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 242 million infections and more than 4.9 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.

10/22/2021 09:22 GMT — Vaccine ‘mix and match:’ Benefits of an mRNA second dose

A nationwide cohort study in Sweden has shown “mixing and matching” vaccines is safe. The authors find that having an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose after an Oxford-AstraZeneca dose offers better protection against infection than two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca.

Read more about the study here.

10/22/2021 09:21 GMT — Why do mental health conditions raise death risk during the pandemic?

A study shows that people with mental health issues or intellectual disabilities have been far more likely to die during the pandemic than others. In a Medical News Today, article we discuss the study and ask experts why this might be the case.

Read MNT’s article here.

10/22/2021 09:17 GMT — The pandemic’s impact on undocumented US families

In a recent Opinion Feature, Dr. Luz Maria Garcini, Cristina Abraham, Ciciya Abraham, and Vyas Sarabu outline the risks and unique challenges faced by people living with undocumented status in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full feature here.

10/21/2021 14:20 GMT — New Zealand records more than 100 daily cases for the first time since February 2020

Today, New Zealand has recorded more than 100 daily cases of COVID-19 for the first time since the pandemic began. New Zealand recorded the first case of the coronavirus in February 2020, and the country is currently experiencing an outbreak of the Delta variant.

New Zealand’s director-general of health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, noted that only 1.7% of those being hospitalized with COVID-19 are vaccinated. Dr. Bloomfield referred to COVID-19 as “a disease of the unvaccinated.”

Find out more here.

10/21/2021 13:10 GMT — CDC confirms presence of Delta sub-variant ‘AY.4.2’ in the US 

In a recent White House press briefing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed the presence of a sublineage of the Delta variant — AY.4.2 — in the United States.

“Delta remains the dominant variant,” accounting for more than 99.7% of all coronavirus cases in the U.S., said the CDC.

“At this time, there is no evidence that the sub-lineage AY.4.2 impacts the effectiveness of our current vaccines or therapeutics,” the CDC noted, adding: “Vaccination remains the best public health measure to prevent the spread of the virus and reduce the likelihood of new variants to emerge.”

Read more here.

10/21/2021 09:42 GMT — Study involving 1 million people finds lower risk of death from COVID-19 in statin users

Researchers have investigated the link between statin use and COVID-19 mortality in around 1 million people. They found an association between statin use and a slightly lower risk of COVID-19 mortality, regardless of age, sex, or COVID-19 risk factors.

Read more about the study here.

10/20/2021 10:18 GMT — FDA likely to approve mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine boosters

This week, United States officials expect the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve mixing and matching booster vaccines. The move follows encouraging results from a government study that measured antibody responses following various booster combinations.

10/20/2021 09:51 GMT — Mask mandates in school reduced community spread

A recent study investigated the association between the opening of K-12 schools and the community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States. There was a strong association between opening K-12 schools without mask mandates for school staff and case growth rate in the region.

Read more about the research here.

10/19/2021 15:10 GMT — Coronavirus reinfection: How long might ‘natural immunity’ last?

Contracting an infection with SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity against acquiring the infection again. This is called “natural immunity.”

However, some people have contracted the virus more than once, so the question that researchers set out to answer is “how long does this natural immunity last?”

To find out, scientists examined the genome of the coronavirus and published their findings in The Lancet Microbe.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the new study here.

10/19/2021 15:00 GMT — Japan sees sharp drop in cases, but it remains unclear why

Japan has seen the sharpest drop in COVID-19 cases in 11 months. The change occurred quite suddenly: almost 6,000 cases were registered in Tokyo in mid-August, and that number has now dropped to below 100.

The reasons behind this sharp drop remain elusive, especially since Japan has not fully implemented a lockdown like many other countries in Asia or Europe. However, almost 70% of Japan’s population have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the full story here.

10/18/2021 12:40 GMT — Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate demonstrates 90.4% efficacy in clinical trial

In a recent press release, the biotechnology company Novavax states that the phase 3 clinical trial results for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine indicate that it is effective in preventing moderate and severe disease.

