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Covid News Watch

Jan 06, 2022

CDC Endorses COVID Boosters Starting at Age 12 + More

CDC Endorses COVID Boosters Starting at Age 12

NBC New York reported:

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed an extra Pfizer shot for younger teens — those 12 to 15 — and strengthened its recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get it, too.

Earlier Wednesday, the CDC’s independent scientific advisers wrestled with whether a booster should be an option for younger teens, who tend not to get as sick from COVID-19 as adults, or more strongly recommended. The decision means about 5 million of the younger teens who had their last shot in the spring are eligible for a booster right away.

The chief safety question for adolescents is a rare side effect called myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation seen mostly in younger men and teen boys who get either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Pfizer Expects Updated COVID Vaccine Data for Kids Under 5 by April

Fox Business reported:

Pfizer Inc. expects the latest results from a clinical trial for kids under the age of 5 of the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech SE by April, a top company scientist said on Wednesday.

“The study has been amended to give a third dose to everybody who’s less than five at least eight weeks after their last vaccination,” Dr. Alejandra Gurtman, a Pfizer vaccine researcher said at a meeting of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

In December, Pfizer said it was changing the design of the trial because children between the ages of 2 and 4 who were given two 3-microgram doses of the vaccine did not have the same immune response that a larger dose of the vaccine generated in older children.

Gurtman also said the company was studying a third dose of its vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, six months after their second dose.

COVID-Positive Nurses Say They’re Being Pressured to Work While Sick, and They’re Petrified of Infecting Patients

Business Insider reported:

What was once an ill-advised practice is now becoming a common request across U.S. hospitals: Healthcare workers are being asked to treat patients while sick with COVID-19.

In a TikTok video now viewed more than 7.2 million times, April Lynn, an ICU nurse, claimed her hospital cleared her to return to work five days after testing positive for COVID-19, despite still having a cough and severe fatigue.

Four other nurses told Insider that, in the last week or so, they’ve been instructed to come into work with symptomatic COVID-19, or risk losing pay or receiving a formal warning.

Schools Encounter ‘Hunger Games’ Scramble for COVID Tests

Politico reported:

An avalanche of student COVID-19 test kits covered a FedEx drop box in Chicago. Long lines and delayed deliveries slowed school testing sites in California. And families scrambled across U.S. cities to find scarce rapid tests.

The White House and government leaders say classrooms must stay open during a record surge in Omicron-driven cases — but short supplies, logistical challenges and workforce problems threaten to trip up the country’s patchwork efforts to test schoolchildren for the virus as they return to class.

Rapid COVID Tests Are Reselling for as Much as $75 a Pack, 3 Times Their Normal Retail Price: Report

Business Insider reported:

Rapid at-home COVID-19 test kits are reselling for as much as $75 a pack, which is more than three times their normal retail price.

Bloomberg reported the findings Wednesday. Kroger and Walmart sell Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNow at-home rapid tests for $23.99 and $19.98.

BinaxNow kits, which include two COVID-19 tests, are now selling for about $75 on various digital marketplaces, seen by Insider and reported by Bloomberg.

Soaring prices of rapid tests come as the U.S. is reporting a soaring number of coronavirus infections during a wave fueled by the Omicron variant.

Here’s the Real Deal on Flurona

Slate reported:

Two years of pandemic have us primed to panic at every headline. A new variant, a new complication, a new baffling policy move. Now, headlines have brought an alarmingly exotic new word to stoke our fears: flurona.

But soon enough the combination of anxiety and pandemic exhaustion led headline writers into a strange cutesy fearmongering: The Daily Beast grimly christened flurona “2022’s Hottest New Illness” and the Cut’s headline asked, “What Fresh Hell Is ‘Flurona’?

The thing is, though, it’s not a fresh hell at all. (And sure enough, most articles about flurona get to that fact a few paragraphs in.) Israel’s first flu-COVID case, the story that triggered this latest wave of reporting, was mild even though the patient was unvaccinated and pregnant.

