Tuesday, May 10, 2022 | Kaiser Health News


UK Trial Finds 4th MRNA Dose Raises Covid Protection

New research published in the Lancet shows how a second mRNA booster shot lifts antibody levels — possibly even above peak levels from a first booster dose. The Oklahoman and NPR however, report that despite the efficacy, many people who are eligible for vaccines or boosters still aren’t getting them.

Covid Vaccine Boosters: Fourth MRNA Shot Adds Covid Protection In U.K. Trial

Fourth doses of messenger RNA vaccines added to the protection received from a third shot in a U.K. trial that underscores the benefits of boosters for the most vulnerable people. The research, published Monday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found that fourth doses of mRNA vaccines can provide a significant increase in antibody levels in people who received Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine as a third dose. They’re also effective at raising protection potentially above peak levels seen after third doses, according to the latest findings from the trial. (Paton, 5/9)

More on the vaccine rollout —

Vast Majority Of Oklahomans Who Are Eligible For Second COVID Booster Haven’t Gotten One

The vast majority of Oklahomans eligible for a second COVID-19 booster haven’t gotten one, data shared by the state Health Department shows. Of the roughly 446,000 residents who are eligible for a second booster, only about 50,000 — or 11% — have received a second booster. That data runs through April 26, and it doesn’t include second booster doses given through federal entities such as the Bureau of Prisons or Indian Health Service. (Branham, 5/9)

COVID Anti-Vaxxers Refuse Vaccines Despite Evidence

West Hansen pilots his muddy Subaru through the industrial landscape of Southeast Texas where he grew up — past Bible churches, donut shops and the silver industrial towers of the refineries. The longtime social worker says he’s given up trying to explain to his clients how safe the COVID-19 vaccines are. “I’ve grown weary of it,” he says. “I’ve realized that there’s no convincing somebody once they have their mind made up.” He pulls up to the neatly trimmed yard of a townhouse where Donna and Danny Downes are waiting for him in their living room. She is a work-at-home administrator for a fence contractor; he’s a retired insurance salesman who is legally blind. They are devout Baptists. (Burnett, 5/10)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Vaccines, Treatments Give Hope For COVID-19 Pandemic’s Next Chapter

With COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics now widely available, Wisconsin health professionals are cautiously optimistic that even if cases rise, they won’t result in overwhelming hospitalizations and deaths. The sense is that even with cases rising in Wisconsin and nationally, the combination of vaccines, anti-viral therapeutics, at-home tests and informed personal decision-making can all help the state close in on the goal public health officials set back in March 2020: to “flatten the curve” and prevent as many people as possible from ending up hospitalized or on the cusp of death. (Shastri, 5/9)

In updates on Paxlovid —

Rare Cases Of COVID Returning Pose Questions For Pfizer Pill 

As more doctors prescribe Pfizer’s powerful COVID-19 pill, new questions are emerging about its performance, including why a small number of patients appear to relapse after taking the drug. … Could some people just be susceptible to a relapse? Both the FDA and Pfizer point out that 1% to 2% of people in Pfizer’s original study saw their virus levels rebound after 10 days. The rate was about the same among people taking the drug or dummy pills, “so it is unclear at this point that this is related to drug treatment,” the FDA stated. (Perrone, 5/9)

Telehealth Aims To Crack Open Paxlovid’s Prescription Bottleneck

After months of shortages, pharmacies across the United States are being stocked with drugs to treat Covid-19. Now, the bottleneck has shifted to getting a prescription — and patients and public health agencies are looking to telehealth for help. Last week, Massachusetts launched free televisits for state residents who have tested positive for Covid-19, including home delivery of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s oral antiviral, if prescribed. New York City has filled more than 16,000 courses of the drug through its home delivery program, 2,100 of which started with a free telehealth visit with NYC Health + Hospitals. And a growing number of virtual care companies are promoting televisits as a first-line resource for patients who have tested positive, advertising against Google searches for “Paxlovid” and partnering with testing companies that route patients to their providers. (Palmer, 5/10)

And in news about vaccine and mask mandates —

Bay Area News Group:
San Jose Reinstates Mask Mandate For City Workers As COVID-19 Cases Rise

As the Bay Area braces for yet another COVID-19 surge, a few cities and agencies are reinstating indoor mask mandates as the region continues debating the worth of a patchwork of coronavirus-related health orders. Since late March, California’s case rate has nearly tripled and the Bay Area — which historically experienced a lower case rate than the rest of the state — has emerged as a COVID hotspot. Though cases are still one-tenth of what they were during January’s omicron surge, the region has more than three times as many positive cases than it did six weeks after the winter surge. That trend started in San Francisco around mid-March, followed by Santa Clara, San Mateo and a little later the other counties. (Hase, 5/9)

The Boston Globe:
Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge Schools Urging Students To Mask Up After Rise In COVID-19 Cases

School officials in Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge are recommending that students wear masks indoors, following the CDC’s classification of Middlesex County as having a high level of COVID-19 transmission. Arlington’s superintendent, Elizabeth C. Homan, sent a letter to families on Sunday recommending the change, and Belmont’s superintendent, John P. Phelan, notified families on Monday. Cambridge Public Schools confirmed its recommendation Monday in a separate note to families signed by the “CPS Team.” (Andersen, 5/9)

The Washington Post:
Mask Mandates Have Fallen Out Of Favor, Even As Covid Cases Rise 

New York City raised its coronavirus alert level last week in response to rising cases, triggering a recommendation — but not a requirement — that people wear masks in public indoor settings. In Philadelphia, officials reimposed a mask mandate last month after cases rose, only to scrap the rule four days after it took effect. The decisions by the Democratic-run cities illustrate how mask mandates are falling out of favor with American public health authorities in the third year of the pandemic and the bar to bring them back is getting higher, even in places where the requirements were long embraced as a proven way to reduce the spread of coronavirus. (Nirappil, 5/9)

The Atlantic:
How New York’s COVID War Spun Out Of Control

“I had no idea I would need police protection,” Vasan told me in his first public comments about the lethal threats he and his family have faced in recent weeks. “It is surreal. I mean, I can only use that word.” Vasan, a primary-care physician and epidemiologist at Columbia University, began serving as the city’s health commissioner in mid-March. His early weeks on the job were relatively calm. Then, on the evening of April 4, roughly two dozen protesters assembled on his Brooklyn block. How they obtained his home address remains unclear. At first, the scene resembled scores of other pandemic demonstrations: anti-Biden flags, anti-mandate posters. A staccato chant echoed through the brownstone canyon: “We! The People! Will Not Comply!” Then the energy changed. A group of agitators climbed Vasan’s front steps, banged on his front door, and screamed racial epithets. Some hurled death threats. (Hendrickson, 5/9)

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