The Latest: A nearly normal Fourth of July is possible
This week, the U.S. vaccination campaign ramped up in a big way. In a nationwide address on Thursday, President Biden told states to make all adult Americans eligible for vaccination by May 1. He also said his administration would expand vaccine access, in part by authorizing more types of health professionals to administer vaccines. If Americans work together, he said, on July 4 we could “begin to mark our independence from this virus.”
Already, nearly 100 million doses have been administered to Americans, and we have more than enough doses to vaccinate the whole U.S. population. In even more hopeful news, there’s promising evidence that an experimental “Covid pill” could reduce the length of illness, as my colleague, biotech reporter Emily Mullin, writes in the Blog.
Continued vaccination, masking, and distancing could get us to a near-normal state by summer, but fall surges remain a threat, cautioned Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina, MD, in a panel to mark the anniversary of the pandemic, writes science journalist Emily Willingham in the Blog. And while the situation improves in the United States, it’s critical that leaders think about how to vaccinate poor countries, which lag in vaccinations while wealthy countries sit on a surplus of doses.
Much has to be done, but we are moving the needle. In the Harvard panel, former homeland security official Juliette Kayyem recalled thinking at the beginning of the pandemic that 2020 was “going to suck.” But now we have “permission to hope,” she said. “2021 is looking really good. Hope begets hope.”
Stay safe and keep her words in mind,
Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog
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A quick Q&A: What’s the ‘Covid Pill’?
The ‘Covid pill’ I mentioned earlier is molnupiravir, an experimental antiviral drug that’s being developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and the drug giant Merck. It stops the virus from making copies of itself. Preliminary results from a study of 182 people who got a five-day treatment show the drug is safe and can significantly reduce the amount of virus a person is carrying. More data from the trial is expected in the coming weeks.
What we’re talking about on the Blog
There’s a global shortage of medical oxygen. Though oxygen is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, there’s a shortage of the purified, compressed kind used in hospitals. As Craig Spencer MD MPH writes in Elemental, Covid-19 has sharply increased demand for medical oxygen, and people have died as a result of its scarcity. This dearth is felt keenly by less wealthy countries, which can’t support its expensive production and transport. Read more.
Armpit lumps after vaccination aren’t always cause for alarm. Developing lumps near the armpit after getting vaccinated (with any vaccine) is not unusual, but it can be scary. Lumps in that area are sometimes associated with cancer. But as Emily Willingham writes in the Blog, they are sometimes just swollen lymph nodes dealing with the detritus of inflammation. Read more on what to do if you find one.
No big difference in vaccine hesitancy between Black and white Americans. While experts have spotlighted vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans because they have historically experienced medical racism, a new national survey shows that vaccine hesitancy rates are actually very similar between Black and white Americans. In the survey, 25% of Black respondents and 28% of white respondents said they did not plan to get vaccinated; the majority of both groups said they were planning to or already had. Read more.