Covid News Watch
Tensions Run High in House Hearing on COVID Vaccine Safety, Efficacy
House lawmakers exchanged pointed barbs Thursday in what ended up being a rather “political” hearing held by the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Top federal health officials appeared before the subcommittee to discuss how to engender further trust in vaccines as well as examine how the initial COVID-19 vaccine campaigns were carried out. At various points throughout the hearing, however, Democrats accused their colleagues across the aisle of creating further mistrust in immunizations.
Republican members of the panel concentrated largely on the public perception of the coronavirus vaccines’ efficacy, which they characterized as misleading. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chair of the select subcommittee, said during the hearing, “When you say reduce, it’s different than saying prevent. And that happened too often.”
Rep. Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii) blasted her Republican colleagues for spreading “dangerous rhetoric” during the hearing. “I am deeply concerned about some of the dangerous rhetoric we’ve heard throughout today’s hearing, which appears purposely aimed at undermining confidence in vaccines,” Tokuda said.
Largest Multicountry COVID Study Links Vaccines to Potential Adverse Effects
A new study on COVID-19 vaccines that looked at nearly 100 million vaccinated individuals affirmed the vaccines’ previously observed links to increased risks for certain adverse effects including myocarditis and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
The study was conducted by the Global COVID Vaccine Safety project and took into account 99,068,901 vaccinated individuals across eight countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand and Scotland.
The report specifically looked at adverse events following administration of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. The researchers looked for 13 adverse events of special interest that occurred in vaccine recipients for up to 42 days after shots were administered. These conditions included Guillain-Barré syndrome, Bell’s palsy, convulsions, myocarditis and pericarditis.
COVID Vaccine Shedding Is ‘Real,’ FDA and Pfizer Documents Are Proof: Clinicians
The topic of COVID-19 vaccine shedding has long been controversial, but now, some doctors say even the authorities know about it. “Shedding is unfortunately real,” said Dr. Pierre Kory at the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) conference in Phoenix, Arizona, in early February. “The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) knows that.”
Dr. Kory is a co-founder of the FLCCC, a non-profit advocacy group founded by physicians for the treatment of COVID-19, long COVID, and post-vaccine syndromes. He is also the co-founder of the Leading Edge Clinic and has treated over a thousand long-COVID and post-vaccine patients.
Fact-checkers have largely denied shedding on the basis of definition. The commonly cited definition comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, which defines shedding as the release of viruses, bacteria, and their components from live vaccines.
CDC May Recommend COVID Boosters for Some This Spring
An advisory panel to the CDC is expected to vote on whether to recommend a spring booster during a Feb. 28 meeting, a source close to the panel told NBC News. The panel is expected to focus on the safety of high-risk Americans, including people 65 and older and anyone with a weakened immune system.
Still, even vulnerable groups like transplant patients, who tend to follow their doctors’ advice, are feeling vaccine fatigue, Dr. William Werbel, associate director of epidemiology and quantitative sciences with the Johns Hopkins Transplant Research Center in Baltimore, told NBC News.
Experts generally recommend that even high-risk patients wait at least two months after a COVID vaccination or COVID infection before getting another shot.
High-Risk Patients Alarmed by CDC’s Plan to Ease COVID Isolation Guidance
People with compromised immune systems worry that co-workers will return to the office while they’re still contagious. At the same time, the few remaining policies guaranteeing paid leave for employees with COVID are largely coming to an end. New York, the only state that still requires paid leave for COVID isolation, is considering ending that benefit this summer.
Even as many cheer loosening isolation guidance, others are troubled by federal health officials’ latest move to stop treating COVID as a unique respiratory viral threat.
The forthcoming change, first reported by The Washington Post, says people could return to school and work if they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the aid of medication and they have mild and improving symptoms.
COVID Variant JN.1 Responsible for Nearly All U.S. Infections
The strain, which was responsible for just over 3% of infections in mid-November, has virtually taken over the COVID-19 variant scene in the U.S. in recent months. It was responsible for more than 96% of new infections over the past two weeks, according to the estimates.
JN.1, which is closely related to BA.2.86, or “Pirola,” is also the top variant globally. The World Health Organization in a risk assessment update published last week said that the additional public health risk posed by the strain is still assessed as low at the global level.
