A version of this story appeared in the January 29 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
German health officials have advised against giving the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to people older than 65 years because they believe there is insufficient data on the effectiveness of the vaccine for this age group.
The German vaccine watchdog isn’t worried the vaccine poses a threat to older people. It simply argued that the number of older people participating in the clinical trials wasn’t large enough to make conclusions regarding efficacy and safety in the elderly.
Responding to the announcement, AstraZeneca, which developed the vaccine with the University of Oxford, said the latest analyses of clinical trial data “support efficacy in the over 65 years age group.”
The announcement by Germany raised eyebrows because the United Kingdom, whose regulator approved the AstraZeneca vaccine nearly a month ago, has been inoculating people older than 65 with the shot. The chief executive of the UK medicines regulator, Dr. June Raine, said data so far shows “a strong immune response in the over-65s.”
The news also came at a sensitive time. The European Union, of which Germany is an influential member, and AstraZeneca have been locked in a dispute over delays in the supply of the vaccine to the bloc. The spat quickly escalated and as a result, the European Commission is expected to announce tighter regulations on vaccine exports, requiring companies wanting to export coronavirus vaccines from the bloc to notify national governments and wait for authorization.
There is some good news amid the arguments over supplies: another new vaccine might be on the horizon. The biotechnology company Novavax announced yesterday that Phase 3 trial showed its Covid-19 vaccine has an efficacy of 89.3%. The shot was found to have 95.6% efficacy against the original novel coronavirus and 85.6% against the variant first identified in the UK, known as B.1.1.7. The company also announced that a Phase 2b study conducted in South Africa, where another variant was first identified, showed 60% efficacy for participants who were HIV-negative.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Are medical masks better than cloth masks?
A: The Miami Heat is bringing out “coronavirus detection dogs” to screen people as they arrive at the reopened AmericanAirlines Arena – even though the science isn’t yet clear whether the animals can, in fact, detect Covid.
Canine experts emphasize that while research on coronavirus detection dogs appears promising, it’s not yet definitive. Studies exploring how reliable dogs are in detecting an active coronavirus infection remain ongoing – and there are many questions left to answer. Read more about the research here.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
New coronavirus variants keep popping up. Here’s what we know about them
A variant suspected of helping fuel a coronavirus surge in Brazil’s Amazon region shows up in Minnesota. Another that’s been worrying officials in South Africa pops up in two places in South Carolina.
Scientists are not surprised to see the coronavirus changing and evolving – it’s what viruses do, after all. And with so much unchecked spread across the US and other parts of the world, the virus is getting plenty of opportunity to do just that. Four of the new variants are especially worrisome, Maggie Fox writes.
About one in eight – and perhaps as much as a third – of US population might currently have some protection against Covid-19
Between vaccination coverage and natural immunity among those who have recovered from an infection, about 12% – and perhaps as much as a third – of the US population may have some degree of protection against Covid-19, according to a CNN analysis.
About 6% of the US population has been inoculated and another 8% have been officially reported as having had the disease, meaning they likely have some protection against Covid-19. However, the CDC estimates that just a fraction of total Covid-19 cases in the US have actually been reported. The latest estimates show that total cases may have topped 83 million through December.
Violence and slurs from some of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews in battle over coronavirus lockdowns
Clashes between ultra-Orthodox Jews and the authorities over the refusal of some to observe tough lockdown regulations have become an almost daily routine in Israel.
Gathering frequently in large numbers is a central part of the communities’ cultural life. The consequences are deadly: the rate of Covid-related deaths in people over 65 among the ultra-Orthodox was estimated to be about 3.6% higher than the Israeli norm, according to the Ministry of Health.
ON OUR RADAR
- A trio of Democratic lawmakers is demanding a racial breakdown of Covid-19 vaccinations to ensure vulnerable communities are not left behind.
- Health workers, stuck in the snow in Oregon, administered vaccines to stranded drivers.
- English National Opera singers are helping “long Covid” patients breathe.
- A team of World Health Organization investigators examining the origins of the coronavirus pandemic began meeting with Chinese scientists today.
- Thailand has arrested 89 foreign tourists for violating Covid-19 rules.
- Maskless crowds pack Australian Open tennis exhibition in Covid-free Adelaide.
Layering your face is in – but not as a fashion statement. It may just save a life. Public health officials are suggesting double masking as a way to increase the level of protection from the coronavirus and its multiple, more contagious variants.
“We know certain things about the coronavirus, like we know how it enters the body, how it can attack the lungs … this idea that back then there was this invisible thing just sweeping through cities and killing all these people … is terrifying to think about.” – Wendy Zukerman, science journalist
An adventuring Swedish doctor takes on a decades-long medical mystery: What exactly was the 1918 flu? This week, we’re sharing an episode of Science Vs, a podcast from Gimlet, a Spotify studio. Listen now.