Graph shows how US COVID-19 spikes track strongly with the places where people are refusing vaccinations

coronavirus vaccine eu
A coronavirus vaccine.

  • COVID-19 cases are falling where most people are vaccinated, and vice versa, The Washington Post found.
  • Vaccination rates are lower in southern US states.
  • 43.7% of the US population is now fully vaccinated.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Coronavirus cases in the US are rising in areas that have lower vaccination rates, a Washington Post analysis found.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Post produced a quadrant graph that shows the number of COVID-19 cases dropping where most people have been vaccinated, and increasing in many areas where they haven’t been:

Some 43.7% of the US population has been fully vaccinated – meaning they have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot, or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine – and 52.5% has received at least one dose, the CDC said.

Vaccination rates are lower in southern states, the data shows.

Experts told The Post that they are concerned about what will happen in these areas as people mingle. All US states have loosened or removed their lockdown restrictions over the past few weeks.

The Post’s analysis comes as the US edges near recording 600,000 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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A federal judge just ruled against over 100 Houston hospital workers who will be fired if they don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine

houston methodist hospital
Medical workers and pedestrians cross an intersection outside of the Houston Methodist Hospital on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

  • A federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed by over 100 Houston Methodist employees.
  • The workers alleged the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate forced them to be “human guinea pigs.”
  • The judge said the workers were not being forced or coerced to take a vaccine.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit from more than 100 hospital employees who sued Houston Methodist over its policy requiring all staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The workers alleged in their lawsuit that the hospital was “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.” They also accused the hospital of violating the Nuremberg Code of 1947, likening the vaccine mandate to Nazi medical experimentation on concentration camp prisoners.

US District Judge Lynn Hughes was not sympathetic to either argument, writing in his order of dismissal Saturday evening that none of the employees were forced or coerced to take the vaccine. He also noted that the hospital cannot violate the Nuremberg Code because it is a private employer, not a government.

“Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” Hughes wrote. “Nazi doctors conducted medical experiments on victims that caused pain, mutilation, permanent disability, and in many cases, death.”

He added that the workers were free to accept or reject a vaccine and that they would “simply need to work elsewhere” if they chose the latter.

“If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or other directive, he may be properly fired. Every employment includes limits on the worker’s behavior in exchange for his remuneration,” Hughes wrote. “That is all part of the bargain.”

The lawyer representing the hospital staff, Jared Woodfill, told Insider in a statement he intends to appeal the ruling to a federal appeals court and to the US Supreme Court if necessary.

“This is just one battle in a larger war to protect the rights of employees to be free from being forced to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition for employment,” Woodfill said. “Employment should not be conditioned upon whether you will agree to serve as a human guinea pig.”

The hospital has already suspended 178 workers who have missed the vaccine deadline

houston methodist
The exterior of the Houston Methodist Hospital is seen on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Houston Methodist made national headlines earlier this year when it announced it would require its 26,000 employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by June 7.

“Those who are not vaccinated by that date face suspension and eventual termination,” the hospital said in a FAQ page published in April.

The hospital’s policy also contained exemptions for workers with sincerely held religious beliefs and certain medical conditions, including pregnancy.

Since then, the hospital system has suspended 178 workers who didn’t meet the vaccination deadline. They will be fired if they aren’t vaccinated by June 21.

The lawsuit called the COVID-19 vaccines “experimental,” and noted that none have been granted full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA has granted “emergency use authorization” to the three major vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

Each of the vaccines have undergone rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants. Pfizer and BioNTech have already applied for full approval of their vaccine and Moderna has announced plans to apply soon.

In a statement to Insider, Houston Methodist’s president and CEO, Dr. Marc Boom, praised the hospital system’s 26,000 employees who received the vaccine.

“Our employees and physicians made their decisions for our patients, who are always at the center of everything we do,” he said. “We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation.”

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Young people are experiencing rare cases of heart inflammation after getting coronavirus vaccines, but doctors say the risk of COVID-19 is far greater

pfizer vaccine us
Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Young people who got COVID-19 vaccines have reported higher rates of heart inflammation.
  • The CDC is investigating whether there’s a link between the Pfizer and Moderna shots and these events.
  • Even if there is a link, doctors said, the risk from COVID-19 is far greater than from the vaccines.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Young people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccines have reported higher-than-usual rates of heart inflammation and swelling, US health officials said on Thursday.