Long COVID Is Highest in These States, Says New CDC Report
The effects of COVID are lingering longer among the residents of some states than others. That’s according to the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which tracks reported cases of long COVID throughout the U.S.
The highest prevalence of long COVID was found in West Virginia — where 10.6% of survey respondents reported experiencing long-term effects of the virus in 2022.
Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, who was not involved in the CDC report, called for further studies into how long COVID is reported — including who reports it and the criteria they use to define their symptoms, which varies from region to region.
“We know that obesity, for example, increases the risk of severe COVID dramatically, and severe COVID correlates with persistent symptoms and long COVID,” he said. “In fact, obesity is the highest in the South and Midwest (over 35%),” noted Siegel, “and it is probably no accident that obesity is the highest in the country in West Virginia (41%), which also has the highest rate of long COVID.”
Flu Continues to Rise in Some U.S. Regions as COVID Markers Decline
Respiratory virus activity remains high across the United States, with flu activity up, especially in three regions, and COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) markers continuing to drop from high levels, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in its latest updates.
Overall, 27 jurisdictions reported high or very high respiratory virus activity last week, an increase from 25 the previous week, the CDC said in its weekly snapshot.
The CDC still classified wastewater SARS-CoV-2 detections as high, and in its respiratory virus snapshot, it said levels are highest in the South but are falling. Also today, the CDC released its latest variant projections, which show a further rise of JN.1, which now makes up 96.4% of samples.
Similar to COVID, test positivity for RSV is also declining.
U.S. House Committee Says China Delayed Releasing COVID Information for Weeks and Lied About Sharing It Immediately + More
U.S. House Committee Says China Delayed Releasing COVID Information for Weeks and Lied About Sharing It Immediately
China likely obtained COVID-19‘s first known gene sequence weeks before publicly releasing it, contrary to Beijing’s claim that it immediately shared the information, the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee said on Wednesday.
The committee said a Chinese virologist, Lili Ren, submitted the pathogen’s gene sequence to the U.S. database GenBank on December 28, 2019, the committee said. The database belongs to the National Institutes of Health, of which Ren is a subgrantee under the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance.
Ren’s submission, however, was missing some technical information, and the database staff asked her three days later to submit the additional details. If she didn’t offer these details, the sequence would be deleted, the staff said, per the committee. The U.S. lawmakers added that Ren did not upload the rest of the necessary information to the database.
On January 10, 2020, about two weeks later, China released a gene sequence of COVID-19 that was “nearly identical” to Ren’s submission, the committee said, citing the Department of Health and Human Services. The committee said this contradicted China’s repeated claims that it released the gene sequence as soon as it obtained the information.
COVID Market Origins Hypothesis Challenged by Statisticians
A seminal study on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought into question after drawing criticism from statisticians. Study authors and experts told Newseek what they think of the matter.
In 2022, evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey, together with a global team of immunologists, virologists, biologists and statisticians, published a paper in the journal Science on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. By plotting the locations of the earliest known COVID-19 cases, along with the geographical locations of the earliest viral lineages, environmental samples, and circumstantial evidence, the team concluded that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was the most likely epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, in a recent paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Dietrich Stoyan, a professor in mathematics and statistics at the Technical University of Bergakademie Freiberg in Germany, and Sung Nok Chiu, a professor of mathematics at Hong Kong Baptist University, described this original analysis as “fundamentally flawed.”
“The paper authored by Worobey et al. (2022) faced criticism from several individuals, primarily centered around the poor quality of the data utilized,” Stoyan and Chiu told Newsweek. “The main points of critique revolved around the data being incomplete in terms of numbers, imprecise in terms of addresses of infected individuals containing errors, and notably, lacking information on the times of infection.”
One of their primary concerns was that the clustering of data around the Wuhan market was used as confirmation that the market was indeed the epicenter of the pandemic. “It is important to note that centrality does not imply causality,” Stoyan and Chiu said.
State of California Relaxes COVID Guidelines
COVID-19 guidelines have changed for the state of California. These guidelines are not coming from the CDC directly, but rather from the California Department of Public Health. Statewide COVID guidelines are now the most relaxed they’ve been since the start of the pandemic.
When a person tests positive, instead of isolating for at least 5 days, they can go to school or work as soon as they haven’t had a fever for 24 hours.