Candace Owens Claims She Would Not Take COVID Vaccine Even on Her Deathbed

Newsweek reported:

Conservative pundit and talk show host Candace Owens stated that she would not receive the COVID-19 vaccine even if it would save her from dying.

During the live taping of her show Candace, Owens responded to a user on Twitter who questioned if she was truly unvaccinated, as she had claimed many times before. The question arose after a picture circulated of Owens at a UFC fight at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, which requires all attendees to be vaccinated per city law.

“I would say to the people, first and foremost, I am obviously unvaccinated…I am not getting this vaccine, ever,” Owens replied. “Never going to get it. I don’t care if I’m on my deathbed and they say ‘it can save you,’ I’m not going to get it.”

‘The Next Variant Is Just Around the Corner’: Experts Warn the World’s at Risk Until All Are Vaccinated

CNBC reported:

New COVID-19 variants are likely to keep on emerging until the globe has been vaccinated against the virus, experts warn, saying that the sharing of vaccines is not just an altruistic act but a pragmatic one.

“Until the whole world is vaccinated, not just rich Western countries, I think we are going to remain in danger of new variants coming along and some of those could be more virulent than Omicron,” Dr. Andrew Freedman, an academic in infectious diseases at Cardiff University Medical School, told CNBC on Thursday.

Viruses “tend to become milder” as they evolve, Freedman noted, but he cautioned that this “isn’t always the case.”

India Says Safety Concerns, Restricting Use of Merck COVID Pill

Reuters reported:

India has not added Merck’s (MRK.N) COVID-19 pill to its national treatment protocol for the disease due to known safety concerns that have restricted its use elsewhere, a senior health official told a media briefing on Wednesday.

“It can cause teratogenicity, mutagenicity and it also can cause cartilage damage and be damaging to muscles. More importantly, contraception will have to be used for three months if this drug is given because the child born could be problematic with teratogenic influences,” Balram Bhargava, head of the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research, said.

The U.S. FDA’s Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee voted 13-10 in November to recommend the drug after discussing concerns it could cause the virus to mutate as well as the potential birth defect worries.

Brazil Greenlights COVID Vaccines for Children Ages 5 to 11

International Business Times reported:

Brazilian health authorities authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children age five to 11 on Wednesday, as South America’s most populous country faces a rapid increase in cases due to holiday gatherings and the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Controversy abounded in Brazil until Wednesday’s announcement, with many alleging an improper delay by the government.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who did not get vaccinated and said he will not immunize his 11-year-old daughter Laura, asked weeks ago to publish the names of those responsible for Anvisa’s decision, unleashing a wave of threats.

Jan 05, 2022

1,090 Fully Vaccinated Indiana Residents Died of COVID, 112,000 Breakthrough Cases Recorded + More

1,090 Fully Vaccinated Indiana Residents Died of COVID; 112,000 Breakthrough Cases Recorded

International Business Times reported:

More than 1,000 fully vaccinated residents in Indiana have died of COVID-19 as the number of breakthrough infections rises amid the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

As of Dec. 30, at least 1,090 Indiana residents died of breakthrough COVID-19, representing 0.031% of the state’s fully vaccinated population. At least 88% of the breakthrough coronavirus deaths occurred in people aged 65 or older, according to the state’s latest COVID-19 Vaccination Breakthrough report.

The number of breakthrough COVID-19 cases also increased to 112,773, representing 3.173% of all vaccinated people in Indiana, the report showed.

CDC Urges ‘Up-to-Date’ Shots; No ‘Fully Vaccinated’ Change

Associated Press reported:

U.S. health officials said Wednesday they are not changing the qualifications for being “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19, but they are urging Americans to stay “up to date” on their protection against the virus by getting booster shots when eligible.

The decision to keep the initial definition, established more than a year ago when the vaccines first rolled out, means that federal vaccination mandates for travel or employment won’t require a booster dose.

