Sweeping New Mandates, Vaccine Options Underway, and More Coronavirus News

Biden announces additional mandates, researchers probe new shots and treatments, and global vaccine distribution falters. Here’s what you should know:

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The White House announces a sweeping new plan for combating the next phase of the pandemic

Yesterday, President Biden announced a slew of new Covid-19 policies. The six prongs of his plan are increasing vaccinations, boosting protections for the unvaccinated, keeping schools safe and open, increasing testing and masking, bolstering economic recovery, and revamping care for people who get sick. Vaccine mandates are a centerpiece. All employers with over 100 employees will have to require either vaccinations or weekly testing, give workers paid time off to get their shots and recover from side effects, and risk facing fines of up to $14,000 per violation if they don’t. And all federal workers in the executive branch and government contractors will also need to be vaccinated.

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Biden has also called on governors to require vaccinations for school employees. This week, Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest school district, took things one step further and announced that it will require all students over the age of 12 to be vaccinated as well in order to attend classes in person.

Drugmakers and researchers work to develop more vaccine and treatment options

BioNTech’s top executives recently announced that the drugmaker is readying to request approval around the world to use its Covid-19 vaccine in children as young as 5. FDA officials added today that the agency is “working around the clock” to approve vaccines for kids. Meanwhile, other drugmakers have said that plans are underway for a new kind of vaccine, one that could combat both Covid-19 and the flu. Novavax said this week that it has started early-stage trials to test its combined shot, and it expects results in the first half of 2022. Moderna is also developing a two-in-one booster.

Researchers have also been working to find existing drugs that could treat mild cases of Covid and keep more people out of the hospital. Early data suggests that one drug, an antidepressant called fluvoxamine, could prove useful, but further research is necessary to say for sure. And though ivermectin had some promising early results, there’s no evidence to suggest it helps prevent or treat Covid.

International vaccine distribution efforts continue to fall short

The Biden administration is expected to suggest an international summit to discuss the pandemic, and vaccine manufacturing and distribution in particular, around the time of the United Nations General Assembly meetings later this month. Equitable vaccine dispensation continues to be fraught: This week COVAX announced that it’s on track to fall almost 30 percent short of its distribution goal for 2021. Drugmakers have said there should be enough vaccines for every adult in the world in 2022, but rich nations who have bought most of the world’s supply will need to make sure those shots are distributed fairly.

This week, the head of the WHO spoke out again about booster shots, calling on wealthy countries to pause them until the end of the year to make those doses available to people elsewhere who haven’t yet received their initial doses.

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One Question

Why are hospital-related infections on the rise during the pandemic?

Health-care-associated infections, which often befall people while they’re in the hospital, are caused by a few factors. Patients in the ICU are vulnerable to infections, but they are being treated in close proximity to other sick people, and health care staff can unwittingly be carriers, as can lifesaving equipment. Overcrowding and added demands on hospital staff don’t help either. During the pandemic, the pressure of caring for people sick with Covid has undermined years of progress in preventing these kinds of infections. The good news is, the solution to this problem may well be the same as the solution to the pandemic: vaccination. The fewer people are seriously ill, the better hospitals will be equipped to protect everyone who comes through their doors.

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