine Nationalism

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hopes that countries don’t adopt a “me first” approach to vaccines in an article from The Guardian. “Of the 225m vaccine doses that have been administered so far, the vast majority have been in a handful of rich and vaccine-producing countries, while most low- and middle-income countries watch and wait,” Ghebreyesus said. “A me-first approach might serve short-term political interests, but it is self-defeating and will lead to a protracted recovery.”

India’s Vaccine is 81% Effective

India’s home-grown Covaxin vaccine is 81% effective against Covid-19, according to early data released this week. “Today is an important milestone in vaccine discovery, for science and our fight against coronavirus,” said Bharat Biotech chairman Dr. Krishna Ella. “Covaxin demonstrates high clinical efficacy trend against COVID-19 but also significant immunogenicity against the rapidly emerging variants.”

National News

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

  • US Cases: Over 29.7 million.
  • US Deaths: 538,884 deaths.
  • California: 3,604,208 confirmed cases; 54,394 deaths.
  • Texas: 2,704,672 confirmed cases; 45,571 deaths.
  • Florida: 1,944,995 confirmed cases; 31,683 deaths.
  • New York: 1,732,927 confirmed cases; 48,579 deaths.
  • Illinois: 1,198,335 confirmed cases; 23,014 deaths.

Studies Show Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccines Protects Against Brazil Variant

A new study indicates that the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine can protect people against the concerning coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil. The study, conducted by researchers at Pfizer, BioNTech and the University of Texas Medical Branch, showed that the vaccine is able to neutralize the Brazil variant “roughly” as well as it could neutralize an earlier strain of the virus from January 2020, per a CNN report.

Airline Industry Pushing Back Against CDC Guidelines

The United States Airline Industry is pushing back against the CDC guidelines that fully vaccinated people should still not travel. “Every time there’s a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during Monday’s White House coronavirus response briefing.

Research Needed on the Mental Health Toll of the Pandemic?

After a year of turmoil – not only physically, but mentally and emotionally – US lawmakers are now calling for research into the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on mental health. Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tim Kaine of Virginia exclusively told CNN that they plan to introduce the Covid-19 Mental Health Research Act on Tuesday afternoon. The legislation, per the report, would direct $100 million annually for five years to the National Institute of Mental Health to fund research on the mental health impactof the pandemic.

First Case of South African Variant Found in Michigan

The first US case of the South African variant B.1.351 has been detected in the state of Michigan in a male child, according to Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Bureau of Laboratories. The case marks the only known case in Michigan at this time, though it’s possible additional cases have yet to be detected.

Monday, March 8, 2021

CDC Releases Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely visit with other vaccinated people and small groups of unvaccinated people in some circumstances. However, safety precautions are still needed. “Covid-19 continues to exert a tremendous toll on our nation. Like you, I want to be able to return to everyday activities and engage with our friends, families, and communities,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at the White House briefing Monday. “Science, and the protection of public health must guide us as we begin to resume these activities. Today’s action represents an important first step. It is not our final destination.”

The guidelines add that fully vaccinated people must:

  • Wear a mask and keep good physical distance around the unvaccinated who are at increased risk for severe Covid-19, or if the unvaccinated person has a household member who is at higher risk
  • Wear masks and physically distance when visiting unvaccinated people who are from multiple households.

COVID-19 Relief Package on Cusp of Passing

The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue bill has passed the Senate and now heads back to the House for a final vote. Per a CNN report, the bill includes: extended help for the unemployed, money to reopen schools, aid for stricken small businesses, child tax credits and health insurance subsidies.

A Promising Statistic

The CDC says there are now more people in the US fully vaccinated against COVID-19 than the total number of confirmed infections in the US. As of Monday, 30,686,881 people have received two doses, according to the CDC.

Friday, March 5, 2021

  • US Cases: Over 29.4 million.
  • US Deaths: 531,713 deaths.
  • California: 3,582,677 confirmed cases; 53,041 deaths.
  • Texas: 2,679,886 confirmed cases; 44,708 deaths.
  • Florida: 1,924,144 confirmed cases; 31,273 deaths.
  • New York: 1,701,431 confirmed cases; 48,184 deaths.
  • Illinois: 1,191,114 confirmed cases; 22,853 deaths.

Economy Added 379,000 New Jobs Last Month

The US is showing signs of improvement. A report shows that 379,000 jobs last month, exceeding the expectations of economists. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.2% – down from 6.3% in January. Economists had predicted it would stay flat.

Miami Beach Mayor Concerned About Spring Break Surge

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is concerned about a possible coronavirus spike centered around spring breakers visiting the area.“We’re very concerned. You know, a lot of things are happening simultaneously. You have the variant down here, and we still are having sometimes dozens of deaths a day in our county,” Gelber said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Fauci Says Relaxing Restrictions Now is “Inexplicable”

The decision to rollback safety measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is “inexplicable,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci. “I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you’re only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines — particularly when we’re dealing with anywhere from 55 to 70,000 infections per day in the United States,” Fauci told CNN.

