LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: A woman wearing a face mask walks past a piece of street art depicting an NHS worker on April 21, 2020 in the Shoreditch area of London, England. The British government has extended the lockdown restrictions first introduced on March 23 that are meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)Share on Pinterest
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  • The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
  • Known as SARS-CoV-2, the virus has resulted in more than 228 million infections and more than 4.6 million deaths.
  • SARS-CoV-2 infection causes COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 has now been reported on every continent.
  • Keep up to date with the latest research and information about COVID-19 here.
  • For vaccine information, visit our live vaccine updates article.

09/20/2021 10:52 GMT — FDA advisory panel recommends vaccine booster for over 65s

On Friday, September 17, an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted against approving a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those aged 16 and over.

The vote was 16-2 against approving the booster dose for younger populations. However, the same advisory panel voted 18 to 0 in support of authorizing the booster dose for those aged over 65 years and those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 following infection with the virus.

09/20/2021 10:46 GMT — Do COVID-19 vaccines affect menstrual cycles? Expert calls for investigation

Dr. Victoria Male, a reproductive health specialist at Imperial College London, United Kingdom, has called for more research into the potential link between COVID-19 vaccines and changes to the menstrual cycle.

Her editorial in the BMJ points out that, in the U.K., more than 30,000 people have reported experiencing changes to their menstrual cycles after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Vaccine hesitancy among young women is largely driven by false claims that COVID-19 vaccines could harm their chances of future pregnancy. Failing to thoroughly investigate reports of menstrual changes after vaccination is likely to fuel these fears,” Dr. Male writes.

Read the story in full here.

09/20/2021 10:34 GMT — Getting the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine boosts mental health

New research, which appears in PLOS ONE, has identified a link between receiving the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and improved mental health in the short term.

“Looking at the impact of getting vaccinated allows us to study the extent to which reducing your health risks relieves mental distress,” study author, Dr. Francisco Perez-Arce, told Medical News Today.

Read the story in full here.

09/17/2021 13:53 GMT — Inaccurate reporting conceals COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable populations

The official COVID-19 mortality count in the United States has surpassed 660,000, but inaccuracies in cause of death reports hide the true impact of the pandemic. Researchers recently explored healthcare factors at the county level to help explain the disparity. Their study found that most of these excess deaths occurred in areas affected by racial and social injustices.

Read more about the study here.

09/17/2021 10:55 GMT — 3,000 healthcare workers suspended in France after not getting vaccinated

France’s health minister has announced that around 3,000 health workers have been suspended without pay for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 this week.

Olivier Véran said that the suspensions were a temporary measure to ensure the continuity, quality, and security of care.

The French government had set September 15 as a deadline for workers to receive the first dose of the vaccine and produce a negative SARS-CoV-2 test as a condition for working. Those with health reasons and people who had previously had COVID-19 were exempted.

Around the world, other countries have also implemented similar requirements to ensure public safety. Care workers in England must receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by November 11 to continue working. Fiji has a “no jab, no job” policy, which gives public servants a November deadline to get vaccinated. The United States and Canada have also required most federal employees to get vaccinated.

Click here for more on what experts think about vaccine mandates.

09/17/2021 10:30 GMT — COVID-19 booster shot offers 10-fold protection against infection: Israeli study

A third dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine significantly reduces the risk of infection and severe illness for older adults, a new Israeli study has found. 

According to the preliminary results of a serological study conducted at an Israeli hospital, the third dose produced 10 times higher antibody levels than the second dose a week after each jab. More than 1.1 million people who were aged 60 years and older were involved in the study.

With the so-called booster dose, individuals were 11 times less likely to contract SARS-CoV-2 and almost 20 times less likely to get severely ill than those who had received two doses of the vaccine.

The findings appear in The New England Journal of Medicine.

However, experts say that the study has its limitations and that the data should be reviewed with caution.

Israel was the first country to officially offer a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more about booster doses here.

09/17/2021 10:06 GMT — COVID-19 vaccines: Effective in preventing hospitalization and ER visits

A new study shows that the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and emergency room visits. For instance, the authors found that the mRNA vaccines — Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech — were 89% effective in preventing hospitalization in confirmed cases of a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Placebo-controlled phase 3 trials of these three vaccines and observational studies of the mRNA vaccines have already demonstrated that they are effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

However, as the authors explain, “less is known about how well these vaccines protect against more severe illness due to [SARS-CoV-2] resulting in hospitalization, admission to an intensive care unit, or ambulatory care in an emergency department or urgent care clinic.”

This recent study plugs that gap and provides further evidence that vaccines are an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19.

Read more about the research here.

09/16/2021 13:10 GMT — Nearly 9 in 10 young adults in the UK likely to have COVID-19 antibodies

Almost 9 in 10 people aged 16–24 in the United Kingdom likely have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The relevant data is from the week beginning August 23, 2021, and it shows that the percentage of people testing positive for antibodies has increased or remained high across all age groups.

The estimates for young adults range from 86.9% in Wales and 87.2% in Northern Ireland to 88.7% in England and Scotland.

Having these antibodies suggests either a past SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination against the virus.

The body starts producing enough antibodies to combat the virus at least 2 weeks after infection or vaccination.

However, antibody levels can wane over time and remain at low levels in the blood.

Young adults aged 18 and over were offered COVID-19 jabs starting from June of this year, and 16- to 17-year-olds gained access to their first doses in August.

Read more about COVID-19 antibodies here.