The findings are preliminary and come from a self-reported database of side effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t confirmed a link to the vaccines, though researchers are investigating these incidents of heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, and heart swelling, known as pericarditis.

The CDC said it planned to convene an advisory group to discuss the issue on June 18. Earlier this month, Israel’s health ministry said there was a “probable link” between Pfizer’s vaccine and heart-muscle inflammation in young men.

In interviews with Insider on Thursday, cardiologists and infectious-disease specialists said the risk from the vaccine is still tiny compared with the potential damage from getting infected with the coronavirus. Not all experts are convinced there’s a link between the events and the shots.

“It’s not a no-brainer that there’s an association, because the season for getting myocarditis is around now,” Dr. Lorry Rubin, the director of pediatric infectious diseases at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center, told Insider.

A group of viruses called enteroviruses is the most common cause of myocarditis, Rubin said. Those viruses typically circulate in the summer.

“That’s not the sole cause, but that’s the most common infectious trigger for myocarditis, and that’s more of a seasonal infection,” he said.

All three experts agreed that getting vaccinated, even for young and healthy men and boys, is still the best option.

“You definitely should choose vaccination in that age group because it’s safer than wild-type virus infection,” said Dr. Leslie Cooper, a cardiologist who specializes in myocarditis at the Mayo Clinic.

Coronavirus vaccine Moderna trial college students transmission study
A student getting his first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Early reporting shows more heart side effects than expected

The preliminary data suggests elevated rates of the heart issues among younger vaccinated people, ages 16 to 24. At a Food and Drug Administration advisory meeting on Thursday, CDC officials shared data that included about 12 million doses given to people in this age range. CDC officials said that they would typically expect to see 10 to 102 cases of these heart events in this group but that 275 confirmed cases had been reported.

Most of these cases came after the second dose and were commonly reported in men, according to the preliminary data. The CDC said it was still confirming and investigating these self-reported cases.

The most common symptoms were chest pain and elevated levels of cardiac enzymes. Most of these cases were short-lived; at least 81% of people had already fully recovered from their symptoms, according to the data.

Even if the cases are linked to the vaccine, experts said, the greater risk, by far, is COVID-19.

“We’re talking about an incidence of myocarditis from the vaccine that is 100 times lower than the incidence when you actually get the infection,” Dr. Eliot Peyster, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told Insider. “So, yes, it’s probably twice as likely as people who don’t get the vaccine, in a vacuum. But we aren’t in a vacuum. We’re in a pandemic where young people who get the virus get myocarditis in about one in 300 cases.”

Peyster cited a study of college athletes that found that roughly one in 300 had myocarditis after recovering from COVID-19.

The incidence rate among younger people who got the COVID-19 vaccine is still being determined, CDC officials said on Thursday. The agency said it would have more data to present at another meeting next Friday.

Pfizer Vaccine Transport
A vial of Pfizer’s vaccine.

A strong immune response to the vaccine could be the culprit

The Pfizer and Moderna shots both use messenger RNA, a new technology that had not been used in a federally approved medicine before the pandemic. Despite its newness, experts said they didn’t think these cases stemmed from something unique to the technology.

Peyster said he would guess it was from a robust inflammatory response to the vaccine, particularly after the second dose.

“Any systemic inflammatory condition – any kind – can generate enough inflammatory stuff where you can actually get a little bit of heart-muscle damage just through systemic inflammation,” he said.

While more than 140 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, the concerns about younger people come as the vaccines start to be used in younger populations. Pfizer’s vaccine was OK’d last month for children as young as 12 years old. Moderna applied for a similar authorization on Thursday.

Not enough shots have been given and tracked in the 12-to-15-year-old population to know whether these heart side effects could be a concern for that age group. Both vaccine developers have said they’re testing their shots in even younger children and infants.

kid pfizer vaccine
A teen receiving Pfizer’s vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Melbourne, Florida.

Experts guess that heart side effects will be less common in younger children

Rubin said he didn’t think there was reason for concern among parents deciding whether to get their children vaccinated.

“We don’t know if there’s a causal relationship, and it appears that the rate is low given the millions of people in the 12-to-25-year-old age group who have gotten this vaccine,” he said.

Peyster said he expected that these heart side effects would decrease among the younger ages. Given the history of myocarditis, he said, it’s likely the incidence rate will peak with young adults and adolescents.