Epidemiologist Concerned About Relaxing Guidelines Given Variants

One epidemiologist is concerned about states easing COVID-19 safety guidelines given the rise of coronavirus variants. “Expect in the next two to three weeks we’re going to see a number of areas in this country, I think, that will follow exactly what we’ve seen in Europe and the Middle East. We’re going to see a surge in cases. And everything that the governors are doing right now to relax all the public health recommendations that we’ve made are only going to be a major invitation of this virus to spread faster and farther,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

EU Regulators Begin Review of Russian Vaccine

The European Union’s vaccine regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), is reviewing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. “The decision to start the rolling review is based on results from laboratory studies and clinical studies in adults” the EMA said in a statement on Thursday. “These studies indicate that Sputnik V triggers the production of antibodies and immune cells that target the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and may help protect against Covid-19.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Texas Lifts Mask Mandate

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate in Texas, despite warnings from health officials not to ease COVID-19 safety protocols. Gov. Abbott also announced that businesses of any type will be allowed to open at 100% capacity starting March 10. “Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%.”

US Conference of Catholic Bishops Tells Catholics to Avoid J&J Vaccine

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops – which is the official group representing the Catholic Church in the US – is urging Catholics to avoid taking Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine, saying the vaccine “raises questions about the moral permissibility”, per a Forbes report. The group says the J&J vaccine should be avoided since it was “developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines.”

In response, J&J issued a statement to Forbes saying “there is no fetal tissue” in its vaccine, adding the company used an “engineered cell-line system that enables the rapid production of new viral vaccines to combat many of the most dangerous infectious diseases,” though it did not offer further specifics on its process.

CDC Director Warns Americans About Pandemic “Fatigue”

With the distribution of now three approved vaccines for COVID-19, and the development of others, the US is about to benefit from “historic scientific success”, but Americans must not give into pandemic “fatigue,” warnes Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. “We are just on the verge of capitalizing on the culmination of a historic scientific success, the ability to vaccinate the country in just a matter of three or four more months. How this plays out is up to us,” Dr. Walensky said.

J&J Vaccine for Children Under 18 May Be Available by September

Johnson & Johnson is likely to produce a COVID-19 for children under the age of 18 by September, said its CEO Alex Gorsky. “I think it’s likely to occur right in that timeline. The good news is, is that the FDA is already working with companies to establish the clear regulatory guidelines, so that the appropriate data can be collected,” Gorsky told David Ignatius during a Washington Post Live event on Wednesday. Gorsky added that that this particular vaccine has been used in lower age groups previously. “The AdVac 26 was used extensively among broad age groups, young and old in Africa when we were developing this for other conditions such as Ebola and HIV. So it gives us reasons to be optimistic regarding the safety profile in that in that patient population, but we still have to do the clinical work.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

  • US Cases: Over 29.2 million.
  • US Deaths: 525,799 deaths.
  • California: 3,555,010 confirmed cases; 52,213 deaths.
  • Texas: 2,657,614 confirmed cases; 44,072 deaths.
  • Florida: 1,909,221 confirmed cases; 30,583 deaths.
  • New York: 1,680,688 confirmed cases; 47,827 deaths.
  • Illinois: 1,186,696 confirmed cases; 22,735 deaths.

Merck to Work with J&J to Manufacturer Vaccine

President Joe Biden is expected to announce that competitors Merck and Johnson & Johnson will help manufacturer Merck’s COVID-19, according to administration officials who reported the news to CNN.

Almost 70% of Americans Want to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine

An Axios-Ipsos poll shows that nearly 70% of Americans want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once its availability to them.

NYC Mayor Pushes to Expand Vaccine Eligibility

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for New York state to expand vaccination eligibility to include sanitation workers, lifeguards, district attorneys, courtroom staff, board of elections staff, building inspectors and New York City Housing Authority frontline staff among others, according to a CNN report.

More Americans Feel Hopeful About the Pandemic

More Americans feel better about the pandemic now compared to last year, according to new poll results from Axios-Ipsos. The poll found that 48% of Americans said that hopeful best describes their mood – which more than doubles the 20% who felt that way over the past year.

Monday, March 1, 2021

J&J Vaccine Approved

On Saturday, the US FDA officially issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the third vaccine to be approved for the prevention of COVID-19. “The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “The FDA, through our open and transparent scientific review process, has now authorized three COVID-19 vaccines with the urgency called for during this pandemic, using the agency’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization.”

CDC Director Concerned About Virus’ Trajectory Shift

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said she is “deeply concerned” about the potential shift in COVID-19 cases. “Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained,” Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response team briefing on Monday. “Please stay strong in your conviction,” Walensky said. “Continue wearing your well-fitting mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work.”

COVID-19: January/February 2021 Round-up