A dataset containing 1 billion data points from CVS customers, including searches for medications and COVID-19 vaccines made on CVS.com, was inadvertently posted online.
Cybersecurity researcher Jeremiah Fowler discovered a non-password protected database belonging to CVS Health on March 31. Fowler posted his findings on Website Planet.
The data consisted of searches for medications, COVID-19 vaccines, and other CVS products, Fowler reported. Some searches contained email addresses and “Visitor IDs” that could have matched searches with personal identifying information.
Fowler told Forbes he did not download the full dataset for ethical reasons, as he did not want to collect personal data. The researcher added CVS took down public access to the database within one day of Fowler notifying them.
CVS said in a statement to Forbes “an unnamed third party was responsible for controlling the information.”
“The bad part about this finding was just how big it was,” Fowler told Forbes in an interview. “In a small sampling of records there were emails from all major email providers.”
CVS did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
For tens of thousands of Americans with suppressed or compromised immune systems, getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 hasn’t led to disease protection. Receiving a third vaccine dose might help fix the problem, at least for some of those patients.
A new study – conducted on patients with organ transplants who took it upon themselves to get illicit vaccine booster shots in the US – suggests that the third try may be the charm when it comes to some immunocompromised people and vaccination.
Out of the 30 patients enrolled in the study, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 12 achieved high antibody levels after the third vaccine, two patients had low but detectable antibodies, and the remaining 16 patients remained antibody negative after their third dose booster.
It didn’t really seem to matter whether the participants mixed and matched their shots. There was limited success with all different combinations of third doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (none of the patients had J&J initially).
“People want to return to their lives, and they will go to great lengths to do so: to go back to work, to go back to church, to see the grandkids,” Dr. William Werbel, an infectious disease clinician at Johns Hopkins who led the new study, said. “They were somewhere on the spectrum between frustrated and desperate.”
Hoping that a third dose might be the ticket to resuming some of their bygone activities, many rolled up their sleeves once again. Their mixed success in the third dose trial is a promising signal that COVID-19 booster shots can be safe and effective, and that the side effect profile of a third shot could be quite similar to a second.
Hundreds of transplant patients have already gotten a third vaccine dose
Werbel said there were already “hundreds” of transplant recipients around the US who’d made up their minds to get a third vaccine, even though the practice is not federally recommended.
Rather, because many transplant patients are active on a nationwide organ network that connects patients and doctors to share experiences and best practices, he already knew it was happening.
“We basically had the privilege of working with patients who said, ‘Hey, I’m going to get vaccinated next week. How can I help contribute to studying whether this works?'” Werbel said. “I have to plead somewhat ignorance about how people were doing it, because it’s not authorized that way.”
He called the new study findings, which are still preliminary, “encouraging.” But the third doses were not a smashing success, only markedly improving antibody levels in about half of the participants.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the 16 patients in the study who remained antibody negative gained no benefit from taking the third vaccine dose; antibodies aren’t the only piece of the puzzle in determining a person’s immunity to COVID-19. But it does suggest there might be something about the way their immune systems operate that isn’t giving them great vaccine protection.
“These patients take medicine specifically designed to prevent rejection of their heart, or their lung, or their kidney, whatever was given to them,” Werbel said. “These medicines are explicitly designed to reduce the potential to react to new things. That’s why patients don’t always create good response to vaccine antigens, the proteins in the vaccines.”
“It’s a little hard to generalize to the healthy population, just because the healthy population cranks out so much antibody and other immune response to these vaccines,” Werbel said.
Side effects after a third vaccine dose were similar to those experienced after a second, including mild to moderate fatigue and arm pain. One patient rejected her donated organ – a heart – seven days after her booster vaccination, but it’s unclear whether that was related to the vaccine administration. (She is now recovering.)
Werbel cautioned that it is still too soon to say how well-protected from disease these patients may be through vaccination.
“Transplant patients really shouldn’t consider themselves to be fully protected or vaccinated until we learn more, and that honestly means it’s important for people around them – really important for people around them – to get vaccinated,” he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is delaying lifting COVID-19 restrictions until more people get vaccinated against the virus.