09/16/2021 12:40 GMT — What do we know so far about Mu, the new SARS-CoV-2 variant?

Designated as a new SARS-CoV-2 variant of interest on August 30, the Mu (B.1.621) variant is now on scientists’ radar. They are investigating whether it can evade the body’s immune protection, either that conferred from a previous infection or that induced by the available vaccines.

Lab data so far suggests that the variant has genetic mutations that could make it more resistant to immune defenses, though confirming this will require further studies.

World Health Organization (WHO) weekly epidemiological update found that Colombia and some countries in Europe are reporting larger outbreaks of the variant, while elsewhere, cases remain sporadic. Cases of infection with the Mu variant have consistently increased in Ecuador (13%), as well as in Colombia (39%), prompting closer monitoring.

Experts say that new variants will continue to emerge as the virus naturally mutates. They reiterate that COVID-19 vaccines still provide robust protection against severe disease and hospitalization.

Read more about the Mu variant here.

09/15/2021 15:55 GMT — Experimental COVID-19 vaccine lasts 1 month at room temperature

A recent study tested a single dose of a new adeno-associated virus vector-based vaccine in mice and macaques. The team found that the vaccine not only produced an effective immune response against SARS-CoV-2 variants, but it also remained stable at room temperature for 1 month.

Although the currently available COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, they have limited manufacturing capacity, and some — such as the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines — need to be stored according to cold-chain procedures, which hinder their global distribution.

The study appears in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Read more about MNT‘s coverage of the study here.

09/15/2021 13:20 GMT — UK to offer vaccine boosters to 30 million people as part of fall and winter COVID-19 plan

The United Kingdom announced on Tuesday that it will offer COVID-19 vaccine boosters to all those aged 50 years and older, those living in care homes, frontline health and social care workers, and any people over the age of 16 with health conditions, to prevent new surges in COVID-19 cases from overwhelming the National Health Service (NHS).

The rollout of the additional vaccine doses will start beginning next week. An estimated 30 million people will be offered the injection.

The government also said it will move onto “Plan B” if the NHS faces “unsustainable pressure.” The plan will include compulsory face masks, working from home, and vaccine passports. Lockdowns may also be imposed as a “last resort.”

The decision comes a day after the government announced that children aged 12–15 years will be offered the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines.

Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccine rollouts across the globe here.

09/14/2021 15:20 GMT — COVID-19 and young people: Impact on lung function

Two small new studies suggest that COVID-19 does not affect young people’s lung function in the long run. One of the studies was carried out in children and adolescents and the other one in adults aged 22, on average. 

Both studies suggest that, with the exception of cases where the infection was severe, SARS-CoV-2 does not leave a long-lasting effect on the lungs and respiratory function. However, MNT’s experts caution that we should stay vigilant, particularly with regard to the virus’ impact on children. 

Read MNT’s full coverage here.

09/14/2021 14:50 GMT — CDC study: Unvaccinated people 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a study showing that people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with the disease than those who have undergone vaccination.

The data also show that the risk of death from COVID-19 is 11 times higher among unvaccinated people.The CDC collected data from across 13 jurisdictions in the United States over a period of 3 months. “Getting vaccinated protects against severe illness from COVID-19, including the Delta variant,” the study concludes. 

Read the full story here.

09/13/2021 15:30 GMT — Chinese city retightens restrictions after new COVID-19 outbreak

Putian, a city in the Chinese province of Fujian, faces retightened restrictions after reporting a new COVID-19 outbreak.

City authorities have had to close cinemas and gyms andrestrict travel to and from the city.

According to data cited by Reuters, there have been 35 new cases of confirmed COVID-19 in Putian between September 10–12. The city has also reported 32 new asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, which health authorities do not count as confirmed cases.

09/13/2021 15:15 GMT — CDC reports that the US has administered over 380 million vaccine doses

As of September 12, United States health workers have administered 380,241,903 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Reuters reports.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 209,437,152 people have received at least one vaccine dose, and 178,692,875 people are now fully vaccinated.

The vaccines counted by the CDC include the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, as well as the single-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

09/13/2021 14:52 GMT — UK authorities decide against vaccine passports in England

On September 12, United Kingdom officials announced that COVID-19 vaccine passports will not become a requirement in England.

The initial scheme would have required adults in England to show proof of vaccination in order to enter nightclubs or attend large events.

However, vaccine passports will be required in Scotland from October 1, and proof of vaccination remains a requirement for those returning to England from amber-listed countries who wish to avoid self-isolation.

09/10/2021 09:43 GMT — US introduces vaccine mandates for millions of adults

Yesterday, President Joe Biden introduced federal vaccine requirements that will affect up to 100 million people in the United States. During a White House address referencing eligible unvaccinated individuals, Biden said: “We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.”

The U.S. administration has launched a “six-pronged, comprehensive national strategy that employs the same science-based approach that was used to successfully combat previous variants of COVID-19 earlier this year.”

As part of the strategy, all employers with more than 100 employees must require them to take a vaccine or test weekly. This will affect an estimated 80 million people.

Also, workers at healthcare facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid will also need to be vaccinated — this accounts for another 17 million people.

09/10/2021 09:38 GMT — Drastically reducing US jail populations may lower COVID-19 daily cases

Overcrowded jails harbor virulent COVID-19 clusters and act as hubs for outbreak spillovers throughout carceral facilities and communities. Communities with high Black and Latinx populations experience disproportionate rates of incarceration and SARS-CoV-2 infection. A new study links decarceration and public health mandates with lower COVID-19 caseloads.

