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U.S. likely to have enough COVID-19 vaccines for all vulnerable Americans by year end

By Carl O’Donnell

(Reuters) – The United States is likely to have enough safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available to inoculate the most vulnerable Americans by the end of 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday.

The U.S. government is “cautiously optimistic” that one or two vaccines, likely from Pfizer Inc <PFE.N> or Moderna Inc <MRNA.O>, will be available by the end of the year and can begin to be distributed to Americans, officials said during a news conference.

Azar said he expects all seniors, healthcare workers, and first responders will be able to receive a vaccine as soon as January, with the rest of the American public able to get a vaccine by April.

Companies participating in the U.S. government’s effort to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, have begun developing manufacturing capabilities even before any vaccinations have been authorized by regulators.

In an open letter published last week, Pfizer said it is unlikely to have enough data to submit for a U.S. regulatory authorization until late November, after the U.S. presidential election.

The coronavirus outbreak has been worsening in recent weeks as cold weather pushes Americans indoors, raising the chance of contracting the virus. Some 38 U.S. states and two territories have reported rising case counts. More than 8 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 200,000 have died.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Tom Brown)

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Trump’s Operation Warp Speed adviser says all Americans could be immunized with COVID vaccine by June

Moncef Slaoui is encouraging people to volunteer for vaccine trials.

Most Americans may have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by early this spring, one which could potentially immunize them by June, according to Operation Warp Speed’s chief adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui.

“It’s not a certainty, but the plan — and I feel pretty confident — should make it such that by June, everybody could have been immunized in the U.S.,” Slaoui told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff Wednesday morning.

Despite the rapid pace of vaccine development, Slaoui said he has not received any improper pressure from the White House to expedite the process beyond what he considers safe.

“I’ve had absolutely no pressure, really, no pressure,” Slaoui said, adding that he would have quit if that were the case. “And I have [always] said, if I get undue pressure, I will say it and I will resign.”

Slaoui said the pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer are likely to be the first with vaccine candidates to apply for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, possibly as soon as November or December. If a vaccine is authorized before the end of the year, Slaoui said approximately 20 to 40 million doses of it will be stockpiled and ready for distribution for a limited population.

Slaoui said AstraZeneca’s clinical trial is due to resume in the U.S. “imminently.”

This comes as clinical trials for both AstraZeneca’s vaccine were put on regulatory hold by the FDA and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate were put on a voluntary pause to investigate why certain volunteers developed unexplained illnesses during the trial. AstraZeneca has already resumed its trials in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

PHOTO: A medical syringe is inserted into a small bottle labeled "Vaccine COVID-19" in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.

A medical syringe is inserted into a small bottle labeled “Vaccine COVID-19” in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.

But halting the two late-stage clinical trials may have caused some vaccine skepticism, despite most scientists saying it’s a sign the process is working, and pointing out that many

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health

U.S. Likely to Have Enough COVID-19 Vaccines for All Vulnerable Americans by Year End – Official | Top News

(Reuters) – The United States is likely to have enough safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available to inoculate the most vulnerable Americans by the end of 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday.

The U.S. government is “cautiously optimistic” that one or two vaccines, likely from Pfizer Inc or Moderna Inc, will be available by the end of the year and can begin to be distributed to Americans, officials said during a news conference.

Azar said he expects all seniors, healthcare workers, and first responders will be able to receive a vaccine as soon as January, with the rest of the American public able to get a vaccine by April.

Companies participating in the U.S. government’s effort to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, have begun developing manufacturing capabilities even before any vaccinations have been authorized by regulators.

In an open letter published last week, Pfizer said it is unlikely to have enough data to submit for a U.S. regulatory authorization until late November, after the U.S. presidential election.

The coronavirus outbreak has been worsening in recent weeks as cold weather pushes Americans indoors, raising the chance of contracting the virus. Some 38 U.S. states and two territories have reported rising case counts. More than 8 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 200,000 have died.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Tom Brown)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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health

As COVID-19 cases soar, many Americans plan indoor Thanksgiving

As United States COVID-19 cases climb toward a new peak and hospitalizations increase across most of the country, more than a third of registered voters (34 percent) plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends or family from outside their households, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — and nearly all of them plan to gather indoors.