“The new guidelines allow children to return sooner for asymptomatic children who are infected; they can return without restrictions,” says Dr. Dean Blumberg of UC Davis Children’s Hospital.
Kids who test positive for COVID and who aren’t showing symptoms are able to head off to school; it’s just recommended they wear a mask for 10 days indoors. The same goes for adults in the workplace.
Adverse Events More Likely With Some COVID Vaccine Batches: Data
Some lots of COVID-19 vaccines caused significantly more adverse events than others, according to newly published information. Some batches were linked to as many as 1,650 serious problems, while some produced zero reported issues, according to the data, which was obtained by the Informed Consent Action Network and presented on
The network received the data through Freedom of Information Act requests from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Certain lots had an unusually high number of adverse reactions,” the network said in a statement.
The data undercut a 2022 statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). The department said at the time that an analysis by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed “no unusual concentration of reports with a single lot or small group of lots.”
Mr. Johnson told Dr. Mandy Cohen, the CDC’s director, and Dr. Robert Califf, the FDA’s commissioner, in a new letter that the newly disclosed data “paint a very concerning picture.”
After Row With Hungary and Poland, Pfizer Sues Romania Over Missed COVID Vaccine Payments
Following public spats with Hungary and Poland, Pfizer and its German mRNA partner BioNTech have kicked off legal proceedings against Romania. The lawsuit marks the latest move in Pfizer’s campaign to press countries to honor COVID-19 vaccine contracts inked by the European Commission in May 2021.
Citing a “prolonged contractual breach,” plus continued discussions in “good faith” between the companies and the country, Pfizer confirmed Friday that it’s made the “difficult decision” to sue Romania.
Pfizer and BioNTech want to hold Romania to its commitments for COVID-19 vaccine orders placed by the country’s government, a Pfizer spokesperson confirmed via email. Specifically, Romania has backed out of orders for some 28 million Comirnaty doses worth around €550 million, local news outlet Romania-Insider reports.
Romania’s health minister, meanwhile, has argued there’s no legal ground for penalties claimed in the case since the country refused to sign an amendment to its original deal with Pfizer-BioNTech, according to Romania-Insider.
What to Know About the U.S. Winter COVID Wave
The U.S. is in the midst of a winter wave of COVID-19. Wastewater viral activity for COVID-19 is “very high” nationally, surpassing last winter’s levels, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wastewater data can indicate how much disease is spreading in a community and has become widely used as agencies no longer document the number of national COVID-19 cases.
“All regions show high and increasing levels, with the highest regional levels in the South and Midwest,” the CDC reported last week. It added that there are early indications that activity is starting to slow in the Midwest and Northeast.
Ultimately, no one knows exactly how much COVID-19 is circulating in the U.S. “Even if we count test positives, we don’t know about the people who were positive but didn’t test,” says Shishi Luo of Helix, a gene sequencing company. “I think the best thing to look at is: Are things going up and how quickly are they going up?”
The majority of new coronavirus infections are stemming from the Omicron subvariant JN.1. The strain quickly rose to dominance after being documented in the U.S. in September. It’s the fastest growing variant in the U.S., increasing from 20% of cases in December to more than 60% in January.
Disease X: What to Know About the Hypothetical Pandemic World Leaders Hope to Prevent
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, planned to host a seminar Wednesday alongside other health officials in Davos to prepare to confront the potentially deadly virus.
The news ignited a heated debate on social media in the days leading up to the seminar, where conspiracy theories proliferated, with some warning that potential measures could parallel the shutdown orders put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But despite the resurging interest in Disease X, the theoretical pathogen is not a new topic for the WHO. Even before the COVID-10 pandemic swept the globe, the United Nations agency has spent years researching and preparing for the next wave of deadly diseases. Disease X does not exist — at least, not yet.
Blood Protein Changes May Unravel Long COVID Mysteries — Links Between Complement and Coagulation Systems Could Lead to Long COVID Therapies
Long COVID was identified in blood proteins, an analysis of longitudinal data suggested.
Blood samples from long COVID patients showed changes to blood serum proteins at 6 months that indicated activation of the immune system’s complement cascade, altered coagulation, and tissue injury, reported Onur Boyman, MD, of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and co-authors in Science.