“Individuals are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they’ve received their primary series,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “That definition is not changing.”

Massachusetts Coronavirus Breakthrough Cases Surge 45,029 Amid Omicron Holiday Wave

Boston Herald reported:

More than 45,000 fully vaccinated people in the state tested positive for coronavirus last week between Christmas and New Year’s, a daily average of more than 6,000 breakthrough cases during the surging Omicron variant holiday wave.

The count of 45,029 breakthrough cases last week is more than double the 20,247 breakthrough infections during the previous week — a 122% spike week-over-week.

Overall, 179,594 fully vaxxed people have tested positive for the virus, according to new data from the state Department of Public Health on Tuesday.

The state has reported 942 breakthrough deaths, or 0.02% of those who are fully vaxxed. That’s a one-week increase of 88 deaths — up from the previous weekly increase of 70 deaths. The week before that was 85 deaths.

Birth During the Pandemic May Affect Neurodevelopment — in Utero COVID Exposure Does Not Appear to Be a Factor

MedPage Today reported:

Birth during the COVID-19 pandemic was linked to lower neurodevelopment scores at 6 months, a cohort study showed.

Compared with a historical cohort of infants, children born during the 2020 pandemic had significantly lower gross motor, fine motor, and personal-social scores on the Ages & Stages Questionnaire, 3rd Edition (ASQ-3), reported Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, of Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, and co-authors in JAMA Pediatrics.

In utero exposure to maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection was not associated with significant differences on any neurodevelopment domain, however, regardless of infection timing or severity.

“Our study, however, points to potential impact on the neurodevelopment of infants born during the pandemic irrespective of maternal infection, which — if replicated — would translate to potential impact on hundreds of millions of children born since the onset of the pandemic, with potential for significant public health consequences,” Dumitriu said.

Biden Urges Concern but Not Alarm in U.S. as Omicron Rises

Associated Press reported:

President Joe Biden urged concern but not alarm Tuesday as the United States set records for daily reported COVID-19 cases and his administration struggled to ease concerns about testing shortages, school closures and other disruptions caused by the Omicron variant.

“There’s no excuse, there’s no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated,” he added. “This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He also encouraged Americans, including newly eligible teenagers 12 to 15, to get a booster dose of the vaccines for maximum protection.

Omicron Spares U.S. ICUs so Far, Mirroring South Africa

Bloomberg reported:

U.S. hospitals are so far seeing significantly fewer severe outcomes from the Omicron wave than they saw in past COVID-19 spikes, mirroring the experience of South Africa and the U.K. Even New York, the uber-dense site of one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, is seeing similar results.

In the U.K., the general pattern of lower hospitalization has held up so far even as cases surged, as the Financial Times’ John Burn-Murdoch showed Tuesday.

Biden Says More Pfizer Pills Are Shipping This Week as U.S. Doubles Order to Fight Omicron

CNBC reported:

President Joe Biden on Tuesday said another batch of Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pills is shipping this week as the U.S. government doubles its order of the medication amid an unprecedented wave of infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Biden on Tuesday directed the government to buy an additional 10 million courses of Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment, Paxlovid. With the new order, the U.S. has committed to purchase at least 20 million courses from Pfizer.

Scientists Try to Predict Whether COVID Will Morph Into Something Mild or Remain Menacing

Newsweek reported:

Evolutionary biologists and research epidemiologists are studying older coronaviruses for clues about whether COVID-19 will transform into something mild (like a common cold), something more threatening (like a flu) or something much more contagious and deadly.

Scientists are mostly paying attention to two types of viral mutations in COVID, according to Nature.com.

As more and more humans get vaccinated and develop antibodies through past infections, viruses start to develop the second type of mutation: one that enables a virus to overcome a person’s immune response.

This mutation concerns researchers the most because it allows the virus to bypass the immunity offered by vaccinations as well as the antibodies created during past infections.

