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April 6, 2022

COVID News Watch

West Virginia Removes Dozens of Deaths From COVID Count + More

The Defender’s COVID NewsWatch provides a roundup of the latest headlines related to the SARS CoV-2 virus, including its origins and COVID vaccines.

COVID News Watch

West Virginia Removes Dozens of Deaths From COVID Count

Associated Press reported:

West Virginia has removed dozens of deaths from its official COVID-19 count after a review found nearly all of them were not related to the coronavirus, health officials said Tuesday. The Department of Health and Human Resources said Bureau for Public Health epidemiologists completed what it called a reconciliation process for 2021 that looks at all COVID-19 death reports.

Of the 3,948 deaths reported in 2021, 122 deaths, or 3%, were determined not to be virus-related. In addition, five duplicate deaths from last year were identified during the reconciliation process and three additional deaths from 2020 were determined not to be from COVID-19 and taken off the state’s dashboard.

The deaths originally were reported to DHHR as virus-related through a death report, but the death certificate later determined the cause was not COVID-19, the department said.

Cruise Ship Headed to Victoria Had ‘Lots of COVID’ on Board, Passenger Says

Vancouver Sun reported:

A Canadian passenger aboard the Caribbean Princess said there was “lots of COVID-19” on the cruise ship, which has canceled its scheduled stops in Victoria and Vancouver this week.

“The whole 12th floor is an isolation ward,” said Ally Carol of Richmond, who boarded the ship in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with her partner in late March for a 19-day cruise to Canada. They had planned to return home after the ship docked in Vancouver on April 7, but have now booked a flight from San Francisco after the cruise was cut short.

The Caribbean Princess was supposed to be the first cruise ship to arrive in Canada after nearly three years of pandemic restrictions when it arrived at Ogden Point on Wednesday.

The CDC said 101 of the 104 ships on its list are considered “highly vaccinated,” but not a single ship reaches its “standard of excellence” of 95 percent of passengers and crew fully vaccinated with two doses and a booster, if eligible.

Scientists Divided on Need for 4th COVID Shot After FDA Quietly Approved Another Round of Boosters

CNBC reported:

Leading U.S. scientists and physicians worry that the FDA and CDC are moving too fast in approving a fourth round of COVID shots, with little public debate that gives the vaccine makers too big a role in setting the pace with which the doses are distributed across the nation.

The top U.S. public health agencies last week endorsed a fourth COVID shot for older adults without holding public meetings, drawing criticism from leading vaccine experts who believe federal health officials haven’t provided enough transparency about the reasons for the decision.

The authorization of a fourth dose for adults age 50 and older comes as the scientific community is divided over whether the data is sufficient to support another round of boosters, and whether authorizing additional shots is a sustainable public health policy, especially since protection against infection simply wears off over time.

U.S. FDA Advisers Weigh Need for More COVID Vaccine Boosters

Reuters reported:

A panel of U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers was meeting on Wednesday to discuss how and whether to use additional COVID-19 vaccine boosters after data from Israel showed a fourth dose lowered rates of severe illness among older people.

The FDA’s outside experts are not expected to vote on any specific vaccine, but the agency said their discussions could help forge a strategy for future use of booster doses.

Data presented to the panel showed that vaccines lose much of their effectiveness in preventing infections from the Omicron variant, although they were better at preventing severe disease. That could mean the composition of future boosters may need to be tweaked to align with new variants, the FDA said.

Numerous Health Problems More Likely Because of COVID Vaccines Than Coincidence: VAERS Data Analysis

The Epoch Times reported:

Various health problems reported by people after receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccine shots are more likely to have been caused by the vaccines than to be coincidental, according to an analysis of data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

VAERS has been flooded with more than 1 million reports of various health problems and more than 21,000 death reports since the introduction of the vaccines in late 2020. Some experts and public officials have downplayed the significance of the reports, noting that just because a health problem occurs after getting the vaccine doesn’t mean the problem was caused by it.

However, a deeper analysis of the data indicates that many of the adverse effects are more than just a coincidence, according to Jessica Rose, a computational biologist who’s been studying the data for at least nine months.

“The safety signals being thrown off in VAERS now are off the charts across the board,” Rose told The Epoch Times.

Second Booster Shields Elderly From COVID but Protection Wanes Quickly — Study

Reuters reported:

A fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine lowered rates of COVID-19 among the elderly but the protection against infection appeared short-lived, a large study in Israel has found.

The second booster‘s protection against infection dwindled after four weeks, Israeli researchers showed in their study published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study on 1.3 million people aged 60 and older looked at data from the Israeli Ministry of Health database between Jan. 10 and March 2, when the Omicron variant was predominant.

WHO: COVID Cases and Deaths Continue to Fall Globally

Associated Press reported:

The number of coronavirus cases reported globally has dropped for a second consecutive week and confirmed COVID-19 deaths also fell last week, according to a World Health Organization report issued Wednesday.

In its latest pandemic report, WHO said 9 million cases were reported, a 16% weekly decline, and more than 26,000 new deaths from COVID-19. The U.N. health agency said confirmed coronavirus infections were down in all regions of the world.