According to the data reported by the company, NVX-CoV2373, which is a recombinant nanoparticle protein-based vaccine, was 100% effective against moderate and severe disease and 90.4% effective overall.

Novavax has shared the data on an online preprint service while they undergo peer review.

10/18/2021 11:23 GMT — Walk-in vaccination clinics for 12–15-year-olds soon to open in England

As COVID-19 cases are steeply on the rise in England, the British press reports that the authorities are planning to open walk-in vaccination clinics for 12–15-year-olds in the next few weeks.

A little over half of 16–18-year-olds in England have received their COVID-19 vaccines to date.

Read more about how to keep children and teenagers safe here.

10/14/2021 15:11 GMT — B.1.630 variant detected in Louisiana

Experts have detected a variant of SARS-CoV-2 called B.1.630 in Louisiana. Scientists sequenced it from two samples collected in Baton Rouge. B.1.630 was first detected in the United States in March 2021, and the World Health Organization (WHO) currently classifies it as a Variant Under Monitoring.

To date, the variant has only been sequenced 79 times across the U.S. However, according to a press release from LSU Health Shreveport, the variant “does contain the E484Q mutation, which may help the virus escape the host immune system and lead to infection.”

Dr. Krista Queen, director of viral genomics and surveillance for the Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats at LSU Health Shreveport, says: 

“Even though the predominance of this variant is low, we will continue to keep an eye on it and watch for any changes or if it starts to increase.”

10/14/2021 10:24 GMT — The neurocognitive impact of long COVID

For many people, long COVID has associations with serious neurological and neurocognitive impairments, which some experts call neuro-COVID. Why does this happen, and who is most at risk? In a Special Feature and podcast, Medical News Today spoke with two researchers and someone with a lived experience of neuro-COVID.

Find out more here.

10/14/2021 10:18 GMT — WHO issues clinical case definition of long COVID

The absence of a formal definition of long COVID has made the research into and management of this condition challenging. To address this, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a definition using input from a panel of researchers, patients, and doctors.

Read more here.

10/13/2021 11:42 GMT — Boosters are ‘unfair’ in the context of equitable vaccine distribution, says WHO director general

Distributing vaccine boosters in Western countries is “unjust” and “unfair” to those who live in low-income countries and have no access to COVID-19 vaccines.

This statement was made by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), in a briefing on Tuesday, October 12.

“To start boosters is really the worst we can do as a global community. It is unjust and also unfair because we will not stop the pandemic by ignoring a whole continent, and the continent that doesn’t have any manufacturing capacity of other means,” Dr. Tedros emphasized, referring to the vaccine crisis that many African countries face.

10/13/2021 11:38 GMT — Moderna vaccine booster does not meet all criteria for authorization, says FDA

On Tuesday, October 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Moderna’s candidate for a vaccine booster shot does not meet all the necessary criteria for authorization.

According to the FDA analysis, while Moderna’s booster shot increases the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, it does not make enough of a difference, especially for those who still have a high level of antibodies following their second vaccine dose.

In an email comment to Reuters, microbiologist and immunologist Prof. John Moore, from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, noted: “There was boosting, sure. Was it enough boosting? Who knows? There’s no standard amount of boosting that is known to be needed, and nor is it clear how much boosting happened in the study.”

10/13/2021 10:58 GMT — J&J shot, followed by an mRNA vaccine booster may be the best combo, data suggest

According to an Axios report, National Institutes of Health (NIH) data indicate that, following a Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine, an mRNA vaccine booster shot would trigger the best antibody response to SARS-CoV-2.

The NIH is set to present the results of its mix and match booster study on Friday, October 15.

However, Johnson & Johnson has announced that it is seeking Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization for its own booster shot. The outcome of this application is still uncertain.

10/13/2021 09:42 GMT — Russians ‘have a hard time trusting their own vaccine,’ expert says

Earlier in October, Russia reported experiencing the second-highest rate of new SARS-CoV-2 infections of the 2021, adding to the uncertainty created by the fact that this nation has the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe.