France Allows Some COVID-Infected Medics to Keep Working

Associated Press reported:

France is allowing health workers who are infected with the coronavirus but have few or no symptoms to keep treating patients rather than self-isolate, an extraordinary stop-gap measure aimed at alleviating staff shortages at hospitals and other medical facilities caused by an unprecedented explosion in infections.

The special exemption to France’s quarantine rules being rolled out to hospitals, elderly care homes, doctors’ offices and other essential health services testifies to the growing strain being placed on the French medical system by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

2nd COVID Booster Deemed ‘Safe’ by Israeli PM, but Some Experts Aren’t so Sure

Newsweek reported:

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has deemed a fourth dose of Pfizer/BioNTech‘s COVID-19 vaccine “safe” and effective, while some experts are urging the public to wait for a final verdict.

Israeli health authorities recommended the fourth vaccine dose for people over 60 and healthcare workers last month amid a global surge of infections fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Singapore Says Booster Shots Needed in Order to Maintain Fully Vaccinated Status

CNBC reported:

People in Singapore will lose their fully vaccinated status after 270 days if they do not take booster shots, the government announced on Wednesday.

Protection from the primary series vaccination wanes and is “substantially reduced six months after the last dose,” Singapore’s health ministry said in a press release. The policy will be in force from Feb. 14, 2022.

The Southeast Asian country is not the first to take such a step. Similar policies have been in place in Israel and Bahrain since October.

Jan 04, 2022

Confessions of a ‘Human Guinea Pig’: Why I’m Resigning From Moderna Vaccine Trials + More

Confessions of a ‘Human Guinea Pig’: Why I’m Resigning From Moderna Vaccine Trials

STAT News reported:

In July 2020, I volunteered to be in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial. If I knew then what I know now about the company’s quest for profits, I wouldn’t have done that.

As one of about 30,000 “human guinea pigs,” I permitted Moderna to test its experimental vaccine on me to see if it would provide protection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Letting a company that had never brought a vaccine to market use my body as a test subject was scary, painful and exhausting.

I have come to understand that the noble enterprise of science-making I had imagined I was a part of is actually, first and foremost, an exercise in ruthless corporate profit-making.

Florida Hospital System Says 50% of Its COVID Patients Are Mainly There for Other Reasons

Business Insider reported:

About half of the patients listed as being in the hospital with COVID-19 were admitted for “non-COVID reasons,” a health authority in Florida said.

“Jackson Health System hospitals currently have 439 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19,” the Jackson Health System said in a tweet on Monday. “Of those, 220 patients — or 50% — are admitted to the hospital primarily for non-COVID reasons.”

The post was a relatively rare snapshot of the prevalence of so-called incidental COVID in the U.S.

Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical advisor, recently warned that COVID-19 hospitalization data should be taken with a grain of salt, Insider previously reported.

U.S. CDC Recommends Five-Month Gap for Pfizer COVID Booster Dose

Reuters reported:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended shortening the interval between Pfizer-BioNTech’s (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) second COVID-19 vaccine dose and the booster shot to five months from six.

The move follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision on Monday to reduce the interval for the booster dose and authorize the use of a third dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years.

The CDC has also recommended that moderately or severely immunocompromised children aged five to 11 years receive an additional dose of vaccine 28 days after their second shot.

Have COVID? You Can’t Get Unemployment Benefits

CNBC reported:

COVID-19 infections are ballooning, and sick Americans who miss work due to the virus may wonder if they qualify for unemployment benefits. The short answer: They don’t.

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and stay home to recover and isolate from others aren’t eligible for jobless benefits, according to Michele Evermore, a senior policy advisor for unemployment insurance at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Unemployment benefits are a type of social insurance paid on a weekly basis. The law requires Americans to be “able and available” for work to qualify for assistance. An individual who has COVID-19 doesn’t meet this core requirement, Evermore said.

