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Future vaccines depend on shortage test subjects: monkeys

Mark Lewis was desperate to find monkeys. Millions of human lives all over the world were at stake.

Mr Lewis, the chief executive of Bioqual, was responsible for supplying lab monkeys to pharmaceutical companies like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, which needed the animals to develop their Covid-19 vaccines. But as the coronavirus swept across the United States last year, there were few specially bred monkeys in the world.

Unable to supply scientists with monkeys, which can cost more than $ 10,000 each, a dozen companies found themselves searching for research animals at the height of the pandemic.

“We lost work because we couldn’t deliver the animals on time,” Lewis said.

The world needs monkeys, whose DNA closely resembles that of humans, to develop Covid-19 vaccines. But a global shortage, resulting from unexpected demand caused by the pandemic, has been exacerbated by a recent ban on the sale of wildlife from China, the largest supplier of laboratory animals.

The latest shortage has reignited talks about creating a strategic reserve of monkeys in the United States, an emergency stockpile similar to those maintained by the government for oil and grains.

As new variants of the coronavirus threaten to render the current batch of vaccines obsolete, scientists rush to find new sources of monkeys, and the United States reassesses its dependence on China, a rival with its own biotechnological ambitions.

The pandemic has underscored how well China controls the supply of vital goods, including masks and medicine, which the United States needs in a crisis.

U.S. scientists searched private and government-funded facilities in Southeast Asia as well as Mauritius, a small island nation off the coast of Southeast Africa, for stocks of their favorite test subjects, rhesus macaques and cynomolgus macaques, also known as long-tailed macaques.

But no country can compensate for what China previously provided. Before the pandemic, China supplied more than 60% of the 33,818 primates, mostly cynomolgus macaques, imported to the United States in 2019, according to analyst estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The United States has as many as 25,000 laboratory monkeys – mostly pink-faced rhesus macaques – in their seven primate centers. About 600 to 800 of these animals have been researched for coronaviruses since the start of the pandemic.

Scientists say monkeys are ideal specimens for coronavirus vaccine research before they are tested on humans. Primates share over 90% of our DNA, and their similar biology means they can be tested with nasal swabs and have their lungs scanned. Scientists say it’s nearly impossible to find a substitute for testing Covid-19 vaccines, although drugs such as dexamethasone, the steroid used to treat President Donald J. Trump, have been tested in hamsters.

The United States once relied on India to supply rhesus macaques. But in 1978, India halted exports after the Indian press reported that the monkeys were being used in military trials in the United States. Pharmaceutical companies have been looking for an alternative.

Eventually, they landed on China.

The pandemic has shattered what had been a decades-long relationship between American scientists and Chinese suppliers.

“When the Chinese market closed, it just forced everyone to turn to a smaller number of animals available,” Lewis said.

For years, several airlines, including major US carriers, have also refused to transport animals used in medical research due to opposition from animal rights activists.

In the meantime, the price of a cynomolgus monkey has more than doubled from a year ago to over $ 10,000, Mr Lewis said. Scientists who are researching cures for other illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease and AIDS, say their work has been delayed as priority for animals goes to coronavirus researchers.

The shortage has led a growing number of American scientists to ask the government to ensure a constant supply of animals.

Skip Bohm, associate director and chief veterinarian of the Tulane National Primate Research Center outside of New Orleans, said the discussion for a strategic ape reserve began about 10 years ago between directors of national primate research centers. But a stock was never created because of the amount of money and time required to build a breeding program.

“Our idea was a bit like the strategic oil reserve, in that there is a lot of fuel out there that is only used in an emergency,” Prof Bohm said.

But as new variants of the virus are discovered, potentially restarting the vaccine race, scientists say the government must act on the stock immediately.

“The strategic ape reserve is exactly what we needed to treat Covid, and we just don’t have it,” said Keith Reeves, senior researcher at the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Harvard Medical School.

But a strong strategic reserve may still be unable to meet the growing demand for laboratory animals, as Chinese researchers have learned. Even with a government-controlled stock of around 45,000 monkeys, Chinese researchers say they are also facing a shortage.

