The United States Food and Drug Administration updated its emergency use authorizations for two currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday, sanctioning third doses for a small percentage of Americans with compromised immune systems. At the same time, the agency stated other fully vaccinated individuals, including the elderly who are not immunocompromised, do not yet need a third dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meets Friday, August 13, to discuss further clinical recommendations regarding immunocompromised individuals. The FDA update specifically notes that certain individuals, including those who have undergone a solid organ transplant, are especially vulnerable to infections like COVID-19 and could have increased protection from a third dose. Each of these vaccines is still only authorized under emergency use authorization, however the FDA is expected to fully approve at least one vaccine for individuals ages 16 and older in the coming weeks.
This week, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began urging COVID-19 vaccination for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or contemplating pregnancy. This new guidance announced Wednesday, August 11, is backed by data from the CDC’s voluntary system through which participants answer questions about their pregnancy and health. The system showed no increased risk for miscarriage among those who received one of the messenger RNA vaccines currently available through emergency use authorization. These data confirm earlier findings from three additional safety monitoring systems.
As the Delta variant sweeps through much of the country, including the American South, hospitals are pleading for help to meet the growing need. Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri now have more than 300 COVID-19 positive cases per 100,000 residents. Hospitalization rates continue to rise in these hot spots, and some states fear their entire hospital system could collapse within weeks. COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths in these states remain primarily among the unvaccinated.
San Francisco will require proof of full vaccination for indoor patrons of restaurants, bars and gyms, becoming the first major U.S. city to impose such a stringent mandate. New Orleans announced similar measures but will also accept proof of a recent negative test. As vaccine mandates continue to emerge, the Supreme Court of the United States decided not to block a vaccine mandate imposed by one large university after eight students argued the mandate violates their constitutional rights.
Various sources have reported that the new surge of COVID-19 is driven by the Delta variant, a more contagious strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The transmissibility of a virus from one person to another is measured by Ro or “R nought,” with the higher the Ro, the more contagious the virus and the value of Ro indicates how many people one infected individual will infect. The original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has an Ro = 2-3 while the Delta strain has an Ro = 6-7. For comparison purposes the 1918 flu had an Ro = 2, Chickenpox Ro = 9-10, and Measles has an Ro ~18. While less transmissible than Chickenpox, Delta is very contagious stressing the importance of vaccination to reduce the strain on hospitals.
The U.S. surgeon general issued a strong advisory against misinformation related to COVID-19 and health issues. The 22-page document outlines the damage brought on by communications that are “false, inaccurate, or misleading according to the best available evidence at the time.” The advisory recognizes the global nature and diverse causes of misinformation. The report also provides concrete recommendations for various players — ranging from individual families, educators and journalists, all the way to business leaders, social media platforms and governments.
The health of our nasal epithelium appears to be critical in determining whether or not the SARS-CoV-2 infection takes hold. When this inner lining of the nasal cavity is capable of mounting an adequate immune response, the initial viral particles that might have been inhaled get inactivated and destroyed instead. If the nasal tissues’ immune response is insufficient, the virus gets a chance to multiply, causing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease.
Data collected in 2020 on hundreds of thousands of individuals indicate that those who remained physically active last year had a lower probability of becoming ill or dying from COVID-19. Conversely, as was shown in another recently published study (also involving tens of thousands of respondents in 2020), physical inactivity increased the risks of severe COVID-19, hospitalizations and deaths.
One of the many lessons of the pandemic is the urgent need to re-think priorities in urban design.
Suggestions for health-conscious design abound, including:
A database of “useful biological numbers” is a helpful resource for students and biology enthusiasts alike. For example, its collection of facts about SARS-CoV-2, which is offered in multiple languages, includes answers to questions about the virion’s size, lifecycle, genome, stability and other biological trivia.