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Vaccination offers more protection against Covid than prior infection, CDC study suggests

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that vaccination provides stronger and more reliable protection against the coronavirus than a past infection does, the agency said Friday.

Unvaccinated people who had previously recovered from a coronavirus infection were five times as likely to get COVID as people who had received both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, the CDC said.

The study’s authors cautioned, however, that certain gaps inpatient data and biases in their study participants could have influenced the results.

“We now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

The question of whether people who have had COVID really need a shot has gained traction among some Americans as vaccine mandates take hold across the country. Scientists have urged COVID survivors not to skip the vaccine, noting that the strength and durability of so-called natural immunity depends heavily on people’s age and health, and the severity of an initial infection.

The CDC study used a roundabout experimental design. The researchers examined roughly 7,000 people hospitalized this year with COVID-like illness across nine states. They then looked at how many of those hospitalized patients were indeed infected with the coronavirus. The odds of testing positive for the virus were considerably higher among unvaccinated, previously infected patients than they were among vaccinated people.

The study comes with several caveats, however. The researchers cautioned that the findings may not translate to nonhospitalized people with different levels of access to medical care, and that some patients in the vaccinated group may unknowingly have also had previous infections.

The researchers also noted that separate research in Israel had failed to show that vaccinated people were better protected than those who had only been infected. In general, scientists said, studies on the topic had drawn contradictory conclusions.

Still, some patterns have emerged. Two doses of an mRNA vaccine produce more antibodies, and more reliably so, than a coronavirus infection does. But the antibodies from prior infection are more perse, potentially helping people fend off variants.

Whatever the effect, doctors have warned that acquiring natural immunity is perilous and uncertain. Not everyone survives COVID in the first place, and those who do may not be able to count on a vigorous immune response.

Explainer: When and how will COVID-19 vaccines become available?

NEW YORK: Britain on Wednesday became the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, jumping ahead of the United States and Europe after its regulator cleared a shot developed by

Pfizer

and BioNTech for emergency use in record time.

Pfizer, with partner BioNTech SE, and rival Moderna have released trial data showing their COVID-19 vaccines to be about 95% effective at preventing the illness, while

AstraZeneca

last month said its vaccine was on average about 70% effective.

The companies have said distribution could begin almost immediately after any approval, with governments around the world to decide who gets them and in what order. The following is an outline of the process:

WHEN WILL COMPANIES ROLL OUT A VACCINE?
Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have already started manufacturing their vaccines, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be rolled out from early next week in Britain.

This year, Pfizer said it would have enough to inoculate 25 million people, Moderna will have enough for 10 million people and AstraZeneca will have enough for more than 100 million people.

The U.S. Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will manage distribution in the United States, with some 20 million people expected to be inoculated by the end of the year.

Some 60 million to 70 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine could be available per month beginning in January and most Americans will have access to shots by mid-2021, the government said on Tuesday.

In the European Union, it is up to each country in the 27-member bloc to start distributing vaccines to their populations.

WHO WOULD GET AN APPROVED VACCINE AND WHEN IN THE UNITED STATES?
Upon authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the CDC has said first in line for vaccinations would be about 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million residents in long-term care facilities.

The U.S. FDA is set to meet on Dec. 10 to discuss whether to recommend emergency use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Essential workers, a group of 87 million people who do crucial jobs that cannot be done from home, are the likely next group. This includes firefighters, police, school employees, transport workers, food and agriculture workers and food service employees.

Around 100 million adults with high-risk medical conditions and 53 million adults over the age of 65, also considered at higher risk of severe disease, are the next priority.

U.S. public health officials said vaccines would be generally available to most Americans in pharmacies, clinics and doctors offices starting in April so that anyone who wants a shot can have one by the end of June.

It is unclear when a vaccine will be available for children. Pfizer and BioNTech have started testing their vaccine in volunteers as young as 12.

WHEN WILL A VACCINE BE AVAILABLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
Britain could start a roll-out of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month. The country had ordered 40 million doses – enough for just under a third of the population.