Read MNT’s coverage of the study here.

09/09/2021 09:34 GMT — WHO call for halt to booster shots until 2022

At a news conference, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a hold on booster jabs for healthy people in wealthy countries. He explained that excess doses should be provided to less wealthy countries where vaccines are in short supply.

Read more in our live vaccines update article.

09/09/2021 09:16 GMT — COVID-19 long-haulers at risk of developing kidney damage, disease

A recent study, which appears in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, identifies significant kidney impairment in people with long COVID 30 days after infection. Adverse kidney outcomes increased in line with the severity of the disease.

Read more about the research here.

09/08/2021 11:55 GMT — Spain approves third COVID-19 vaccine dose for people with weakened immune systems

People in Spain with severely compromised immune systems, who are likely to have weaker protection against COVID-19 from the current two-dose vaccination regimen, will soon start receiving a third shot, the country’s Public Health Commission said on Tuesday.

About 100,000 people—including organ and bone marrow transplant recipients, people with multiple sclerosis, and those receiving monoclonal antibody treatment—are expected to get the shot.

The dose will be administered at least 28 days after the previous shot and preferably be the same type of vaccine.

With the approval, Spain joins a growing list of countries that have announced they will offer a three-dose regimen of COVID-19 vaccines to high-risk populations.

Israel and Luxembourg have already begun their rollout for people with weakened immune systems, while Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Ireland are expected to offer it to older adults, care home residents, and those with chronic illnesses this fall.

Read more about vaccine boosters here.

09/08/2021 11:30 GMT — Common hypertension drug may help treat severe COVID-19

A common beta-blocker designed to treat high blood pressure may also be an inexpensive treatment for severe COVID-19, a recent study has found.

Researchers showed that metoprolol reduced lung inflammation and improved outcomes in acute respiratory distress syndrome, an often fatal condition involving lung damage associated with severe cases of COVID-19.

Notably, there were no side effects associated with the drug.

Read more about the study here.

09/07/2021 12:20 GMT — World first: Cuba vaccinates toddlers against COVID-19

On Monday, Cuba began vaccinating 2-year-olds using its own COVID-19 vaccines. The World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet recognized these.

The vaccines are called Abdala and Soberana, and clinical trials have reportedly proven their safety and efficacy in children. The data from these clinical trials have not been made public, however. 

Read more about Cuba’s decision here.

09/07/2021 12:15 GMT — Scientists discover antibodies that may neutralize a range of SARS-CoV-2 variants

Researchers have isolated two anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies that may counter new SARS-CoV-2 variants and fight coronaviruses more broadly. 

One of the antibodies prevented SARS-CoV-2 infections in hamsters, and the other demonstrated effectiveness against a variety of respiratory viruses.

The scientists detail their findings in the journal Nature. Read MNT’s coverage of the study here

09/07/2021 12:00 GMT — Delta versus Alpha: Comparing hospitalization rates

A new study appearing in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases compares the risk of hospitalization among people who contracted the original variant of SARS-CoV-2 (the Alpha variant) and those who contracted the Delta variant. 

Overall, the study found that individuals who contracted the Delta variant were about twice as likely to require hospitalization as those who contracted the Alpha variant. Most of the participants were either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, and the hospitalization rates between partially vaccinated and unvaccinated were similar. 

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

09/06/2021 10:50 GMT — Vietnam extends restrictions and boosts COVID-19 testing

On Monday, September 6, Vietnam extended its pandemic restrictions for a further 2 weeks, following a rise in COVID-19 cases caused by the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

The country is also planning to test up to 1.5 million people for SARS-CoV-2 infections in the next week, in areas of Hanoi where the risk of infection is high.

On average, the capital city of Vietnam has been reporting 50 new COVID-19 cases daily.

09/03/2021 16:02 GMT — Monoclonal antibody combo helps high-risk people avoid hospital

A new study finds that a combination of two monoclonal antibodies can help high-risk people with COVID-19 avoid being hospitalized. The study, which involved nearly 1,400 people with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, found that significantly fewer individuals receiving antibody treatment required hospitalization.

Read more here.

09/03/2021 14:26 GMT — EU reaches deal with AstraZeneca

Over recent months, the European Union (EU) and AstraZeneca have been embroiled in a legal battle over vaccine delivery. Today, the EU announced that the two parties had reached an agreement. AstraZeneca will deliver 135 million doses by the end of 2021 and a total of 300 million doses by March 2022. 

Find more vaccine updates here.

09/03/2021 14:25 GMT — Pandemic lockdown measures created brief drop in emissions

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the world experienced an “unprecedented” decline in air pollution in 2020 due to lockdowns. However, levels did not drop everywhere. In some regions, certain air pollutants remained high or even exceeded previous years.

According to Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General, “COVID-19 proved to be an unplanned air-quality experiment, and it did lead to temporary localized improvements. But a pandemic is not a substitute for sustained and systematic action to tackle major drivers of both population and climate change and so safeguard the health of both people and planet.”

The WMO compared air pollution during the lockdowns of 2020 with the same periods in 2015–2019. They measured declines of 70% in nitrous oxide levels, and up to 40% reductions in tiny particulate matter. 

Head of WMO’s atmospheric environment research division, Dr. Oksana Tarasova, explains that although the changes were substantial, they did not last long. 

When “there are no cars on the street, you see the improvement in air quality immediately. And of course, as soon as the cars go back on the street, you get the worsening back.”

