Biden Pledged to ‘Follow the Science.’ But Experts Say He’s Sometimes Fallen Short.
As president, though, Biden has sometimes struggled to follow through on his science-first pledges. Over the winter, the White House press secretary publicly undercut the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after she suggested teachers didn’t necessarily need to be vaccinated for schools to be reopened safely. Then came the administration’s sudden U-turn on mask guidance in May, which was criticized for effectively assuming that unvaccinated Americans would still wear face coverings.
Most recently, and perhaps most striking, was the administration’s endorsement of “booster” vaccine doses, which numerous scientists say was based on scant evidence and undercuts the authority of scientific agencies.
Given that Biden campaigned against a president who often downplayed COVID-19 and derided government scientists, many health experts hoped his election would mark the dawn of a more science-focused pandemic response. While the new president has made good on most of his scientific pledges, though, some of his apparent scientific stumbles have led some health experts to question whether he’s been true to his vow to follow the science — and whether politics have played a role in many of his administration’s most critical COVID-19 decisions.
Take Another Look at the Spacing Between COVID Vaccine Doses
When most Americans showed up to get their first dose of an mRNA vaccine, they were sternly warned that they must schedule a second dose within a month. In my case, I politely explained that I would come back for my second dose at 3 months. The scheduler got flustered and treated me like I was a fugitive of the law. But a growing body of evidence over the last several months has shown that a longer interval provides better immunity in the long-term. It may even eliminate the need for a booster shot that’s now being recommended.
In May, researchers at the University of Birmingham found that delaying the second Pfizer dose to 12 weeks after the first resulted in a 3.5 times greater antibody response in older people. The increase is likely even greater in a younger cohort. Hematologist Paul Moss, MBBS, PhD, a co-author of the study, concluded that it’s a good idea to extend the time between the first and second doses of the vaccine. “An extended interval may help to sustain immunity against COVID-19 over the longer term and further improve the clinical efficacy of this powerful vaccine platform,” he wrote.
Alpha, Delta and More: Why Virus Variants Are Causing Alarm
Viruses mutate all the time, including the one, SARS-CoV-2, that’s caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Although most genetic changes are innocuous, some can make the mutant more adept at infecting cells, for example, or evading antibodies. Such “fitter” variants can outcompete other strains, so that they become the predominant source of infections.
A succession of more-transmissible variants has emerged over the past year, each harboring a constellation of mutations. The most worrisome so far is the so-called delta variant. It’s become dominant in much of the world since its discovery in India in October, leading to surges in cases and hospitalizations, especially in places where less than half the adult population has been fully immunized.
They’re Called Mild Cases. But People With Breakthrough COVID Can Still Feel Pretty Sick.
Andrew Kinsey knew that even after being vaccinated against the coronavirus, there was a chance he could still fall ill with COVID-19.
He just never expected to feel this lousy from a case doctors call mild.
For nearly a week, Kinsey felt like he had been “run over by a truck.” He struggled to walk a few steps and to stay awake through episodes of the TV show “Doomsday Preppers.” He returned to work last Monday as a corporate litigator but needs midday naps.
Are Off-Label Prescriptions a Backdoor to Giving Kids COVID Vaccines?
The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to give full approval to the Pfizer COVID vaccine was only a few hours old last week when groups on Facebook lit up with questions. The move changed the vaccine’s availability in the marketplace, triggered business and military vaccine mandates, and may have altered its acceptability to vaccine-hesitant people.
But that was only for people 16 years old and up. For teens 12 to 15, the FDA left the Pfizer formula under emergency authorization. For children younger than 12, it kept the vaccine entirely off-limits until the conclusion of kids’ clinical trials, which are now due sometime in late fall. That immediately ignited debate among parents about whether they could find a way to get younger kids the shot, as well as whether they should.
“My child is almost the size of a 12-year-old,” began one thread in a private group. “I’m calling my pediatrician tomorrow,” began another. A third person floated a rumor: Someone took their child to a pharmacy and accidentally wrote the wrong birthdate on the vaccine paperwork.
Moderna Makes Twice as Many Antibodies as Pfizer, Study Says
The study is one of the first to compare levels of antibodies produced by the two vaccines, which are thought to be one of the important components of the immune response. It didn’t examine whether the antibody differences led to a difference in efficacy over time between the two shots, which both were more than 90% effective in final-stage clinical trials.
Who Says It Is Monitoring a New COVID Variant Called ‘Mu’
The World Health Organization is monitoring a new coronavirus variant called “mu,” which the agency says has mutations that have the potential to evade immunity provided by a previous COVID19 infection or vaccination.
Mu — also known by scientists as B.1.621 — was added to the WHO’s list of variants “of interest” on Aug. 30, the international health organization said in its weekly Covid epidemiological report published late Tuesday.
The variant contains genetic mutations that indicate natural immunity, current vaccines or monoclonal antibody treatments may not work as well against it as they do against the original ancestral virus, the WHO said. The mu strain needs further study to confirm whether it will prove to be more contagious, more deadly or more resistant to current vaccines and treatments.
As School Returns, Impatience Grows With Biden Administration on Vaccines for Kids Under 12
When the Food and Drug Administration fully authorized a coronavirus vaccine for the first time last week, the vaccine-skeptic industrial complex was in a bind. It had been pointing for months to the fact that the vaccine was only authorized for emergency use — and thus, allegedly, not fully tested. So several of its leaders pivoted to something else: suggesting that maybe the full authorization had been rushed.
There were two problems with that. The first was that many of the same people had hailed the Trump administration’s vaccine push, which was literally called “Operation Warp Speed.”
The second was that there is indeed evidence that a president pressured apolitical health officials to push through coronavirus treatments. And it was Donald Trump. There was little concern among this crowd, for instance, when Trump tweeted: “Get the dam vaccines out NOW, [FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn]. Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!”
Australia Aims to ‘Live With Virus’ Instead of Eliminating It
Australian authorities on Wednesday extended the COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne for another three weeks, as they shift their focus to rapid vaccination drives and move away from a suppression strategy to bring cases down to zero.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews flagged a staggered easing of the tough restrictions once 70% of the state’s adult residents receive at least one dose, a milestone he hopes to reach at least by Sept. 23, based on current vaccination rates.
“We have thrown everything at this, but it is now clear to us that we are not going to drive these numbers down, they are instead going to increase,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne, the state capital, after a lockdown for nearly a month failed to quell the outbreak. The lockdown was due to end on Thursday.
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