A version of this story appeared in the November 17 edition of Bioreports’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
(Bioreports)US President-elect Joe Biden has issued a stark warning that President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his election loss could hamper the incoming administration’s pandemic response and its ability to distribute a vaccine.
“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden told reporters Monday in Delaware, heaping pressure on the President to begin the transition of power. Trump’s team is yet to take the legal step required to begin the process, which would give Biden’s team a budget, intelligence briefings and access to federal agencies, Eric Bradner writes.
Biden also criticized Trump for failing to work with Congress on an economic aid deal, accusing him of “playing golf and not doing anything” about the health and economic crisis in the United States.
“I am hopeful that the President will be mildly more enlightened before we get to January 20,” Biden said, making note of his inauguration date.
There are increasing concerns that Trump’s obstruction will slow and complicate the delivery of vaccines that bring the tantalizing prospect of a return to normal life, Stephen Collinson writes. Trials of two vaccines — one from Moderna and one from Pfizer — have shown them to be effective in stopping more than 90% of coronavirus infections.
The distribution operation will be a massively complex and historic public vaccination effort targeting hundreds of millions of Americans — many of whom have resisted following basic safety protocols like wearing masks because Trump has encouraged them not to.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q. Don’t vaccines take years to develop safely? How have these two been developed in just 10 months?
A. Most vaccines in use today have taken years and, in some cases, decades to develop, but governments have poured huge amounts of money into companies and institutions developing Covid-19 vaccines, with initiatives such as Operation Warp Speed in the United States and the Vaccine Taskforce in the United Kingdom.
The pandemic has galvanized the global scientific community, with groups of researchers in dozens of countries on a fast-paced hunt to understand how the virus works.
Operation Warp Speed has also drawn up protocols to allow trials to proceed more quickly, and industrial-scale manufacturing of the vaccines has taken place before we knew whether they would be effective. This means we have millions of doses ready to be used. Here are more answers to your questions on vaccines.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
WHO praises Moderna vaccine, warns against complacency
The World Health Organization has warned against complacency following the announcement that the Moderna vaccine candidate is 94.5% effective against Covid-19, according to interim data.
“It’s quite encouraging. We’ve just heard about the interim results from the press release from Moderna,” Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said at a news briefing in Geneva on Monday. “Of course, we need to wait and see what the final efficacy and the safety profile of this vaccine will be when the whole data is analyzed after they reach their primary endpoint.”
She added that half the participants would need to be followed up for a two-month period after the trial for any side effects before the vaccine could be submitted to regulatory agencies. Drugmaker Pfizer also announced last week that early data showed its vaccine candidate to be more than 90% effective.
Russia’s packed morgues tell a darker story than the numbers suggest
Grisly footage from cell phone videos obtained by Bioreports reveal appalling conditions inside overcrowded health facilities in Russia, adding to evidence that the country’s actual Covid-19 death toll is likely far higher than official figures suggest.
Morgues with bodies stripped naked, piled on top of each other on grimy floors make for scenes that look more like war zones than hospitals, Matthew Chance, Zahra Ullah and Mary Ilyushina report. In one video, obtained by the prominent opposition-linked Doctors’ Alliance union, an elderly woman gasps for breath, her desperate panting a grim soundtrack to the scene, where the limbs of a lifeless body hang off a stretcher just feet away from other patients battling for their lives.
“This is how our nights look: horrifying,” says a male voice narrating the footage, which the union says was taken in mid-October in Ulyanovsk, around 500 miles east of Moscow. “Two more down in our ward,” he says, while filming a corpse. “This is how Covid-19 is killing everybody.”
Sweden tightens its laissez-faire Covid-19 response
Sweden will dramatically reduce the number of people allowed to gather — including in bars and restaurants — from 300 to just eight, as coronavirus cases surge across the Nordic country that chose not to lock down during the first wave of the pandemic.
“This is the new norm for the entire society,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters on Monday. The new government restrictions will take effect on November 24, and last at least four weeks.
The country has not officially closed gyms or libraries, but authorities are urging people not to use them. “Don’t go to gyms, don’t go to libraries, don’t host dinners. Cancel,” Lofven said. “We are living in a trying time — it will become worse — do your duty, take responsibility and stop the spread of the virus.”
ON OUR RADAR
- Greeting card companies are trying to strike the right tone for this unusual holiday season.
- Covid-19 is hospitalizing Black, Latino and Native American people at four times the rate of others.
- Breast milk is not a likely source of coronavirus transmission, the CDC says.
- Don’t rely on a negative test result to see your family for Thanksgiving.
- Adelaide authorities ordered 4,000 people into quarantine, a setback for Australia.
How to fight seasonal affective disorder in the pandemic’s winter months
Seasonal affective disorder, also known by its apt acronym, SAD, is a form of depression that some people get for a few months each year, most commonly during the late fall and winter months, as the days shorten.
SAD could hit particularly hard this year, especially after months of social distancing and limited contact with family or large groups. So, what to do about it? Get as much sunlight as you can, or even “happy lights” used a part of bright light therapy. Read here for more tips from experts.
“As they say in the vaccine world, ‘mice lie and monkeys exaggerate.’ You never know till you’re really in people,” says Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine creator, and virology and immunology expert.
Bioreports Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks Dr. Offit about the journey of vaccines, from an idea in a lab to animal trials and then into the bodies of people around the world. Listen Now.