Older care home residents and their carers will be the highest priority to receive the vaccine, followed by those over 80 years of age and frontline health workers.

The European Union (EU), Japan, Canada and Australia are all running rapid vaccine regulatory processes.

The EU drugs regulator, the European Medicines Agency, said it could give conditional marketing approval for Pfizer’s vaccine by Dec. 29 and make a decision on Moderna’s by Jan. 12.

Most countries in the region have said the first vaccines would go to the elderly and vulnerable and frontline workers.

Many of AstraZeneca’s doses this year are expected to go to Britain, where health officials have said that if approved they could begin vaccinating people in December.

Countries say they are buying vaccines via the European Commission’s joint procurement scheme, which has deals for six different vaccines and nearly 2 billion doses.

Delivery timelines vary and most countries are still drawing up plans for distributing and administering shots.

Italy expects to receive the first deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and AstraZeneca’s shot early next year. Spain plans to give vaccines in January.

In Bulgaria, the country’s chief health inspector expects the first shipments in March-April. Hungary’s foreign minister said doses would land in the spring at the earliest.

Germany, home to BioNTech, expects to roll out shots in early 2021 with mass vaccination centres in exhibition halls, airport terminals and concert venues. It will also use mobile teams for care homes.

WHEN WILL DEVELOPING COUNTRIES HAVE ACCESS TO VACCINES?
COVAX, a programme led by the World Health Organization and the GAVI vaccine group to pool funds from wealthier countries and non-profits to buy and distribute vaccines to dozens of poorer countries, has raised $2 billion.

Its first goal is to vaccinate 3% of the people in these countries with a final goal of reaching 20%. It has signed a provisional agreement to buy AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which does not require storage in specialized ultra cold equipment like the Pfizer vaccine.

It is expected, but not certain, that less wealthy countries in Africa and Southeast Asia, such as India, will receive vaccines at low or no cost under this programme in 2021. Other countries, such as those in Latin America, may buy vaccines through COVAX. Several are also striking supply deals directly with drugmakers.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Vaccine makers and governments have negotiated varying prices, not all of which are public. Governments have paid from a few dollars per AstraZeneca shot to up to $50 for the two-dose Pfizer regimen. Many countries have said they will cover the cost of inoculating their residents.

In Video: Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine cleared for use in UK: All you need to know

Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated?

Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated?

Yes, if you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19.

The latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who are fully vaccinated should get tested three to five days after a potential exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms.

That change comes two months after the agency eased its initial testing guidance. In May, the CDC said vaccinated people face very little risk of serious illness and don’t need to be tested in most cases, even if exposed to someone who was sick. The thinking was that vaccinated people also weren’t likely to spread it to others.

But the agency says it’s reversing that guidance because of the more contagious delta variant, which now accounts for most COVID-19 infections.

The COVID-19 vaccines are still very good at protecting people from getting seriously ill, but the CDC says new data shows vaccinated people infected with the delta variant could spread it to others.

Doctors, nurses and other health care workers should consult with their employers, some of whom may require routine testing for their staff. People working in prisons and homeless shelters are also generally subject to stepped-up testing requirements.

U.S. citizens returning from abroad still have to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flights home, regardless of their vaccination status. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should still isolate for 10 days, the CDC says.

Explained: How worried should we be about blood clots linked to AstraZeneca, J&J vaccines?

International drug regulators have said the benefits of using COVID-19 vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca outweigh risks as they investigate reports of extremely rare, but potentially fatal blood clots.

Several EU countries have restricted their use.

Amid concerns that reports of rare side-effects could undermine vaccine confidence, experts have emphasised that clotting risks for both shots remain extremely low and the vaccines are highly effective in preventing COVID-19 deaths and severe disease.

