Coronavirus update: Trial confirms antibody drug efficacy, U.S. may stock up on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Photo (c) Darryl Fonseka - Getty Images

The House is ready to approve $1,400 stimulus payments

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 29,104,508 (29,042,262)

Total U.S. deaths: 527,950 (526,020)

Total global cases: 117,717,343 (117,268,114)

Total global deaths: 2,613,276 (2,604,487)

Test confirms effectiveness of Eli Lilly antibody drugs

A newly released study shows that the combination of two Eli Lilly antibody drugs cuts the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) patients requiring hospital treatment or dying by 87 percent. The drugs have already received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The tests were conducted on patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms who were at high risk of developing severe symptoms. The two drugs, now part of doctors’ arsenal, are 700 mg of bamlanivimab and 1400 mg of etesevimab, taken together.

Health experts say the effectiveness of the drugs provides a reassuring backstop to the three approved coronavirus vaccines that continue to be administered throughout the U.S.

U.S. reportedly buying more Johnson & Johnson vaccine

NBC News quotes two Biden administration sources as saying the U.S. government will purchase an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine is popular with both consumers and health administrators since it only requires a single dose, removing the logistical issue of scheduling and administering a second dose.

The current contract calls for Johnson & Johnson to deliver 100 million doses of the drug by the end of June. The company now has increased capacity since rival drugmaker Merck has agreed to produce the vaccine as well.

House prepares to pass $1.9 trillion stimulus bill

Americans will soon be receiving $1,400 payments, assuming there are no last-minute glitches as the House of Representatives prepares to vote today on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

Democrats have the votes to approve the final version of the bill, which changed only slightly in the Senate last week. In addition to the direct payments to Americans, the measure extends an extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits until September.

Like the first two direct payments approved last year, Americans don’t have to take any action to receive the money. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will disburse the money based on tax returns.

CVS locations inside Target will give shots

In another sign that the vaccine rollout is becoming more widespread, Target has announced that the CVS pharmacies inside most of its stores will give the shots.

The company said more than 600 CVS Health locations located within Target stores will give the vaccines to customers and employees who are eligible. CVS has listed the participating stores on its website.

When it comes to vaccines, experts say don’t be picky

American consumers are accustomed to having lots of choices. Wandering up and down grocery aisles graphically demonstrates that.

But now that there are three approved COVID-19 available, a chorus of health experts is singing the same tune -- take the first one that’s offered. People are showing a preference for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine since it only requires one dose, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), says all three are highly effective.

“We’ve got to get away from this issue of comparing one with the other except to say that we have a highly efficacious group of three vaccines,” Fauci said recently at the White House. “I would just take the vaccine that is the most readily available to you.”

Around the nation

  • Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is working to return children to classrooms for in-person instruction. Officials have released guidelines that could put middle and elementary schoolers back in classrooms in April.

  • Maryland: State officials are lifting capacity limits on restaurants effective Friday. However, Gov. Larry Hogan said that restaurants and bars will still be limited to seated and distanced service only.

  • Oregon: While conditions are generally improving, Gov. Kate Brown says two counties -- Coo and Douglas -- remain an “extreme” risk for COVID-19. "We are largely seeing case rates decline across the state, with the most counties in the lower risk level since the framework was introduced in November," Brown said.

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