The medical experts were unequivocal that the vaccine is clearly the best option overall, for all age groups.

“The evidence says you are much more likely to have heart inflammation from the virus than from the vaccine, even in young, healthy people,” Peyster said. “Therefore, the clear recommendation is vaccine is better than no vaccine.”

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Millions of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are set to expire this month, and states are scrambling to use up their stockpiles or send them abroad

johnson & johnson vaccine
Nurse Elizabeth Johnson administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Melissa Mendez in Reading, Pennsylvania.

  • States are racing to use up Johnson & Johnson vaccines set to expire later this month, per multiple reports.
  • Ohio, which has 200,000 doses set to expire, says it can’t send shots abroad or to other states.
  • Public opinion of the jab has soured after reports of blood clots and manufacturing problems.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Millions of Johnson & Johnson vaccines are set to expire in June, and thousands could be wasted because fewer and fewer Americans are getting vaccinated, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Some states have considered shipping excess doses to other states or even overseas, but said they faced legal and logistical hurdles.

The J&J vaccine is easier to transport, store, and administer than other vaccines. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is the only single-dose vaccine authorized in the US, and can also be stored in a regular refrigerator for up to three months. But public opinion of the jab has soured, following reports that it could cause blood clots in very rare cases, and that a factory in Baltimore producing the vaccine ruined up to 15 million doses and failed to meet sanitation protocols.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated the blood clot concerns in April, it told states to pause use of Johnson & Johnson’s shot. This, combined with the overall decline in vaccinations in the US and the public’s hesitancy towards Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, has left states with millions of doses due to expire this month – and few people willing to take them.

Most Americans don’t get to choose which vaccine they receive, but some pharmacies only offer certain brands, so people may choose their pharmacy accordingly.

CDC data shows that just 53% of Johnson & Johnson vaccines delivered to states have been administered, compared to 83% for Moderna and 84% for Pfizer. Just over 10 million Johnson & Johnson are still waiting to be given out, largely due to the decline in vaccination rates and the FDA-mandated pause.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday that the state had around 200,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine set to expire on June 23, while Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Arkansas’ state epidemiologist, said on June 2 that it was pausing new vaccine orders because it already had up to 60,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine set to expire this month.

Dillaha told 5 News that overall demand for vaccines was dropping in Arkansas – but that the Johnson & Johnson shot was the least sought after.

Other states, including Michigan and Philadelphia, have reported similar problems – but they’ve struggled to shift excess doses elsewhere.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Health told The Journal that it had worked with the CDC to try to transfer Chester County’s 50,000 expiring Johnson and Johnson doses to Oregon. The deal fell through when Oregon said there wasn’t enough demand for the jab, officials told The Journal.

Ohio said it was not legally able to send the vaccine abroad or to other states, and said it had been “aggressively” working with vaccine providers to use as many doses as possible before they expire.

Nearly two-thirds of adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But, as more people get the shot, the rate of vaccination is dropping, falling from a peak of 4.3 million on April 1 to a current average of less than 1 million a day.

“There is a very, very small fraction of doses that have been sent out to states that will ultimately not be used,” Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic adviser, said Tuesday, per The Times. He added that the FDA was looking into ways to extend the vaccine’s shelf life.

Both states and companies have been offering incentives to drive vaccination rates up, including free doughnuts, entry in a $1 million lottery draw, and $100 saving bonds.

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Biden acknowledged Trump’s role in the vaccine rollout as he urged skeptics to get the shot

biden vaccine
President Joe Biden getting a coronavirus vaccine.

  • Biden acknowledged Trump’s role in the US’s successful coronavirus vaccination program.
  • He noted that vaccines were authorized under Trump, and credited both parties.
  • Biden is trying to boost vaccine take-up, and Republicans are less likely to get the shot.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden acknowledged former President Donald Trump’s role in the coronavirus vaccine rollout as he encouraged more people to get vaccinated.

He said on Wednesday, according to CNN: “The science was done under Democratic and Republican administrations. Matter of fact, the first vaccines were authorized under a Republican president and widely developed by a Democratic president.”

Biden is trying to reach his target of getting one dose of a vaccine to at least 70% of Americans by July 4.

Republicans and Trump supporters have been less likely to get vaccinated.

Trump and his allies have complained that he doesn’t get enough credit for the US success in manufacturing and administering vaccines.