Here’s what we know so far:

What has happened?
With both the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines, the reports involve extremely rare clotting, mainly a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), seen in combination with low blood platelet levels, called thrombocytopenia.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said most clots had occurred in the brain and abdomen.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the clotting events have been documented in numerous areas of the body, including the femoral vein and artery, internal jugular vein, upper extremity veins and the pulmonary artery.

As of April 20, there had been more than 300 clotting incidents with low platelets reported, out of tens of millions of shots administered.

That included 287 cases of clotting – including CVST and splanchnic vein thrombosis (SVT) which is clotting in veins in the abdomen – linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Europe’s regulator is now reviewing the first report in the region of a death potentially linked to J&J’s vaccine, after a 37-year-old woman in Belgium suffered from a blood clot with low platelets.

More than 1.34 million J&J doses have been administered within the EU.

What have the companies said?
J&J has said that no clear causal relationship has been established between the vaccine and the clots.

It resumed shipping its one-dose vaccine to Europe and the United States in late April with a warning on its label after a brief pause due to U.S. clotting cases.

AstraZeneca, whose vaccine packaging also includes a warning label required by regulators, has said it is working to understand inpidual cases and “possible mechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events”.

What have regulators said?
The CDC has said it has found a “plausible causal association” between J&J’s shot and clotting after identifying 28 cases of the side-effects among around 9 million people who had received J&J’s vaccine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19, while issuing guidance to medical professionals on how to respond, should clots emerge.

Europe’s drug regulator has also found a possible link between rare clotting and J&J and AstraZeneca shots, but maintained the benefits of getting vaccinated outweighed the risks.

It has recommended that anyone who developed blood clots with low blood platelets after receiving the first dose should get an alternative shot for the second dose.

The agency has left it up to inpidual countries to decide how to administer the shots, saying factors may vary including infection rates and whether there are vaccine alternatives to influence local policies.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency recommended people under 40 get an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca’s citing low levels of COVID-19 infection there and the availability of other vaccines.

Any theories on the cause?
Among possible causes being investigated is that the vaccine triggers an unusual antibody response in rare cases. So far, risk factors like age or gender have not been singled out.

Health regulators and scientists are exploring whether the clotting problem may affect the whole class of so-called viral vector vaccines, which the EMA said was possible, while noting differences in the two shots, including the vectors they use to deliver vaccine material.

A group of German researchers said their laboratory research showed the rare clotting events were linked to the cold viruses used to deliver vaccine material to the body.

Separate teams of German scientists at Greifswald University and Norwegian scientists have concluded the extremely rare cases of clotting with low platelets are triggered in part by antibodies found in the affected patients who received AstraZeneca’s shot.

Steel majors are leaving little to chance in the battle with Covid-19

From setting up crisis management groups (CMG) to circulating, curbs on non-essential travel, disabling biometric attendance checks, thermal scanners at entry gates, restricting vendors and visitors, including prospective interview candidates, steel majors like Tata Steel, ArcelorMittal, JSW Steel, JSPL, SAIL are leaving little to chance in the battle with the Covid-19 threat.

These firms operate plants, mines, stockyards and retail outlets across multiple locations in different countries and are scrambling to secure safety of personnel and maintain business continuity.

All the companies have put in strict travel advisories in place, discouraging non- essential travel and this applies to both domestic and international sectors.

Movement of employees by public transport, even for work related commute, is being discouraged. Instead, they are being encouraged to pool in private vehicles or being provided company transport to minimise risk of infection.

Social distancing, apart from other measures, is a key step being followed in ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India (AM/NS India).

“We are maintaining at least one-metre gap between employees during any interaction and all travel, even to office, is being totally discouraged.

Visitor entry has also been curtailed,” an AM/NS India spokesperson said.

JSW Steel and Tata Steel has also restricted visitor entry. While gatherings, even inside the cafeteria, is discouraged in most companies. Some like JSPL, have gone to the extent of discouraging use of lifts advising people instead to use stairs.