He said at a press briefing on Monday that the restrictions will be in place until at least July 19. The restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21, but reopening has now been pushed back by four weeks.
“By Monday the 19 of July we will aim to have double jabbed two-thirds of the adult population,” Johnson said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.
Novavax shares climbed as much as 9% on Monday after the company said a late-stage study of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine showed efficacy of more than 90% in nearly 30,000 people. The results move the company closer to seeking authorization for its use in the US.
The company said it plans on filing for regulatory approval of NVX-CoV2373 with the Food and Drug Administration in the third quarter and upon receiving clearance it would remain on track to reach manufacturing capacity of 100 million doses per month by the end of the third quarter. It also foresees hitting manufacturing capacity of 150 million doses per month by the end of the fourth quarter.
Novavax traded 2% higher as of 9:55 a.m. in New York, and has now gained more than 90% year-to-date.
Novavax’s phase 3 study of 29,960 participants in 119 sites in the US and Mexico overall efficacy of 90.4% after observing 77 COVID-19 cases among the participants, with 63 in the placebo group and 14 in the vaccine group. It said the potential vaccine demonstrated 100% protection against moderate and severe disease.
The vaccine is administered in two doses and preliminary safety data from the Prevent-19 study showed the potential product to be generally well-tolerated.
“These data show consistent, high levels of efficacy and reaffirm the ability of the vaccine to prevent COVID-19 amid ongoing genetic evolution of the virus,” said Gregory Glenn, M.D., president of Research and Development at Novavax, in a statement.
The company said further analyses of the trial are ongoing and that data will be submitted to peer-review journals for publication. It also said the placebo-controlled portion of its study of 2,248 adolescents ranging from 12 years to less than 18 years of age continues.
In May, the company’s shares slid to the $121 range after Novavax said it was delaying seeking approval for its COVID-19 vaccine from three regulators, including the Food and Drug Administration, because of manufacturing issues.
The Group of Seven (G7) leaders on Sunday expressed support for a “transparent” investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, while also seeking ways to better prepare for future pandemics.
President Joe Biden joined the leaders of the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan in signing a joint summit communiqué that addressed everything from strategies to end the current pandemic to a guideline for combatting climate change and an examination of international law regarding online safety and hate speech.
The international leaders are pushing for “a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.”
The G7 also committed to giving 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in need as they continue to weather the pandemic.
In recent weeks, the debate over the origins of the coronavirus has become a huge issue among US lawmakers and several health experts who question if the coronavirus possibly originated in a lab in Wuhan, China.
However, China has refuted the claim, and Republicans have been critical of involvement by the World Health Organization regarding any possible investigation.
Last month, Biden asked for the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” in ascertaining the origins of the coronavirus after it was revealed that there was COVID-19 evidence that had not yet been analyzed, according to The New York Times
At the time, the president also requested a report on the findings to be issued in three months.
Last year’s in-person G7 summit was set to be held at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 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.
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.”
Sarah said she enjoyed the decreased stress that came while working over the pandemic, servicing emptier planes when people felt less safe flying. She added boarding back-to-front and assisting fewer passengers with their luggage made her job more efficient.
But more than a year after the pandemic, Sarah, who, like many of the other flight attendants interviewed, requested to remain anonymous to speak without fear of retaliation, said she is excited for the perks of her job – like visiting new destinations during layovers – that got put on hold.
“We want travel to come back, flight attendants probably the most,” she told Insider. “We miss traveling on our off days and we want travel to be safe for everyone.”
Got a tip? If you are a flight attendant and wish to share your experience, contact the author at email@example.com.
Though the pandemic has changed how we fly, some flight attendants are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about travel’s return
A San Francisco-based flight attendant said the job lost some of its “glamour” during the pandemic, as crew members couldn’t visit beaches and other attractions due to quarantine mandates across many US states. The flight attendant recalled packing her lunch in mid-2020 for flights because airports had closed many restaurants.