09/02/2021 10:27 GMT — Pfizer and Merck trial oral antivirals to tackle COVID-19

Pfizer and Merck have announced the start of new trials investigating an experimental oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19. This phase 2/3 trial will include 1,140 participants with a SARS-CoV-2 infection who are not being treated in the hospital and are not at risk of developing severe disease. 

The researchers will give the participants the experimental protease inhibitor antiviral — known as PF-07321332 — alongside a low dose of ritonavir. Doctors regularly use ritonavir when treating people with an HIV infection.

According to their press release, “a low dose of ritonavir is expected to help slow the metabolism, or breakdown, of PF-07321332 in order for it to remain in the body for longer periods of time at higher concentrations, thereby working continuously to help combat the virus.”

“If successful,” explains the press release, “PF-07321332/ritonavir has the potential to address a significant unmet medical need, providing patients with a novel oral therapy that could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring hospitalization.”

09/02/2021 10:15 GMT — COVID-19: US intelligence rules out biological weapon origin

According to a report by the United States Intelligence Community, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was not developed as a biological weapon. An unclassified summary of the report reveals that most of the intelligence agencies also believe the virus was not genetically engineered.

Read more about the report here.

09/01/2021 15:00 GMT — Most people in US support vaccine mandates in some situations

As the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 continues to surge in the United States and across the globe, the Associated Press, in partnership with the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, conducted a nationwide survey of the support for vaccine mandates across the U.S. 

The survey collected answers from 1,729 participants. The results revealed that more than half the U.S. population supports vaccine and mask mandates for air travel, crowded events, healthcare professionals, public-facing workers, and people working in government or military capacities.

To read MNT’s full coverage of the survey, click here.

09/01/2021 14:50 GMT — Moderna COVID-19 vaccine makes twice as many antibodies as Pfizer-BioNTech, study finds

Moderna’s vaccine was able to stimulate more than double the antibodies against the spike protein produced by SARS-CoV-2 than those generated by the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, new research has found.

Studying 2,500 workers at a major Belgian hospital system, researchers found that the antibody levels of individuals who had not contracted SARS-CoV-2 before getting two doses of the Moderna vaccine averaged 2,881 units per milliliter (ml). This is compared with 1,108 units per ml in those who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The researchers attribute this difference to the Moderna vaccine having a higher amount of active ingredient than the Pfizer-BioNTech one, which was 100 micrograms (mcg) and 30 mcg respectively. The longer interval between two doses of the vaccine, which was 28 days for Moderna and 21 for Pfizer-BioNTech, could also be an explanation.

The study did not examine whether these antibody differences led to a difference in efficacy over time.

The findings about the two vaccines, which employ mRNA technology, appeared in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)on Monday.

Read more about how mRNA vaccines work here.

09/01/2021 12:15 GMT — Seizures may be only COVID-19 symptom in some children

Some children may present only with seizures and not other influenza-like symptoms typical of COVID-19, a new study suggests.

Israeli researchers analyzed 175 pediatric COVID-19 cases that came to the emergency room. Of those 175 children, 11 experienced seizures, seven had previously received a neurological disorder diagnosis, and only six had a fever. All fully recovered.

The researchers say seizures could occur in otherwise healthy children with mild cases of COVID-19.

The study appears in the journal Seizure.

Seizures have not been a common symptom in adult COVID-19 cases so far, but the researchers believe they “may be the main manifestation of acute COVID-19 in children,” and not necessarily in children with a fever or history of epilepsy.

Although the number of SARS-CoV-2 infection cases has been far lower in children than in adults, and they have been much milder as well, with the recent rise in Delta variant cases, more children have become more severely ill.

Read more of MNT‘s coverage on COVID-19 in children here.

08/31/2021 15:30 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 transmission most likely to occur 2 days before to 3 days after symptom onset

A new cohort study examined the transmission patterns of the original SARS-CoV-2 variant in order to find out when the virus is most likely to transmit.

The international team of researchers examined 730 individuals who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection between January and August 2020 in the Zhejiang province, China. The scientists then used contact tracing to identify a further 8,852 people who were in close contact with the first 730 SARS-CoV-2 cases.

The analysis found that people with SARS-CoV-2 were most likely to pass on the infection between 2 days before and 3 days after they experienced the first symptoms. The risk of transmission was highest on the day of symptom onset.

The study also found that people who contracted SARS-CoV-2 from an asymptomatic person were, in turn, less likely to develop symptoms themselves.

To read MNT’s full coverage of the study, click here.

08/31/2021 13:15 GMT — People with SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant twice as likely to be hospitalized

Not only is the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 more easily transmissible than previous variants, but it is also making people sicker, a large United Kingdom study suggests.

The study found that almost 3 in 4 of the patients had not been vaccinated and that 50% were under the age of 31.

After analyzing 43,338 people with either the Alpha or Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the researchers found that unvaccinated people with the Delta variant were over two times more likely to be hospitalized, compared with the people with the Alpha variant.

These findings echo what physicians are seeing in the United States with the latest surges. This has led them to coin a  phrase to describe their current COVID-19 patient profile in hospitals: “younger, sicker, quicker.”

The U.K. study also indicates that the risk of hospitalization with the Delta variant for vaccinated people was also heightened, but the data were not as clear.

“Results suggest that outbreaks of the Delta variant in unvaccinated populations might lead to a greater burden on healthcare services than the Alpha variant,” the study, which appears in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, concludes.