Researchers often collect hundreds of specimens of a single monkey, whose tissues can be frozen for years and studied over long periods of time. Scientists say they get the best out of each animal, but monkeys infected with Covid-19 cannot be returned to live among other healthy animals and must ultimately be euthanized.

In January, Shen Weiguo, general manager of Shanghai Technology Venture Capital Group, told local lawmakers that three major biomedical companies in the city were short of 2,750 research monkeys last year, according to a report in the news media. ‘State. The deficit is expected to grow by 15% per year over the next five years, Mr. Shen said.

Hubei Topgene Biotechnology breeds monkeys for its own research and for export. The United States was previously its main export destination, but the company currently does not have enough animals to conduct its own experiments, said Yan Shuo, sales manager.

“Now it’s not even about the money,” Mr. Yan said. “We don’t even have monkeys to sell overseas.”

The United States has seven national primate research centers, where animals, when not researched, live in colonies with access to the outdoors and enrichment activities. The facilities are affiliated with research universities and funded by the National Institutes of Health. Animal rights activists have long accused centers of abuse, including separating babies from their mothers.

Matthew R. Bailey, president of the National Association for Biomedical Research, said he was preparing to raise the ape shortage with the Biden administration. He said China’s decision to halt exports at the onset of the pandemic was “probably a cautious emergency measure,” but suggested that China could restart exports given what is now known. on the spread of the virus.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the ban did not target specific species or countries.

Once the international situation improves and the import and export conditions are met, “the ministry said in a statement,” China will actively consider resuming the approval of imports and exports and other related work ”.

Experts said the United States must take some responsibility for not having enough research monkeys.

The budgets of the national primate centers have remained stable or declined for more than a decade. Koen Van Rompay, an infectious disease expert at the California National Primate Research Center, said the federal government asked the center to expand its breeding colonies about 10 years ago, but did not give it increased funding, he therefore reduced his colony instead.

“What we’ve done in a number of cases is we’ve given our females birth control,” said Dr. Van Rompay. “So there would be fewer babies born in the spring.”

At a panel hosted by the National Institutes of Health in December 2018, scientists discussed the challenges facing primate supply in America. There was a realization then that “if China decides to turn off the tap, we will be in big trouble,” said Jeffrey Roberts, associate director of the California National Primate Research Center.

Participants “agreed that the need to breed cynomolgus macaques at the national level is critical and could jeopardize biomedical research in the United States as a whole, if not met,” according to a report from the meeting. “They stressed that it may already be too late to meet this need, but that it will certainly be too late in a few months.”

Amber wang and Elsie Chen contributed to the research.

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Video: Winter storms delayed delivery of 6 million vaccines, White House says

new video loaded: Winter storms delayed delivery of 6 million vaccines, White House says

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Winter storms delayed delivery of 6 million vaccines, White House says

Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic adviser, said a backlog of coronavirus vaccine shipments caused by severe winter storms across the country is expected to be delivered next week.

We have a backlog of about six million doses due to weather conditions. All 50 states have been affected. The six million doses represent about three days of delayed shipping. There are three places along the distribution chain that have been affected by the weather conditions. First, FedEx, UPS, and McKesson, our logistics and distribution teams, all faced challenges as workers were caught in snow and unable to get to work to pack and ship vaccines, kits, and thinner required. Second, road closures have delayed vaccine delivery to different points in the distribution process – between manufacturing sites, distribution, and shipping centers. Third, more than 2,000 vaccination sites are located in areas with no power, so they currently cannot receive doses. Due to the constraints of the 72 hour cold chain, we do not want to ship doses to these locations and leave them to sit at a site where they could expire. The vaccines are therefore safe and sound in our factories and centers, ready to be dispatched as soon as time permits. Now that the weather conditions are improving, we are already working to clear this backlog: 1.4 million doses are already in transit today, and we expect all overdue doses to be delivered within the next week. We are asking vaccine delivery sites to further extend their hours of operation, offer additional appointments, and try to postpone vaccinations over the next few days and weeks as the supply arrives significantly.

Recent episodes of Coronavirus pandemic: latest updates

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Covid vaccines for children are coming, but not for many months

As adults at high risk for Covid-19 prepare to be immunized against the coronavirus, many parents want to know: When will my child get a vaccine?