JSW Steel and JSPL have formed a CMG and Tata Steel a COVID-19 Medical Task Force to “review the medical preparedness in terms setting up of quarantine centres, isolation wards at Tata Steel hospitals in Jamshedpur and in mines across Jharkhand and Odisha,” a spokesperson said.

Companies have also ensured availability and mandatory use of hand sanitisers across all units and locations globally. All facilities are being disinfected and fumigated at regular intervals with deep cleaning of premises over the weekends.

“These are extraordinary times. We are taking all necessary safety precautions and sending out advisory to our employees across locations on the dos and dont’s, taking content from India’s health ministry, WHO guidelines and CDC,” Rahul Taneja, chief HR officer, JSPL said. This involves JSPL’S ten locations across India and five international sites.

Drawn from leadership teams of business operations, HR, and facilities, JSPL’s CMG is being tasked with both preventive action and crisis mode action.

A webpage acessible from JSPL Connect portal, has been developed for all employees to access information on prevention of contagion. Companies are also mandating self quarantine for employees with recent travel history to Italy, Iran, China and Spain.

In most companies, supplier and customer management, procurement, logistics and sales & marketing leaders have been instructed to identify essential suppliers, prepare business continuity measures and activate alternative suppliers.

Operating units and mills have been instructed to create awareness, especially among workers and contractual workforce, through posters as well as prepare mitigation plans. “All our global locations have been advised to follow the instructions,”JSPL said.

At Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), inpidual plants are creating mass awareness on Covid-19. “All SAIL hospitals have been prepared with isolation wards and quarantine facilities.

Things are being monitored on a daily basis,” a spokesperson said.

Mining major NMDC has allowed employees to work from home, while enforcing quarantine for recent travellers to affected countries, according to an internal circular.

Gyms, spas and swimming pools in company guest houses have been closed till further advice. In residential townships, employees have been advised against holding social gatherings and snuggling pets.Digital information kiosks across Tata Steel have been disabled and it has created a helpline number and a query link for addressing queries of employees and their families on real-time basis.

In America, Uber asks CDC to prioritise drivers for vaccinations

Uber Technologies on Thursday asked the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to designate its ride-hail and delivery drivers as non-health essential workers entitled to early Covid-19 vaccine distribution.

The company, in a letter to the CDC’s advisory committee on immunisation practices, said its drivers provided critical transportation for essential workers and allowed others to stay home and order food.

“Early access to a vaccine would help drivers and delivery people continue to play their essential role while also reducing the risk that they may inadvertently contract, or possibly transmit, the virus,” said the letter, signed by Uber’s head of federal affairs, Danielle Burr.

The letter comes as several industry groups, including in the food production, agricultural, consumer goods and trucking industry, are asking officials to prioritise their workers for early vaccine distribution.

Manufacturing, new homes sales underscore booming US economy

US factory activity powered ahead in early April, though manufacturers increasingly struggled to source raw materials and other inputs as a reopening economy leads to a boom in domestic demand, which could slow momentum in the months ahead.

The flow of strong economic data continued with another report on Friday showing new home sales racing to a more than 14-and-a-half-year high in March. The economy is being boosted by the White House’s massive $1.9 trillion Covid-19 pandemic rescue package and increased vaccinations against the virus. Retail sales jumped to a record high in March and hiring accelerated, cementing expectations for robust growth in the first quarter and setting up the economy for what could be its best performance in nearly four decades.

Data firm IHS Markit said its flash US manufacturing PMI increased to 60.6 in the first half of this month. That was the highest reading since the series started in May 2007 and followed 59.1 in March. Economists had forecast the index rising to 60.5 in early April. A reading above 50 indicates growth in manufacturing, which accounts for 11.9% of the US economy. “The US economy is enjoying a strong start to the second quarter, firing on all cylinders as loosening virus restrictions, an impressive vaccine roll-out, a brighter outlook and stimulus measures all helped boost demand,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

More than half of American adults have had at least one vaccine dose, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A third of US adults are fully vaccinated. That, together with the fiscal stimulus, has allowed for broader economic re-engagement.

