Coronavirus update: A new role for antibody drugs? New concerns about the South African variant

Photo (c) Bill Oxford - Getty Images

Weekend vaccinations set a new record

Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 31,202,818 (31,151,952)

Total U.S. deaths:  562,096 (561,783)

Total global cases: 136,181,468 (135,469,242)

Total global deaths: 2,938,829 (2,929,851)

Regeneron antibody drug shows preventive possibilities

Regeneron’s antibody drug has approval as a treatment for the coronavirus (COVID-19). It was used to treat former President Trump last year when he became infected with the virus.

The company now reports that a Phase 3 clinical trial has shown the drug cocktail is also effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms. In other words, someone might test positive for COVID-19, but they wouldn’t get sick if they had taken the drug.

Regeneron says it will seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use the drug as a preventive measure -- along with vaccines.

Study: South African variant can ‘break through’ Pfizer vaccine

Israeli health officials are expressing concern over research that suggests the South African variant of COVID-19 can overcome the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, infecting people who have received vaccinations.

The study found that the South African strain was eight times more likely to infect people vaccinated with the Pfizer product than other strains. The number of infections, however, was described as “relatively small.”

“Based on patterns in the general population, we would have expected just one case of the South African variant, but we saw eight,” Prof. Adi Stern, who headed the research, told The Times of Israel. “Obviously, this result didn’t make me happy.”

Big weekend for vaccinations

Lots of Americans rolled up their sleeves over the weekend to get a vaccination against the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a record number of Americans got the shots on Saturday.

“Amazing Saturday! +4.63M doses administered over total yesterday, a new record," Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data director at the White House, wrote on Twitter. "More than 500K higher than old record last Saturday. Incredible number of doses administered."

While that’s good news, health officials are expressing growing concern about the rising number of cases in a handful of states. They say many of the new cases and hospitalizations involve young adults.

Hospitalizations rise among the unvaccinated

While 25 percent of the American public has received a vaccination, that leaves a lot more who haven’t. Unfortunately, the CDC says an increasing number of them are ending up in the hospital, especially in Michigan.

"Cases and emergency room visits are up," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. "We are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated."

According to CNN, citing data from the CDC, nearly 40 percent of U.S. Marines have said they do not intend to be vaccinated.

BBB: Vaccine passports could be subject of new scams

There’s been a lot of talk about so-called “vaccine passports,” smartphone apps to display your vaccination status. The hospitality industry thinks they could help restart business faster.

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers that scammers are probably one step ahead and planning schemes that offer phony passports but are designed to steal personal information and money from unsuspecting consumers.

The BBB says emails or popups offering free downloads of an “official” U.S. government vaccine passport app should be disregarded as scams. At the moment, the federal government has no plans to create a national vaccine passport. Anything presented as such is a scam.

Around the nation

  • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo says 25 percent of New York residents have now been vaccinated against the virus. Meanwhile, hospitalizations due to the coronavirus have dropped to the lowest numbers since Dec. 2.

  • Colorado: Health officials feared the worst at the start of flu season, but those fears failed to materialize. Dr. Suchitra Rao, an associate professor of pediatrics in infectious diseases with Children’s Hospital Colorado, says the prevention measures taken against COVID-19 made flu season “almost non-existent.”

  • Massachusetts: Cases of the coronavirus are rising again around the state. Health officials say the number of towns and communities with the highest risk of infection has risen by 22, for a total of 77. The number has been rising for three weeks but remains below its peak in mid-January.

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