Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.

U.S. Sets $1.74 Billion Deal With Moderna for Updated COVID Vaccine

Reuters reported:

Moderna Inc. (MRNA.O) said on Friday it has signed an agreement with the U.S. government worth as much as $1.74 billion, under which it will supply 66 million initial doses of its Omicron-adapted vaccine.

The initial doses will be delivered this year and the government also has the option to purchase an additional 234 million doses.

The bivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.222, contains the fast-spreading Omicron BA.4/5 strains, which are the most prevalent variants of concern in the U.S.

COVID Drove up Drinking, and Americans Are Dying Faster as a Result

Newsweek reported:

As COVID-19 continues to ravage our communities, researchers like myself are focused on evaluating how the pandemic has affected the mental and physical health of Americans — and determining the best path forward for our collective well-being.

Sadly, the more than 1 million American deaths directly caused by this deadly virus don’t tell the whole story. New research I conducted along with my colleagues at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine paints a grim picture of rising alcohol-associated liver disease, known as ALD. It’s a disorder that steadily increased over the past two decades, but which dangerously accelerated once the pandemic hit in early 2020.

COVID-19 fueled the perfect storm of increased stress, social isolation, disruptions to work and school and increased unemployment and financial insecurity. This dynamic led to higher alcohol consumption among Americans, and an increased risk of ALD.

A recent national survey of U.S. adults and their alcohol consumption found that excessive drinking — defined as more than four drinks per day or 14 per week for men and three drinks per day or seven per week for women — increased by a startling 21% in the country after the start of the pandemic.

Reformulated Booster Shots Ready by September, White House Says

U.S. News & World Report reported:

Americans could be getting updated COVID booster shots that can battle the newest Omicron variants as soon as mid-September.

People close to deliberations say that the Biden administration plans to offer a booster campaign with new formulations because the makers of the primary vaccines used in the United States — Pfizer and Moderna — have said they can deliver the new doses by then, the New York Times reported.

This could mean that younger Americans not yet eligible for a second booster of the original vaccines will have to wait until the fall for shots.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden‘s chief medical adviser, and Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House pandemic response coordinator, both advocated for expanding second boosters for more Americans now, the Times reported.

San Francisco, New York State Declare Monkeypox Emergencies as Outbreak Grows

The Washington Post reported:

San Francisco and the state of New York declared public health emergencies Thursday amid the growing monkeypox outbreak, the latest in escalating measures in response to the rapidly spreading virus.

The action by two of the hardest-hit areas comes after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency this past weekend and as the Biden administration weighs a national emergency declaration.

More than 40% of the nation’s confirmed 4,907 monkeypox cases have been reported in California and New York.

NYC to Receive 10% of Federal Monkeypox Vaccine Order Despite High Local Case Load

New York Daily News reported:

New York City will receive about 10% of a new batch of monkeypox vaccine doses secured by the federal government, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office said Thursday, frustrating some local officials who pushed for the city to receive a larger piece of vaccine pie.

Through Wednesday, around 25% of the nation’s confirmed monkeypox cases had been reported in New York City, according to government data. The federal government has been sluggish in its efforts to distribute jabs for the excruciatingly painful but rarely fatal disease.

Reinfection, Severe Outcome More Common With BA.5 Variant; Virus Spike Protein Toxic to Heart Cells

Reuters reported:

Compared with the earlier Omicron BA.2 subvariant, currently dominant Omicron BA.5 is linked with higher odds of causing a second SARS-COV-2 infection regardless of vaccination status, a study from Portugal suggests.

From late April through early June, researchers there studied 15,396 adults infected with the BA.2 variant and 12,306 infected with BA.5. Vaccines and boosters were equally effective against both sublineages, according to a report posted on Monday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.

However, 10% of BA.5 cases were reinfections, compared to 5.6% of BA.2 cases, which suggests a reduction in the protection conferred by previous infection against BA.5 compared to BA.2, the researchers said.

Moreover, the vaccines appeared to be less effective in reducing the risk of severe outcomes for BA.5 compared with BA.2.

How Zombies Can Help Prevent the Next Pandemic

Scientific American reported:

They have overlooked one tool that might help us prevent the next pandemic: zombie viral genomes.

Zombie viruses are the crippled byproducts of viral infection that can’t reproduce without help. They are intriguing from a therapeutic perspective because they seem to do several things to lessen disease: they prompt the immune system to act, and, without adding to the disease themselves, they suck up some of the machinery that their active counterparts use to copy themselves during an infection.

They also cloak themselves in proteins that normally wrap around viral genomes, resulting in virus-like particles that can tag along when their operational counterparts spread.

A better understanding of how these zombies work could allow researchers like me to engineer zombies as treatments so that when the next pandemic virus hits, we can give people medicinal zombies to keep them from getting really sick.

Latest U.K. COVID Wave Past Peak as Infections Fall by Half a Million in a Week

The Guardian reported:

The U.K.’s latest wave of COVID appears to have passed its peak, with infections falling by more than half a million in a week, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS estimates are based on swabs collected from randomly selected households.

There has been a similar decline in COVID infections in hospitals, with the U.K. Health Security Agency reporting on Thursday that COVID case rates edged downwards across all age groups, regions and ethnic groups in the third week of July. Case rates are highest in the over-80s, the most vulnerable to severe COVID.

CanSinoBIO’s Inhaled COVID Booster Stronger Against BA.1 Omicron Subvariant Than Sinovac Shot

Reuters reported:

Chinese vaccine firm CanSino Biologic’s inhalation-based candidate elicited a better antibody response as a booster against the BA.1 Omicron sub-variant than Sinovac’s shot, but the antibody level dropped in months, clinical trial data showed.

The result came as top political leaders in China called for proper tracking of virus mutation and developing of new vaccines and treatments in the country’s effort to refine its COVID control strategy.