According to previous research, the Delta variant was 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, and vaccinated and unvaccinated people shared similar viral loads after contracting SARS-CoV-2.

Read more about how the world can stop the spread of the Delta variant here.

08/27/2021 15:30 GMT — How can we prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in children?

COVID-19 hospitalizations among children are on the rise in the United States. In a special feature, Medical News Today has asked seven of its experts about the causes behind this trend, the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 among children, and ways to limit exposure and prevent further spread. The MNT experts also answered questions about the severity of the Delta variant and the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination among children.

Read the full MNT feature here.

08/27/2021 14:10 GMT — Blood clot risk much higher from COVID-19 than from the vaccine

Scientists have said the risk of blood clots or stroke with COVID-19 vaccines is many times lower than if an individual caught the disease itself, either before or after vaccination.

Previously, scientists had found an increased risk of thrombocytopenia, or a low count of platelets, in individuals vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab. If an individual’s blood platelet count is low, their blood will not clot well, which may cause excessive bleeding or wounds not healing properly.

The new findings, which appear in The BMJ, suggest those vaccinated with the Astrazeneca or the Pfizer jabs have an increased risk of experiencing some blood or blood-vessel-related events after the first doses, but only within the following 28 days. Comparatively, this risk is substantially higher and lasts longer if a person has contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The study analyzed over 29 million people with partial vaccination against COVID-19 and almost 2 million individuals who had the disease.

For every 10 million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the scientists found that those with COVID-19 are almost nine times more likely to experience thrombocytopenia than those who received one dose of the jab. The risk of blood clots in the veins was also 200 times lower than the risk following SARS-CoV-2 infection in the same group.

The researchers also saw an increased likelihood of stroke after the initial Pfizer jab, but it was still 12 times lower than the risk posed by acquiring the virus itself.

Head here for more on the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

08/26/2021 09:58 GMT — Future of COVID-19: A ‘consistent shift of the risk to the young’

A new computer model suggests that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could one day be just another cold-like coronavirus. The authors expect that COVID-19 will become a primarily children’s disease if adults acquire long-term immunity from natural infection or vaccination.

Read more here.

08/26/2021 09:57 GMT — Younger children may be more likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 than adolescents

A recent study compared the likelihood of children of different age groups transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to household members. The study reported that children under 4 years old were more likely to transmit the virus to their parents and siblings than adolescents aged 14–17 years.

Read MNT’s coverage of the study here.

08/25/2021 13:20 GMT Protection against COVID-19 in double-jabbed may wane after 5-6 months

real-world study has observed that protection offered by vaccines against COVID-19 starts to wane at 5–6 months, in yet another finding that could strengthen calls for a booster program in the fall or winter.

Researchers analyzed positive COVID-19 PCR test results from over 1.2 million people who had received two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines

They found that protection against infection in those double-jabbed with Pfizer decreased from 88% at one month after vaccination to 74% at five to six months. Meanwhile, for AstraZeneca, the level of protection fell from 77% to 67% at the four to five-month mark post-vaccination.

Professor Tim Spector, the lead scientist at the ZOE COVID Study, said:

“A reasonable worst-case scenario could see protection below 50% for the elderly and healthcare workers by winter. With high levels of infection in the U.K., driven by loosened social restrictions and a highly transmissible [Delta] variant, this scenario could mean increased hospitalizations and deaths.”

However, experts say this waning is a natural expectation. They reiterate that although they have observed breakthrough infections in the vaccinated population, the current vaccines significantly protect against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

The U.K. could start offering some people a third dose of the vaccine in September as part of a nationwide booster program. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also announced that immunocompromised people would receive their third dose of the vaccines starting next month.

Head here for an MNT feature on boosters and the Delta variant.

08/25/2021 13:05 GMT Is it safe to have a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy?

COVID-19 vaccines remain the safest and most effective way to protect pregnant people and their babies against SARS-CoV-2 infections and complications, ongoing research indicates.

Based on data from 17,525 participants in the United States, one of the largest studies of its kind analyzed the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine on people who were pregnant, lactating, or planning to get pregnant. Most had received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

The study concluded that COVID-19 vaccines are well-tolerated by each group. The initial findings were published in JAMA Network Open.

This research confirms what health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have emphasized — that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks for pregnant and lactating people.

Read more about the study here.

08/24/2021 14:30 GMT — Schools will need more than fresh air to stop COVID-19: MIT study

A new study, appearing in the journal Building and Environment, concludes that opening windows in a classroom to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus may give a false sense of safety. The measure, on its own, is not enough to protect against the spread of the virus.

The study, involving researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), simulated two types of ventilation in a classroom — ceiling diffusers and open windows — and applied computational fluid dynamics to explore the different effects of both systems.

The results concluded that the key to reducing transmission is to limit horizontal airflow at the breathing level. Therefore, wearing masks indoors is crucial, while just opening windows is unlikely to be sufficient for stopping the spread of the virus. To reduce SARS-CoV-2 exposure indoors, the authors emphasize, it is crucial to space seating according to guidelines, wear masks, and keep windows open.

The researchers also note that in addition to windows, classrooms would ideally have ceiling diffusers and efficient filtration systems to help prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

Read the MNT article here.

08/24/2021 14:22 GMT — World’s first DNA vaccine approved in India

India has approved the world’s first DNA vaccine against COVID-19, called ZyCoV-D. The Indian firm Zydus Cadila produces the vaccine and claims it has 66% efficacy against SARS-CoV-2.

