Data from Israel suggest Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine is less effective at protecting against infections caused by the Delta variant of Covid-19 but retains its potency to prevent severe illness from the highly contagious strain.
The lambda variant, previously called C.37, was first identified in Peru in August 2020. Although it is not considered a variant of concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a variant of interest in June. So far, scientists have identified the lambda variant in at least 26 countries, including the Americas, Europe, and Oceania. In Peru, it now accounts for the majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Yet another SARS-CoV-2 variant is making headlines, but experts reassure that early evidence suggests it can’t substantially evade vaccines — though it does have potential to become a variant of concern, one expert said.
Viruses mutate all the time, including the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that’s caused the Covid-19 pandemic. Although most genetic changes are innocuous, some can make the mutant more adept at infecting cells, for example, or evading antibodies. Such “fitter” variants can outcompete other strains, so that they become the predominant source of infections. A succession of more-transmissible variants has emerged over the past year, each harboring a constellation of mutations. The most worrisome so far is the so-called delta variant. It has spread to more than 100 countries since it was first reported in India in October, leading to surges in cases and hospitalizations, especially in places where less than half the adult population has been fully immunized. It’s the dominant strain now in many countries, including in the U.K. and the U.S.
As the Delta variant of the coronavirus surges through the U.K., almost half of the country’s recent Covid-19 deaths are of people who have been vaccinated. But doctors and scientists aren’t sounding the alarm about the apparently high proportion of deaths among the vaccinated population.
Most of the country has entered into new snap lockdowns, as cases of the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 spread across several cities. Darwin, Perth, and Brisbane emerged from lockdowns over the weekend.
South Korea will raise anti-coronavirus restrictions to the highest level in Seoul and some neighbouring regions for two weeks from Monday, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Friday, after new COVID-19 cases climbed to a daily record for the second day running.
The percentage of Americans who say they’re strictly social distancing and wearing masks has plunged since the spring, a new Gallup poll finds—but a Harris poll suggests the spread of the Delta variant is making people more worried about the future of the Covid-19 pandemic.
After months of data collection, scientists agree: The delta variant is the most contagious version of the coronavirus worldwide. It spreads about 225% faster than the original version of the virus, and it’s currently dominating the outbreak in the United States.
Today we bring you a new episode in our podcast series: COVID, Quickly. Every two weeks, Scientific American’s senior health editors Tanya Lewis and Josh Fischman catch you up on the essential developments in the pandemic: from vaccines to new variants and everything in between.
New laboratory research on the swiftly spreading delta variant of the coronavirus is highlighting the threats posed by viral mutations, adding urgency to calls to accelerate vaccination efforts across the planet. A peer-reviewed report from scientists in France, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found that the delta variant has mutations that allow it to evade some of the neutralizing antibodies produced by vaccines or by a natural infection. A single shot of a two-dose vaccine “barely” offers any protection, researchers reported.
Early Covid-19 cases traced to markets in Wuhan, China, mirror the initial spread of SARS 17 years earlier, scientists said in a paper that concludes that an animal contagion is the most likely explanation for the pandemic’s genesis.
A new (preprint) study provides reassurance that a longer gap between the first and second doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will not compromise a person’s immune response. A gap of up to 45 weeks actually led to a stronger immune response compared with the recommended interval. A “booster” jab more than 6 months after the second dose further strengthened immunity, including against existing variants. (Link to Preprint Study)
Research shows two doses of mRNA vaccines offer strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant.
People infected with SARS-CoV-2 can experience lingering physiologic effects after they recover, according to early data from an ongoing study that is harnessing the power of Fitbits and other wearable trackers to gauge long-term effects of COVID-19.
Official Reporting for July 9, 2021
World Health Organization
Confirmed Cases: 183,934,913
Confirmed Cases: 185,650,024
Total cases: 33,604,986 (+20,071 New Cases)
Total deaths: 603,958 (+244 New Deaths)
Science and Tech
On March 16, 2020, five days after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, Andrea Ganna, a geneticist at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, took to Twitter to make an announcement: “We are launching the ‘COVID-19 host genetics initiative,’” he wrote. He asked other scientists to join him and institute director Mark Daly in probing the world’s stores of human DNA to help answer a complicated but pressing question: Why do some unlucky people infected by the coronavirus end up gasping for air in an intensive care unit, while many others catch and spread the disease without having so much as a cough?
Psychological and Sociological Impact
Even as U.S. policy makers and business leaders seek to put the COVID pandemic in the rearview mirror with the help of highly effective vaccines, a fundamental policy and planning gap is looming. Many who survive the initial viral illness suffer debilitating long-term sequelae. Unlike the common cold or even influenza, this virus causes a bewildering array of symptoms that persist long after the acute illness is resolved and can render some affected unable to resume their usual activities. As scientists and clinicians continue to delineate the “long-haul” course of COVID, policy makers and planners must anticipate and prepare for the impact of this new cause of disability, including its implications for federal and private worker’s compensation and disability insurance programs and support services.
The Olympics and COVID-19 were never going to be compatible. The cardinal rule when it comes to controlling an infectious disease is to limit the contact people have with one another. Yet the very essence of the two weeks of competition, which begin on July 23 in Tokyo, is to invite the world to meet, greet and engage in friendly—and often socially not so distant—contests.
Clinical features and predictors for patients with severe SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia at the start of the pandemic: a retrospective multicenter cohort study – BMJ
Human genetic variants identified that affect COVID susceptibility and severity – Nature
Impact and effectiveness of mRNA BNT162b2 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 infections and COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths following a nationwide vaccination campaign in Israel: an observational study using national surveillance data – The Lancet
Misinformation, Disinformation, and Conspiracy Theories
Coping with COVID
An Austrian had the kind of morning that nightmares are made of on Monday when a python slid through his drains and bit him while he was sitting on the toilet. The stunned 65-year-old in the city of Graz turned around shortly after 6 a.m. to see a roughly 1.6-metre (5-foot) albino reticulated python in the bowl, police in the province of Styria said in a statement. “Shortly after he sat on the toilet the Graz resident – by his own account – felt a ‘pinch’ in the area of his genitals,” the police statement said.