While the majority of people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Russia are unvaccinated, the authorities are struggling to persuade Russians to accept the vaccine.

Only 29% of people in Russia are fully vaccinated.

Russians “have a hard time trusting their own vaccine, and yet, they don’t trust the Western one. In the end, they just opt out of the whole thing,” said Dr. Anna Gotlib, a Russian-born philosopher and bioethicist, in a comment for Medical News Today.

Read the story in full here.

10/12/2021 15:15 GMT — National vaccine mandates spark violent protests in Italy 

Violent demonstrations have sparked in Italy due to the country introducing some of the strictest COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the world.

As of October 15, people in Italy will have to show a “Green Pass” to enter their workplace. The pass will prove a person has received full vaccination, recovered from a SARS-CoV-2 infection in the past month, or tested negative for the coronavirus in the past 48 hours.

The protestors demanded “freedom” from these national vaccine mandates. Currently, however, more than 75% of Italy’s population has already been vaccinated, with nearly 70% having received both doses.

Read more on this story here.

10/12/2021 12:20 GMT — Alzheimer’s and COVID-19 severity: A genetic link?

A new study found that a gene that regulates inflammatory proteins and can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s also contributes to the genetic risk associated with severe COVID-19.

Read the full MNT coverage of the study here.

10/12/2021 12:15 GMT — Vaccinating against flu and COVID-19 at the same time is safe, study finds

A new study looked at the side effects and effectiveness of having both a flu shot and the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on the same day. It examined 679 volunteers across England and Wales.

The results revealed that having both vaccines on the same day was safe and effective. Mild side effects, such as pain around the injection site and fatigue, were the most common.

Importantly, administering the shots on the same day preserved the immune responses to both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

Read MNT’s full coverage along with expert opinions here.

10/11/2021 11:47 GMT — Unvaccinated pregnant people make up almost 20% of critically ill COVID-19 patients in UK

Almost a fifth of the most critically ill COVID-19 patients in recent months have been unvaccinated pregnant people, according to NHS England.

Data show that 20 out of 118 COVID-19 patients who received treatment through a lung bypass machine, also known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, between July and September were pregnant women.

Of these pregnant patients, 19 had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, and one had been partially vaccinated with one dose.

Health authorities in many countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have renewed their calls for anyone who is pregnant, who has recently been pregnant, who is planning to become pregnant, or who may become pregnant in the future to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Read more about the safety of vaccination in pregnancy here.

10/11/2021 10:52 GMT — Live-saving antibody drug sees slow uptake in Israel in patients at risk of severe COVID-19

REGEN-COV, a coronavirus drug hailed as ‘life-saving” for patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 but who are at high risk of developing a serious condition, has been approved in Israel, but not many seem to be taking it.

According to a report by Haaretz, since the monoclonal antibody drug became available in the country on September 23, only 256 patients have received it, and 291 patients have refused it.

The drug, which Regeneron Pharmaceuticals created and which costs $1,500 per patient, showed promising results in trials, reducing the risk of hospitalization and death if a person received it within 3 days of a positive PCR test. It also prevented illness in people who came into close contact with individuals with COVID-19.

The drug came into the spotlight after former United States President Donald Trump received it during his hospitalization with COVID-19 in fall 2020. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has since approved its use.

Read more about monoclonal antibody treatments here.

10/08/2021 13:44 GMT — Delta variant has 235% higher risk of ICU admission than original virus

A study identifies a link between the new variants of SARS-CoV-2 and an increased risk of adverse outcomes. They found that in Delta cases, there was a 108% increase in the risk of hospitalization, a 235% increased risk of ICU admission, and a 133% higher risk of death, compared with the original variant.

Read more about the study here.

10/08/2021 11:13 GMT — AstraZeneca vaccine reaches Antarctica

This week, vials of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine made it to Antarctica. The vaccine will immunize 23 staff working at the British Rothera Research Station. The vaccine reached its destination after a journey of nearly 10,000 miles (16,100 kilometers).