“I just had back-to-back layovers in Hawaii and, you know, crew members are not exempt from quarantine,” the flight attendant said. “In the old days, I would have been laying out my bikini, so it’s definitely a little less glamorous now that’s for sure.”
The San Francisco-based flight attendant said the job had become lonelier during the pandemic because she and other crew members could not go out for happy hours due to COVID restrictions. Some protocols have left flight attendants feeling lonelier aboard planes, too.
“I miss so much being able to smile at my passengers,” she said. “I do smile now, but you know, you can’t see it. I hope that my passengers can feel it, but I do miss being able to actually give them a real smile.”
Jenn Ayala, a flight attendant based in New Jersey, told Insider that she also feels like wearing masks had made communicating with passengers more difficult, and took a hit on the customer service part of the job.
Policing passengers over mask policies had made passengers more aggressive during the pandemic, flight attendants recently told Insider. The Federal Aviation Administration said it received 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers since January 2021. About 1,900 of the reports deal with passengers who refused to comply with the federal facemask mandate.
Per the CDC, Americans – both vaccinated and unvaccinated – still must wear masks in airports and on transportation. But airlines like United and Delta are taking harder approaches to COVID-19 safety than other private firms by requiring new flight attendants get vaccinated.
Anthony Fauci said he predicts all airlines and cruise ships will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination before getting on board.
Sarah said she feels safe flying because she knows vaccines are safe and airlines continuously filter air in the cabin.
Though she said passengers who don’t want to wear masks have been “challenging” to deal with, Sarah said she’s seeing less nervous passengers and people boarding the plane wearing hazmat suits the last few weeks – a sign that Americans are thankful to be in the air after being “cooped up” at home.
“As of right now, I’m cautiously optimistic for the future of airline travel,” Sarah said. “I’m really proud of how US airlines have handled flying during the pandemic and keeping everyone safe.”
Other flight attendants said more travel means more job stability.
One Los Angeles-based flight said another benefit for the uptick in travel is decreased fear of furloughs and layoffs.
American and United began furloughing workers on September 30 after projecting the two would layoff a combined 32,000 workers. Globally, airlines may have cut nearly 5 million jobs if travel did not rebound after COVID-19, according to an analysis by the Air Transport Action Group.
But one year later, American, Delta, United, and Southwest all announced they will hire pilots and other positions before the end of 2021. The Association of Flight Attendants union expects the number of flight attendant jobs to climb from 80,000 in June to 100,000 by 2023, Insider’s Kate Duffy reported.
“The more flying we have, the better it is for both passengers and crew members,” the LA-based flight attendant said. “I hope everything stays and we don’t have any setbacks going forward.”
One Chicago-based flight attendant told Insider she got laid off for four months during the winter, and came back on board in March. She said the state of the industry had been in such a flux that she didn’t know whether to wait until she got called back or to find another job.
She said she’s ready for airline travel to go “back to normal,” and she’s happy to see flights full again.
“I really love my job,” the flight attendant said. “I didn’t realize how much I would miss interacting with people until I was furloughed and quarantined. The furlough made me appreciate my job more.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to encourage “vaccine tourism,” where foreign citizens can visit the country to get a free Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
“There is widespread practice where business people and heads of companies come specifically to Russia to get a jab against the coronavirus,” Putin told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Moscow Times reported.
He added that he wanted “to be able to organize the conditions for foreign citizens to come to Russia and get vaccinated on a commercial basis.”
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, the organization that’s promoting Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, said on Twitter on Friday that it would be able to launch vaccine tourism by July 2021.
The country is advocating for the Sputnik V, but the vaccine is still under review by the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency. Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer “MRNA vaccines” that are popular in the US, the Sputnik V is a “viral vector vaccine” akin to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the Moscow Times‘ COVID-19 case tracker, Russia is currently reporting around 9,000 new COVID-19 cases per day.
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is ready to step out and party – well, almost.