Factors underpinning long COVID are not well understood, the researchers observed. Current hypotheses include tissue damage, viral reservoirs, autoimmunity, or persistent inflammation.
“This study is very important in illustrating the role of the complement in the pathogenesis of long COVID,” said Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, of Yale School of Medicine, who wasn’t involved with the research.
This evidence implicating complement activation and thromboinflammation ties in with other research that showed an increased propensity for clotting in people with long COVID, added Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, of the VA St. Louis Health Care System, who also wasn’t part of the study.
Nicola Sturgeon Deleted All Pandemic WhatsApps, COVID Inquiry Hears
Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “a shocking betrayal of the people of Scotland” as it emerged that the former first minister, along with other senior ministers and health officials, deleted all their WhatsApp messages related to the COVID pandemic.
The U.K. COVID Inquiry, taking evidence in Scotland, heard on Friday that Sturgeon “retained no messages whatsoever” while the national clinical director, Jason Leith, joked in a group chat that WhatsApp deletion was his “pre-bed ritual.”
Sturgeon had previously refused to confirm or deny allegations that she deleted the messages but insisted she was committed to “full transparency” about her conduct during the pandemic, adding: “I have nothing to hide.”
Millions of Doses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid Will Go to Waste in U.K., EU as COVID Demand Plummets
On the heels of a major Paxlovid inventory write-off in the United States, many more doses of Pfizer’s COVID-fighting antiviral are going to waste overseas. By the end of February, the value of leftover courses headed for the bin will reach $2.2 billion in Europe, according to London-based life sciences analytics firm Airfinity.
At the end of November, more than 1.5 million courses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid had expired unused in various European countries, Airfinity said in a new report. The total tally of expired courses in Europe is expected to hit 3.1 million by the end of next month, representing a value of $2.2 billion, the analysts wrote.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, an estimated 1 million courses have expired so far at a cost of $700 million, according to Airfinity. Another 550,000 are due to expire by the end of February, followed by 650,000 more expired Paxlovid courses at the end of June in the U.K.
In all, the firm expects about $1.5 billion worth of Paxlovid courses will expire in the U.K. by midyear.
Paxlovid first came to market at the beginning of 2022. For that entire year, the drug brought home sales of $19 billion. But the antiviral’s fortunes experienced a dramatic downturn in 2023, with Pfizer previously projecting a 95% sales drop for the product last year.
Florida Surgeon General Ladapo Contradicts Feds, Recommends Against mRNA COVID Shots
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo took the extraordinary step Wednesday of “calling for a halt to the use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines,” a move that contradicts federal health authorities and again makes Florida an outlier.
Ladapo said in a statement released by the Florida Department of Health that he raised questions about the safety of the vaccines with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and they did not provide an adequate response. As a result, he said, he is now recommending against their use.
In 2022, Ladapo made Florida the first state in the nation to recommend against healthy children receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. Then last year he recommended against anyone under the age of 65 getting new COVID vaccine boosters.
Ladapo’s latest recommendation is his most drastic yet, targeting some of the most popular vaccines such as those made by Pfizer and Moderna. Ladapo’s letter to the FDA raises concerns about “the risks of contaminant DNA integration into human DNA” through the messenger RNA vaccine and “the integrity of the human genome.”
Four Years on, Long COVID Still Confounds Us. Here’s What We Now Know.
Many people now view COVID-19 as an almost routine inconvenience, much like flu, RSV and other seasonal infections. But four years after reports surfaced of a new respiratory illness, prompting a massive response among researchers, the disease’s aftereffects — commonly called long COVID — continue to confound doctors and patients alike.
“We know a lot about this particular coronavirus,” said Francesca Beaudoin, chair of the department of epidemiology at Brown University. “That does not translate into an understanding of the long-term consequences of infection.”
As many as 7 percent of Americans report having suffered from a slew of lingering symptoms after enduring COVID-19, including fatigue, difficulty breathing, brain fog, joint pain and ongoing loss of taste and smell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there is still no clearly defined cause of, or cure for the syndrome.
The costs of our lack of understanding are vast, Beaudoin and others say, creating a huge new burden on the healthcare system, as people report limitations in their daily activities including being able to work.
Hospital Costs Soared for COVID Patients During Pandemic
The average cost of hospital care for COVID-19 patients skyrocketed during the pandemic, outstripping what might be expected under inflation, a new study shows.