10/08/2021 09:38 GMT — Study looks for links between Johnson & Johnson vaccine and Guillain-Barré syndrome

A recent study looked for an association between the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). The authors conclude that there may be a “small but statistically significant safety concern for [GBS] following receipt of the [Johnson & Johnson vaccine].”

GBS is a rare but serious autoimmune neurological condition. It can lead to weakness and paralysis that can last months or years.

To investigate potential links, the researchers took data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This system is “passive,” meaning it relies on members of the public reporting their experiences, rather than taking data from medical records.

As the authors of the study explain, the results “must be considered preliminary pending analysis of medical records.”

The researchers also write that “it is usually not possible to verify causal associations between vaccines and adverse events from spontaneous reports to VAERS.”

10/07/2021 14:29 GMT — Finland, Sweden, Denmark halt Moderna vaccine for men under 30

Officials from three Scandinavian countries — Finland, Sweden, and Denmark — have announced they will not use the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in men under 30 years. They based their decision on a very slight increased risk of cardiovascular side effects.

Officials in Sweden and Denmark announced the changes yesterday, and Finland followed suit earlier today.

According to the director of the Finnish Health Institute, Mika Salminen: “A Nordic study involving Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark found that men under the age of 30 who received Moderna Spikevax had a slightly higher risk than others of developing myocarditis.”

The study in question will publish in the coming weeks, and according to the Finnish Health Institute, the European Medicines Agency has received the data.

10/07/2021 09:40 GMT — New antiviral drug combo may fight off coronavirus infection

A new study has found that a drug combination involving the antivirals interferon-alpha and nafamostat effectively combatted SARS-CoV-2 infection. The drug combination inhibited SARS-CoV-2 replication in cell culture and animal studies at lower concentrations than the individual drugs.

Read more about the study here.

10/07/2021 09:39 GMT — R.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2: What do we know?

Scientists have detected the R.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2 around the world since late 2020. The variant shares some mutations with other, more infectious variants. In a recent feature, Medical News Today spoke with experts and asked whether we should be concerned.

Read the feature here.

10/06/2021 12:30 GMT — AstraZeneca seeks emergency use authorization for antibody treatment

AstraZeneca has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize the emergency use of an antibody combination treatment for COVID-19.

The therapy, for now referred to as AZD7442, would be the first treatment of its kind to receive emergency authorization for COVID-19. AstraZeneca plans to target this treatment primarily at people with weakened immune systems who are not sufficiently protected from COVID-19 through vaccines alone.

“First and foremost, we want to protect those vulnerable populations that haven’t been adequately protected by the vaccine,” says Menelas Pangalos, executive vice president of AstraZeneca. “But ultimately, it will be up to health authorities to work out who they choose to immunize.”

Read the full story here

10/06/2021 10:25 GMT — Merck signs deal with Singapore to supply molnupiravir

German science and technology company Merck has developed an experimental antiviral drug called molnupiravir. This drug, it claims, can help reduce death and hospitalization among people with mild and moderate COVID-19.

Just a few days after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that it may launch a rolling review of the experimental drug, Merck now says that it has signed a deal with Singaporean authorities to supply molnupiravir to the country’s healthcare system.

Merck has also signed a deal with Australian authorities, and South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand may also sign up for the experimental drug.

10/06/2021 10:17 GMT — More than one-third of COVID-19 patients may experience long COVID symptoms

A recent study assessed the incidence of long COVID symptoms using data extracted from de-identified electronic health records. The authors found that more than one in three individuals experienced long COVID symptoms 3–6 months after receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Read more about the research here.

10/05/2021 15:10 GMT — Study examines Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness over time

New research appearing in the journal The Lancet examined the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the Delta variant and other variants of the coronavirus over the course of almost 8 months. 

The study found that vaccine effectiveness dropped from 88% in the first month after full vaccination to 47% after 5 months. Protection against the Delta variant also waned from 93% in the first month to 53% after 4 months.

Importantly, however, the vaccine continued to prevent 93% of hospitalizations with the Delta variant 6 months after the second dose. 