The short answer: not until the end of summer.

Pfizer and Moderna have enrolled children 12 and older in clinical trials of their vaccines and hope to see results by the summer. Depending on the performance of vaccines in this age group, companies can then test them on younger children. The Food and Drug Administration typically takes a few weeks to review data from a clinical trial and approve a vaccine.

Three other companies – Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and AstraZeneca – also plan to test their vaccines in children, but are even further behind.

When researchers first test drugs or vaccines in adults, they typically move down the age brackets, watching for any effective dose changes and unexpected side effects.

“It would be quite unusual to start descending in children at an early stage,” said Dr. Emily Erbelding, an infectious disease physician at the National Institutes of Health who oversees testing of Covid-19 vaccines in special populations.

Some vaccines – those that protect against pneumococcal or meningococcal bacteria or rotavirus, for example – were first tested in children because they prevent pediatric illnesses. But it made sense for coronavirus vaccines to be tested and licensed for adults first, as the risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19 increases sharply with age, said Paul Offit, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and FDA member. vaccine advisory committee.

“We’re trying to save lives, to keep people out of the ICU, to prevent them from dying,” said Dr Offit. This means prioritizing vaccines for older people and those with underlying illnesses.

People under the age of 21 make up about a quarter of the United States’ population, but they make up less than 1% of deaths from Covid-19. Still, about 2 percent of children with Covid-19 require hospital care and at least 227 children in the United States have died from the disease.

“It’s an important disease in children, but not necessarily when compared to adults,” said Dr. Kristin Oliver, pediatrician and vaccine expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Children will also need to be vaccinated for the United States to move closer to herd immunity – that long-promised goal in which the pandemic slows and stops because the virus runs out of people to infect.

Scientists have estimated that 70 to 90% of the population may need to be immunized against the coronavirus to achieve herd immunity, especially with more contagious variants that are expected to circulate widely in the country.

“Not all adults can get the vaccine because there is some reluctance, or maybe there are even some vulnerable immune systems that just aren’t responding,” Dr Erbelding said. “I think we have to include children if we are to get collective immunity.”

It will also be important to immunize children from the racial and ethnic populations hardest hit by the pandemic, she added.

The clinical trials of Pfizer and Moderna in adults each recruited approximately 50,000 participants. They had to be this large to show significant differences between volunteers who received a vaccine and those who received a placebo. But since it is rarer for children to become seriously ill with Covid-19, this type of trial design in children would not be feasible, as it would take many more participants to show an effect.

Instead, companies will look in vaccinated children for signs of a strong immune response that would protect them from the coronavirus.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved in December for anyone 16 years of age and older. The company continued its trial with young volunteers, recruiting 2,259 adolescents aged 12 to 15. Teens are about twice as likely to be infected with the coronavirus as younger children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The results of this trial should be available by the summer, said Keanna Ghazvini, spokeswoman for Pfizer.

“Going below 12 years will require a new study and potentially a modified formulation or dosing schedule,” Ms. Ghazvini said. Those trials will likely begin later this year, but plans will be made final after the company has data on older children, she added.

Moderna’s vaccine, which was also cleared in December, is on a similar path for pediatric testing. In December, the company began testing adolescents aged 12 to 17 and plans to enroll 3,000 volunteers in this age group. The company expects results “around the middle of 2021,” said Colleen Hussey, spokesperson for Moderna.

Based on the results, Moderna plans to evaluate the vaccine later this year in children aged 6 months to 11 years.

Infants can have antibodies from birth to vaccinated or infected mothers, but maternal protection is unlikely to last until the first year. And with their relatively weak immune systems, babies can be particularly susceptible to infection if community transmission is high.

The trials will also assess the vaccine’s safety in children – and, hopefully, allay parents’ fears. A third of adults in the United States said they did not plan to have their children vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to a recent survey by Verywell Health.

Given the low risk of Covid-19 in children, some parents might be skeptical about the urgency of vaccinating their children with a brand new vaccine, Dr Offit said. “For this reason, the vaccine should be kept at a very high level of safety,” he said.

