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Coronavirus update: Experts consider just one dose, drugmakers say more vaccines are on the way

President Biden paid tribute to the 500,000 who have died in the U.S.

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 28,194,840 (28,139,690)

Total U.S. deaths: 500,617 (499,128)

Total global cases: 111,878,487 (111,555,751)

Total global deaths: 2,478,131 (2,469,417)

One dose or two?

Doctors are beginning to question whether people really need two doses of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, especially when measured against the bottlenecks and shortages that have delayed vaccinations in many states.

Health officials are holding back significant quantities of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in order to provide second shots three weeks later. However, antibody tests have shown that most recipients create protective antibodies within three weeks of receiving the first dose.

But the Biden administration is opposed to the move, as are some other health experts. They worry that one dose of a vaccine will be less effective against the new variants of the virus that have emerged in the U.K. and South Africa and are now present in the U.S.

Drug companies increasing vaccine production

If you’ve been frustrated because you have been unable to book an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, help may be on the way. Drugmakers say they are stepping up production and that supplies should be more plentiful next month.

Pfizer said it expects to provide more than 13 million doses of its two-shot vaccine per week by mid-March, doubling its current output. Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge told CNBC that his company is also on track to double its output.

“Since the end of 2020, we have doubled our monthly deliveries to the U.S. government, and we are working to double them again by April to more than 40 million doses per month,” Hoge said. 

Biden reflects on 500,000 deaths

When the U.S. death toll from the virus exceeded 500,000 on Monday, the White House paused to reflect on the gravity of the loss. President Biden marked the milestone with a solemn ceremony at the White House.

"Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone," Biden said in a brief speech. "500,071 dead. That's more Americans who died in one year in this pandemic than in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined."

Biden presided over ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial hours before his inauguration, marking the death of 400,000 Americans from COVID-19. That was just over a month ago.

Vaccines may reduce severity of symptoms

Most people are lining up to receive a vaccination against the coronavirus in hopes of avoiding a potentially lethal infection. But a British study shows that even if you end up getting the virus, having a vaccination may keep you out of the hospital.

The U.K. study focused on two vaccines -- the one produced by Pfizer and BioNTech and the one developed by AstraZeneca at Oxford University. Both significantly reduced hospitalizations among those who got the virus after being vaccinated.

The study also found that both vaccines were effective against a new, more contagious variant of the virus.

Researchers say antibody testing can slow the virus’ spread

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast say largescale antibody testing could result in people taking more precautions and, as a result, reducing the transmission of the coronavirus.

The researchers say most people have gone about their daily lives without knowing whether they have the virus or not, but many assume they don’t. They point to research suggesting that this lack of knowledge can cause people to disregard mitigation rules, such as social distancing.

“This research suggests that there can be sizeable gains in terms of lives saved from conducting largescale antibody testing,”  Dr. Luis Guimaraes, one of the researchers, said. “The benefits of these tests are particularly large for those that cannot work from home in areas in which many are estimated to have been infected like London.”

Around the nation

  • Florida: As the U.S. marked 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, Florida passed its own grim milestone. The state reported a total of 30,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began.

  • Utah: Some people remain very hesitant to take the coronavirus vaccine, and many Utah lawmakers are siding with them. A measure barring state agencies from requiring employees to be vaccinated sailed through the Utah House on Monday.

  • Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott has relaxed rules for out-of-state visitors. Starting today, visitors will no longer have to quarantine for 14 days if they have been fully vaccinated. The policy also applies to state residents who are returning from a trip.

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