According to the producer, the efficacy data come from a large trial comprising 28,000 participants in more than 50 centers, including 1,000 young people between 12 and 18 years old. However, the company has not made this data publicly available yet.

To find out more, head here.

08/23/2021 16:22 GMT — FDA approves first COVID-19 vaccine

Earlier today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 16 or older. However, it will still be available to use under emergency use authorization for children aged 12–15. The vaccine will now be marketed under the name “Comirnaty.”

Read more here.

08/23/2021 15:07 GMT — COVID-19: Multinational study investigates 3 new treatments

The World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity trial tested four potential COVID-19 treatments in 2020. After determining that none were effective, the researchers paused the trial. Now, the study is restarting and looking at three new treatments. Up to 50 countries are expected to take part.

Read more here.

08/23/2021 10:27 GMT — African swine fever outbreak may have made COVID-19 more likely

Multiple studies indicate that COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, transferred from animals to humans. A recent paper supports this theory and also discusses whether African swine fever might have played a role in the spillover event that led to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more here.

08/23/2021 10:25 GMT — EU slow, inefficient, and hampered by bureaucracy in early COVID-19 response

A recent study, which appears in Frontiers in Public Health, examined the European Union’s response to the pandemic. The authors conclude that while mechanisms were in place to deal with infectious disease outbreaks, the implementation was slow, inefficient, and hampered by bureaucracy.

Read more here.

08/20/2021 12:41 GMT — COVID-19: Rare inflammatory syndrome in children examined in new study

Researchers recently investigated the cause of a rare but severe inflammatory syndrome in children following SARS-CoV-2 infection. They showed that there were lower levels of certain immune system cells in these children. The findings may provide scientists with a new pathway toward the treatment of this syndrome.

Read more about the study here.

08/20/2021 10:50 GMT — Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2: Can vaccine boosters stop its spread?

The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is more transmissible than preexisting variants, and it has rapidly become the dominant variant in several countries. Some reports suggest that existing COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective in preventing infection with Delta. In a feature, MNT asks whether booster shots could help.

Read the feature here.

08/19/2021 15:59 GMT — Japan records daily record number of SARS-CoV-2 infections

According to the Japanese Health Ministry, the country recorded more than 25,000 SARS-CoV-2 infections today. This is the country’s highest tally to date. Experts believe that the actual figure is likely to be much higher, as testing in Japan is not widespread.

Find more live updates here.

08/19/2021 09:40 GMT — Protests in Latvia against mandatory vaccination

On Wednesday night, thousands of demonstrators protesting mandatory COVID-19 vaccination took to the streets in Latvia’s capital, Riga. According to the Baltic News Network, people were not observing physical distancing rules or wearing masks.

08/19/2021 09:26 GMT — COVID-19: Fewer deaths in US states with stronger controls

A recent study finds a clear correlation between stronger state interventions to control the spread of COVID-19 and fewer deaths from the disease. 

However, being neighbors with a state that imposed weaker interventions tended to cancel out the benefits of strong control measures. 

Read more about the study here.

08/18/2021 12:30 GMT — Sydney breaks daily COVID-19 records as New Zealand locks down over one case

The streets of Australian cities Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne and New Zealand as a whole are largely deserted, as both countries have issued stay-at-home orders and lockdowns to contain the spread of the Delta variant.

New Zealand has been in a 3-day nationwide lockdown since Tuesday, after one COVID-19 case was found in Auckland. Officials suspected it to be the highly contagious Delta variant and imposed the first lockdown in 6 months.

As of Wednesday, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 10. The initial case was linked to an outbreak in Australia’s state of New South Wales (NSW), although how it entered the community remains unknown.

With modeling suggesting a potential rise to 50–100 new infections, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “From the experience of what we’ve seen overseas, we are absolutely anticipating more cases.”

Across the Tasman Sea in Australia, the Delta variant outbreak in Sydney continued to break new daily records.

Despite having been in lockdown for nearly 2 months, NSW, whose capital is Sydney, saw 633 new cases on Wednesday, up from 478 on Monday. Since June 16, when the first Delta case was confirmed in Sydney, 60 people have died.

The state of Victoria also reported 24 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

Vaccination progress has been underwhelming and slow in both countries. Of New Zealand’s population, which currently stands at 5 million, only about 21% have been vaccinated. And in Australia, only a fourth of the adult population have been fully vaccinated so far.

Although both countries have, for the most part, avoided large outbreaks and keep cases and deaths low thanks to strict measures and lockdowns, the Delta variant is showing the importance of speeding up the vaccine rollout.

Read more about Australia’s COVID-19 strategy here.

08/18/2021 12:10 GMT — US set to recommend 3rd COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans before winter

In light of new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicating a waning efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines over time, the United States is reportedly seeking to administer booster shots to most of its population.

If authorities approve, people in the country will receive a third shot 8 months after their second dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. The plan does not include the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the time being.

The data, which showed that the immunity provided by the vaccines was dropping faster than anticipated amid a surge in cases fueled by the more contagious Delta variant, is set to be made public later this week.

The decision comes after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the distribution of third booster shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for people with compromised immune systems, such as people with cancer or people who have received organ transplants.

A formal announcement of the new booster plan is expected to come in the next few days, according to two anonymous sources who spoke to the Associated Press.

For the plan to go ahead, the FDA must first formally approve the COVID-19 vaccines, which are under emergency use authorization. Reports have suggested that the full approval will likely come in September. After that, the CDC will issue a formal recommendation for boosters.