More than 42 million people in the United States have been vaccinated so far, with few lasting side effects. And the FDA has several systems in place to carefully monitor any serious reactions to the vaccine.

“They’re really looking at the data very, very closely,” Dr. Oliver said. “As a pediatrician and a mom, I have no doubts that these systems work.”

Once a vaccine for children is available, schools can reintroduce extracurricular activities that involve close contact, such as orchestral practice, team sports, and choir. But in the meantime, there’s plenty of evidence that schools can reopen with other precautions in place, Dr Oliver said.

“I don’t think we should expect to have a vaccine to open schools in the fall,” she says. “We should now plan to open schools.”

Dr Oliver also urged parents to make sure children are immune to other illnesses. According to the CDC, orders for children’s non-influenza vaccines under the Vaccines for Children program are down by about 10.3 million doses.

“Now is the time to really catch up on the missed doses of these vaccines,” she said. “Measles, HPV, tetanus boosters, pertussis boosters – these are all really important.”

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With more vaccines secured, Biden warns of obstacles ahead

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration said Thursday it had obtained 200 million extra doses of the coronavirus vaccine, enough to inoculate every American adult, but President Biden warned that logistical hurdles would most likely mean that many Americans would not ‘will still not have been vaccinated by the end of the summer.

The extra doses represent a 50% increase in the vaccine and will give the administration the number of doses Mr Biden said last month it needed to cover 300 million people by the end of summer . But it will always be difficult to get those shots in people’s arms. The two vaccines are two-dose regimens, three and four weeks apart. Mr Biden lamented the “gigantic” logistical challenge he faces during an appearance at the National Institutes of Health. He also expressed his open frustration with the previous administration.

“It’s one thing to have the vaccine,” Biden said. “It’s another thing to have vaccinators.”

The Department of Health and Human Services said Pfizer and Moderna would each deliver 300 million doses by the end of July in “regular increments.”

The administration envisions a step-by-step process. Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease specialist, predicted Thursday morning that as early as April, any American could begin looking for a vaccine in an “open season” that would expand availability beyond priority categories.

“By the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, for better wording, ‘open season’,” Dr Fauci said in an interview with NBC’s “Today”. “Namely, virtually anyone and anyone in any category could start getting the vaccine.”

But the problem could be giving doses to people who don’t easily seek them out.

Mr Biden carefully avoided letting his White House burn itself down in criticism of his predecessor, but on Thursday he directly attacked Donald J. Trump for what he said was a failure in creating a mass vaccination process. The president, who said he promised to speak openly to Americans about the challenges of the pandemic, accused Mr. Trump of creating a major one by not overseeing the creation of a streamlined vaccine distribution program. “The immunization program was in a much worse situation than what my team and I had expected,” Mr. Biden said.

“While scientists have done their job in discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor – I’m going to be very blunt about this – did not do his job in preparing for the enormous challenge of vaccinating hundreds of people. millions of people, ”Biden added.

“It was a big mess,” he said. “It’s going to take a while to fix, to be honest with you.”

Trump administration health officials rebuffed these suggestions, pointing to hundreds of briefings Department of Health and Human Services officials offered to the incoming health team, including on the allocation and distribution of vaccines.

The highly decentralized vaccine distribution and administration plans, giving authority to state and local health departments once doses have been delivered, were developed with career staff from control centers and Disease Prevention and Department of Defense.

Officials involved in the last administration’s distribution plans said late last year that outside of the first few weeks, when they carefully managed the flow of second-dose supplies, their plan was still to ship. doses as they became available, and which they never intended. to store doses.

The deal for 200 million additional doses of the coronavirus vaccine delivers on a promise made by Biden in January to increase supply to cover more of the population. He then said the administration was moving closer to a deal with the two manufacturers as part of its broader commitment that some 300 million Americans could receive a dose of the vaccine by the end of the summer or the next. early fall.

On Thursday, Mr Biden said his administration had “now purchased enough vaccine to immunize all Americans.”

Dr Nicole Lurie, who was assistant secretary of health for preparedness and response under President Barack Obama, said reluctance to get vaccinated could influence how quickly some Americans who want to get vaccinated could get vaccinated. , but that more supply would mean more work to obtain the vaccines. people.