The Omicron Variant Now Makes up 95% of Recent COVID Cases in the U.S., According to the CDC

Business Insider reported:

The highly transmissible Omicron variant is now estimated to make up a staggering 95% of recent COVID-19 cases in the US, according to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC projects that 95.4% of COVID-19 cases as of Jan. 1 are fueled by the Omicron variant, compared to just 4.6% of Delta variant cases.

Aaron Rodgers and the Public Health Credibility Crisis

Newsweek reported:

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers outraged many when, after contracting COVID in November, he revealed that his pre-season comments about being “immunized” referred to an unsanctioned treatment regimen rather than vaccination.

This past week, appearing on his favorite platform, Pat McAfee’s SiriusXM show, Rodgers threw down the gauntlet to his critics by pointing out that, “if science can’t be questioned, it’s not science anymore; it’s propaganda.” That remark unleashed yet another deluge of scorn.

Though Rodgers has complained about being the victim of woke mobs and cancel culture, he is in little danger of losing his job. But Rodgers is also right about the foundational principles of science.

Short-Staffed NYC Schools Are Asking Teachers With Mild COVID Symptoms to Return to the Classroom

Business Insider reported:

As students return to school amid a record-breaking spike of COVID-19 cases in New York City, some might be taught by teachers who tested positive just five days earlier.

The latest protocols now say that teachers and school-based staff who have tested positive but are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms can return after five days instead of 10, according to an email from the Department of Education to teachers, which was viewed by Insider.

For teachers who test positive, symptoms that would allow them to return include a “minimal cough” — they can’t be “coughing up phlegm” — and symptoms have to be mild or improving.

They also must “must continue to stay at home outside of work” and “observe” other elements of isolation until 10 days pass. They will not need a negative test to return to school.

Governors Demand Schools Stay Open but Districts May Lack Enough Teachers

Politico reported:

President Joe Biden’s plea to keep schools open in the face of the fast-spreading Omicron variant is confronting major challenges this week as staff shortages, illnesses and labor unrest grip some of the nation’s biggest school systems just as students are supposed to return from winter break.

Schools in Atlanta, Milwaukee and Detroit closed classrooms this week. The Chicago Teachers Union is considering a unilateral move to remote learning in defiance of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city school officials.

And some California districts face woeful staff shortages that are forcing them into any number of contingency plans — except for Zoom.

Why Are so Many Vaccinated People Getting COVID Lately?

Associated Press reported:

Why are so many vaccinated people getting COVID-19 lately?

A couple of factors are at play, starting with the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant. Omicron is more likely to infect people, even if it doesn’t make them very sick, and its surge coincided with the holiday travel season in many places.

People might mistakenly think the COVID-19 vaccines will completely block infection, but the shots are mainly designed to prevent severe illness, says Louis Mansky, a virus researcher at the University of Minnesota.

Vaccine Stocks Tumble Even Though COVID Cases Are Soaring

Barron’s reported:

Shares of COVID-19 vaccine makers plunged on the first trading day of the year, even as cases of the virus surge and governments ratchet up their use of the shots to combat the Omicron variant.

The selloff, which comes after a 2021 that brought spectacular gains for the stocks, could signal growing uncertainty around the long-term market for the COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the valuations of the manufacturers.

Each of the three developers of the leading two COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. saw substantial share-price declines on Monday, while the S&P 500 climbed 0.6%

Israel Embarks on Fourth COVID Vaccination Campaign

The Guardian reported:

Israel has become the first country in the world to embark on a fourth COVID-19 vaccination campaign as part of efforts to stem rapidly rising infection rates caused by the Omicron variant.

Officials had previously said they would wait for more data on the efficacy of a fourth shot before making it more widely available. The Israeli health ministry said on Tuesday, however, that even though it believes the threat posed by Omicron is minimal, it had been forced to act more quickly in the face of skyrocketing infection rates.

Jan 03, 2022

New York Woman Arrested, Accused of Giving Teen COVID Vaccine Without Mother’s Permission + More

Long Island Woman Accused of Giving Teen COVID Vaccine Inside Her Home Without Permission

WABC 7 NY reported:

A Long Island woman is under arrest after allegedly giving a COVID vaccine to a teen without permission.