Read more about boosters here.

08/17/2021 15:18 GMT — UK approves Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for 12–17-year-olds

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the United Kingdom has approved the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine — also called Spikevax — in people aged 12–17 years. 

Read more on this story in our live vaccine updates article.

08/17/2021 12:31 GMT — A readily available drug may help fight COVID-19

Laboratory studies indicate that a cheap, generic drug reduces SARS-CoV-2 infection in human cells by up to 70%. The drug, called fenofibrate, regulates cholesterol levels but also destabilizes the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 and inhibits binding to human cells.

Read more about the research here.

08/17/2021 12:30 GMT — Has the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 made herd immunity impossible?

Scientists hoped that following vaccination, populations would develop herd immunity to SARS-CoV-2, reducing the risk of infection, even for people without antibodies against the virus.

However, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Prof. Andrew Pollard, says herd immunity is “not a possibility,” given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.

Read more here.

08/16/2021 15:20 GMT — Child COVID-19 hospitalizations reach record highs in the US amid Delta variant surge

As the Delta variant spreads rapidly through the United States, the number of children with COVID-19 has hit a record high, closely approaching 2,000 cases.

The variant has caused a spike in cases particularly among the unvaccinated, which, unfortunately, also includes children. This has translated into Saturday marking the peak of pediatric hospitalizations at 1,902, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Of those hospitalized nationwide due to COVID-19, children now make up 2.4%.

“This is not last year’s COVID. This one is worse and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most,” Sally Goza, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN on Saturday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this week was also one of record highs for hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged 18–49 years.

As of August 14, 2021, the U.S. averaged 129,000 daily cases over the past 7 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The south of the country, in particular, is grappling with new clusters and overflowing intensive care units as schools slowly reopen for the new school year. The states of Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oregon have been especially hard hit.

Despite state governors banning schools from imposing mask mandates, school districts in Florida, Texas, and Arizona are now requiring people to wear masks in schools to stop outbreaks and disruptions to education.

These recent surges have started to change what experts initially thought about the coronavirus and children: that they could contract the infection but would be unlikely to become seriously ill. The rise in hospitalizations, however, begs to differ. The Delta variant and vaccination rates are to blame, say experts.

In the meantime, U.S. authorities are urging everyone eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect those who are vulnerable. No COVID-19 vaccine has yet received approval for children under 12 years of age.

Read more about COVID-19 symptoms in children here.

08/16/2021 12:55 GMT — Global eradication of COVID-19 remains possible

A new paper published in BMJ Global Health argues that it is possible to eradicate COVID-19.

The paper looks at the ways in which other viral diseases — namely smallpox and poliomyelitis — have been eradicated and suggests some pathways that could help end the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Its authors define “eradication” as the |permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by a specific agent as a result of deliberate efforts; intervention measures are no longer needed.”

Read the story in full here.

08/16/2021 12:52 GMT — Record number of new COVID-19 cases in Sydney, as troops sent to enforce eighth week of lockdown

Authorities have sent 200 troops to enforce strict restrictions in Sydney, Australia, as the country’s largest city enters its eighth consecutive week of lockdown.

These new measures come as Sydney has recorded its highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases yet on Monday, August 16.

The situation is similarly worrying in other Australian cities, such as Melbourne, where current restrictions include a nightly curfew and a prolonged lockdown, Reuters reports.

“Disturbingly, we saw 478 locally acquired cases of [COVID-19] to the 24 hours to 8 p.m. last night. Too many people are infectious in the community, and it is critical that we all heed and take part in the actions we’re required to undertake,” said Dr. Cherry Cant, New South Wales chief health officer, in a press conference.

08/16/2021 12:10 GMT — How long do SARS-CoV-2 antibodies persist after infection?

A new study investigates how long SARS-CoV-2 antibodies stay in the body and whether a past infection with a coronavirus that causes the common cold could possibly help against COVID-19. Perhaps the latter could explain, in part, the varying degrees of susceptibility the population has against the disease, the researchers hypothesize.

A team of scientists from Barcelona found that antibodies can remain stable for at least 7 months following infection and that levels of some neutralizing antibodies increased during this period.

Moreover, they discovered that antibodies against coronaviruses that cause the common cold might also offer protection against mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 in certain populations.

However, the researchers could not determine such protective effects against severe COVID-19.

Read more of MNT‘s coverage here.

08/13/2021 15:56 GMT — 1 in every 75 people had coronavirus last week, UK statistics office finds

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed Friday that the prevalence of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom has plateaued and that around 1 in 75 people had the illness in the week ending on August 6.

The country recorded a surge in cases in the middle of July, which saw almost 48,000 new infections due to the Delta variant. However, the number of people testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 may be on the decline, according to modeling data.

The ONS statistics indicate that the week of July 24 was the peak in positive cases and that an estimated 1 in 65 people had the infection.

However, prevalence varies geographically within the U.K. For example, Wales had the lowest prevalence, at around 1 in 230 people, followed by Scotland, at roughly 1 in 120 people.

In comparison, Northern Ireland had the highest prevalence, with 1 in 55 people testing positive, and England was not far off, with 1 in 75 people.

Apart from Northern Ireland, case numbers seemed to decrease in the week ending on July 31, backing vaccination data.

Approximately 88–92% of people aged 18 and over in the country have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more of MNT‘s coverage of the situation in the U.K. here.

08/13/2021 13:26 GMT — FDA authorizes third booster dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the distribution of third booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for those who are immunocompromised. 