“We will reach more and more of the population, and more of the population that you will have to go the extra mile to reach,” she said. “Hopefully as the supply continues to open up, the public still has a strong demand for vaccines. It really is the unknown.

The government had already secured 400 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies that have been approved for emergency distribution – doses expected by the end of June. Mr Biden said Thursday that companies will now deliver them by the end of May.

A third manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to clear its single-dose vaccine for emergency use, a decision that could be made by the end of the month and allow the vaccine to be distributed. the first week of March. . But the company is still trying to show that it can produce the vaccine on a large scale at its plant in Baltimore.

Federal officials have so far declined to say how much of this vaccine will be ready for distribution if it crosses regulatory hurdles, but they warn not to expect an influx of new doses of Johnson & Johnson anytime soon.

“We haven’t found that the level of manufacturing allows us to have as many vaccines as we think we need to come out of the door,” said Andy Slavitt, a senior pandemic adviser at the White House recently.

So far, only about 10% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. On Thursday, the CDC said about 34.7 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 11.2 million people who had been fully vaccinated.

The pace of vaccinations has been accelerating steadily in recent weeks. The number of shots per day is now around 1.5 million on average, up from 1.1 million two weeks ago. At this rate, Mr Biden will easily fulfill his promise to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

State and federal health officials say the main obstacle to getting more people vaccinated at this point is a lack of supplies. The administration looked for any possible way to speed up production, including a possible breakthrough in which Moderna would fill its vials with more doses, potentially getting millions more doses sooner.

But Mr Biden faces a variety of long-standing manufacturing constraints, including limited open space around the world to manufacture more vaccines, and the delicate and complex nature of vaccine production.

White House officials have underlined what they claim to be their job to increase the weekly vaccine supply by 28%. But these doses are the result of an expected increase in manufacturing.

Unlike the last administration, the White House pandemic team has notified governors of the planned offer in three-week increments, so state health departments will know better how to plan ahead. .

And they’ve taken a much more aggressive approach using federal resources to get the shots fired. The White House announced this week that it is setting up five new vaccination centers, including three in Texas and two in New York that aim specifically to vaccinate people of color. The administration also said it will aim to ship one million doses of the vaccine to 250 federally-supported community health centers in underserved neighborhoods. A new vaccination program for federal pharmacies began this week.

And on Friday, the administration announced it would send more than 1,000 active duty soldiers to Covid-19 vaccination centers across the country managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, said it hopes to create around 100 vaccination sites nationwide as of this month and spend $ 1 billion on vaccination measures, including community vaccination sites.

Sharon LaFraniere and Sheryl Gay Stolberg contribution to reports.

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‘We are forgotten’: Grocery store workers hope for higher wages, vaccines

HAC, the Oklahoma company that owns Cash Saver and Homeland, is owned by its employees. Its chief executive, Marc Jones, said the hero’s initial pay last year was “a reflection of the surge in the number of people in our stores, and when that wave died down, it seemed like the time was right. come to end it. It was a huge expense for the company, he said, which has about 80 stores and 3,400 employees and competes with Walmart.

Even with a better year than usual, groceries is a “particularly low-profit” business, Mr. Jones said. Until March, he said, “it was a big question whether the local grocery store would survive even and whether everyone was going to go online.”

Ms Sockwell said she was more concerned about the delayed vaccinations of grocery store workers, especially as her colleagues tended to work all possible hours, at minimum wage.

“Most of my staff up front, they barely have a high school diploma,” said Ms Sockwell, whose local UFCW unit tried to convince Oklahoma officials to enroll staff. grocery store on the priority immunization list. “They want to do whatever they can to keep food and electricity in their homes.”

She added, “We are junior workers who don’t need a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but we are still people.

At least 13 states have made some grocery store workers eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine in at least some counties. These are Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and of Wyoming.

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A new front in the fight against vaccines emerges in California

LOS ANGELES – An unemployed stand-up comedian from New Jersey. A conservative actor and podcast host in a white coat. A gadfly who led several unsuccessful campaigns for the Los Angeles Congress. And at least a few who were in Washington on the day of the Capitol riot.