The Moderna vaccine was a major beneficiary of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed program. The former president also tried to take credit for the Pfizer vaccine, though that drugmaker did not take part in the program.

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Over 100 employees sued a Houston hospital for requiring COVID-19 vaccines, saying they were forced to be ‘human guinea pigs’

covid vaccine
A child receives a Covid-19 vaccine on May 13, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

  • More than 100 workers are suing Houston Methodist Hospital over its vaccine mandate.
  • The staffers allege the hospital is violating the Nuremberg Code against human experimentation.
  • The hospital says the vaccines are not “experimental” and have been shown to be safe and effective.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dozens of workers at Houston Methodist Hospital have sued their employer over a policy requiring them to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, includes the names of more than 100 staffers and alleged that the hospital was “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

Houston Methodist made national headlines earlier this year when it announced it would require its 26,000 employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by June 7.

“Those who are not vaccinated by that date face suspension and eventual termination,” the hospital said in a FAQ page published in April. The hospital’s policy also contained exemptions for workers with sincerely held religious beliefs, and certain medical conditions, including pregnancy.

The lawsuit called the COVID-19 vaccines “experimental,” and noted that none have been granted full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. Instead, the FDA has granted “emergency use authorization” to the three major vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

Each of the vaccines have undergone rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants. Pfizer and BioNTech have already applied for full approval of their vaccine and Moderna has announced plans to apply soon.

The workers allege the hospital is violating the Nuremberg Code against human experimentation

moderna vaccine
A container of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 21, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

The lawsuit against Houston Methodist cited the Nuremberg Code of 1947, regarding medical ethics around consent and experimentation, saying workers had a “right to avoid the imposition of human experimentation.”

“Shockingly, [Houston Methodist’s] policy memo fails to recognize, appreciate, or identify that the ‘mandatory immunization’ and ‘vaccination program’ requires the employee to be injected with an experimental vaccine that has not been approved by the FDA.” the lawsuit said.

A Houston Methodist spokesperson told Insider in a statement that 99% of the network’s employees have already been fully vaccinated and that the hospital is “extremely proud of our employees for doing the right thing and protecting our patients from this deadly virus.”

The statement also noted that there’s precedent for a mandatory vaccination policy at the hospital.

“It is unfortunate that the few remaining employees who refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first are responding in this way,” the statement said. “It is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines, as we have done with the flu vaccine since 2009. The COVID-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental.”

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Friday released updated guidance on vaccine mandates, noting that federal laws allow employers to require COVID-19 vaccines for workers who are physically present at the workplace – so long as the employers also include accommodations such as religious and medical exemptions.

The lawsuit against Houston Methodist alleged that the hospital has “arbitrarily denied” some employees’ requests for religious and medical exemptions.

The lawsuit requested that a judge order a temporary injunction to prevent the hospital from taking action against non-compliant employees while the case is litigated.

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One chart shows how COVID-19 vaccines stack up against 4 worrisome variants, including the one found in India

India vaccine
Medical workers administer COVID-19 vaccines in Mumbai, India, April 13, 2021.

Sixteen months into the pandemic, half of all US adults have been vaccinated, and the number of new daily coronavirus cases has fallen below 30,000 for the first time since June.

But infections involving worrisome coronavirus variants continue to pop up. Some of these mutated strains are more transmissible than earlier versions of the virus, while others can partially evade antibodies developed in response to prior infections. So concerns linger about how well the authorized COVID-19 vaccines work against these variants.

Earlier this year, lab studies exposed blood samples from vaccinated people to the variants first found in South Africa and Brazil. The results showed that the samples generated fewer protective antibodies that could neutralize those variants than they did when exposed to the original virus.

But as more people get vaccinated, real-world data has started to trickle in from areas where these pernicious variants dominate. This offers a better look at how well leading shots work at preventing symptomatic infections. And the results are promising: none of the variants that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization are monitoring can fully evade vaccines. Plus, reduced antibody responses haven’t necessarily translated into poorer protection against infection.

The COVID-19 vaccines even seem to work against a group of variants discovered in India this winter, called B.1.617, which likely contributed to the country’s coronavirus surge. Data from the UK government, obtained by the Financial Times, suggest that two doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines offer a high degree of protection against B.1.617.

The chart below summarizes what we know so far about how well five vaccines work to protect people from four of the most worrisome coronavirus variants.