Another quarter (25 percent) say they’re still not sure how they will spend the Thanksgiving holiday, meaning that right now, amid a worsening pandemic, a majority of American voters are at least considering joining friends or family indoors on Nov. 26.

The survey, which was conducted from Oct. 16 to 18, reveals just how challenging it may be to contain America’s latest COVID-19 surge. New daily cases recently topped 70,000 nationwide for the first time since July; hospitalizations are on the rise in 39 states, with 16 approaching or exceeding all-time highs. Colder weather is making outdoor gatherings impractical in many places. And the big, garrulous, close-knit indoor meals with friends and family that define the holiday season are precisely the stuff that superspreader events are made of. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told Yahoo News last week that he would not celebrate Thanksgiving with his children because they are concerned about spreading the deadly virus. “I have three children that I would love to see over Thanksgiving,” Fauci said. The 79-year-old doctor noted that he falls in a vulnerable age group.

Yet many Americans won’t be following Fauci’s lead. Beyond the 30 percent of respondents who plan to gather indoors with friends or extended family and the 25 percent who haven’t ruled it out — percentages that could represent tens of millions of people, or more — 9 percent of respondents say they plan to travel for Thanksgiving. Another 9 percent are considering it. And just 21 percent of those who plan to gather with friends or extended family members say they would be willing to cancel their Thanksgiving plans if COVID-19 cases surged in their area. 

One month later, it’s Christmas. 

The point isn’t to shame Americans into skipping the holidays. We’re all weary of the virus. We all want to hit pause for a special day. We’re all desperate to eat, drink, relax and watch football with loved ones. And we all care about keeping our friends and family safe. There are no satisfying choices here. 

But America will face a test on Thanksgiving, and it’s basically just a supercharged version of the test we have faced throughout the pandemic: How much normal is OK right now? 

The problem is that it’s a test we have failed time and again in circumstances far less tempting than Thanksgiving — which in turn is why Thanksgiving itself has suddenly become a far more dangerous temptation than it had to be. 

According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, a majority of American voters are at least considering joining friends or family indoors on Thanksgiving. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: EyeEm/Getty Images)
According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, a majority of American voters are at least considering joining friends or family indoors on Thanksgiving. (Photo illustration: Yahoo
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health

If the poorest Americans are selling their blood, the US is in serious trouble

Looking to make extra cash? Don’t want to retrain in “cyber” but need a new gig? Good news! All you need to do is contract Covid-19, try not to die, then sell your antibody-rich blood plasma. Blood centres in the US are currently paying Covid-19 survivors a premium for their plasma, the yellowish liquid that makes up about 55% of blood. Apparently, you can get $100-$200 (£75-£155) a pop.



Photograph: Marco Bello/Reuters


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Marco Bello/Reuters

It would seem some enterprising students have cottoned on to this money-making scheme. Administrators at Brigham Young University’s campus in Idaho recently announced that they are “deeply troubled” by accounts of students who have “intentionally” exposed themselves to coronavirus in order to get that sweet, sweet blood money. “There is never a need to resort to behaviour that endangers health or safety in order to make ends meet,” the school said.

A noble sentiment. However, the US would not have a booming blood plasma industry in the first place if it weren’t for the fact that so many people have to resort to potentially endangering their own health in order to make ends meet. Even before the coronavirus hit, low-income Americans were selling blood plasma to get by.

“Selling plasma is so common among America’s extremely poor that it can be thought of as their lifeblood,” a 2015 Atlantic article noted. The US is an outlier in this regard: you’re not allowed to sell your blood plasma in the UK or in many other developed countries. In the US, however, you can donate up to twice a week; the procedure typically takes about 90 minutes, and you will get somewhere between $30 (£23) and $50 (£38) a time. Which is more than the $7.25 (£5.50) per hour federal minimum wage. The companies bleeding you dry, of course, will be earning a whole lot more: blood plasma is a multibillion dollar business in the US. Indeed, blood products are the US’s 12th most valuable export; in 2016, they made up a greater percentage of all American exports than soya beans or computers. Industry people joke that the US, which produces 70% of all plasma worldwide, is “the Opec of plasma collections.”



A health worker taking plasma.