The chair of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania hasn’t been to the theater in over a year and he says he’s “dying to go.” He’s also planning to travel to Switzerland this summer.
“How am I supposed to prove that I’ve been vaccinated?” he asks. “What I have now is a CDC cardboard piece of paper, right? It’s ridiculous.”
Emanuel says it shouldn’t be so hard for authorities to develop a reliable, relatively fraud-proof and secure driver’s license-style verification system for gauging COVID-19 immunity status. Ideally, such a system could replace the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s white vaccine cards, which are both easy to fabricate and too big to fit in standard wallets.
A vaccine license from the DMV?
Ezekiel, a former White House health policy advisor, imagines a world where “I could just have a QR code, and show it, and it would flash green,” offering permission to do all sorts of indoor activities in a secure, encrypted, and private way. It sounds like the kind of thing the DMV could pop onto a credit card-sized ID and print out.
“So, perhaps the DMV should have been in control of this?” I asked him, as I imagined the ensuing bureaucratic headaches.
“Look, you’re laughing, but … we know how to print those things,” he said.
“I want to know that everyone at work who’s going to be in a closed room with me is going to be vaccinated,” Emanuel said. “I’d love to go to the theater, but I also would love to go to the theater safely and knowing that everyone in the theater is vaccinated – you’re not allowed in the theater unless you’re vaccinated, or had COVID.”
“If anything, this vaccine is better, safer, and forestalls a worse disease than the influenza vaccine, and yet fewer are mandating it,” Emanuel said. “I think that’s unethical.”
Unvaccinated people could still be accommodated
Much like the DMV does for driver’s licenses, COVID licenses could come with different designations and exemptions.
In fact, digital immunity cards that are similar to what Emanuel imagines already exist in some places.
New York has an “Excelsior Pass” app that operates with a QR code. It shows proof of vaccination or negative test results, which can be scanned like a boarding pass at businesses or venues (it’s already being used at the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden in New York City.)
The European Union has a “Digital COVID Certificate,” which allows people to travel more freely by showing a QR code proving they’ve either been vaccinated, gotten a negative test result, or recovered from the virus. The new system is up and running in seven EU countries so far.
“You wear an N95 mask, or, we accommodate you in working from home. I mean, look, we have laws that mean you have to make reasonable accommodations for people,” he said. “These aren’t new problems.”
Even if there was a clear, secure system for keeping track of immunity, there’s still one big mystery left to settle. Scientists haven’t yet figured out how, exactly, immunity to the coronavirus works. They don’t know when a COVID-19 license might expire, or how will we know if it has.
“We’re uncertain what the expiration date is, right? All the more reason to have it electronically, where we can change them,” Emanuel said.
Leaders at Sunnyside Community Services, a non-profit center that serves neighborhoods in Queens, New York City, are well aware of the devastating toll COVID-19 has had on their community.
The coronavirus disease had killed more Queens residents than any other borough as of March 2020, when New York City became an epicenter of the pandemic. Queens has the second-highest death rate from COVID-19 among the five boroughs, according to the most recent city data.
In the area of Queens that encompasses Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Woodside, 1 in 12 people have had COVID-19 and 1 in 137 have died, according to The New York Times.
At a one-day pop-up vaccine clinic in New York City’s Sunnyside Community Services, workers said community members coming in to get a shot gave them hope about the COVID-19 pandemic’s end, but they will still work hard to ensure no vulnerable member gets left behind.
Jackie Lopez, who leads the COVID Free Queens Coalition at Sunnyside Community Services, told Insider though she feels hopeful about entering a new post-COVID era, she urged federal and state agencies to keep in mind how vulnerable communities have low vaccination rates.
Lopez said she’s heard community members say they can’t get a vaccine because they can’t take days off work if they have side effects. Black and Latino adults have a lower rate of vaccination than the average, according to the University of Minnesota. A volunteer team with the Association of American Medical Colleges said low-income neighborhoods have less access to vaccines, and these residents struggle with navigating the online sign-up processes.