Comparing worrisome coronavirus variants

Countless versions of the coronavirus circulate worldwide, each separated by a small number of genetic mutations. Once a slew of mutations makes a particular strain better at infecting people, deadlier, or more able to evade the antibodies generated from a vaccine or previous infection, geneticists label it a variant of concern.

There are four of these, according to the WHO: B.1.1.7, the variant initially found in the UK in September; P.1, which was discovered in December; B.1.351, which was detected in samples from South Africa dating back to October; and B.1.617, a group of strains first spotted in India this winter.

The first three share a mutation that affects the shape of the virus’ spike protein, which it uses to invade cells. That may be why these variants are more transmissible.

Studies have found that the B.1.1.7 variant is 50% to 70% more contagious than its viral predecessors. Recent evidence also suggests that people infected with this variant face a higher risk of death than those who get other strains. One potential reason is that people infected with B.1.1.7 tend to have higher viral loads, meaning they produce more viral particles when they’re infected.

The same goes for the P.1 variant, which is 40% to 120% more transmissible than earlier versions of the virus and possibly deadlier, though more research is needed to confirm that. An April study found that people who got COVID-19 in Manaus, Brazil were nearly twice as likely to die after P.1 came to dominate the viral landscape in Brazil. But it’s unclear whether that higher mortality rate is linked to the variant or the overburdened hospital system in Manaus. P.1 has been detected in 51 countries.

The B.1.351 variant, meanwhile, is estimated to be 50% more transmissible and has been found in 92 countries. But studies have not found it to be more lethal than the original virus.

The variant first found in India, B.1.617, is in fact four distinct strains, according to the CDC. The quickest spreader of the lot is B.1.617.2, which has spread to 50 countries and is now the dominant form of the virus in the UK. That strain has a combination of mutations that help it bind more tightly to cells and enable it to partially evade antibodies developed in response to an infection with the original coronavirus. There’s no evidence these variants are deadlier, but the WHO has said B.1.617 could be more transmissible.

Vaccines hold up well against variants

coronavirus india pandemic
Ambulance staff wait for permission to enter Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospital in New Delhi, India, on April 21, 2021.

The leading shots may still be slightly less effective against variants than against the original virus, but so far, it seems like they still protect people.

“There’s a degree of reduction of efficacy, but it’s going to be manageable,” John Moore, an immunologist at Weill Cornell Medical College, told STAT. “It’s why we call these ‘variants of concern,’ and not ‘variants of mass panic.'”

Some shots seem to perform better than others, though – particularly against against the B.1.351 and P.1 strains. A recent study from Qatar found that the Pfizer vaccine is 75% effective at stopping B.1.351 infections in the real world, while the AstraZeneca shot’s effectiveness dropped to 10% in some South Africa trials. China’s Sinovac vaccine, meanwhile, was found to be about 50% effective at stopping symptomatic COVID-19 in Brazil, where three-quarters of the infections were due to the P.1 variant.

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Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine is effective in teens, and the biotech plans to apply in early June for an expanded OK

Coronavirus vaccine Moderna trial college students transmission study
A coronavirus vaccine trial volunteer receives a shot.

  • Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine likely works in teens, according to study results that the biotech plans to submit to regulators next month.
  • The vaccine could become the second OK’d for people as young as 12.
  • Teens in Moderna’s study had similar immune responses as adults who received the shot.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine appears to be highly protective in 12-to-17-year-olds, the Massachusetts biotech said Tuesday in a press release, paving the way for the shot to be given widely to adolescents as soon as next month.

If regulators give the green light, Moderna’s vaccine would be the second COVID-19 shot to be authorized for people as young as 12, after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Both vaccine developers are studying their shots in even younger populations.

Read more: One slide lays out Pfizer’s busy 2021 plans for its COVID-19 vaccine, including when it could start being used in kids

Moderna enrolled more than 3,700 people between the ages of 12 and 17 in a clinical study. Two-thirds of the volunteer received two doses of Moderna’s vaccine. The other third received placebo injections.

Adults and children had similar immune responses to the shot, Moderna says

The main goal of the study was to measure the immune responses of participants, comparing their reactions to what was seen in adult volunteers. Moderna said Tuesday the study was successful in showing those immune responses were comparable between age groups, and that it plans to submit that information to regulators early next month.

Pfizer and BioNTech used a similar study to win authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration to provide their shot to adolescents.

