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AstraZeneca Vaccine Can Prevent COVID-19, Late-Stage Study Says

WXXI US News - Mon, 03/22/2021 - 4:19am
Preliminary results from a late-stage study examining the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine indicate it is significantly effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19. Results of the trial, which involved more than 32,000 volunteers, showed two doses of the vaccine administered four weeks apart had an efficacy of 79% at preventing symptoms of COVID-19. In participants ages 65 years and over, vaccine efficacy could be as high as 80%, AstraZeneca announced early Monday. It had an efficacy of 100% at preventing severe disease and hospitalization. The results may mean the doses could soon be put into the arms of Americans. Data pulled from the study provide information to the Food and Drug Administration needed to grant the AstraZeneca vaccine an emergency use authorization. This authorization would allow use of the vaccine by the general public to combat the coronavirus pandemic. AstraZeneca's vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions

So You’re Vaccinated Against Covid. Now What?

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Mon, 03/22/2021 - 2:00am

As you surely know, this country’s covid vaccination effort has been plagued by major birth pangs: registration snafus, poor communication, faulty data and a scant supply of vaccine — all exacerbated by inequitable allocation, alleged political favoritism and unseemly jockeying for shots.

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Still, as of Friday, over 118 million shots had gone into arms, and about 42 million people, 12.6% of the nation’s population, had been fully vaccinated. Nearly one-quarter of U.S. residents have had at least one dose.

The vaccine rollout is finally ramping up — just as the deadly winter surge has ended, dramatically reducing infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths. President Joe Biden has promised enough vaccine for every adult in the country by the end of May and dangled the hope of a return to semi-normalcy by July 4.

We’ll see if that happens. Unfortunately, ill-advised behavior, or a mutant strain of the covid virus — or both — could still ignite another surge. And we’re not entirely certain to what extent vaccination prevents you from infecting unvaccinated people, or for how long it protects against covid.

Bottom line: Optimism is warranted, but all of us — even the vaccinated — still need to be careful.

In case you missed it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new public health guidelines March 8 that offered a small glimpse of what the not-so-distant future might hold if enough people are vaccinated. The most striking point was that it’s OK for vaccinated individuals to meet indoors with unvaccinated members of another household, without masks, as long as nobody in that household is at risk for severe covid.

That’s big news if you’ve not seen your children or grandchildren in person for a while. If you are fully vaccinated, it’s now likely safe to visit with them indoors without masks, regardless of their vaccination status. You can even hug them.

As long as they don’t live too far away, that is: The CDC still frowns on long-distance travel.

If everybody in your group is vaccinated, so much the better. In that case, hosting a maskless dinner party inside your home, for example, is “likely a low risk,” according to the new guidance.

But Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California-San Francisco, warns not to interpret this new freedom too liberally: “People say, ‘Oh, we can have a wedding reception for 50 people at a hotel as long as they are all vaccinated.’ I say, ‘What about the people serving you — are they all vaccinated? And the band?’”

Public health experts and the CDC agree that if you are vaccinated and in the company of people who aren’t — or if you don’t know their status — you should continue the safeguards of masking and maintaining your distance.

“What I tell people who are vaccinated is, ‘You should assume you are one of the 5 or 6% for whom the vaccination will fail, and that everyone around you is a super spreader,” Rutherford says.

That means you should probably tap your inner brakes before going to a movie, working out in a gym, boarding an airplane or dining indoors at a restaurant.

Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center and professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine, points to a possible side benefit of the new CDC approach. “It may enhance vaccine uptake if it shows people that once you get vaccinated you have more freedom to do things,” he says.

Orenstein, like most public health experts, acknowledges that we still have an incomplete picture of covid and how the vaccines will work in the real world. Officials must set guidelines based on the best data available at the time, he says. “If, in fact, there is a marked spike in cases as a result, they will have to revise them.

For now, Orenstein says, he is incorporating the new guidelines into his personal life. “We hadn’t had people over to our house in ages, and last night we had a couple over,” he says.  They were all vaccinated, and they didn’t wear masks.

Others are wary of easing up too soon, even if they’ve been vaccinated.

“I feel a real sense of relief, but it hasn’t changed my behavior,” says Sam Sandmire, a 65-year-old retired gymnastics coach in Boise, Idaho, who’s had two doses of the Moderna vaccine. “I still mask up and will continue to mask up and social distance until the science shows that I can’t infect others.”

Andy Mosley, 74, says he is not entirely convinced by the new CDC statement. “The information that we could start hanging out with each other again was laced with a lot of qualifiers,” says Mosley, a resident of Temecula, California, who’s also had two shots of the Moderna vaccine. “That tells me they are not really sure about it.”

