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

COVID Vaccine Protection Against Mild Infection Drops Dramatically After 6 Months: Study

ABC News reported:

COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against Omicron infection fell dramatically after six months for people who only got their primary series, according to a new analysis published Wednesday. The researchers, however, did not look at the updated bivalent vaccines that target the original strain of the virus as well as BA.4 and BA.5, which are subvariants of Omicron.

For the analysis, published in JAMA Network Open, the team examined 40 studies — a combination of articles and reviews published in peer-reviewed journals and preprints.

After receiving a primary series, protection against symptomatic disease decreased from 52.8% at one month after the last dose to 14.3% at six months to 8.9% at nine months. When it came to vaccine effectiveness against overall infection, protection fell from 44.4% at one month to 20.7% at six months to 13.4% at nine months.

Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital who was not involved in the study, said the results are not surprising because researchers have known about waning effectiveness for quite some time.

Moderna Reports Surprise Profit as It Books Deferred COVID Vaccine Sales

Reuters reported:

Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) on Thursday reported a small profit of 19 cents per share instead of an expected loss as it booked more revenue in the first quarter from last year’s deferred orders for its COVID-19 vaccine than had been anticipated. Analysts expected a loss of $1.77 per share, according to Refinitiv data, and Moderna shares had jumped more than 5% to $136.71 by midday. They had fallen nearly 28% this year.

The company did not change its forecast of $5 billion in COVID vaccine sales for the year based on advance purchase agreements. But Moderna said it was in discussions about new contracts with customers in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. that could further boost vaccine revenue.

The company expects to sign commercial contracts for updated COVID vaccine boosters over the next few weeks and into the third quarter, Chief Commercial Officer Arpa Garay said on a conference call to discuss results.

The company continues to expect the U.S. annual COVID-19 market to be 100 million doses, she added.

Gun Assault Rates Doubled for Children in 4 Major Cities During the Pandemic, New Data Shows

KFF Health News reported:

Rates of gun assaults on children roughly doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study that looked at gun deaths and injuries in four major cities. Black children were the most frequent victims.

Study author Jonathan Jay, who studies urban health, said the team looked at the rates to understand whether some children were at higher risk than others.

“We knew that children of color, even before the pandemic, were more likely than non-Hispanic white children to be shot, and we also knew that child gun victimization seemed to be increasing during the pandemic,” Jay said. “But no one had looked at how racial disparities in child victimization might have been changing.”

The researchers are still unpacking pandemic-specific factors that may have driven the change, he said. Some of the influences they’re considering include “the stress associated with job losses, school closures, loss of access to certain kinds of services that closed down,” he said. “Also, really visible police violence, especially against people of color. Loss of loved ones and family members to COVID-19 virus.”

FDA Panel to Meet on Next COVID Boosters

Axios reported:

Food and Drug Administration advisers have set their next meeting to decide how to make the next round of COVID-19 boosters available to the general public this fall, now that they’re available for older adults and high-risk people.

Driving the news: An FDA expert panel will meet on June 15 to discuss and make recommendations on what strains to include in the “periodic updated” COVID vaccines this fall. The FDA has said that it intends to make decisions about future vaccination after the panel meeting.

The big picture: U.S. health officials have previously indicated that they plan to recommend that people get COVID shots once a year, a similar schedule to the flu vaccine, as COVID becomes more normalized.

The FDA also revoked the authorizations of the original vaccines — the monovalent shots from Moderna and Pfizer — in an effort to simplify future vaccination schedules and encourage immunization.

New COVID Vaccinations/Boosters Slow to a Trickle

ZeroHedge reported:

Pharma company Pfizer, makers of the popular COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, reported their Q1 financials yesterday. While the company exceeded expectations, there is nevertheless a big chunk of revenue missing in this quarter’s report compared to the same time last year. Total revenue was down 29 percent since Q1 of 2022.

As Statista’s Katharina Buchholz notes, this change is closely related to the number of COVID-19 vaccines given out globally. Numbers from Our World in Data show that new vaccinations around the world have slowed to a trickle.

Interestingly, booster shots have generally not overtaken initial protocol immunizations, instead staying far behind them in 2023 after having been the most common type of COVID-19 vaccination for a short while in mid-2022.

Booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been available in many developed countries — which is where most coronavirus vaccines were given out in general — and have continued to be recommended at least for older people. However, uptake has been far from universal. For example, while close to 70% of the U.S. population had received a full initial immunization against COVID-19 most recently, only around 17% had received a booster. The numbers were 94% and 43% for those over the age of 65, respectively.

ANALYSIS: NIH Leadership Was Deeply Anxious About Wuhan Lab Funding, New Emails Reveal

The Epoch Times reported:

New National Institutes of Health (NIH) emails released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal the stark contrast between the public and private views of top NIH officials on the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new batch of FOIA emails, which was obtained by independent journalist James Tobias, shows a pattern of deception at the highest echelons of the NIH, including both its former director, Francis Collins, and current NIH Director Lawrence Tabak, who was previously Collins’s deputy.

Perhaps the most significant revelation to emerge from the new FOIA emails is that the situation surrounding EcoHealth and its connection to Wuhan was causing NIH leaders a far bigger headache than their public pronouncements indicated.

The new FOIA emails also provide insights into the massive campaign undertaken by outside parties to reinstate EcoHealth’s grant. Immediately after Trump canceled EcoHealth’s grant on Apr. 24, 2020, due to the close connections between EcoHealth and the WIV, a large number of parties, including individuals and organizations, started petitioning the NIH to reinstate the grant.

WHO Experts to Weigh Whether World Ready to End COVID Emergency

Reuters reported:

A panel of global health experts will meet on Thursday to decide if COVID-19 is still an emergency under the World Health Organization’s rules, a status that helps maintain international focus on the pandemic.

The WHO first gave COVID its highest level of alert on January 30 2020, and the panel has continued to apply the label ever since, at meetings held every three months.

However, a number of countries have recently begun lifting their domestic states of emergency, such as the United States. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said he hopes to end the international emergency this year.

There is no consensus yet on which way the panel may rule, advisors to the WHO and external experts told Reuters.

DEA Seeks to Extend COVID-Era Prescription Flexibilities

The Hill reported:

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has submitted plans to extend prescription flexibilities for telemedicine that were adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic as the end of the public health emergency for the outbreak quickly approaches.

Shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DEA temporarily relaxed several rules when it came to prescribing controlled substances in order to ensure that patients were still able to access necessary care. The public health emergency is set to end on May 11.

During the lockdown, the agency began to allow providers to prescribe buprenorphine — a treatment for opioid use disorder — over telehealth appointments without requiring in-person visits.

Chinese Tech Giant Baidu Uses AI Algorithm to Improve COVID mRNA Vaccines

Forbes reported:

Chinese tech giant Baidu Research has developed a revolutionary AI algorithm that significantly enhances the stability and antibody response of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

The company’s paper on the breakthrough, titled “Algorithm for Optimized mRNA Design Improves Stability and Immunogenicity,” was published in Nature, the first time a Chinese tech company has been credited as the first affiliation on a paper published in the prestigious scientific journal.

“Enumerating all COVID-19 mRNA vaccine sequences would take 10^616 billion years, but our algorithm designs the most stable mRNA in just 11 minutes,” said He Zhang, a software engineer at Baidu Research in California and lead author on the paper.

Baidu noted that the research can extend mRNA medicine encoding to a wider range of therapeutic proteins, such as monoclonal antibodies and anti-cancer drugs. Additionally, Baidu said its vaccine design method could greatly reduce research and development costs for biopharmaceutical companies while improving outcomes.

Mexico Develops Own COVID Vaccine, 2 Years Late

Associated Press reported:

Mexican officials celebrated Wednesday the announcement that the country finally developed its own COVID-19 vaccine, more than two years after inoculations from the U.S., Europe and China were rolled out. It was unclear what use would be made of the vaccine, named “Patria” or “Motherland,” developed in a joint effort between the government and a Mexican company, Avimex, which previously did work on animal vaccines.

Vaccine uptake in Mexico dropped precipitously in late 2022 and 2023, and Mexico still has millions of doses of the Abdala vaccine it bought from Cuba.

María Elena Álvarez-Buylla, the head of Mexico’s government commission for Science and Technology, said the new vaccine would be approved for use as a booster shot. She did not say whether the government medical approval agency had formally authorized the Patria vaccine.

Mexico started developing the Patria vaccine in March 2020. But testing was slow, and the country wound up importing 225 million doses, mainly AstraZeneca and Pfizer, and some Chinese vaccines.