Average hospital costs for COVID patients increased five times faster than the rate of medical inflation through the first two years of the pandemic, researchers have found.
This is at least partly due to the pricey medical technologies that had to be employed to fight the dangerous new infection, the researchers said.
The average cost of COVID hospitalization increased from about $10,000 during the first weeks of the pandemic to more than $13,000 by March 2022, researchers reported Jan. 3 in the journal JAMA Network Open.
New COVID Variant JN.1 Now Comprises up to 30% of U.S. Cases: CDC
The latest variant of the COVID-19 virus, JN.1, is now responsible for an estimated 15% to 29% of cases in the U.S. as of Dec. 8, according to a posted update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It is very similar to the BA.2.86 variant, which is an Omicron subvariant that emerged in August.
Despite its quick growth, the agency said “there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health relative to other currently circulating variants,” as it does not appear to cause increased severity of illness.
Study Shows COVID Leaves Brain Injury Markers in Blood
A study published in Nature Communications last week describes how markers of brain injury are present in the blood months after COVID-19 infection, despite normal inflammation blood tests.
The findings, which come from research teams at the University of Liverpool and King’s College London, add to the complicated picture of how COVID-19 can cause a range of neurologic symptoms.
The authors found that in the early convalescent phase (less than 6 weeks post-infection), markers were elevated in participants recovering from COVID-19, with no differences between those who had or had not experienced a neurologic complication. After 6 weeks, elevated markers were seen only in participants who suffered neurologic symptoms in the acute phase of illness.
“These brain injury markers are associated with dysregulated systemic innate and adaptive immune responses in the acute phase of the disease, and suggest that these may represent targets for therapy,” the authors said.
Too Few Americans Are Getting Vaccinated for Flu, COVID & RSV, CDC Warns
Low vaccination rates for the flu, RSV and COVID-19 are putting Americans at higher risk for severe illness and hospitalization this winter, a new government alert warned Thursday. There is an “urgent need” to boost vaccination rates as the trio of viruses spread through the country, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said.
With the flu, roughly 7 million fewer adults have gotten their flu shot so far this season compared with last season. Overall, the vaccination rate is about 36% for both adults and children, according to CDC data.
For COVID-19, coverage is even worse: Just 17% of adults aged 18 and up and about 8% of children have gotten the latest shot, according to CDC data. That includes about 36% of seniors, who are at higher risk for severe disease. Even the new RSV vaccine isn’t being embraced by older adults. Only about 16% of those 60 and older have gotten the shot, the data showed.
Key reasons include a lack of provider recommendation, concerns about side effects, and a lack of time or forgetting to get vaccinated, according to a national survey of adults that was included in the CDC advisory.
Stop Giving Foreign Animal Labs a Free Pass
Any time the United States is funding something overseas, it needs to be met with strict oversight to ensure accountability, transparency, and accordance with U.S. law. Unfortunately, it has come to light that this is not at all the case for overseas projects captained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A legally questionable and dangerous loophole has allowed the NIH to ship billions of taxpayers’ dollars to risky and inhumane animal testing laboratories in foreign countries — including China and Russia — with absolutely no oversight.
That is exactly why we’re working together to pass the bipartisan Worldwide Animal Testing Compliance and Harmonization Act, otherwise known as the WATCH Act, to close this reckless NIH foreign lab loophole and protect public health, tax dollars, and animal welfare.
The NIH has quietly been avoiding these federal laws by conducting animal testing in foreign countries that are completely exempt from all oversight required of animal labs here at home.
The worst-case scenario of this oversight blind spot came to a head in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and led to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci‘s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) sent taxpayer dollars to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for outrageously risky gain-of-function experiments on “humanized mice” — which would have violated federal law in the U.S. — and made bat coronaviruses more contagious and deadly to humans.
Officials from the State Department and other agencies had warned for years that the Wuhan lab was doing dangerous coronavirus research and was ill-equipped to prevent an accident or misuse of research for military purposes. Nevertheless, Dr. Anthony Fauci repeatedly ignored the warnings, never investigated, and kept the money flowing. Now, it is widely believed — including by the FBI and Energy Department — that this perilous, NIH-funded animal lab is what sparked the COVID pandemic.