But he may alter his behavior in one instance. He has not seen his daughter, a chef who lives in San Francisco, since October 2019. She is scheduled for surgery soon and may need his help. “Because she’s been immunized and I’ve been immunized and her roommate has been immunized, I would feel safe going up there,” Mosley says. “So that would be a change. But I would drive; I wouldn’t fly.”

Many others, including state and local politicians, are less cautious. Texas recently did away with its mask mandate. Florida has remained largely open for business through much of the pandemic.

In California, 13 counties accounting for nearly half the state’s population have reopened gyms, movie theaters and indoor restaurant dining — albeit at reduced levels. That includes Los Angeles County, one of the hardest-hit regions in the U.S. during the winter surge. And Gov. Gavin Newsom has suggested that California’s four-level color-coded system for phased reopening could soon add a “green” tier — meaning pretty much back to normal.

However, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says localities that open too soon “are going to be in big trouble shortly” because of a new surge he expects to be triggered by a fast-spreading covid strain first detected in the United Kingdom, which is projected to become the dominant strain in the U.S. sometime this month.

For now, stick with masking and physical distancing in most social and commercial encounters. Get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn and try to persuade the people in your lives to do the same. The more people vaccinated, the greater the protection for the community.

In the near future, we may all have extra incentive to get vaccinated: Proof of vaccination could be required for air travel, sports events, concerts and other mass public gatherings. This is being considered in some parts of the U.S. and is already happening in some countries.

Israel, for example, has begun issuing six-month vaccination “passports” that would allow entry to sporting events, restaurants and other public venues. That has “created this kind of push for people who otherwise might not be that interested in getting vaccinated to get vaccinated,” Rutherford says.

KHN data editor Elizabeth Lucas contributed to this report.

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.


This story can be republished for free (details).

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Buddy Boeheim gets dad back to Sweet 16 as Syracuse tops WVU

WXXI US News - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 8:55pm
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Buddy Boeheim carried his father, Jim, to the Hall of Fame coach's 20th Sweet 16 appearance, scoring 22 of his 25 points after halftime to lead 11th-seeded Syracuse past third-seeded West Virginia 75-72 in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. Jim Boeheim's Orange got the better of another legend, Bob Huggins, in the second March Madness meeting between coaches with at least 900 Division I victories. Huggins won No. 900 when West Virginia beat Morehead State in the first round on Friday. Boeheim got his 982nd at Huggins' expense. Syracuse will face second-seeded Houston on Saturday after the Cougars slipped by 10th-seeded Rutgers. Buddy "Buckets" Boeheim erupted in the second half, when he made all but one of his six 3-pointers. He finished 6 of 13 from deep and 8 of 17 overall, and he helped put the game away with three late free throws. While deep tournament runs are nothing new for his dad, it's the first for Buddy, who was a freshman role player when the Orange lost in

New Effort To Clean Up Space Junk Reaches Orbit

WXXI US News - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 8:21pm
A demonstration mission to test an idea to clean up space debris launched Monday morning local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Known as ELSA-d, the mission will exhibit technology that could help capture space junk, the millions of pieces of orbital debris that float above Earth. The more than 8,000 metric tons of debris threaten the loss of services we rely on for Earth-bound life, including weather forecasting, telecommunications and GPS systems. The spacecraft works by attempting to attach itself to dead satellites and pushing them toward Earth to burn up in the atmosphere. ELSA-d, which stands for End-of-Life Services by Astroscale, will be carried out by a "servicer satellite" and a "client satellite" that launched together, according to Astroscale , the Japan-based company behind the mission. Using a magnetic docking technology, the servicer will release and try to "rendezvous" with the client, which will act as a mock piece of space junk. The mission, which will

Rep. Tom Reed apologizes after allegations of misconduct; won't run for any office in 2022

WXXI US News - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 7:12pm
Rep. Tom Reed has responded to allegations made by a former lobbyist in a Washington Post story that came out last Friday. In a statement released early Sunday evening, Reed, a Southern Tier Republican from Corning who has been in Congress since 2010, announced that he will not run for any elected office in 2022. Reed did note that when he was first elected, he pledged to voters to serve only six terms (12 years), so he will retire from public service as of January 2, 2023. Reed, 49, previously said he was considering a run for governor in 2022. He has been a regular critic of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is also facing allegations of sexual misconduct. The Washington Post last week said that Nicolette Davis, who previously was a lobbyist for an insurance company, was at a bar in 2017 with the six-term congressman following a fishing trip when she said he began rubbing her shoulders before unhooking her bra. According to the Post story, Reed was drunk at the time and was later escorted from