The Moderna study counted how many people got sick with symptomatic cases of COVID-19, starting two weeks after the second vaccine dose. Four adolescents had COVID-19 cases in that period, and all of them received the placebo.

The study’s results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Moderna described the safety and tolerability of the vaccine as “generally consistent” with the adult trial. The most common side effects after the second shot were headache, fatigue, muscle pain, and chills.

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Soaring stocks in pharma giants has minted these 9 new ‘vaccine billionaires,’ according to a report

Stephane Bancel
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.

  • Nine people have become “vaccine billionaires” since the start of the pandemic, a report said.
  • They include Moderna and BioNTech’s CEOs, plus execs at Chinese vaccine maker CanSino Biologics.
  • Their wealth could pay to vaccinate 776 million people in low-income countries, the report said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The successful development of COVID-19 vaccines has created at least nine new billionaires since the start of the pandemic, according to a new report by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

These include a range of scientists and executives at vaccine makers including Moderna, CanSino Biologics, and BioNTech, the report said.

It said soaring stocks in pharma giants – fueled by investors who expect huge profits from COVID-19 vaccines – had driven the surge in wealth.

Read more: Anti-vaxxers aren’t the problem. Why our plan to get the rest of America vaccinated is wrong – and what we should be doing instead.

According to the report, which used data from Forbes, the nine new vaccine billionaires are:

  1. Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of American vaccine maker Moderna, who is now worth $4.3 billion.
  2. Ugur Sahin, the CEO and co-founder of German vaccine maker BioNTech, which worked alongside Pfizer on its COVID-19 vaccine. Sahin is now worth $4 billion.
  3. Timothy Springer, an immunologist and founding investor of Moderna, who is now worth $2.2 billion.
  4. Noubar Afeyan, Moderna’s Chairman, who is now worth $1.9 billion.
  5. Juan Lopez-Belmonte, the Chairman of ROVI, a Spanish biotech company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine, who is now worth $1.8 billion.
  6. Robert Langer, a scientist and founding investor in Moderna, who is now worth $1.6 billion.
  7. Zhu Tao, a co-founder and chief scientific officer at Chinese vaccine maker CanSino Biologics, who is now worth $1.3 billion
  8. Qiu Dongxu, a co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics, who is now worth $1.2 billion
  9. Mao Huinhoa, also a co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics, who is now worth $1 billion

The nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, the Alliance said, which it claimed was more than enough to fully vaccinate 776 million people the UN says live in low-income countries.

These countries have around 10% of the world’s population – but have only received 0.2% of the global supply of vaccines so far, the Alliance said. The group, whose members include health, humanitarian, and human-rights organizations, as well as world leaders, health experts, and economists, is pushing for intellectual property protections to be removed from COVID-19 vaccines, so that they can be made available globally for free.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager, said in a press release that the creation of new billionaires while billions of people remain unvaccinated “a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease.”

“These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines,” she said. “These vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity.”

Earlier this month, the Biden administration said it would support waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines. The move, sought by developing nations, would allow other countries to manufacture vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna without fear of sanctions at the World Trade Organization, Insider’s Charles Davis reported.

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In race for vaccines, US neighbors see chance to play Washington and Beijing against each other

China El Salvador Sinovac CoronaVac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine
Workers unload the first batch of Sinovac vaccines in San Luis Talpa, El Salvador, March 28, 2021.

  • Latin America has been hit hard by COVID-19, and leaders there are rushing to vaccinate their populations.
  • Broader competition between the US, China, and Russia is seen as influencing vaccine distribution.
  • Some leaders in Latin America appear to be trying to use that competition to advance their own interests.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Latin America has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and as countries there scramble to vaccinate residents, two leaders are looking to gain geopolitical leverage.

Presidents Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras and Nayib Bukele of El Salvador have both been criticized by US officials and civil society – Hernández over drug-trafficking connections and Bukele for what is seen as an ongoing power grab.

While the US government has said it will continue to work with both governments, their leaders appear to be trying to fend off further scrutiny.

To that end, Hernández said on May 11 that he was considering setting up a trade office with China to get more vaccines, following Beijing’s suggestion that he pursue a “diplomatic bridge” to secure more doses.

Such a move would be a dramatic shift, as Honduras is one of the few countries that still officially recognizes Taiwan, which China has sought to further isolate in recent years by peeling away its allies.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández at a campaign rally, November 12, 2017.