“​​Reduction in vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infections over time is probably primarily due to waning immunity with time rather than the Delta variant escaping vaccine protection,” conclude the study authors.

Read it in full here.

10/05/2021 15:05 GMT — COVID-19 origins: Closest viruses to SARS-CoV-2 found in Laos

Two new studies, published as preprints and due to appear in the journal Nature, suggest that direct bat-to-human transmission may have started the current pandemic.

One of the studies found three virus strains in three different species of the so-called horseshoe bat in caves in Laos. These viruses are the closest known relatives of SARS-CoV-2, with over 95% similarity to the coronavirus.

The other study found that viruses related to SARS-CoV-2 are “extremely rare” in bats in China, suggesting that the coronavirus may not be the “China virus” after all.

Read MNT’s full coverage here.

10/04/2021 11:12 GMT — Study confirms SARS-CoV-2 transmission through aerosols, and effectiveness of masks in preventing transmission

A recent study from Clinical Infectious Diseases, which has looked at methods of transmission of the Alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2, confirms that it most readily spreads through aerosols, or airborne particles.

The study also indicates that masks are effective at preventing transmission, with a 48% reduction of viral RNA in fine aerosols and a 77% reduction of viral material in coarse aerosols.

The researchers report that cloth and surgical masks were similarly effective in preventing transmission.

10/01/2021 14:46 GMT — Merck antiviral reduces risk of hospitalization, death by 50%

According to a press release, an antiviral produced by Merck may reduce the risk of severe COVID-19. In a recent trial, Merck reports that molnupiravir “significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization or death […] in at risk, non-hospitalized adult patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19.”

In the study, 7.3% of participants who took molnupiravir either were hospitalized or died, compared with 14.1% of those who took a placebo.

By day 29 of the study, eight patients in the control group had died, compared with none in the experimental group.

These results came from an interim analysis and included data from 775 participants.

Importantly, the scientists also noted that “molnupiravir demonstrated consistent efficacy across viral variants Gamma, Delta, and Mu.”

Because of these positive results, the scientists stopped the trial early and are now planning to submit an application for emergency use authorization to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of the year.

Robert M. Davis, chief executive officer and president of Merck, says:

“With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic.”

Merck is also running a study to investigate whether molnupiravir might reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 in individuals who have had exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes it.

10/01/2021 13:06 GMT — COVID-19 lockdowns in UK ‘deepened social inequality’

Lockdown measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have changed people’s lives. According to a recent study in the United Kingdom, different social groups felt these changes disproportionately. For instance, regarding earnings, Black people, Asian people, and members of marginalized ethnic groups were more negatively affected than white individuals. This earnings gap persisted after easing lockdown restrictions.

Read more here.

10/01/2021 09:29 GMT — The WHO issues guideline on monoclonal antibodies for severe COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated a living guideline on COVID-19 drugs. In it, the WHO conditionally recommend the use of monoclonal antibodies to treat non-severe disease in people at highest risk of hospitalization and those with severe or critical illness whose bodies have not mounted an antibody response.

Read more here.

09/30/2021 15:30 GMT — CDC releases urgent advisory for pregnant people

In an urgent health advisory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “strongly recommend” COVID-19 vaccination for anyone pregnant, recently pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or who may become pregnant in the future.

The advisory explains that “the benefits of vaccination for both pregnant persons and their fetus or infant outweigh known or potential risks.”

09/30/2021 11:59 GMT — The Mu SARS-CoV-2 variant has disappeared from the US

According to, a website that aggregates data on COVID-19, the Mu variant of SARS-CoV-2 has all but disappeared. Although experts feared that this variant might evade vaccines and be more transmissible, it appears that the Delta variant has taken over.

In the United States, the Mu variant peaked in June, where it accounted for around 3% of all cases. For the most recent data point — September 21, 2021 — scientists have detected no new infections with the Mu variant.

Scientists first identified the Mu variant, which is also known as B.1.621, in Colombia in January this year. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as a variant of interest.

According to Prof. Anna Durbin, director of the Center for Immunization Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, the “most likely explanation” is that the Delta variant has outperformed the Mu variant, relegating it to the sidelines. 