According to detectives, Laura Parker Russo, 54, gave an injection of what is believed to be a COVID vaccine to a 17-year-old boy inside her home in Sea Cliff. The teen then went home and told his mother what happened. His mother had not given permission or authority to have her son receive the vaccine and immediately called police.

After an investigation, officials discovered that Russo is not a medical professional or authorized to administer vaccines. Russo was then placed under arrest, and is charged with unauthorized practice of a profession.

FDA Expands Pfizer Boosters for More Teens as Omicron Surges

Associated Press reported:

The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters as it confronts the Omicron surge, with the Food and Drug Administration allowing extra Pfizer shots for children as young as 12.

Boosters already are recommended for everyone 16 and older, and federal regulators on Monday decided they’re also warranted for 12- to 15-year-olds once enough time has passed since their last dose.

But the move, coming as classes restart after the holidays, isn’t the final step. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must decide whether to recommend boosters for the younger teens. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, is expected to rule later this week.

The FDA also said everyone 12 and older eligible for a booster can get one as early as five months after their last dose rather than six months.

CDC to Reconsider Latest Guidance Amid Backlash, Rise in Cases

The Hill reported:

A decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week to cut isolation time in half, from 10 days to five days for asymptomatic COVID-19, was met with backlash after officials said it was due in part to allow people to return to work faster. It came one week after some companies, including Delta Air Lines, wrote to the CDC requesting such a change.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said the CDC was looking into amending its isolation guidelines nearly one week after it updated its latest guidance, which did not require a negative test before the five days were up.

“There has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested. That is something that is now under consideration,” Fauci said.

When Three Shots Are Not Enough

The New York Times reported:

Ms. Stacey Ricks, 49, a kidney transplant recipient who takes immune suppressing medication, didn’t develop antibodies after her first two Moderna shots.

In June, without disclosing she already had received the Moderna shots, she got a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before federal health officials had approved anyone for a third shot.

Getting her fourth and fifth shots was trickier. Armed with a doctor’s note explaining that she hadn’t developed antibodies, Ms. Ricks convinced a pharmacist to give her two doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the summer.

Rhode Island Defends Using COVID-Positive Staff Over Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers

Newsweek reported:

The Rhode Island Department of Health stands by the decision to allow COVID-positive healthcare workers to return to their jobs instead of rehiring unvaccinated workers who were terminated because of their inoculation status.

Updated quarantine and isolation guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health allows employees to continue working at hospitals and nursing homes without restrictions if the facility is so short-staffed it’s a safety hazard for patients and residents.

The updated guidance sparked some criticism after healthcare workers were placed on unpaid leave for not getting vaccinated, with critics questioning if lifting the mandate would be a better solution to staffing shortages.

COVID Is Rampant Among Deer, Research Shows

NBC News reported:

Humans have infected wild deer with COVID-19 in a handful of states, and there’s evidence that the coronavirus has been spreading among deer, according to recent studies that outline findings that could complicate the path out of the pandemic.

Scientists swabbed the nostrils of white-tailed deer in Ohio and found evidence that humans had spread the coronavirus to deer at least six times, according to a study published last month in Nature.

The research suggests that the coronavirus could be taking hold in a free-ranging species that numbers about 30 million in the U.S. No cases of COVID spread from deer to human have been reported, but it’s possible, scientists say.

A New Coronavirus Vaccine Heading to India Was Developed by a Small Team in Texas. It Expects Nothing in Return.

The Washington Post reported:

For some vaccine developers, the coronavirus pandemic has had a silver lining in billions of dollars in profits. But a new vaccine rolling out soon in India is taking the opposite approach: Its developers are getting zilch.

“We’re not trying to make money,” said Peter Hotez of the Texas Children’s Hospital’s Center for Vaccine Development. “We just want to see people get vaccinated.”