They were part of the motley crew of so-called anti-vaxxers who recently converged on the entrance to the Dodger Stadium mass vaccination site to protest the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.

The weakly formed coalition represents a new faction in the long-established California anti-vaccine movement. And the protest was the latest sign Californians have become unlikely standard bearers for aggressive vaccine critics even as cases of the virus continue to spread across the state.

California, which has recorded an average of 500 daily virus-related deaths over the past week, will soon become the state with the highest number of coronavirus deaths, overtaking New York.

For months, far-right activists across the country have rallied against mask-wearing rules, trade lockdowns, curfews and local public health officials, presenting the government’s response to the virus as an intrusion into individual freedoms. But as masks and lockdowns become an increasingly common part of American life, some protesters have shifted their anti-government anger to Covid-19 vaccines.

Last week, at Dodger Stadium, the same small but vocal group of protesters who had previously held anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests in the Los Angeles area disrupted a mass vaccination site that averages 6,120 shots per day. About 50 protesters – some carrying signs saying “Don’t be a lab rat!” and ‘Covid = Scam’ – walked to the entrance and forced Los Angeles firefighters to shut down the city-run site for about an hour.

The disruption illustrates the increasingly confrontational inclination of some of the state’s vaccine opponents, who have long argued that mandatory school vaccine laws are overbroad by the government. Many were already skeptical of the science of vaccines, having read disinformation sites online claiming childhood vaccines to be responsible for autism, a claim long disproved.

In California, the anti-vaccine movement has been popular for decades among Hollywood celebrities and wealthy parents, gaining momentum when state lawmakers passed one of the country’s toughest mandatory vaccination laws for children. in 2015. Previously, parents had chosen not to be vaccinated by requesting exemptions. claiming that the vaccines conflicted with their personal beliefs, but the law ruled out that option. The popularity of these exemptions has led to vaccination rates dropping to 80% or less in public and private schools and preschools in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and other affluent communities in the Los Angeles area.

“Anti-vaccine attitudes are as old as vaccines themselves,” said Richard M. Carpiano, who is a professor of public policy and sociology at the University of California at Riverside and who studies the anti-vaccine movement. “The other thing that has to do with that is the wellness movement, this idea that the natural is better. There is a broader type of distrust in Big Pharma, healthcare, and the medical professions. There is a real market of discontent that these groups can sort of grab hold of. “

During the time of Covid-19 in California, vaccine opponents increasingly aligned themselves with pro-Trump, working class people at times keen to adopt extreme tactics to express their beliefs.

Anti-vaccine campaigners in the state have been aggressive at times for a long time. But over the past two years and over the months of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in confrontational and threat tactics.

They assaulted a lawmaker in Sacramento and shed menstrual blood on lawmakers in State Capitol Senate chambers in 2019, and last spring they helped pressure the Orange County health official to quash ‘he resigns by publicly revealing the home address of the manager. Last month, two weeks before the stadium vaccination protest, a group of women threatened lawmakers during a budget hearing on Capitol Hill, telling senators they were “not shooting your bullet” and that they “hadn’t bought weapons for nothing”.

“I think what is of most concern is that they are escalating,” said State Senator Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Democrat who drafted an immunization law. Mr. Pan was punched in the back in 2019 by an anti-vaccine activist and was likely the target of the Senate chamber blood incident that year.

“This movement not only disseminates false or misinformed vaccine information or vaccine lies, which in itself can be harmful, but they also aggressively intimidate, threaten and intimidate people who try to share accurate vaccine information. “, did he declare.

Protesters who attended and helped organize the Dodger Stadium protest said they did not attempt to enter the site and did not block the entrance. They accused the firefighters of overreacting to their presence and shutting the doors, and said their aim was to educate those awaiting vaccinations, but not to prevent them from driving to the inside to get vaccinated.

One of the protesters, a 48-year-old actor whose first name is Nick and who asked that his last name not be released due to the death threats the group had received, said he did not believe that ‘none of the protesters were part before. anti-vaccine groups established in the state. “It’s all due to this whole Covid-19 crisis,” he said. “It started with wearing the mask and has evolved into concern about the vaccine now. It’s all about civil liberties.