Prof. Durbin explains:

“Virus strains are competing with one another, and it is definitely survival of the fittest, essentially the virus that can infect more people faster. It is likely that Mu was not able to outcompete Delta. […] I also think vaccines contributed, as they provide protection to more people, making fewer susceptible hosts.”

09/30/2021 11:28 GMT — Experts fear a COVID-19 and flu ‘twindemic’

Although there was very little flu activity last year, experts are concerned that the 2021–2022 flu season may be more difficult. In a recent article, Medical News Today spoke with an expert about this projected “twindemic.”

Read the full article here.

09/29/2021 13:29 GMT — Singapore sees record COVID-19 cases with 81% of population fully vaccinated

The Singaporean Ministry of Health reported a record of 2,236 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, as well as five deaths, bringing the country’s death toll to 85.

Among those who died, two were unvaccinated, and one was partially vaccinated. Four were men aged 69, 73, 74, and 79 years, and the other was a 77-year-old woman.

The rise in cases has reignited discussions about booster doses and other containment measures, such as working from home and local lockdowns.

However, despite this surge in infections, the hospitalization rate of people with COVID-19 and the number of more severe cases remain low. Experts attribute this to the country having 4.5 million of its population fully vaccinated, which translates to an inoculation rate of over 80% — one of the highest rates in the world.

Stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 news across the globe here.

09/29/2021 12:53 GMT — Understanding how bats resist COVID-19 could inform human treatments

Unlike most humans, bats can contract SARS-CoV-2 but do not get sick. Understanding why that is could guide scientists as they try to develop new therapies for COVID-19.

To understand how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, immunologically interacts with its bat hosts, scientists from Australia and China conducted a review of research on the matter so far.

They found that bats can quickly ramp their immune system up and down, maintaining immune balance in the face of infection.

Read more about their findings here.

09/29/2021 11:38 GMT — DNA vaccines: What to know

The field of medicine continues to see radically new approaches to tackle COVID-19, and the latest development comes in vaccination. India recently approved the world’s first DNA vaccine for emergency use against COVID-19, joining close to a dozen DNA vaccine candidates currently under trial.

The ZyCoV-D vaccine uses circular strands of DNA to prime the immune system against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It is also administered without an injection.

This vaccine differs from the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology employed in two of the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines — the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines — which were also heralded for their innovation.

Both types have been under development since the 1990s.

Read MNT‘s explainer on the differences and similarities between DNA and mRNA vaccines here.

09/28/2021 15:45 GMT — SARS-CoV-2’s spread: Was the virus circulating in Europe before being found in China?

Recent studies raise important questions: was the new coronavirus spreading in Europe before experts discovered it in China? Was the pandemic’s ‘day zero’ as early as summer 2019 instead of late December that same year?

In a Special Feature, MNT reviews the existing evidence and rounds up expert opinions on the origins of SARS-CoV-2’s spread.

Read it in full here.

09/28/2021 15:10 GMT — ‘Hybrid’ immunity may fully protect people from SARS-CoV-2 and its variants

Several new studies have suggested that some people who have both contracted SARS-CoV-2 and had the COVID-19 vaccine go on to develop near “bulletproof” immunity to the new coronavirus and its variants.

As part of this “hybrid” immunity, as some researchers refer to it, people mount a very powerful immune response by producing a high level of antibodies as well as “flexible” antibodies that can stave off several coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Read the full NPR story here.

09/28/2021 15:00 GMT — Llama antibodies show ‘significant potential’ as COVID-19 treatment

A new study shows that so-called nanobodies harvested from a llama reduce SARS-CoV-2 viral load in Syrian hamsters.

Nanobodies are a type of antibody that only llamas and other members of the camelid family produce. These nanobodies are very small, robust, and stable molecules.

Researchers have isolated them and obtained a complete inhibition of viral infection in lab tests. In Syrian hamsters with SARS-CoV-2, nasal administration of the nanobodies speeded recovery from infection.

Read MNT’s full coverage here.