Americans’ Physical Health Has Deteriorated Since the Pandemic: Gallup
The big picture: More Americans reported diabetes diagnoses, less regular healthy eating, high cholesterol and lower confidence this year, compared with before the pandemic, according to Gallup survey data released Thursday.
What we’re seeing here is definitely pandemic-related,” said Dan Witters, the director of Gallup’s well-being research. “We’re seeing a pretty substantial drop-off in healthy eating habits and high levels of energy to get things done each day.”
“These trends are going to dovetail with the rising rates of obesity and diabetes,” he added. Obesity and diabetes are at record highs, per Gallup.
Switch From Selling COVID Drugs on Market Rather Than to Governments Continues to Sting at Pfizer
Pfizer expects sales for both the treatment, Paxlovid, and the vaccine, Comirnaty, to total $8 billion in 2024, according to an initial forecast the drugmaker released Wednesday. Analysts expect nearly $14 billion in combined sales, with $8.34 billion coming from Comirnaty and Paxlovid contributing $5.55 billion, according to FactSet.
Those products combined to rake in more than $56 billion in sales last year, Paxlovid’s first full year on the market. But both Pfizer and the Street expected a decline starting this year as demand waned and the drugmaker switched to selling through the commercial market instead of in bulk to the federal government.
Still, Pfizer warned in October that sales of the vaccine and treatment were turning out weaker than expected. The drugmaker also reported a third-quarter loss of more than $2 billion as falling sales of COVID-19 products clipped revenue. Sales of Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid and the vaccine Comirnaty slid 97% and 70%, respectively, during the quarter.
‘Long Flu’ Joins ‘Long COVID’ as New Diagnosis
“Long COVID” has become a well-known potential consequence of COVID infection, with symptoms that can last weeks, months or even years.
Now it appears that “long flu” is also possible, with some patients developing long-lasting health problems following a severe infection, a new study finds.
The researchers tracked patients up to 18 months after their infection, looking for 94 different adverse health outcomes involving the body’s major organ systems.
“Five years ago, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to examine the possibility of a ‘long flu,’” said senior researcher Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist with the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “A major lesson we learned from SARS-CoV-2 is that an infection that initially was thought to only cause brief illness also can lead to chronic disease.”
What to Know About the New COVID Variant JN.1
A new COVID-19 strain has emerged that appears likely to stick around in the U.S. through the holiday season.
JN.1, which is a close relative to BA.2.86, is the fastest-growing variant in the U.S. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, JN.1 was responsible for more than 1 in 5 new coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
The new strain was first detected in the U.S. in September. Since then, it has grown to represent an estimated 15%-29% of new infections, according to CDC data. The agency expects that JN.1’s prevalence in the U.S. will continue to increase.
Scientists See Risk of Lost Opportunity for Long COVID Research in China
With more than a full year past since China eased restrictions and let COVID-19 sweep its households, scientists are worried a unique opportunity may be slipping away to study long COVID from possibly hundreds of millions of infections in that country.
Global disease experts say little is known about China’s experience with long-term COVID effects, which in Britain, Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere are thought to have afflicted millions with debilitating fatigue, brain fog and other symptoms that persist for months or even years.
China’s rare circumstances — relying on home-grown vaccines and mostly avoiding COVID until late in the pandemic — could, these experts say, provide particularly valuable data and insights on long COVID.
China’s National Health Commission said in a faxed reply to queries that the country supported scientific researchers looking at the coronavirus. Regarding long COVID, it said Chinese and international research so far suggested the rate of occurrence is low, organ damage is fairly rare, and symptoms gradually improve with the passage of time.
New Dry Powder Aerosol COVID Vaccine Shows Promise Against Multiple Virus Strains
In a recent study published in the journal Nature, researchers developed and tested a novel dry powder aerosol vaccine against COVID-19. The nanoparticle-based vaccine comprises cholera toxin B subunits with the SARS-CoV-2 RBD antigens.
Study findings revealed that this single-use nasal spray promotes the robust production of IgG and IgA antibodies and bolsters local T cell responses with the nasal tract and alveoli in murine and non-human primate models. The composition of the virus allows it to confer defense against both ancestral COVID-19 variants and the more recent Omicron strains.
This novel vaccine could form the basis for a new generation of non-invasive vaccines against both COVID-19 and other respiratory tract infections.