Hernández’s comments came a month after Bukele said Beijing would donate 150,000 Sinovac vaccines on top of the 2 million El Salvador had already purchased.

Two shipments of Chinese vaccines arrived in El Salvador in April, and Bukele has given thousands of vaccines to towns in Honduras.

Efforts by leaders in the region to get vaccines reflect their “desperation” to stanch the pandemic more so than ideological leanings, Benjamin Gedan, deputy director of the Latin American program at the Wilson Center, told Insider in an email.

But Hernández and Bukele in particular seem to be seeking other benefits.

After Hernández’s brother’s conviction in the US on drug charges, Hernández’s “flirtation with China is a transparent attempt to persuade the Biden administration and federal prosecutors to stand down,” Gedan, a former director for South America on the National Security Council, tweeted last week.

In El Salvador, “Bukele’s recent overtures to Beijing coincide with a deterioration of relations with the US … due to Washington’s criticism over Bukele’s increasing authoritarianism,” said Michael Paarlberg, a professor and expert in Latin American politics at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“The Sinovac deal is a publicity boost for Bukele,” Paarlberg told Insider. “Bukele also wishes to signal to the US that El Salvador has other options.”

China’s aid to those countries indicates that “the balance is tilting in China’s favor,” Global Times, a tabloid run by the Chinese Communist Party, said last week.

‘China takes the US seriously’

China El Salvador Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine
Chinese Ambassador to El Salvador Ou Jianhong, left, and El Salvador Minister of Health Francisco Alabi in San Salvador, March 28, 2021.

China is supplying vaccines to at least 12 countries in the region – including 85% of those received by Chile, 82% by El Salvador, and 75% by both Brazil and Uruguay – R. Evan Ellis, Latin America research professor at the US Army War College, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee this month.

Argentina “regularly sends planes to Beijing to collect doses,” and Colombia, a longtime US ally, has ordered 7.5 million doses, Gedan said.

Governments in the region “will gladly” accept the US’s vaccines as its distribution effort expands, Gedan told Insider.

“Even so, China’s ‘vaccine diplomacy’ is increasing Beijing’s influence at the US’s expense,” Gedan said, adding that those deliveries “do more than burnish” China’s standing as it faces criticism elsewhere.

Beijing has sought to use that favorable sentiment to advance its interests.

After promises of Chinese vaccines, Brazil and the Dominican Republic reversed commitments to keep Chinese firm Huawei out of their 5G telecommunications networks, Ellis said.

Beijing also tried to use vaccines to pull away another Taiwanese ally, Paraguay, which Taiwan thwarted by helping Paraguay get vaccines elsewhere. (Hernández said he asked Taipei to press the US for help finding more vaccines for Honduras.)

USAID Honduras Covid-19 coronavirus aid
Honduran troops with diagnostic testing kits donated by the US Agency for International Development and the International Organization for Migration, in Tegucigalpa, April 29, 2020.

Juan Gonzalez, senior director for the Western Hemisphere on the National Security Council, said Monday that leaders in the region had asked if the US would “see negatively” their acceptance of Russian and Chinese vaccines.

“The answer is no because we need to vaccinate these populations, full stop, no conditions,” Gonzalez said in response to a question from Insider at Florida International University’s Western Hemisphere security conference.

The US has been criticized for not coordinating with Russia and China on vaccine distribution, but Gonzalez said Monday that the Biden administration was “concerned with” their attempts to use vaccines to pressure countries, citing the case of Paraguay.

“Frankly, that’s not what our citizens want from us. So we don’t see it as a competition, because when the United States pivots … in terms of our plans to share vaccines, the United States is going to be the global leader in the pandemic response, and we’re not going to ask for anything in return for those vaccines,” Gonzalez added.

Despite Chinese inroads in Latin America, Honduras and El Salvador likely won’t be able to replace Washington with Beijing. In addition to geographic proximity, both have deep political, economic, and cultural ties to the US.

Bukele’s predecessor already recognized Beijing over Taipei, and while Chinese investment there has benefited some well-connected elites, many of those projects have stalled, some due to US objections, Paarlberg said.

“Even if Bukele cares more about China than the US, China cares more about the US than it does El Salvador. And when the US puts up serious resistance … China takes the US seriously,” Paarlberg told Insider.

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