A FDA review has confirmed that Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine, which only requires a single shot, is safe and effective. Emergency use approval may come as early as this weekend.
For six consecutive weeks, the number of new COVID cases globally have fallen despite various policy interventions. Seasonality anyone?
In other news:
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Johnson & Johnson ’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine works safely, paving the way for the approval of a third vaccine in the U.S. as early as this weekend.
The vaccine was 66.1% effective in preventing moderate to severe disease and appeared safe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday, and the shot also showed tantalizing signs of slowing the spread of the virus.
J&J’s shot would be the third cleared for use in the U.S., as health authorities pick up the pace of vaccinations and try to lock in gains reducing daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths while staying ahead of any new variants that threaten to evade treatment.
Health authorities have been looking forward to adding a new Covid-19 vaccine to their arsenal. J&J’s shot wasn’t quite as effective in its late-stage trial as the pair already in use, but it worked safely by a number of measures, the FDA said, after reviewing a 44,000-subject study.
J&J’s vaccine “met the prespecified success criteria” for the study, the FDA said.
New York City’s museums, sports arenas and entertainment venues are slowly coming back to life. But the sector has contracted dramatically under the pressure of the global pandemic, according to a report from the state Comptroller’s Office.
Jobs in arts, entertainment and recreation fell by 66% in 2020 from a year ago, the largest decline among the city’s economic sectors, erasing a decade of gains in what was one of New York’s most vibrant industries, the report said. The business district that includes Chelsea and midtown Manhattan was the hardest-hit area of the city, accounting for 46% of all jobs in the sector.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has had a profound and negative impact on the industry,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Wednesday in a statement. “It has forced facilities to close, thrust thousands into unemployment and pushed businesses to the brink of collapse.”
After climbing the grim upward slope of an epidemic curve that seemed destined to rise forever, we find ourselves somewhat unexpectedly sliding down the other side, with cases in the U.S. declining at such a steep rate it almost seems too good to be true: They’ve gone from a peak of 300,000 new cases per day on Jan. 2 to 62,000 on Tuesday. Just as with each steep rise in cases in the spring and fall, scientists and armchair epidemiologists alike are offering up their favorite explanations (herd immunity! Bad weather! The Democrats switched off the virus right after Inauguration Day!).
The search for understanding makes sense; the loss of a sense of control during the pandemic has been unsettling, and the early battle cry of “flatten the curve” was our way of wresting that control back. Remember those confident predictions back in April that had us at zero cases by July 1? As with the upward trend in the fall (college kids! Seasonality! Pandemic fatigue!), we want answers for the steep downward trend we are seeing not just in the U.S. but in many parts of the world. Surely our mask diligence and social sacrifices are now being rewarded?
If you think state and federal government COVID-19 policies are too restrictive, you haven’t been to a college campus lately. Schools across the country have imposed extreme, micromanaging rules on 19-22 year olds—a demographic more likely to die from the seasonal flu and pneumonia than COVID.
Paying top dollar at already overpriced institutions for vastly inferior remote learning, university students remain unnecessarily isolated and barred from using the services and facilities they and their families are paying for.
Many schools, like Southern Methodist University, forbid students from having guests in their dorm rooms. Others have even installed security cameras in the hallways aimed at residents’ doors to monitor adherence.
Most institutions have isolation dorms or, as some students call them, “isolation prisons,” where students who test positive for COVID are forced to live alone for two weeks (sound familiar?).
Recent public messaging harps on the idea that people can still become infected and transmit COVID-19 after they get vaccinated. While that is a risk, it’s an extremely low risk, and not worth the negative consequence: it’s stopping people from getting vaccinated.
People are using the idea that others can spread the virus after being vaccinated to claim that the vaccine does not work and therefore should not be taken. I have spoken with people who have done just that.
Vaccine trials measure how many people get infected after vaccination. Take for example the Moderna vaccine trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine beginning in November with follow-up publications extending through February. In that trial they randomized 15,210 people to the vaccine and 15,210 people to placebo. Of those who got the placebo, 185 developed COVID-19. Therefore, 1.2% got COVID-19. Thirty of those became very ill. Of those who got the vaccine, 11 developed COVID-19. None of them got very ill. Therefore, 0.07% got COVID-19. So, the vaccine was effective: it prevented illness and it prevented serious illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made headlines last week when it announced that Covid-19 had reduced the average life expectancy of Americans in 2020 by a full year. The news seemed to starkly illustrate the devastation wrought by our nation’s worst public health crisis in 100 years.
But there was a problem. The pandemic’s appalling toll could not have reduced life span by nearly that much. My own estimate is that when Covid-19’s ravages in 2020 are averaged across the country’s entire population, we each lost about five days of life.
The CDC’s mistake? It calculated life expectancy using an assumption that is assuredly wrong, which yielded a statistic that was certain to be misunderstood. That’s exactly the type of misstep the agency can’t afford to make. Not now, not after former President Trump’s relentless attacks on its credibility. Not after his advisers were caught altering and editing the agency’s monthly reports to downplay the pandemic.
When I and two other parents started campaigning nearly a year ago for children’s welfare to be prioritised in decisions taken in response to Covid, it was out of a deep and visceral sense – otherwise known as maternal instinct – that certain of those measures looked disproportionate and some, when seen through a lens of child welfare, simply ‘wrong’. One year later, on the morning after what should have been a great victory for that campaign, that feeling of deep unease has, sadly, never been stronger.
It is great that children will soon be back in school. School is where they need to be and the cost of being out of school both for children individually and society as a whole was simply becoming too great. But what a price they’ve been asked to pay.
The news yesterday, buried in a 66-page operational manual for schools, that secondary school children are recommended to wear masks in classrooms is a body blow. It has left many parents – myself included – numb.
One constant through the upheavals of 2020 was the steady stream of media reports about residents’ fleeing dense urban areas. In this data brief, I use the Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel (CCP) and find that migration flows were in fact very unfavorable for urban neighborhoods in 2020. However, people’s taking flight from urban areas is only part of the story. Initially, the urban exodus stories reported that people were afraid of contracting the novel coronavirus in elevators and subways. Then the narratives suggested remote work had freed office workers from long commutes, allowing them to relocate. With both remote workers and students at home full time, a desire for home offices purportedly rose, and low interest rates made buying a larger suburban home attractive.Urban amenities such as restaurants and theaters were shuttered. Later, the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd and others were cited for motivating some urban residents to leave. Most major cities experienced increases in violent crime during 2020, and crime rates have historically predicted migration changes. The proposed and enacted cuts to police funding were also cited as a reason to leave by some people who feared that crime would increase further.
For journalists, scientists and politicians, “sorry” isn’t always the hardest word. Sometimes, it’s “we don’t know”.
And that’s the position that most are in right now, analysing the seemingly hopeful Covid-19 trends emerging across the globe.
For six consecutive weeks, the number of new Covid-19 cases globally have fallen. According to the World Health Organization, cases fell by 11 per cent this week, and deaths by 20 per cent. It’s the first time since the pandemic began more than a year ago that there has been such a sustained drop.
But the big question is: why?
Rather than “we don’t know”, Dr Paul Sax, a professor of medicine at Harvard, has another option: “gemish”, Yiddish for “a mixture of things”. From improved social distancing to lockdowns, the early impact of vaccinations or emerging herd immunity, there is no single reason for the fall in numbers.
“It could be all of the above explanations, in various proportions, and different in various regions – plus things no one has considered,” he said.
Below, we look at what could be behind the fall in cases – and how the world can sustain it.