© Photograph: Marco Bello/Reuters
A health worker taking plasma.

Giving blood plasma now and again won’t hurt you. Indeed, it is something we should all do if we can: plasma is desperately needed for life-saving therapies. In Britain, the NHS is urging Covid-19 survivors to donate plasma to treat those who fall ill during a second wave. But selling your blood plasma 104 times a year, as some desperate Americans do, may be another matter. Some experts and research have queried whether it is healthy, and even in the US if you donate plasma rather than sell, there are limits on how many times you can do it. Some people who sell their plasma frequently have also complained about things like migraines, numbness, and fainting.

I am not necessarily against the idea of

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health

Pandemic Putting Americans Under Great Mental Strain: Poll | Health News

By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay)

TUESDAY, Oct. 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) — COVID-19, health care, the economy, systemic racism and the presidential election are a threat to the nation’s mental health, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) poll.

Seventy-eight percent of adults polled said the pandemic is causing major stress and 60% called the array of issues facing the country overwhelming.

And younger adults are really struggling, the poll revealed.

Respondents from Generation Z (those born since 1996), pegged their stress level in the past month at a 6 on 10-point scale in which 1 represented “little to no stress” and 10 was “a great deal of stress.” That compared with an average stress level of 5 among all adults.

Nineteen percent of adults said their mental health is worse than it was a year ago.

That included 34% of Gen Z adults; 19% of millennials (born 1977-1995); 21% of Gen Xers (born 1965-1976); 12% of baby boomers (born 1946-1964); and 8% of those born before 1946.

Gen Z adults were the most likely to report common signs of depression.

More than 7 in 10 said that in the last two weeks they were so tired that they sat around and did nothing, felt very restless, found it hard to think or concentrate, felt lonely, or felt miserable or unhappy.

“This survey confirms what many mental health experts have been saying since the start of the pandemic: Our mental health is suffering from the compounding stressors in our lives,” said Arthur Evans Jr., chief executive officer of the APA.

“This compounding stress will have serious health and social consequences if we don’t act now to reduce it,” he said in an association news release.

Evans noted that the youngest Americans are showing signs of serious mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

The poll found that changes to school are a big stressor for Gen Zers. More than 8 of 10 teens said they have had negative impacts of school closures, and 51% said planning for the future seems impossible.

Among college students, 67% feel the same way about planning for the future. And 87% of Gen Z members in college said school is a significant source of stress.

“Loneliness and uncertainly about the future are major stressors for adolescents and young adults, who are striving to find their places in the world, both socially, and in terms of education and work. The pandemic and its economic consequences are upending youths’ social lives and their visions for their futures,” said survey researcher Emma Adam, a professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Adam said public policy must address this generation’s need for social, emotional and mental health supports as well as financial assistance and educational and work opportunities. “Both comfort now and hope for the future are essential for the long-term well-being of this generation,” she said.

But most Americans aren’t getting the support they need. Among adults, 61% said they could use

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health

Federal judge strikes down Trump rule that could have cut food stamps for nearly 700,000 unemployed Americans

A federal judge Sunday struck down a Trump administration rule that could have stripped food stamps from nearly 700,000 people, saying the US Department of Agriculture has been “icily silent” about how many Americans would have been denied benefits had the changes been in effect during the pandemic.



a person standing in front of a store: A sign alerting customers about SNAP food stamps benefits is displayed at a Brooklyn grocery store on December 5, 2019 in New York City.


© Scott Heins/Getty Images
A sign alerting customers about SNAP food stamps benefits is displayed at a Brooklyn grocery store on December 5, 2019 in New York City.

“The final rule at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving states scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans,” Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the US District Court in Washington, DC, wrote in a 67-page ruling, saying the agency has not adequately explained how the rule comports with federal statutes nor how it “makes sense.”

A coalition of attorneys general from 19 states, the District of Columbia and the City of New York filed a lawsuit in January, challenging the USDA rule.

The rule, announced in December, would have required more food stamp recipients to work in order to receive benefits by limiting states’ ability to waive existing work mandates. It had been scheduled to take effect on April 1, but Howell in mid-March blocked it from being implemented, and Congress suspended work mandates in the food stamp program as part of a coronavirus relief package that month.