On Tuesday, the Indian government granted emergency approval to a vaccine manufactured by the Hyderabad-based company Biological E. This “second generation” coronavirus vaccine was developed by Hotez and his longtime collaborator Maria Elena Bottazzi. It was then licensed to Biological E. through a commercialization team at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where both developers also work.

Biological E. has ambitious plans to produce more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine in 2022. Hotez and Bottazzi won’t personally get a penny from it, but their employer Baylor College will get a fee.

New York Says It Will Prioritize Non-White People in Distributing Low Supply of COVID Treatments

Fox News reported:

The state of New York said it will prioritize non-White people in the distribution of COVID-19 treatments in short supply.

New York’s Department of Health released a document detailing its plan to distribute the treatments, such as monoclonal antibody treatment and antiviral pills.

The plan includes a section on eligibility for the scarce antiviral pills that people must meet to receive the treatment, including a line stating a person needs to have “a medical condition or other factors that increase their risk for severe illness.”

One such “risk factor” is being a race or ethnicity that is not White due to “longstanding systemic health and social inequities. Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor, as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19,” the memo reads.

Back to School: Omicron Edition

Axios reported:

Months after Delta threatened the fall back-to-school ritual, COVID-19 is again complicating kids’ return to the classroom.

While many of the nation’s school districts are moving ahead with in-person classes, more than 2,100 schools are expected to be closed or open only for remote instruction this week, according to the school tracking website Burbio.

As the U.S. gets back to business and school in the new year, Americans will be adjusting to increased testing, changing isolation protocols, and evolving views on the importance of mask quality.

Novavax Files COVID Vaccine Data With FDA

The Hill reported:

Novavax on Friday filed final data with the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 vaccine, clearing the way for a potential emergency approval.

The move was the last step for the Maryland-based biotechnology company to fulfill prerequisites for its protein-based vaccine, which is different than the other three vaccines approved in the U.S. from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

If all goes well, Novavax could seek emergency approval next month as the U.S. continues to prioritize booster shots amid a spike in confirmed coronavirus cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Avoid Cruise Travel as Omicron Cases Surge, Says U.S. CDC

Reuters reported:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people should avoid traveling on cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status, as daily COVID-19 cases in the country climb to record highs due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

The move delivers another blow to the cruise industry that had just started returning to the seas in June after a months-long suspension of voyages caused by the pandemic.

The health agency has investigated and still probing into COVID-19 cases on more than 90 ships. It starts scrutiny if 0.10% or more passengers on guest voyages test positive for COVID-19.

COVID Outbreak Ends Cruise for Thousands on German Ship in Lisbon

Reuters reported:

The German operator of a cruise ship that has been stuck in Lisbon’s port due to an outbreak of the coronavirus among its crew pulled the plug on the voyage on Sunday after some passengers tested positive, port authorities said.

The AIDAnova, with 2,844 passengers and 1,353 crew onboard docked in Lisbon on Dec. 29 while en route to the island of Madeira for New Year’s Eve celebrations, but was unable to continue the journey after 52 cases of COVID-19 were detected among the fully-vaccinated crew.

Omicron ‘Plainly Milder’; New Measures Not Needed, UK’s Johnson Says

Reuters reported:

New measures are not needed now in Britain to fight the Omicron variant, which is “plainly milder” than earlier forms of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.

“The way forward for the country as a whole is to continue with the path that we are on,” he told broadcasters. “Of course we will keep all measures under review, but the mixture of things that we are doing at the moment is I think the right one.”

India Vaccinates 3.8 Million Teens in New COVID Inoculation Push

Reuters reported:

India vaccinated more than 3.8 million teens aged between 15 and 18 years on Monday, as the country expanded an inoculation effort to protect its large adolescent population ahead of a looming wave of coronavirus infections.

The teenagers, many wearing their uniforms, queued at schools and health centers across the country as health workers injected them with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin — the only COVID-19 vaccine so far approved by India for those below 18 years.