However, it warned that the reported numbers carry considerable uncertainty because many countries have stopped widespread testing for the coronavirus, meaning that many cases are likely going undetected.

U.S. Pulls GSK’s COVID Drug as Omicron Sibling Dominates Cases

Associated Press reported:

GlaxoSmithKline’s IV drug for COVID-19 should no longer be used because it is likely ineffective against the Omicron subvariant that now accounts for most U.S. cases, federal health regulators said Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration announced that the company’s antibody drug sotrovimab is no longer authorized to treat patients in any U.S. state or territory. The decision was expected because the FDA had repeatedly restricted the drug’s use in the Northeast and other regions as the BA.2 version of omicron became dominant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that BA.2 accounts for 72% of the COVID-19 cases sequenced by health authorities. Some experts have warned of a BA.2-driven surge similar to those that have hit European countries, though U.S. case counts have yet to rise.

The decision leaves doctors and hospitals with only one antibody still authorized for use against routine COVID-19 cases: a different Eli Lilly drug that regulators say appears effective against BA.2.

New Antiviral Drug Can Get Rid of COVID in Just 3 Days: Study

The Daily Wire reported:

A new antiviral drug has been shown in early testing to eliminate COVID-19 infections in just a few days, the fastest so far identified.

The drug, molnupiravir, “effectively neutralized infections of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID) among a sample group by day three after starting therapy,” Study Finds reports.

“Molnupiravir is an oral antiviral prodrug that boasts broad activity against numerous coronaviruses. Prodrugs ‘switch on’ and become active once they enter the body. Importantly, the drug is active against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, including Delta and Omicron,” the website wrote.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved an emergency use authorization (EAU) request for molnupiravir, which is also in use in other countries, including Japan, Australia and Britain.

What Will COVID Look Like in 2100? Scientists Predict Three Possible Scenarios

Salon reported:

Imagine it’s March 2100. What cars remain are electric or flying, or both; subways and high-speed rail are the dominant forms of transit. Contemporary architecture is designed around climate change, the main crisis humanity is facing. And as public health leaders around the world gather for an annual summit, they reflect on the 80th anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as 2008 marked the 80th anniversary of the 1918 influenza virus pandemic, March 2100 will mark the 80th anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where will COVID-19 be then?

Of course, nobody can predict with perfect accuracy what COVID-19 will look like 80 years hence. Yet infectious disease experts know a remarkable amount about the SARS-CoV-2 virus two years since its discovery — and they have predictions as to how COVID-19 will play out over the next century.

Salon spoke to experts and scientists about how COVID-19 might look in 10, 20 and 80 years from now. Though their responses had some variation, the main lines of future prediction were remarkably similar.

New Crop of COVID mRNA Vaccines Could Be Easier to Store, Cheaper to Use

Science reported:

More than a dozen new mRNA vaccines from nine countries are now advancing in clinical studies, including one from China that’s already in a phase 3 trial. Some are easier to store, and many would be cheaper.

Showing they work won’t be easy: The number of people who don’t already have some immunity to COVID-19 because of vaccination or infection is dwindling. But if one or more of the candidates gets the green light, the mRNA revolution could reach many more people.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots rely on mRNA to direct cells to produce spike, a protein on SARS-CoV-2’s surface. Although 23 COVID-19 vaccines are in use around the world, based on technologies including inactivated SARS-CoV-2 and cold viruses engineered to carry the spike gene, the two mRNA vaccines account for about 30% of the 13.2 billion doses produced so far, according to healthcare data company Airfinity. But the companies have been reluctant to share their intellectual property (IP) and know-how, which would allow manufacturers in poorer countries to produce the shots.

Buyers Turn Down Moderna’s COVID Vaccine as Pandemic Demand Wanes

Bloomberg reported:

Two buyers of COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries have declined options to purchase hundreds of millions of additional doses from Moderna Inc., a sign of waning demand as the pandemic eases.

The African Union and Covax, the World Health Organization-backed group, decided not to obtain more of the vaccine as developing nations struggle to turn supplies into inoculations. Lower-income countries left behind in the global rollout are now grappling with a lack of funds, hesitancy, supply-chain obstacles and other factors that are hampering distribution.

For months, Moderna’s highly effective messenger RNA vaccine was out of reach for large parts of the world, and the company faced growing pressure to expand access. Now the tables have turned, even as health officials push to boost immunization rates amid the risk of new variants. Investors reacted to the shift, pushing Moderna shares down as much as 6.3% to $161.60 in New York.

Cancer Patients Seriously Ill After Struggle to Access COVID Drugs in England

The Guardian reported:

Cancer patients infected with coronavirus in England are becoming seriously ill after they were unable to access antibody or antiviral medicines on the NHS.

Ministers have promised to provide early treatment for 1.3 million people whose immune systems mean they are at higher risk of severe disease, hospitalization or death. The treatments include the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab (Xevudy) and the antiviral medicines nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (Paxlovid), remdesivir (Veklury) and molnupiravir (Lagevrio).

However, the Guardian has been told that while many patients are benefiting from the treatments, others are struggling to access them. Some have become critically ill as a result. Health charities say red tape and a lack of clear guidance have led to “mass confusion” and anxiety among some of the most vulnerable people in society.

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