The requirement could have resulted in 688,000 non-disabled, working-age adults without dependents losing their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP, as food stamps are formally known, according to Agriculture Department estimates, which were calculated prior to the pandemic. It was expected to save $5.5 billion over five years.

Food stamp enrollment has soared during the outbreak as millions of Americans lost their jobs. More than 6 million people have signed up for benefits, as of May, a 17% increase, according to the ruling.

Nearly 43 million Americans were receiving benefits in April, according to the latest Agriculture Department data.

Hunger has risen amid the economic upheaval wrought by the pandemic. Many lined up at food banks, which distributed more than 1.9 billion meals between March and June, according to Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.

Some 10% of adults live in households where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat in the last seven days, according to a Census Bureau survey from mid- to late-September.

In normal times, the food stamp program requires non-disabled, working-age adults without dependents to have jobs. They can only receive benefits for three months out of every 36-month period unless they are working or participating in training programs 20 hours a week. There were 2.9 million of these recipients in 2018 and nearly 74% of them were not employed, according to the agency.

The Agriculture Department did not immediately return a request seeking comment.

States can waive the work requirement for areas where unemployment is at

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health

Opinion | Tom Frieden: A herd immunity plan could mean the deaths of 500,000 more Americans

Their aim is to achieve “herd immunity,” the concept that if enough people are immune, those without immunity can be protected. Usually this refers to immunity gained from vaccination; the goal of herd immunity has typically not been applied to a disease for which there is no vaccine.

There is a saying that for every complicated problem, a solution exists that is quick, simple — and wrong. That applies here: Pursuing herd immunity is the wrong, dead wrong, solution for the pandemic. Discussing such a reckless approach shouldn’t be necessary, except that it echoes the misguided ideas of neuroradiologist Scott Atlas, who in recent months has become an influential medical adviser to President Trump.

Atlas, The Post reported, has relied on similar-minded scientists “to bolster his in-house arguments.”

Less than 15 percent of Americans have been infected by the virus that causes covid-19. If immunity among those who have been infected and survived is strong and long-lasting (and it may well be neither), and if herd immunity kicks in at 60 percent infection of the population (and it might be higher), with a fatality rate of 0.5 percent among those infected, then at least another half-million Americans — in addition to the 220,000 who have already died — would have to die for the country to achieve herd immunity. And that’s the best-case scenario. The number of deaths to get there could be twice as high.

The route to herd immunity would run through graveyards filled with Americans who did not have to die, because what starts in young adults doesn’t stay in young adults. “Protecting the vulnerable,” however appealing it may sound, isn’t plausible if the virus is allowed to freely spread among younger people. We’ve seen this in families, communities and entire regions of the country. First come cases in young adults. Then the virus spreads to older adults and medically vulnerable people. Hospitalizations increase. And then deaths increase.

The vulnerable are not just a sliver of society. The 65-and-over population of the United States in 2018 was 52 million. As many as 60 percent of adults have a medical condition that increases their risk of death from covid-19 — with many unaware of their condition, which can include undiagnosed kidney disease, diabetes or cancer. The plain truth is that we cannot protect the vulnerable without protecting all of us.

A one-two punch is needed to knock out the virus — a combination approach, just as multiple drugs are used to treat infections such as HIV and tuberculosis. That in turn will allow the accelerated resumption of economic and social activity.

First, knock down the spread of the virus. The best way to do this is — as the country has been trying to do, with uneven success — to reduce close contact with others, especially in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation. Increase adherence to the Three W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands (or use sanitizer). Where restrictions have been loosened, track

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One in four Americans believe coronavirus was engineered in Wuhan lab

  • Researchers surveyed people in five countries to assess which coronavirus-related conspiracy theories have taken root.
  • The most popular theory suggests the virus was “bioengineered in a laboratory in Wuhan.” Between 22% and 23% of Americans and Britons viewed that as “reliable.”
  • The study found that people who are older, numerically savvy, and trust scientists are less likely to fall for coronavirus misinformation.
  • Genetic evidence discredits the theory that the coronavirus was man-made.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lingering uncertainty how the coronavirus pandemic started creates fertile territory for conspiracy theories.

About one in four Americans and Britons think the idea that the virus was engineered in a Wuhan laboratory is a “reliable” claim, according to a recent study, despite abundant scientific evidence to the contrary.

