A recent study found pregnant women in Washington state were infected with COVID-19 at a 70% higher rate than others at similar ages.
Additionally, rates of infection among pregnant women of color were far higher than researchers expected, according to the study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study provides further evidence that pregnancy should be considered a high-risk health condition for COVID-19 vaccine priority, said senior author Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, an OB-GYN at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“Our data indicates that pregnant people did not avoid the pandemic as we hoped that they would, and communities of color bore the greatest burden,” Waldorf said.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
In the headlines:
►The White House has postponed President Joe Biden’s scheduled trip to Michigan, delaying his tour of a Pfizer facility in Portage from Thursday to Friday, according to sources familiar with the visit. Although details of the delay were not available, the Washington area was under a winter storm warning Thursday.
►New York is suing Amazon, claiming the company failed to provide workers with a safe environment at two warehouses as COVID-19 infections surged nationwide.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 27.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 491,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 110 million cases and 2.43 million deaths. More than 72.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 56.2 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Want a worry-free Fourth of July? COVID-19 vaccinations need to speed up – and fast. Read more here.
Some medical experts have been pushing for the use of all the available COVID-19 vaccines right away, rather than holding back second doses, to inoculate as many people as possible with first shots. The current problems in Pennsylvania bring that strategy into question.
The state’s Department of Health acknowledged tens of thousands of vaccination appointments will have to be rescheduled because not enough second doses of the Moderna vaccine were saved and were instead administered as first doses.
The health department said it would take at least 2-3 weeks to resolve the issue. Vaccine providers will be extending the time between first and second Moderna doses by one to two weeks, which is still in keeping within the CDC maximum time frame of six weeks.
— Brian Myszkowski, Pocono Record
Return to normalcy: So when is it: Summer? Fall? Christmas?
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout can appear chaotic and incomprehensible, with numbers that don’t add up and allocations that don’t make sense. Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, this week forecast enough vaccine supply for 300 million Americans will be available by the end of July. President Joe Biden and top public health aide Dr. Anthony Fauci talked about a return to normalcy, too – at Christmas.
Vaccine distribution from the federal government has been booming since Biden took office, increasing 57% since Jan. 25. As of this week, it’s up to 13.5 million doses shipped per week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 70 million doses have been distributed. To meet Zients’ forecast, however, distribution from the federal government will need to ramp up appreciably. At the current level, it wouldn’t happen until autumn.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, is among experts trying to understand how figures from the CDC, the White House and the states fit together. He says he can’t. “None of us know what’s going on,” he said.
– Elizabeth Weise
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said vaccine doses expected this week were delayed by winter weather elsewhere in the country, forcing the city to hold off making 30,000 to 35,000 vaccination appointments. The city has less than 30,000 first doses left and might run out of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, he said. The southeastern U.S., walloped by power outages and icy conditions, is experiencing the same trouble. Some vaccination sites canceled appointments, and vaccine shipments continue to be delayed, the White House acknowledged.
“Having vaccine centers take snow days is just going to back things up more than they already are,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The virus doesn’t take snow days.”
The Justice Department has been examining New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus task force and trying to determine whether the state intentionally manipulated data regarding deaths in nursing homes, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Cuomo, once a national leader in the struggle against the virus, is facing calls for an investigation after his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, told lawmakers last week that the state “paused” the release of certain COVID-19 nursing home data to state lawmakers. Cuomo and DeRosa have said they delayed the data release because they were focused on a similar inquiry from the Justice Department.
“No excuses,” Cuomo said this week. “We should have done a better job in providing information, we should have done a better job of knocking down the disinformation. I accept responsibility for that. I am in charge.”
– Jon Campbell
Life expectancy in the United States dropped to its lowest level in 15 years, and even lower for Black Americans and Latinos, during the first half of the coronavirus pandemic, a study released Thursday found. Data through June 2020 shows life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population fell from 2019 by a year to 77.8 years, the lowest since 2006, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. Life expectancy for Black populations declined the most – by 2.7 years, to 72 years.
“It was disturbing to see that gains that have been made for the Black community and decreasing the gap between life expectancy for African Americans and (white) Americans over the past six years had come to a halt,” said Dr. Leon McDougle, president of the National Medical Association.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Neutralizing antibody response from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine diminished by two-thirds against the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, but it’s not known how that might impact the vaccine’s level of protection, according to a preliminary report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The South Africa variant, known as B.1.351, has been detected in only about 20 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. but raised concerns because of the possibility it might resist vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech said there has been “no clinical evidence to date” that its vaccine is not effective against that variant but are working on an update or booster shot anyway.
“It is unclear what effect a reduction in neutralization by approximately two-thirds would have on (vaccine)-elicited protection from COVID-19 caused by the B.1.351 lineage of SARS-CoV-2,” says the report, authored by researchers from Pfizer, BioNTech and the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Researchers found no reduction in efficacy against the U.K. variant, and some experts point out the vaccine is still expected to protect against severe disease from the South Africa variant.
Two Louisiana residents have been arrested for trying to bribe Hawaii airport screeners to allow them to bypass the state’s mandatory Safe Travels rules, officials said. Johntrell White, 29, and Nadia Bailey, 28, arrived in Hawaii on Feb 12 without “valid COVID-19 exemptions or pre-tests,” officials said in a news release. They told an airport screener that they would give her $3,000 to let them both through without quarantining.
“The screener alerted deputy sheriffs, who arrested them both for bribery. White and Bailey were booked and released and immediately flew back to the mainland,” the release said.
Hawaii’s current travel restrictions require visitors to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine unless they produce a negative test before arrival.
Police in Mexico arrested six people Wednesday in the northern border state of Nuevo León for allegedly trafficking in fake coronavirus vaccines. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell later said that the fakes were presented as Pfizer vaccines, which are only available in Mexico through government vaccinations teams. He said the suspects had offered the vaccines for sale for the equivalent of around $2,000 per dose.
“You don’t play around with health, and in these moments of pandemic, nobody should be profiteering,” Public Safety Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said.
USA TODAY; The Associated Press