09/27/2021 13:00 GMT — Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine around 80% effective against infection, hospitalization, study shows

Real-world evidence from a global study suggests that Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine offers high and stable protection against COVID-19 over time — namely, before the Delta variant emerged to when it became dominant.

The company recently announced the results of the large study, which found that the vaccine was 79% effective at preventing coronavirus infections and 81% effective at preventing hospitalizations. The study found no evidence of reduced effectiveness between March and late July, when Delta variant cases surged.

“Our large real-world evidence and phase 3 studies confirm that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides strong and long-lasting protection against COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Additionally, our phase 3 trial data further confirm protection against COVID-19-related death,” said Dr. Mathai Mammen, Ph.D., the global head of Janssen Research & Development at Johnson & Johnson.

Previously, preliminary data suggested that the vaccine’s efficacy against moderate-to-severe COVID-19 increased to 94% when a booster dose was administered 2 months after the first shot.

Read more about the vaccine here.

09/27/2021 10:56 GMT — US sees largest drop in life expectancy since World War II

According to a recent paper, in the United States in 2020, life expectancy dropped by 1.5 years. That marks the largest 1-year drop since World War II. For Black and Hispanic people, life expectancy declined by 3 years. The authors found that life expectancy dropped in 27 out of the 29 countries they investigated.

The authors conclude:

“The COVID-19 pandemic triggered significant mortality increases in 2020 of a magnitude not witnessed since World War II in Western Europe or the breakup of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. Females from 15 countries and males from 10 ended up with lower life expectancy at birth in 2020 than in 2015.”

“The large declines in life expectancy observed in the U.S. can partly be explained by the notable increase in mortality at working ages observed in 2020,” explains one of the authors Dr. Ridhi Kashyap.

“In the U.S., increases in mortality in the under 60 age group contributed most significantly to life expectancy declines, whereas across most of Europe, increases in mortality above age 60 contributed more significantly.”

09/24/2021 14:12 GMT — Waning immunity and COVID-19 vaccines: How worried should we be?

Research has identified a significant fall in levels of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 6 months after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In a recent article, we ask what this waning immunity means in real terms.

Read the full article here.

09/24/2021 10:35 GMT — CDC backs FDA’s booster authorization

On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized COVID-19 vaccine boosters for at-risk individuals. Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed this decision. Millions of adults in the United States will now be eligible for booster shots.

The CDC decided that the boosters should be made available to people aged 65 years or older, people who live in nursing homes, and anyone aged 50–64 years with existing health problems.

Some other groups — such as frontline workers aged 18–64 years, including healthcare workers, and people who work in prisons and homeless shelters — are also eligible.

These groups will be eligible for a booster 6 months after their second Pfizer shot.

In Thursday’s meeting, CDC experts also showed concern over those who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The government has not yet discussed boosters for these individuals.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky also made it clear that vaccinating the unvaccinated is still the primary goal. 

As Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, says, “We can give boosters to people, but that’s not really the answer to this pandemic. […] Hospitals are full because people are not vaccinated. We are declining care to people who deserve care because we are full of unvaccinated [SARS-CoV-2]-positive patients.”

09/24/2021 09:09 GMT — COVID-19: ‘Disparities in vaccine coverage highlight ongoing inequities’

Although marginalized communities have had the highest numbers of severe COVID-19 cases, these populations have had less access to vaccines. Now, Massachusetts researchers highlight structural racism in the state’s vaccination strategy. While vaccine access has greatly improved, vaccine hesitancy remains a formidable challenge to vaccine equity.

Read more here.

09/23/2021 14:23 GMT — COVID-19 vaccine: Are boys at an increased risk of heart inflammation?

A non-peer-reviewed study concluded that healthy boys aged 12–17 years had a higher hospitalization rate due to heart inflammation after their second mRNA COVID-19 vaccination than the expected hospitalization rate for COVID-19 in that age group. However, there are significant issues with the data that the researchers used.

Read more here.