The research, published earlier this week in the journal Royal Society for Open Science, found that an even higher portion of respondents in Ireland and Spain — 26% and 33%, respectively — put stock in that theory, as do nearly 40% of survey participants in Mexico.

“Certain misinformation claims are consistently seen as reliable by substantial sections of the public,” Sander van der Linden, a co-author of the new study and a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge, said in a press release.

What’s more, people who found the lab conspiracy idea reliable were generally more hesitant about getting a coronavirus vaccine.

“We find a clear link between believing coronavirus conspiracies and hesitancy around any future vaccine,” van der Linden added.

People who trust scientists are less likely to fall for misinformation

covid vaccine turkey

Dr. Mustafa Gerek is vaccinated in volunteer in trials of a COVID-19 vaccine from China at Ankara City Hospital in Ankara, Turkey on October 13, 2020.

Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


The study authors sent an online survey to groups of 700 people in the US, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain, and to more than 1,000 people in the UK. They asked participants to rate how reliable certain statements about COVID-19 were on a scale of 1 to 7, and also asked about participants’ attitudes about a vaccine.

The researchers wanted to assess whether certain beliefs or demographics are correlated with how susceptible a person is to misinformation.

The results showed that respondents with “significantly and consistently” low levels of susceptibility to false information in all five countries also declared they trusted scientists and scored highly on a series of tasks designed to test their understanding of probability. Being older was linked to lower susceptibility to misinformation as well, in every country surveyed except Mexico.

Additionally, those who reported trusting their politicians to effectively tackle the crisis in Mexico, Spain, and the US were more likely to fall for conspiracy theories.

The study also found that respondents in Ireland, the UK, and the US who were exposed to coronavirus information on social media were more susceptible to misinformation.

Van der Linden’s team also found that as participants’ susceptibility increased, their intent to get vaccinated or recommend the vaccine to friends

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fitness

Biden Pitches to Older Americans, and Trump Attacks His Fitness

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. turned his attention on Tuesday to older Americans, making a case in South Florida that seniors were paying the price for the president’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The only senior that Donald Trump cares about — the only senior — is senior Donald Trump,” Mr. Biden said in a speech at a community center in Pembroke Pines, a city in the vote-rich Democratic stronghold of Broward County.

Older people are a crucial voting bloc in Florida, a haven for retirees, and they were an important part of President Trump’s winning coalition in 2016 across the nation’s battleground states. But waning support from seniors now poses a serious threat to the president’s re-election bid, and Mr. Biden’s pitch to them on Tuesday was his latest attempt to maximize his standing with those voters.

Mr. Biden, who wore a mask during his speech, offered an unsparing critique of Mr. Trump’s management of the nation’s monthslong public health crisis, assailing the president over his response to the virus as well as his own behavior.

“I prayed for his recovery when he got Covid, and I had hoped at least he’d come out of it somewhat chastened,” Mr. Biden said. “But what has he done? He’s just doubled down on the misinformation he did before, and making it worse.”

He went on to say that Mr. Trump’s “reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis is unconscionable.”

“The longer Donald Trump is president, the more reckless he seems to get,” Mr. Biden said. “Thank God we only have three weeks left to go.”

And he alluded to the Rose Garden ceremony held at the White House last month for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Some of those in attendance, including Mr. Trump and the first lady, later tested positive for the virus.

“While he throws super-spreader parties at the White House where Republicans hug each other without concern of the consequences, how many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids in the last seven months?” Mr. Biden said.

He told the crowd that two of his grandchildren lived near his Delaware home, adding that he bribed them during socially-distanced visits with Häagen-Dazs bars. “I can’t hug them,” he said. “I can’t embrace them. And I’m luckier than most, because they’re nearby.”

Mr. Trump also invoked older Americans on Tuesday, declaring at an evening rally near Johnstown, Pa., that “Biden’s agenda would be a catastrophe for seniors” and asserting that Mr. Biden “cares more about illegal aliens than he cares about your senior citizens.”

The president later undercut his own outreach to seniors by tweeting a meme that mocked his rival’s age, with Mr. Biden’s head superimposed on a picture of people at a nursing home.

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