From The New York Times

As the Virus Surges, Stark Differences Over What Is Around the Corner

October 20, 2020

As the coronavirus continued to surge in many parts of the United States, officials and experts offered starkly different outlooks on Sunday about what was to come and when the situation might improve.

Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, noted that many people had grown tired of pandemic precautions, and tried to paint an optimistic picture of how much longer they would be needed.

“Hang in there with us,” he said on Sunday on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” “We’re so close. We’re weeks away from monoclonal antibodies for you, for safe and effective vaccines. We need a bridge to that day.”

As the coronavirus continued to surge in many parts of the United States, officials and experts offered starkly different outlooks on Sunday about what was to come and when the situation might improve.

Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, noted that many people had grown tired of pandemic precautions, and tried to paint an optimistic picture of how much longer they would be needed.

“Hang in there with us,” he said on Sunday on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” “We’re so close. We’re weeks away from monoclonal antibodies for you, for safe and effective vaccines. We need a bridge to that day.”

“Please,” Mr. Azar said, “give us a bit more time of your individual, responsible behavior,” referring to hand washing, wearing masks and maintaining social distance….

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Covid-19 Vaccines Are Chance at Salvation, Financial and Beyond, for Drug Makers

October 14, 2020

For a long time, drug makers have been the most hated industry in America. Companies are blamed for gouging prices on lifesaving drugs and enriching themselves through the opioid crisis, among other sins.

Now, with pharmaceutical companies racing to find vaccines to end the coronavirus pandemic, the industry is hoping to redeem itself in the public’s mind.

The primary goal, of course, is to rescue the world from the grips of a vicious virus. But a big fringe benefit is to get public credit — and to use an improved image to fend off government efforts to more heavily regulate the industry.

For a long time, drug makers have been the most hated industry in America. Companies are blamed for gouging prices on lifesaving drugs and enriching themselves through the opioid crisis, among other sins.

Now, with pharmaceutical companies racing to find vaccines to end the coronavirus pandemic, the industry is hoping to redeem itself in the public’s mind.

The primary goal, of course, is to rescue the world from the grips of a vicious virus. But a big fringe benefit is to get public credit — and to use an improved image to fend off government efforts to more heavily regulate the industry.

Consider Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest health care companies….

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Trump Scorns His Own Scientists Over Virus Data

September 17, 2020

President Trump on Wednesday rejected the professional scientific conclusions of his own government about the prospects for a widely available coronavirus vaccine and the effectiveness of masks in curbing the spread of the virus as the death toll in the United States from the disease neared 200,000.

In a remarkable display even for him, Mr. Trump publicly slapped down Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the president promised that a vaccine could be available in weeks and go “immediately” to the general public while diminishing the usefulness of masks despite evidence to the contrary.

President Trump on Wednesday rejected the professional scientific conclusions of his own government about the prospects for a widely available coronavirus vaccine and the effectiveness of masks in curbing the spread of the virus as the death toll in the United States from the disease neared 200,000.

In a remarkable display even for him, Mr. Trump publicly slapped down Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the president promised that a vaccine could be available in weeks and go “immediately” to the general public while diminishing the usefulness of masks despite evidence to the contrary.

The president’s comments put him at odds with the C.D.C., the world’s premier public health agency, over the course of a pandemic that he keeps insisting is “rounding the corner” to an end. Mr. Trump lashed out just hours after Dr. Redfield told a Senate committee that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year and that masks were so vital in fighting the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, that they may even more important than a vaccine….

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Safety Review Begins of AstraZeneca’s Vaccine Trial

September 10, 2020

Scientists on Wednesday praised the decision by AstraZeneca to suspend its late-stage coronavirus vaccine trials and begin a safety review after learning that a participant had developed a serious neurological condition. Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, testifying at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, said the step “ought to be reassuring.”

The results of the safety review, to be conducted by an independent board of experts, will help determine if the participant’s condition was a reaction to the vaccine candidate or merely coincidental, and are expected to heavily influence whether and when trials might resume.

Scientists on Wednesday praised the decision by AstraZeneca to suspend its late-stage coronavirus vaccine trials and begin a safety review after learning that a participant had developed a serious neurological condition. Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, testifying at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, said the step “ought to be reassuring.”

The results of the safety review, to be conducted by an independent board of experts, will help determine if the participant’s condition was a reaction to the vaccine candidate or merely coincidental, and are expected to heavily influence whether and when trials might resume.

But many details about the trial’s suspension and the event that triggered it remain murky. Researchers do not yet know what caused the volunteer’s symptoms, how long the evaluation process will take or what the consequences might be….

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Health Experts Warn About Perils of New Virus Data Collection System

August 12, 2020

Nearly three dozen current and former members of a federal health advisory committee, including nine appointed or reappointed by the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, are warning that the Trump administration’s new coronavirus database is placing an undue burden on hospitals and will have “serious consequences on data integrity.”

The advisers, all current or former members of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee, issued their warning in a previously unpublished letter shared with The New York Times.

Nearly three dozen current and former members of a federal health advisory committee, including nine appointed or reappointed by the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, are warning that the Trump administration’s new coronavirus database is placing an undue burden on hospitals and will have “serious consequences on data integrity.”

The advisers, all current or former members of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee, issued their warning in a previously unpublished letter shared with The New York Times.

The letter was made public as both hospital officials and independent data experts around the country were reporting kinks in the new system, which critics say is undermining the government’s ability to understand the course of the pandemic. The Covid Tracking Project, a respected and widely used resource, identified “major problems” with the new Department of Health and Human Services system in late July, and reported this week that “the federal data continue to be unreliable….”

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