But the strong demand is pushing against supply constraints. The pandemic has disrupted labour at factories and their suppliers, causing shortages that are boosting prices of materials and other inputs.

The IHS Markit survey’s measure of prices paid by manufacturers jumped to the highest level since July 2008. It attributed the higher input prices to “severe supplier shortages and marked rises in transportation fees.”

Masks recommended in US schools for everyone over two years

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended wearing of masks in schools for everyone over two years of age, regardless of their vaccination status.

“AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated,” the Agency said in a statement on Monday

Many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently, Xinhua news agency quoted the AAP statement as saying.

It called for prioritising in-person learning and urged all who are eligible to be vaccinated to protect against Covid-19.

Monday’s development comes over a week after The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new guidance urging schools to fully reopen in the fall regardless of whether all mitigation measures can be implemented.

In the new guidance issued on July 9, the CDC said that vaccinated teachers and students do not need to wear masks inside school buildings.

It also recommended schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk.

Schools across the US started to close in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and many students were shifted to online learning at home.

US life expectancy in 2020 saw biggest drop since WWII

US life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, public health officials said Wednesday. The decrease for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse: three years.

The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in US history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths.

Black life expectancy has not fallen so much in one year since the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression. Health officials have not tracked Hispanic life expectancy for nearly as long, but the 2020 decline was the largest recorded one-year drop.

The abrupt fall is “basically catastrophic,” said Mark Hayward, a University of Texas sociology professor who studies changes in US mortality.

Killers other than COVID-19 played a role. Drug overdoses pushed life expectancy down, particularly for whites. And rising homicides were a small but significant reason for the decline for Black Americans, said Elizabeth Arias, the report’s lead author.

Other problems affected Black and Hispanic people, including lack of access to quality health care, more crowded living conditions, and a greater share of the population in lower-paying jobs that required them to keep working when the pandemic was at its worst, experts said.

Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live. It’s an important statistical snapshot of a country’s health that can be influenced both by sustained trends such as obesity as well as more temporary threats like pandemics or war that might not endanger those newborns in their lifetimes.

For decades, U.S. life expectancy was on the upswing. But that trend stalled in 2015, for several years, before hitting 78 years, 10 months in 2019. Last year, the CDC said, it dropped to about 77 years, 4 months.

Other findings in the new CDC report:

—Hispanic Americans have longer life expectancy than white or Black Americans, but had the largest decline in 2020. The three-year drop was the largest since the CDC started tracking Hispanic life expectancy 15 years ago.

—Black life expectancy dropped nearly three years, to 71 years, 10 months. It has not been that low since 2000.

—White life expectancy fell by roughly 14 months to about 77 years, 7 months. That was the lowest the lowest life expectancy for that population since 2002.

—COVID-19’s role varied by race and ethnicity. The coronavirus was responsible for 90% of the decline in life expectancy among Hispanics, 68% among white people and 59% among Black Americans.

—Life expectancy fell nearly two years for men, but about one year for women, widening a longstanding gap. The CDC estimated life expectancy of 74 years, 6 months for boys vs. 80 years, 2 months for girls.

More than 80% of last year’s COVID deaths were people 65 and older, CDC data shows. That actually diminished the pandemic’s toll on life expectancy at birth, which is swayed more by deaths of younger adults and children than those among seniors.

That’s why last year’s decline was just half as much as the three-year drop between 1942 and 1943, when young soldiers were dying in World War II. And it was just a fraction of the drop between 1917 and 1918, when World War I and a Spanish flu pandemic devastated younger generations.

Life expectancy bounced back after those drops, and experts believe it will this time, too. But some said it could take years.

Too many people have already died from COVID-19 this year, while variants of the coronavirus are spreading among unvaccinated Americans — many of them younger adults, some experts said.

“We can’t. In 2021, we can’t get back to pre-pandemic” life expectancy, said Noreen Goldman, a Princeton University researcher.