09/23/2021 11:29 GMT — FDA backs boosters for some

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized booster Pfizer shots. The ruling applies to people aged 65 years and older, those with certain health conditions, and anyone whose job puts them at high risk of COVID-19, such as healthcare workers and teachers.

Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock says:

“This pandemic is dynamic and evolving, with new data about vaccine safety and effectiveness becoming available every day. As we learn more about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the use of a booster dose, we will continue to evaluate the rapidly changing science and keep the public informed.”

However, the boosters will not be made available immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) need to discuss the proposals before making their specific recommendations. They have convened a 2-day meeting to discuss the evidence.

After the first day of talks, some of the CDC experts asked that the decision be postponed for another month in the hopes that more data would become available.

09/23/2021 10:44 GMT — COVID-19 vaccines work in MS patients despite immunotherapy treatment

People living with multiple sclerosis often take anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies, which limit the activity of B cells. A recent small-scale study found that despite this immunosuppression, there was still a robust T-cell response to vaccination for COVID-19.

Read more about the study here.

09/22/2021 11:51 GMT — J&J’s COVID-19 booster dose offers 94% protection, data suggest

Johnson & Johnson released new data on Tuesday showing that a two-dose version of its COVID-19 vaccine provides 94% protection against symptomatic infection.

“Our large real-world evidence and phase 3 studies confirm that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides strong and long lasting protection against COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Additionally, our phase 3 trial data further confirm protection against COVID-19-related death,” says Dr. Mathai Mammen, the global head of research and development for Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen division.

Citing three studies, the drugmaker says that administering the booster dose a few months after the single shot further increases protection against COVID-19 and could significantly extend the duration of protection.

Giving the doses 56 days apart provided 100% protection against severe disease and 94% protection against moderate-to-severe cases in the United States, phase 2 trials showed. Globally, the two doses provided 75% protection against moderate-to-severe COVID-19, the company states.

Read more about the vaccine here.

09/22/2021 11:28 GMT — How long does long COVID last in children?

A recent review of international studies on long COVID in children and adolescents suggests that symptoms of this condition rarely last longer than 12 weeks in these age groups.

Long COVID is a phenomenon where individuals with COVID-19 experience ongoing health problems, such as fatigue, joint or muscle pain, and neurological symptoms, weeks after the initial onset of their illness.

The researchers, however, point out that the studies took place before the Delta variant became prevalent around July. More children have been testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and becoming hospitalized since.

The review also highlights the need for additional research on how long COVID impacts children and adolescents.

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

09/22/2021 11:00 GMT — COVID-19 becomes the deadliest pandemic in US history

Of all the pandemics the United States has endured, the COVID-19 pandemic is now officially the deadliest, as the number of people who have died due to the infectious disease officially passed 675,000 on Monday.

Until now, the 1918 influenza pandemic — which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), led to an estimated 675,000 deaths across the country — was the most lethal in recent history.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. are averaging about 1,900 per day, and as of Wednesday, the total death toll has edged past 678,000.

Globally, however, the 1918 flu remains the deadliest, having killed an estimated 20–50 million people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In comparison, 4.7 million people worldwide have died because of COVID-19.

Read more about past pandemics here.

09/21/2021 15:20 GMT — US eases travel restrictions for fully vaccinated

As of November 2021, the United States will welcome foreign travelers from the United Kingdom, Europe, and other countries as long as they are fully vaccinated. 

Additionally, travelers will need to show proof of a recent negative SARS-CoV-2 test before boarding their flight to the U.S. and take another test 3–5 days after arrival. Contact tracing and mask wearing will remain in place as additional measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Read the full story here.

09/21/2021 15:10 GMT — COVID-19 vaccinations work with or without side effects

Johns Hopkins researchers carried out a study involving 954 healthcare workers who had either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. The participants recorded the side effects they experienced after both doses, and the scientists examined the participants’ immune response to the vaccine.

Only 5% of the participants had side effects after the first dose, and 43% reported side effects after the second one.

However, 99.9% of the study participants successfully developed antibodies for fighting SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of whether they developed side effects or not.

Read MNT’s full coverage here

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.