“Our Black and brown communities, our immigrant communities were hit the hardest by the pandemic and we still have work to do to provide accessibility and continue to provide information,” Lopez said.
Inside a pop-up vaccine clinic in one of the hardest hit areas of COVID-19
On May 27, VIP StarNetwork, an on-demand health services company primarily for entertainment industry workers, hosted a one-day pop-up vaccine clinic at Sunnyside Community Services for one day. The May 27 pop-up vaccine site was Sunnyside Community Services’ first, and the organization has scheduled second-dose appointments for June 17.
Johonniuss Chemweno, the CEO of VIP StarNetwork, said the group has been working with the state government to bring pop-up clinics to diverse and low-income communities. VIP StarNetwork, which had been approved as a mass vaccination provider by a federal agency in February, had previously enforced COVID-19 safety protocols for Netflix and Amazon studios.
The pop-up vaccine clinic had a team of more than a dozen nurses ready to help walk-in visitors get a vaccine. The site allowed all adults and people aged 12 to 18 to get a Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Chemweno told Insider he’s seen an uptick in people under 18 coming into pop-up vaccine sites. The US began inoculating teenagers with the Pfizer vaccine in May.
Recipients were allowed to choose which vaccine they got depending on availability, Chemweno said.
Nada Elrakaivy, a COVID Free Queens Coalition outreach specialist, told Insider many community members have been hesitant about receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the CDC reported a rare blood clot had been linked to six vaccine recipients. The welcome sign outside the vaccine clinic noted noted that the site had Pfizer vaccines, and two community members asked specifically for the Pfizer vaccine when entering the pop-up site.
Community members entered Sunnyside Community Services and checked-in with Valentina Valencia, an emergency medical technician, and Sofia Mejia, a registered nurse. The two said they had enjoyed “giving back to the community that needs it” through working at with Sunnyside Community services.
After checking in, a nurse administered the vaccine to community members, and recipients had to wait about 15 minutes for observation before leaving.
Elrakaivysaid her group has been giving out free masks to Queens residents on the streets, and providing them with information on how to get a COVID-19 test and vaccine. The COVID Free Queens Coalition took down the names of food vendors, who Elrakaivy said are high-risk due to interacting with many different people daily, and made vaccine appointments for those who were interested.
The team always has a Spanish-speaking person with them to communicate with the area’s Latino community.
“For the most part, every time we ask someone if they got the vaccine, they responded with a yes,” Elrakaivy said. “So Queens is doing pretty well. Better than we expected.”
How Sunnyside Community Services workers are dealing with vaccine hesitancy
Jonah Gensler, the associate executive director of Community Services, told Insider he had been engaging with the community throughout the pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, Sunnyside Community Services held services for senior citizens, English classes for immigrant residents, and other programs for vulnerable people across Queens. Gensler said the non-profit reached with homebound seniors using their phone numbers gathered at previous Sunnyside Community Services events.
The group set up a food pantry when the pandemic hit to help struggling community members. Community Services has also hosted online town halls to get the word out about COVID-19 safety, Gensler said.
Gensler said a roadblock to getting community members vaccinated has been the hesitancy around getting a vaccine and distrust in the government, especially after wealthier areas got better access to vaccines than communities that had suffered during the height of the pandemic.
“We have heard that some community members say, ‘You know, at the height of this pandemic, when the communities in Elmhurst and Corona and Jackson Heights were suffering the most, we didn’t get all the support we needed,'” Gensler said. “And that does lead to hesitancy.”
But Lopez, the lead organizer of COVID Free Queens Coalition, said Sunnyside Community Services is uniquely positioned to increase interest in vaccines due to its active members.
She said when one community member said they were hesitant about the vaccine at a recent town hall, other community members chimed in to explain why they got the shot. One person took the vaccine to make sure a senior citizen they care for is safe, Lopez said, and one mother said they want to make sure their child is cared for.
“For us, the biggest goal is kind of bringing up those voices and those stories of why people decided to take the vaccine so that other people who are so a little bit more hesitant will be able to make those connections as well,” Lopez said.