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WHO Says COVID Is No Longer a Global Health Emergency
COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee discussed the pandemic on Thursday at its 15th meeting on COVID-19, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concurred that the public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, declaration should end.
“This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19,” Tedros said. “Yesterday, the emergency committee met for the 15th time and recommended to me that I declare an end to the public health emergency of international concern. I have accepted that advice.”
The United States is set to let its COVID-19 public health emergency end on May 11.
CDC to Scale Back Data Collection as U.S. Ends COVID Health Emergency
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday it would stop reporting or monitoring COVID-19 case data and transmission rates after the government ends the pandemic’s public health emergency designation next week.
The agency will stop using its color-coded COVID-19 Community Levels (CCL) system, which relies on those metrics to track the spread of the virus, and will instead primarily rely on hospital admission data.
The Job Crunch Hits the White House as Biden Searches for a New Pandemic Czar
President Joe Biden has a vision for the next stage of his administration’s pandemic response — if only he can find someone to lead it. A week before Biden is set to declare an end to the nation’s public health emergency and dissolve his current COVID team, the White House still hasn’t found a director to run the new office charged with keeping up the fight, four people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.
The fledgling Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response was intended to serve as a permanent command center for federal efforts to keep COVID under control, coordinate pandemic work across the government and guard against future public health threats.
The team would be central to the development of next-generation vaccines and, critically for Biden’s campaign prospects, responsible for preventing a COVID resurgence that could spoil his reelection run.
But the White House’s search for a top official to lead the office has been hindered by concerns over whether it will have the influence within the administration and the financial resources needed to fulfill its broad mission — especially as COVID plummets down the list of political priorities.
Moderna Expects Updated COVID Vaccine to Cost $110-$130
Moderna anticipates its updated COVID-19 vaccine to have a list price in a range of $110 to $130 per shot, the company said Thursday.
The price update comes more than a month after lawmakers on the Senate HELP Committee pressed Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel to justify a $130 price point given the $12 billion the government spent to speed the company’s clinical trials and purchase its vaccine.
The FDA is convening its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on June 15 to discuss strain selection recommendations for updated COVID-19 vaccines for the fall-winter vaccination campaign.
BioNTech’s 30 Billion Reasons
The real winner in the COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes is the German company BioNTech, not Pfizer. Much has been made of Pfizer reaching the extraordinary mark of $100 billion in revenues in 2022, in large part undoubtedly thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and its famous COVID-19 “vaccine.” Indeed, Pfizer’s year-end earnings report shows that COVID-19 vaccine sales alone account for nearly 38% of those $100 billion in revenues.
But revenues are revenues. What counts, of course, are profits. And half of the profits on its COVID-19 vaccine sales are not in fact profits for Pfizer but rather costs. How could that be?
Well, it is because “Pfizer’s” COVID-19 vaccine is not in fact Pfizer’s. Legally, Pfizer is not even the manufacturer. Pfizer is rather a contract manufacturer that produces and markets the vaccine on behalf of its actual owner, the German company BioNTech. It says so right on the product’s label. And per the terms of the collaboration agreement between the two firms, Pfizer pays BioNTech a 50% share of its gross profits for the privilege of doing so.
Research Monkey Shortage Undermines U.S. Readiness, Panel Says
There’s a shortage of monkeys available for medical research and the U.S. should expand its breeding programs rather than rely on international suppliers to solve it, an influential scientific advisory panel said Thursday.
Studies using nonhuman primates, especially monkeys, have been critical to lifesaving medical advances — including creating vaccines against COVID-19 — because of their similarities to people. The U.S. funds colonies at national primate centers but supplies were tight and more animals were regularly imported even before the pandemic.
Then China, once a leading supplier, ended exports of research monkeys in 2020, as scientists everywhere needed more for coronavirus studies. And last fall, the U.S. filed charges to stop a Cambodian smuggling ring accused of shipping endangered wild monkeys in place of those bred for research, further constraining supplies.
Thursday’s report examined only research funded by the National Institutes of Health, deemed key to responding to public health emergencies — not drug company or other publicly or privately funded research with monkeys.
WHO Investigator Who Dismissed COVID Lab-Leak Theory Fired for Sexual Misconduct
A top World Health Organization scientist who led an investigative team that dismissed the COVID lab leak theory was fired over sexual misconduct allegations.
Prominent COVID investigator Peter Ben Embarek was canned “last year following findings of sexual misconduct against him that were substantiated by investigations, and corresponding disciplinary process,” the WHO statement said in a statement to The Post.
Ben Embarek has been one of the most outspoken WHO officials concerning the origins of COVID. He represented the organization as the lead investigator during a 2021 trip to China that probed where the deadly disease came from.
The team concluded that COVID-19 most likely originated in bats before the disease was transferred to humans. They also determined a leak from a Chinese lab was “highly unlikely” despite calls from other scientists to further investigate the possibility. Ben Embarek said political pressure was placed on the team, including from outside China, although nothing in the report has been changed.
Mind May Hold Clues to Your Risk of Long COVID
U.S. News & World Report reported:
In trying to untangle the mysteries of long COVID, researchers have found anxiety and depression may play a role for some of those with the lingering condition.
In the study from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), patients who perceived that they had thinking difficulties during COVID infection were also more likely to have lingering physical symptoms than those who did not report thinking issues.
About one-third of people with long COVID symptoms perceived they had thinking deficits, which have been found to be related to anxiety and depression.
“This is not to say that long COVID is all in one’s head, but that it is likely not a single condition and that for some proportion of patients, there is likely a component of anxiety or depression that is exacerbated by the disease,” senior study author Dr. Neil Wenger explained in a university news release.