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Coronavirus update: Studies suggest Moderna vaccine produces best results, Merck develops new treatment

A proposed Senate bill would set new requirements for air travel

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Photo (c) Irina Shatilova - Getty Images
Coronavirus‌ ‌(COVID-19)‌ ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 43,471,906 (43,367,242)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 698,149 (695,418)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 233,941,008 (233,434,862)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,786,737 (4,777,272)‌

Researchers rate Moderna vaccine over the others

When the coronavirus vaccines were rolled out earlier this year, people often debated which one to take. For maximum effectiveness, multiple studies now rate Moderna as having the longest-lasting effect.

The subject came up during the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee meeting on Pfizer booster shots. Several health experts cited studies showing that the Moderna vaccine was most effective at keeping vaccinated people out of the hospital.

The CDC has approved Pfizer booster shots for people 65 and older, those with underlying health conditions, and those in high-risk professions. But many health experts now suggest that people vaccinated with the Moderna drug may not need a booster.

Merck pill reduced deaths 50% in clinical trial

Efforts continue to vaccinate the population, but Merck has developed what it says is an effective treatment for people who already have the virus. Partnering with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the pharmaceutical giant says its pill, called molnupiravir, reduced hospitalizations and deaths by 50%.

“With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic and will add to Merck’s unique legacy of bringing forward breakthroughs in infectious diseases when they are needed most,” said Merck CEO said Robert Davis.

Merck said it plans to seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use the drug as a way to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

Bill would make it harder to fly without a vaccination

Sen. Diane Feinstein has introduced a bill that would require airline passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or test negative before taking a domestic flight.

The U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act would give travelers three options. They could be fully vaccinated, show a recent negative COVID-19 test result, or show they had the virus but had fully recovered.

“We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge. We simply cannot allow that to happen again,” Feinstein said.

Around the nation

  • Missouri: Missouri has joined the states that were overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases but have recently turned the corner. State health officials are reporting a nearly 25% drop in cases from August to September. The state’s vaccination numbers have also improved, with at least 65% of the eligible population receiving at least one dose.

  • South Dakota: Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has singled out South Dakota’s handling of the pandemic as one of the worst in the nation. “Certainly looking at South Dakota, you know where this was just allowed to travel largely unfettered with public health interventions, where you saw one of the highest death rates per capita,” Gottlieb told CBS’ Face The Nation.

  • Michigan: The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency, which serves three counties, said it is being forced to rescind recent COVID-19 mandates because it could lose $1 million from the state. The mandates required a quarantine period after exposure to a person infected with COVID-19.

  • New York: Four New York City school employees have filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to block New York’s vaccine mandate. A federal judge earlier in the week ruled that the mandate is legal.

  • Maine: Even states with high vaccination rates are not immune to outbreaks of the virus. The Wall Street Journal reports that Maine’s hospitals are filled with COVID-19 patients. State health officials blame the Delta variant, which they say targets people who have not been vaccinated.

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