“After a thorough review of the available data, the FDA determined that this small, vulnerable group may benefit from a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, FDA’s acting commissioner, tweeted yesterday.

In a subsequent tweet, she also noted that “[o]thers who are fully vaccinated are adequately protected [and] do not need an additional dose of [COVID-19] vaccine at this time.”

“FDA is actively engaged in a science-based, rigorous process with our federal partners to consider whether an additional dose may be needed in the future,” she added.

08/12/2021 13:23 GMT — It is safe to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during pregnancy, updated CDC guidance says

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention have said it is safe for pregnant people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, refuting false claims that the shots cause infertility or miscarriages

The updated guidance came on Wednesday after an analysis of new safety data on 2,500 women found that those who had received at least one dose of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) before 20 weeks of pregnancy had no increased risks of miscarriage.

“The CDC encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

“The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people.”

The United States is currently grappling with a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the highly infectious Delta variant. Hospitals have also observed a sharp increase in pregnant individuals becoming ill with the disease in the last few weeks.

The CDC lists diabetes, obesity, and pregnancy as conditions that heighten a person’s risk of becoming more severely ill from COVID-19. Pregnant people are also more likely to suffer from complications, such as miscarriages and stillbirths, if they contract the infection.

According to CDC data, only about 23% of pregnant individuals have received even one dose of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines.

There is no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, lead to fertility problems in women or men.

Read more about how the coronavirus affects pregnant people and their babies here.

08/12/2021 10:10 GMT — Low-cost saliva test could detect Delta variant

Scientists have created a test that could improve the tracking and treatment of COVID-19 across the world.

What makes this diagnostic test so promising — and possibly revolutionary — is that it is low-cost, produces results in as little as 55 minutes, and can determine which variant of SARS-CoV-2 a person has. The only things that the test needs are a saliva sample and the smartphone app to interpret the results.

While at-home tests for COVID-19 do exist, the self-collection and mailing of samples and days-on-end waiting make it inconvenient for modern life. These tests also cannot detect different variants.

Read more about this test here.

08/11/2021 14:02 GMT — More lockdowns as Southeast Asia battles with a surge of COVID-19 cases

Many countries in Southeast Asia have seen their COVID-19 death rates and case numbers skyrocket since July 2021.

Even countries that had managed to contain outbreaks and keep case numbers low thus far, such as Vietnam and Thailand, have seen surges recently. This has brought about a reimplementation of lockdown measures.

Although Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have also seen case numbers balloon over the summer due to the highly contagious Delta variant, death rates there remain lower than those in Southeast Asia.

Experts attribute this rise in the region to another factor: vaccines. Vaccine hesitancy and ineffective distribution, they say, are the top challenges.

Indonesia and Malaysia, for example, recorded the highest death rates per million people in July. Both countries have a vaccination rate of less than 10% and 30%, respectively.

To read more about the latest situation in Southeast Asia, head here.

08/10/2021 11:58 GMT COVID-19 in England: Rising infections as Delta variant takes hold

A new study currently shared as a preprint — meaning that it has not yet undergone peer review — shares the data obtained from the most recent round of the Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission 1 (REACT-1) study.

REACT-1, which monitors COVID-19 cases in England, shows that the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has become the dominant variant in England.

The data also suggest that young people aged between 13 and 24 are most affected by infections with this variant.

Read the story in full here.

08/09/2021 12:45 GMT — Australia expands lockdown amid continued spread of SARS-CoV-2

On Monday, August 9, Australian authorities decided to expand the existing COVID-19 lockdown to Tamworth, a town northwest of Sydney, and to Byron Bay, a tourist area north of the capital.

The lockdowns will last for 1 week, and they come amid worries about the continued spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Although there are currently no COVID-19 cases in either of those locations, the authorities said they were placing Tamworth and Byron Bay in lockdown “as a precaution” because two people with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections had defied restrictions and travelled to the area, Reuters reports.

08/09/2021 12:25 GMT — U.K. health agency warns that COVID-19 vaccines may not be able to prevent spread of Delta variant

New data that Public Health England (PHE) collected suggest that even people who have received full COVID-19 vaccines may still be able to pass on the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, according to Reuters.

Although there is some indication that authorized COVID-19 vaccines can prevent severe COVID-19 resulting from infection with the Delta variant, they may not be able to stop transmission, PHE said.

Reuters cites a PHE statement noting that “[s]ome initial findings […] indicate that levels of virus in those who become infected with Delta having already been vaccinated may be similar to levels found in unvaccinated people.”

“This may have implications for people’s infectiousness, whether they have been vaccinated or not. However, this is early exploratory analysis, and further targeted studies are needed to confirm whether this is the case,” PHE also reportedly stated.

08/09/2021 11:11 GMT — Massachusetts outbreak demonstrates Delta variant’s transmissibility

The new report about the transmissibility of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is based on data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which analyzed the emergence of new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts in July.

Last month, thousands of people from this state celebrated Independence Week and then Bear Week in Provincetown, Barnstable County.

At the end of the 2-week celebrations, the authorities noted that the daily average of new COVID-19 cases had shot up.

From a daily average of 0 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 county residents during the 14 days before the two events, new cases increased to an average of 177 daily cases per 100,000 residents by the end of the celebrations.

Almost three-quarters of the new COVID-19 cases occurred in fully vaccinated people, according to the authorities, and most of the cases were due to infections with the Delta variant of the virus.

Read the story in full here.