Not to be outdone by a rival with a similar product, Pfizer and BioNTech today provided an update on the previously announced success of their COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. pharma giant and its German biotech partner now report 95% efficacy for their vaccine candidate, drawing on the final analysis of a 43,000-person study. And don’t worry about the elderly not responding to the vaccine; the efficacy only drops to 94% in people older than 65.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said Wednesday it will seek emergency authorization for its coronavirus vaccine within days, after reporting that its latest analysis showed the vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing illness and causes no major safety problems.
COVID-19 cases are surging upward around the U.S., reaching 100,000 daily cases for the first time on Nov. 4 and 150,000 only eight days later. Some believe this increase in reported is a result of increases in testing, as more than 1.5 million tests are performed every day in the U.S. But the evidence is clear that these high numbers reflect a true increase in the number of COVID-19 infections.
Preliminary data show that the immunization is 94% effective and seems to prevent severe infections.
The good news on potential vaccines offers hope that there will be an end to this pandemic, but until enough of us are fully vaccinated (well into 2021), this virus isn’t going away. With case counts, hospitalizations and deaths rising — and with many families planning to gather for the upcoming holidays — the prospects for this coming winter are grim.
Patients with severe COVID-19 are at high risk for occlusion of blood vessels of all sizes. This prothrombotic phenotype is reminiscent of patients with lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome, who have long-lived circulating antiphospholipid autoantibodies. In new work, Zuo et al. measured eight types of antiphospholipid antibodies in serum from patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and found at least one antibody in half of patients. Antibody levels were associated with neutrophil and coagulation pathway activation. Purified antibodies from some patients activated neutrophils in vitro and potentiated thrombosis when injected into mice. Together, these findings suggest that autoantibodies are a potential therapeutic target in severe COVID-19.
There are multiple known risk factors that increase the risk of severe illness from a SARS-CoV-2 infection; for example, increased age, obesity, and heart conditions. Currently, smoking is also associated with increased risk of severe COVID-19, but it is unclear how cigarette smoke exposure affects SARS-CoV-2 airway cell infection. Now, UCLA researchers, using a model of airway tissue created from human stem cells, have pinpointed how smoking cigarettes causes more severe infection by SARS-CoV-2 in the airways of the lungs.
Official Reporting for November 19, 2020
World Health Organization
Confirmed Cases: 55 326 907
Deaths: 1 333 742
Confirmed Cases: 55 743 951
Deaths: 1 339 436
Confirmed Cases: 56,178,674
Total cases: 11,300,635 (+164,382 New Cases)
Total deaths: 247,834 (+1,602 New Deaths)
More than 3 million people in U.S. estimated to be contagious with the coronavirus – Washington Post
States Start Taking Significant Steps To Fight Pandemic As Cases Surge – NPR
Ohio: A wedding left dozens with the coronavirus, including the bride and groom – Washington Post
Sweden: Abandoning its loose approach to virus controls, Sweden clamps down. – NYT
Rapid Response to an Outbreak in Qingdao, China – NEJM
Science and Tech
Two recently published studies include important findings related to SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the COVID-19 pandemic: Domestic cats can be asymptomatic carriers of SARS-CoV-2, but pigs are unlikely to be significant carriers of the virus.
Tremendous progress has been made in understanding the role of T cell immunity in acute and convalescent COVID-19 infection. Here we shed light on the “known unknowns” of pre-existing and acquired T cell responses in relation to acute and convalescent SARS-CoV-2 infection.
A model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests that a small number of venue types, such as restaurants, hotels, and religious venues, account for the majority of infections. The model also helps explain why infections disproportionately affect people living in deprived areas.
Millions of Americans now have access to free, anonymous coronavirus exposure notifications. Too bad so few people use them.
Researchers have identified three drugs, already approved for other uses in humans, as possible therapeutics for COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In late December 2019, several cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (COVID-19) were reported in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Based on clinical findings, blood tests and chest radiographs, this disease was diagnosed as a virus-associated pneumonia. Sequence analysis revealed a novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2 (formerly called 2019-nCoV), as the causative agent of pneumonia of unknown etiology.
Psychological and Sociological Impact
A recent study concludes that flow and mindfulness might help us cope with the mental burden of lockdowns and quarantines. Flow occurs when someone is absorbed in an activity, and mindfulness is a state in which a person becomes fully conscious of their internal and external circumstances. [Related PLoS Study]
SARS-CoV-2 D614G variant exhibits efficient replication ex vivo and transmission in vivo – Science
Safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in healthy adults aged 18–59 years: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 1/2 clinical trial – The Lancet
Misinformation, Disinformation, and Conspiracy Theories
The confluence of misinformation and infectious disease isn’t unique to COVID-19. Misinformation contributed to the spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and it plagues efforts to educate the public on the importance of vaccinating against measles. But when it comes to COVID-19, the pandemic has come to be defined by a tsunami of persistent misinformation to the public on everything from the utility of masks and the efficacy of school closures, to the wisdom behind social distancing, and even the promise of untested remedies.
Coping in 2020
Try to read the list and not have wine come out your nose laughing at at least one… This one got me, “Me [pouring a can of baked beans into a wine glass]: I wouldn’t say quarantine has changed me, no”