Main organizer Jason Lefkowitz, 42, comedian and waiter at a Beverly Hills restaurant, said the catalyst for the stadium protest was the death of baseball legend Hank Aaron, who died aged 86 January 22. .

Mr Aaron was vaccinated against the coronavirus in Atlanta on January 5, and anti-vaccine activists including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have used his death to make a connection. The Fulton County medical examiner said there was no evidence he had an allergic or anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine.

“I am not a violent person,” Mr. Lefkowitz said. “No one in my group is violent or physical or anything, but there are a lot of people who don’t want to take this vaccine or be forced into it.

No one was arrested, but city officials, including the police chief, were troubled by the symbolism and global headlines – that a small group of vaccine opponents had temporarily shut down one from the largest vaccination sites in the country and walked and chanted without a mask. among older residents waiting in their cars for their immunization appointments.

“The optic of this is that it turned out that the protesters may have symbolically interfered with that line, and I think we have a greater public responsibility to ensure that this symbolism is not repeated,” said the chef Michel R. Moore in Los Angeles. Police commission in a virtual meeting.

Protesters planned to return to Dodger Stadium and were more spurred on by the attention than disheartened by social media criticism. Mr Lefkowitz said after the fire department closed the doors, he immediately took this as a positive sign for his group.

“They’re helping us indirectly, because now I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s going to be in the news,'” Lefkowitz said.

The ease with which many protesters have shifted from anti-mask ideology to anti-vaccine ideology was highlighted in a Facebook livestream.

A protester at the site, Omar Navarro, a frequent Republican challenger to Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, told his Facebook viewers that he was “ 100% sure ” that the electoral fraud led to the victory of the President Biden, touted the effort to recall the Democrat. California Governor Gavin Newsom and called Democrats a “real bug.”

“They want to cheat us,” Mr. Navarro said in the video. “They want to control us. They want to put this muzzle on our face, this mask, which I don’t use.

One of Southern California’s most prominent anti-vaccine activists, lawyer Leigh Dundas, spoke at a rally in Washington the day before the riot on Capitol Hill and posted videos to the media social as she stood in front of the building on January 6, shouting: “It’s still 1776!”

In May, Ms Dundas led a campaign to expel Orange County health director Dr Nichole Quick for his mask order, which was unpopular in the historically conservative county. Dr Quick has received death threats and received a security detail. During a supervisory board meeting, Ms Dundas ridiculed Dr Quick’s credentials, announced her home address, and said she was going to ask people to do calisthenics with masks at his front door, and when people start dropping like flies, and they do, I’m going to have every first responder within a 30 mile radius to roll the lights and sirens to his front door. entrance.

Dr Quick resigned almost two weeks later.

Kenneth Austin Bennett, the activist who attacked Mr. Pan, the state senator, has been charged with battery misdemeanor and was scheduled to be arraigned again in a few weeks. Rebecca Dalelio, who was arrested after shedding blood from the Senate gallery, has been charged with felony assault on a public official and criminal vandalism and has a preliminary hearing this month. A spokeswoman for State Senator Toni G. Atkins, president pro tempore of the Senate, said a report was filed with law enforcement after women made threatening gun-related remarks in January.

Dr Pan said the lack of arrests at the Dodger Stadium protest suggested anti-vaccine extremists would feel emboldened.

“There’s a story of people intimidating and intimidating, and there’s very little consequence in doing that, and so they escalate, and they escalate, and they escalate,” he said. .

Jan Hoffman contribution to reports.

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Video: White House will send vaccines directly to pharmacies

TimesVideoWhite House to send vaccines directly to pharmacies The Biden administration said on Tuesday it will allocate a minimum of 10.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to states over the next three weeks, and will also send some doses directly to pharmacies Retail.

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Even in the poorest neighborhoods, the rich are lining up for vaccines

“It looked like Ward 3 might have been punished for being more computer savvy,” said Mary Cheh, a city council member representing the ward, where houses in neighborhoods near the American University or the Potomac River regularly sell for over $ 2 million. “I was inundated with emails from people who were really angry about this.”

