Lockdowns in Europe Won’t be Duplicated in US and More COVID-19 News

Woman in Airport During Pandemic

Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new travel warnings, the Biden White House says it will not implement any lockdowns, as surges of COVID-19 continue throughout the country and the world. For that and other COVID-19 news, read below.

CDC Issues Travel Warning for Germany and Denmark

The CDC issued a warning for U.S. citizens against traveling to Germany and Denmark due to rising COVID-19 rates. The CDC labeled them as “COVID-19 Very High” in the Level 4 category. There are now 75 places on the list, meaning more than 500 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people for each of the last 28 days.

“Avoid travel to these destinations,” the CDC stated. “If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.”

There has been a 50% increase in new COVID-19 infections in Germany in the last week. 

The Biden Administration has indicated that the U.S. will not lockdown again. It recently eliminated travel restrictions, just as several European countries imposed nationwide lockdowns. Austria just initiated its fourth nationwide lockdown, and the Netherlands announced a partial lockdown. The Biden administration indicated it will depend upon vaccines and therapeutics.

“We can curb the spread of the virus without having to in any way shut down our economy,” said White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients. “We have 82% of people now with one shot and more and more people getting vaccinated each week.”

Merck/Ridgeback’s Antiviral Molnupiravir Up for Debate Nov. 30

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee (AMDAC) will meet to discuss Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics antiviral drug, molnupiravir. On October 1, the two companies reported interim data on the Phase III trial in mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The data was strong, decreasing the risk for hospitalization and death in adults by about 50%. 

At least two concerns will need to be addressed. One is whether the drug is safe for pregnant women. The clinical studies didn’t include pregnant women, and because of the unusual way the drug works, there are concerns that it might be unsafe for developing fetuses, although not much is known about the risk. The other issue concerns that it could cause vaccine-resistant COVID-19 mutations, which happen with antiviral drugs. However, Merck’s research to date hasn’t indicated that it occurs with molnupiravir.

“We should worry about the dangers to pregnant women and the dangers of developing resistance,” said Eric Rubin, an infectious disease expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. “But if we have a drug that works, we want that drug. We just have to figure out how best to use it given its limitations.”

Experimental Chewing Gum Might Fight COVID-19

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are working on a type of chewing gum that can fight COVID-19. It contains copies of the ACEE2 protein found on cell surfaces that SARS-CoV-2 attaches to enter the cells. Experiments in test tubes with saliva and swab samples from infected people, viral particles attached to the receptors in the gum and the samples’ viral load dropped by more than 95%.

New Study Suggests Immunity May Last Longer After mRNA Boosters than Original Doses

small study out of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that protection against COVID-19 from either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines may last longer after receiving the third booster shot than after the original two-shot doses. Looking at vaccine responses before and after the boosters in 33 healthy middle-aged adults, they found that before receiving the boosters, their antibody levels and dropped about 10-fold from levels shortly after the second dose. By six to 10 days post-booster, their antibody levels had rocketed 25-fold and were five times higher than after the two-shot regimen. And in volunteers who received the booster after having had COVID-19, their antibody levels were 50-fold higher than after their infections.

Blood Test to Detect T Cells to COVID-19

Much of the focus of news about vaccine efficacy revolves around antibodies. Partially that is because they are easier to measure than T and B cells, other components of the immune system. Researchers at Cardiff University School of Medicine in the UK have developed a single blood test that detects antibodies but also measures T cells. 

“The test is very sensitive and seems to be accurate,” said Martin Scurr, of Cardiff, and co-author of the study published in Immunology. “The test is easy to employ and should play a very useful role” in monitoring antibody and T-cell responses. “However, it remains to be determined what level of antibody and T-cell response against the virus might protect from future infection and COVID-19.”

House Investigation of COVID-19 Response Wants to Question Former FDA Commissioner

The House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis has requested that former FDA Commissioner Stephen Han appear for questioning. Hahn was a member of former President Trump’s White House COVID-19 task force.

The investigation has recently focused on the Trump administration’s interference in federal health agencies’ duties and its attempts to downplay the threats of the virus. The committee recently released interviews from other key figures, Deborah Birx, former task force coordinator, and Nancy Messonnier and Anne Schuchat, both with the CDC.

According to the subcommittee’s request, they seem interested in asking Hahn about his experience with regulatory approvals for controversial drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine, the vaccine development, and how or if the White House interfered in the FDA’s regulatory processes.

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