US COVID-19 testing charges have plummeted

The primary COVAX cargo from Serum Institute Pune in India. (WHO-SEARO/)

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Vaccine numbers proceed to go up, and case numbers proceed to go down, which has made for a uncommon few weeks of pleased information. Right here’s all the most recent coronavirus information.

COVAX lastly takes flight

Months after vaccinations kicked off in a number of the world’s wealthiest international locations, different international locations—notably within the creating world—are nonetheless ready for provides. A damning consequence of vaccine nationalism (the place governments safe pictures for his or her residents first at the price of the worldwide group) and an open vaccine market is that richer international locations can snap up sufficient pictures to cowl their whole populations a number of instances over, whereas many much less developed (and sometimes extra weak) international locations are left to depend on donations or sharing schemes.

One such scheme is COVAX, which swimming pools donated vaccines after which redistributes them to low- or middle-income international locations. COVAX lastly started sending out batches newest week. Ghana grew to become its first beneficiary, adopted by neighboring Côte d’Ivoire. COVAX goals to ship greater than two billion doses by the tip of 2021, however even that received’t be sufficient to cowl 100% of many international locations’ individuals.

Vaccines do, certainly, cease the unfold

Although public well being specialists suspected that the COVID-19 vaccines would lower transmission (nearly each different vaccine does), it wasn’t clear to what extent the brand new pictures can be efficient, particularly with what number of circumstances are asymptomatic.

Happily, the proof is hopeful. Analysis from Israel, the place a good portion of the inhabitants has already been swiftly vaccinated, has linked the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with a drastic drop in viral load—a drop that’s linked to decrease transmission charges, because it’s more durable to move COVID-19 with much less virus in your system. That very same vaccine additionally appears to trigger a dramatic lower in asymptomatic circumstances, suggesting that it cuts off that avenue of transmission as nicely.

Approval in hand, Johnson & Johnson appears to extra trials

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson handed approval by the US Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) over the weekend. The vaccine is the third to be accredited within the US (following the Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines), a outstanding feat for such a brief time period. Biden administration officers, nonetheless, have taken a much more cautious tone, warning that provides of the vaccine may very well be sluggish and uneven at first.

The European Union is anticipated to additionally approve the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in early March, and South Africa (the place a fast-spreading variant has dominated COVID-19 headlines in latest weeks) has already began giving the vaccine regardless of an absence of formal authorization.

[Related: These early sign of COVID-19 are easy to mistake for cold symptoms]

The vaccine’s creators are planning trials of the vaccine with pregnant girls and infants, teams for whom COVID-19 vaccines haven’t been formally examined. Regardless of wavering from the World Well being Group, the CDC and different US public well being organizations suggest that pregnant individuals get the vaccine if it’s accessible to them.

Pfizer doesn’t want cryogenic fridges

One of many obstacles to distributing some present vaccines equivalent to Pfizer-BioNTech’s was that they wanted to be saved at cryogenic temperatures in ultra-cold freezers. Many services don’t have such freezers, and it made vaccines that didn’t require them (equivalent to Oxford-AstraZeneca’s) that rather more engaging. Happily for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, the Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed its storage for as much as a fortnight in additional standard freezers which are generally present in US pharmacies.

The US authorities has additionally launched a web site that may enable you discover a COVID-19 vaccine web site close by.

Testing has plummeted within the US

Whereas reported case numbers within the US have fallen from their vertigo-inducing peak in early January to ranges not seen since November, testing charges have fallen too. Testing numbers have fallen practically a 3rd from their January peak. Some areas, equivalent to Delaware and Los Angeles, are testing individuals at lower than half their potential capability.

Public well being specialists don’t absolutely know why, however they level fingers at a variety of causes: a decline in journey after Thanksgiving and the December holidays, fatigue with the pandemic, and unhealthy winter climate just like the horrific storms that just lately roiled Texas. In fact, there may very well be another excuse: the pandemic itself is winding down. However common testing is a key approach of monitoring new COVID-19 variants and monitoring how widespread the virus is in any given inhabitants, so it’s vital to proceed testing on a regular basis.

The pandemic might have an finish in sight, however some COVID doesn’t

We’ve identified for a while that some individuals’s COVID-19 expertise doesn’t simply go away. Someplace between a tenth and a 3rd of the contaminated face doubtlessly life-altering signs— fatigue, shortness of breath, and even hair loss—for months, if not longer. And since COVID-19 is so new and the explanations are ill-understood, there’s no coherent steering or commonplace practices for treating such long-haulers.

Of their absence, a bunch of “post-COVID” clinics have popped up throughout the US to try to serve them. And there’s different doubtlessly excellent news: the Nationwide Institutes of Well being (NIH) has allotted over a billion {dollars} to learning the long-term signs of COVID-19.

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