The day after the policy change, Ms Cheh wrote to her constituents, citing vaccine data and saying that “our desire to get one right now should not interfere with the pursuit of equitable vaccine distribution.”

“When I sent this note, people said, ‘Oh thank you, I understand now,’” Ms. Cheh said. Yet she called the city’s new system a “very brutal instrument” and said it would be fairer to base needs on an individual’s risk and not on that of an entire neighborhood.

Adora Iris Lee, 70, lives in one of Washington’s priority neighborhoods – Congress Heights, which is part of Ward 8 in the district’s southern area, which is heavily black and has had the highest number of Covid deaths. She said she still spent more than three hours on standby but secured appointments for herself and her 93-year-old mother.

“Being able to call at our designated time – I felt good about that,” Ms. Lee said. “People who live in Ward 3 and those who live in Ward 8 have different social realities. This is no joke for us.

Yet Mr Jones, of Bread for the City, said that even with the new system, hardly any of the people coming to his clinic for vaccinations were his regular patients. The clinic has started reaching out to its regulars and, with permission from the city, reserved all of its first doses for them and for clients of other social service agencies last week.

“It’s not just about saving places for people,” Jones said. “Somehow we have to persuade them to use these spots.”

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Good news about vaccines

By these measures, all five vaccines – from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson – look extremely good. Of the roughly 75,000 people who received any of the five in a research trial, not one died from Covid, and only a few people appear to have been hospitalized. None of them remained hospitalized 28 days after receiving an injection.

To put this in perspective, it’s helpful to reflect on what Covid has done so far to a representative group of 75,000 American adults: it has killed around 150 and sent several hundred more to hospital. . Vaccines reduce those numbers to zero and almost zero, based on research trials.

Zero is not even the most relevant reference. A typical influenza season in the United States kills between 5 and 15 in 75,000 adults and hospitalizes more than 100.

I guess you would agree that any vaccine that turns Covid into something much milder than a typical flu deserves to be called effective. But that’s not the scientific definition. When you read that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66% effective or the Novavax vaccine was 89% effective, those numbers refer to the prevention of all diseases. They view the mild symptoms as failure.

“When it comes to serious outcomes, which is what we really care about, the news is fantastic,” said Dr. Aaron Richterman, infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.

What about the highly contagious new virus variants that have emerged in Britain, Brazil and South Africa? The South African variant appears to make vaccines less effective at clearing infections.

Fortunately, there is no indication yet that this increases the number of deaths among those vaccinated. Two of the five vaccines – from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax – reported results from South Africa, and none of the people who received a vaccine died from Covid. “People are still not seriously ill. They still don’t die, ”Dr. Rebecca Wurtz of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health told me.

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Why some vaccines still contract the coronavirus

Reports scattered across the country can sound like a cruel irony: someone tests positive for the coronavirus even though they have already received one or both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

It happened to at least three members of Congress recently:

But it has also been reported in people from other walks of life, including Rick Pitino, a Hall of Fame basketball coach and a nurse in California.

Experts say cases like these are not surprising and do not indicate there was a problem with the vaccines or the way they were administered. Here’s why.

  • Vaccines do not work instantly. It takes a few weeks for the body to acquire immunity after receiving a dose. And the vaccines currently in use in the United States, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both require a second injection a few weeks after the first to achieve full effectiveness.

  • They also do not operate retroactively. You may already be infected and not know it when you receive the vaccine – even if you have recently tested negative. This infection may continue to develop after you receive the vaccine, but before its protection fully sets in, and then show up in a positive test result.

  • Vaccines prevent disease, but maybe not infection. Covid vaccines are authorized based on their ability to prevent you from getting sick, needing hospitalization, and dying. Scientists don’t yet know how effective vaccines are at preventing the coronavirus from infecting you in the first place or at preventing you from passing it on to others. (This is why those vaccinated should continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing.)

  • Even the best vaccines aren’t perfect. The efficacy rates of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are extremely high, but they are not 100%. With the virus still spreading uncontrollably in the United States, some of the millions of people recently vaccinated were still susceptible to infection.