Pharmacies can now vaccinate New Yorkers with comorbidities

WXXI US News - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 6:07pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced new guidance which will allow pharmacies to vaccinate New Yorkers with comorbidities. Pharmacies were previously only able to vaccinate New Yorkers over the age of 60 and teachers. "New Yorkers with comorbidities are among our state's most at-risk residents, and access to the COVID-19 vaccine protects this vulnerable population as we work to defeat the virus and establish the new normal," Cuomo said. "As New York receives more doses and more people receive the vaccine, we're able to expand the population pharmacies can serve, and this is a commonsense step forward that will help make it easier to protect New Yorkers." New Yorkers with comorbidities or underlying health conditions can use the following to show they are eligible: --Doctor's letter, or --Medical information evidencing comorbidity, or --Signed certification Also on Sunday, Cuomo announced more than 7.5 million total COVID vaccine doses have been administered across New York state. In

European Scientists Zero In On AstraZeneca Blood Clot Link

WXXI US News - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 4:40pm
Two teams of European scientists, working independently, say they believe they've identified the cause of a rare blood clotting condition that has occurred in some people after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. If correct, their research could mean any blood clots that occur could be easily treated. There were reports earlier this month of roughly 30 blood clots occurring after vaccination, a few of them fatal. This led more than a dozen European countries to suspend their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Most countries resumed using it, however, after the European Medicines Agency conducted an investigation and declared on Thursday that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective. The EMA said the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the potential risks — and pointed out that the rate of post-vaccine blood clots was actually lower than the expected rate in the general population. Now, a group of German researchers, led by professor Andreas Greinacher at the University of

Saudi Oil Giant Aramco Reports 44% Profit Slump In 2020 Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

WXXI US News - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 1:54pm
Saudi Arabia's state-backed oil giant Aramco saw its profit tumble by 44% last year, as coronavirus pandemic restrictions slashed fuel demand around the globe. Aramco, the world's largest oil company, reported earnings of $49 billion in 2020, down from $88.2 billion in the year before. CEO Amin Nasser described last year as "one of the most challenging years in history." Despite the drop, Aramco said it would pay out $75 billion in annual dividends to shareholders. The company began selling shares publicly in December 2019, yet the Saudi government owns more than 98% of them, the Associated Press reports . As with its competitors, Aramco has faced historic headwinds in the oil markets brought on by the coronavirus. Countries have limited travel and work to confront the coronavirus pandemic , sending oil prices spiraling. At one point last year, oil prices dipped below zero for the first time in history . U.S. energy company Exxon Mobil Corp. recorded its worst year in 2020, CNN

Miami Beach Issues Curfew To Curb Spring Break; Virus Knocks VCU From March Madness

WXXI US News - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 12:15pm
For anyone looking forward to the annual frivolity of spring break or the diversion offered every year by March Madness, the coronavirus pandemic is once again reminding: not so fast. Just as tens of thousands of revelers were dreaming of dancing the night away in Miami Beach on Saturday, the city abruptly declared a state of emergency . Local officials shut down traffic on the causeways leading into the beach mecca, ordered outdoor restaurants to suspend outdoor dining starting at 7 p.m. and banned strolling on the city's iconic Ocean Drive after 8 p.m. The announcement came after cheap flights, discounted hotel rooms and new rules rolling back state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions led to a surge of visitors into Miami Beach and other Florida hot spots just as U.S. colleges pause for spring break. "Too many people are coming here right now," Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said on Saturday as he proclaimed the state of emergency. "And too many people are coming here with bad intentions,"

U.S. Defense Chief Austin Goes To Afghanistan Amid Questions Over Withdrawal Date

WXXI US News - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 10:40am
Updated March 21, 2021 at 3:47 PM ET U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Afghanistan on Sunday amid uncertainty over how long American forces will stay in the country. In his first trip to Afghanistan as defense chief, which had not been announced publicly, Austin met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as U.S. diplomat Ross Wilson and Army Gen. Austin Miller, America's top commander in the country. "I'm here to listen and learn," Austin told reporters in Kabul. "It'll inform my participation in the review that we're undergoing here with the president." The visit comes as the United States signals difficulties in withdrawing all its forces from Afghanistan by May 1, a deadline outlined in an agreement between the former Trump administration and the Taliban. It also comes as Afghanistan's government and the Taliban continue to work toward a peace deal to end decades of war, even as violent attacks continue. As NPR's Diaa Hadid has reported , militants in recent months

Journalists Analyze the Covid Relief Bill

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Sat, 03/20/2021 - 5:00am

Reporter LJ Dawson discussed how undocumented immigrants have been left out of the pandemic relief package with Newsy on Tuesday.

KHN correspondent Emmarie Huetteman discussed Affordable Care Act provisions included in the recent covid-19 relief bill with Newsy on Monday.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.


This story can be republished for free (details).

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