Putting the three authorized coronavirus vaccines head-to-head, researchers have found that the Moderna vaccine is the most effective against covid-19 hospitalization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
The CDC-led nationwide study involving more than 3,600 adults hospitalized for covid-19 between March and August found the effectiveness of Moderna’s vaccine against hospitalization was 93 percent, while that of Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines was 88 percent and 71 percent, respectively.
The study, which reviewed hospitalizations for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in 21 hospitals across 18 states, found that the biggest difference between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines was in the drop in effectiveness four months following immunization.
Moderna’s effectiveness declined to 92 percent while Pfizer’s effectiveness dropped to 77 percent over the same period of time.
The real-world data bolsters previous findings that Moderna may be more effective over time than the other available vaccines.
Despite the differences in effectiveness, researchers noted that all three vaccines provided “substantial protection.”
“Although these real-world data suggest some variation in levels of protection by vaccine, all FDA-approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization,” the researchers wrote. (Washington Post)
Oregon doctor loses license over virus misinformation
The Oregon Medical Board said it has revoked a doctor’s license and fined him $10,000 for “dishonorable or unprofessional conduct” that included falsely telling patients that masks are ineffective and even dangerous to one’s health.
The board said earlier this month that Steven LaTulippe spurned masks and “regularly” advised patients — especially children and the elderly — that wearing them could worsen COPD, a chronic lung disease, or lead to heart attacks, strokes, collapsed lungs, and more. The board also said LaTulippe claimed incorrectly that masks are likely to harm people by causing them to re-inhale carbon dioxide.
“The amount of carbon dioxide re-breathed within a mask is trivial and would easily be expelled by an increase in minute ventilation so small it would not be noticed,” the board’s order said. A large randomized study in Bangladesh recently linked increased masking to a decrease in covid-19 infections, offering evidence that the authors argued should “end any scientific debate.”
LaTulippe, who has filed a lawsuit against medical board officials, told The Washington Post Thursday that the board had “zero evidence whatsoever of any harm that I did whatsoever in my clinic.” He reiterated the views on masks that the board described and also said he would not be vaccinated against the coronavirus. (Washington Post)
French scientist targeted for phony COVID cures
MARSEILLE, France — MARSEILLE, France — A French microbiologist who became a controversial figure in the science world — and gained a popular cult following — for promoting dubious cures for covid-19 is set to be replaced in his high-profile position.
Didier Raoult, 69, had sought to stay on in his post as director of an infectious diseases institute in the city of Marseille, despite having reached retirement age. But the head of the city’s public hospital system said it was time to ‘’turn the page.’’ When the founding members of the institute met on Friday, they agreed that Raoult could hold off on his departure until next September.
For his many critics, his exit cannot come soon enough, and they worry about the damage he could do in the next 12 months.
Raoult, who wears his silvery hair down to his shoulders, is an anti-establishment figure who nonetheless had been embracedby the French scientific establishment. In 2010, he was awarded the prestigious Grand Prix Inserm — one of the highest honorsfor scientists in the country.
But his reputation has taken a dramatic turn during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the spring of 2020, only a few months into the outbreak, he announced that the end of the crisis was near. Among the reasons for his optimism were hydroxychloroquine, an easily available antimalarial drug, and azithromycin, an antibiotic, which he had praised as an effective treatment against covid-19.
Fox News took note. Then-President Donald Trump began touting the drugs as possible ‘’game changers’' and said he had started to take hydroxychloroquine himself. In a surprise visit that April, French President Emmanuel Macron even flew to Marseille to meet with the scientist.
But in May 2020, amid mounting doubt about hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy against covid-19, France banned the treatment, and the US Food and Drug Administration followed by revoking emergency use authorization. Some studieshave suggested that the drug additionally may be linked to a higher risk of death for some patients. (Washington Post)
Lions, tigers at D.C. zoo test positive for virus
WASHINGTON — Six lions and three tigers at the National Zoo in Washington have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Zoo officials said Friday that they got back results showing the animals — African lions, a Sumatran tiger, and two Amur tigers — tested ‘’presumptive positive’' for the coronavirus. They said they’re awaiting a final test result in the next few days but are certain the big cats are infected and treating them as such.
They said the lions and tigers are being closely monitored.
The big cats are displaying symptoms of the virus, including nasal discharge and coughing. They live in groups with their specific species and are not being separated at this time, officials said.
A zoo spokeswoman said the coronavirus was likely transmitted to the big cats from a human who may have been asymptomatic.
Zookeepers first noticed last weekend that the big cats were coughing and sneezing. They also acted lethargic and had decreased appetites. Fecal samples were taken and tested.
Officials said the cats are being treated with antibiotics.
In a statement, officials at the zoo said ‘’because their condition does not require they remain inside, staff will manage the cats’ access to their outdoor habitats.’’ And ‘’given the substantial distance between the animals and visitors, the public is not at risk.’’
Zoo officials said no other animals are ‘’showing any signs of infection.’’
Officials said they have plans to vaccinate some of their animals in the coming months using a product made by Zoetis, a company that spunoff from Pfizer. Zoetis has given more than 11,000 doses of its coronavirus vaccines for animals to zoos and animal sanctuaries around the country. (Washington Post)
FDA expands use of COVID antibody treatment
The FDA is expanding emergency-use authorization for a covid-19 antibody-cocktail that’s already being used as a treatment for infected patients, to now also serve as a preventive drug for people who have been exposed to the coronavirus and are at risk of severe symptoms, according to a statement released on Thursday.
The drug, developed by the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, combines the antibodies bamlanivimab and etesevimab, which are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to combat pathogens like the coronavirus.
It is already authorized for use as a treatment for patients aged 12 years or older who have tested positive for the coronavirus, are immunocompromised, at risk of developing severe symptoms, and weigh at least about 90 pounds.
But the FDA warned that this doesn’t mean that the drug can be considered an alternative for getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. It also warned that the antibodies were not authorized for use on people who have not been exposed to the coronavirus. (Washington Post)
Hawaii tourism down after governor’s plea
Late last month, Hawaii Gov. David Ige made a plea to tourists: Put travel plans on hold until at least the end of October. The highly contagious Delta variant had increased the state’s hospitalizations, straining the hospital system.
“Our hospitals are reaching capacity, and our ICUs are filling up,” he said Aug. 23. “Now is not a good time to travel to Hawaii.”
Ige’s message didn’t stop tourism altogether — just before Labor Day, travel to Maui exceeded pre-pandemic levels — but it did seem to slow visitors.
Mufi Hannemann, president and chief operating officer of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, told local media that since the governor’s request to halt nonessential travel, “the industry has seen cancellations increase and occupancy cut nearly in half in some instances.” Tourism officials reported more than 50,000 room cancellations in Maui County.
But how do locals in tourism — both big and small — who depend on travelers feel about the slowdown? Tourism officials have stood by the governor, but others feel that if you are going to visit, there are safe ways to do it. (Washington Post)
White House buying more Pfizer shots to donate to the world
The Biden administration is buying hundreds of millions more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to donate to the world, according to two people familiar with the deal, as the United States looks to increase efforts to share vaccines with the global population.
The announcement of the purchase is slated for early next week and timed to the United Nations General Assembly meeting, said the people acquainted with the deal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the donation.
The White House declined to comment. Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Details of the deal were not final Friday.
In June, the United States purchased 500 million doses of the vaccine to be distributed by Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to share doses around the globe, and officials said the vaccines would be targeted at low- and middle-income countries. (Washington Post)