“Delta may be our last major wave of infection as covid transitions to a more endemic virus,” said Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and Pfizer board member. “It’ll continue to evolve, probably requiring occasional updates to our vaccines every year or two, and it’s going to become a part of our lives like a second circulating flu. But we have the tools, if we use them right, and we have enough immunity already in our population now, to substantially reduce the death and severe disease it causes.”
Just a few days later, Boris Johnson gave a speech at the Conservative Party Conference alluding to his anti-obesity campaign by striking a personal chord: “I had a very common underlying condition: My friends, I was too fat.” The prime minister also mentioned he’d since lost 26 pounds. He went on to outline a vision for the future of Britain that included a healthier population, with more biking and walking.
Stateside, the U.S. government was still not raising the alarm about the link between rampant metabolic disease and greater risk. It was never part of White House messaging on the virus and the suite of policies needed to respond to the crisis — something that didn’t change when President Joe Biden took the reins, either.
“It’s not central to the discussion at all,” said Dan Glickman, who served as agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration and is now a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Glickman noted that the country’s leading voices on coronavirus, including Anthony Fauci, don’t focus on underlying conditions and what could be done about them long term. Instead, the focus is solely on vaccines, which have been proven to be safe and effective.
“They hardly ever talk about prevention,” Glickman said. “It’s missing. It’s a gigantic gap in the discussion about how health care relates to Covid and how it relates to the prevention of disease.”
As the pandemic heads into its third year, the connection to diet-related diseases and the overall vulnerability of the American population is a theme that remains absent at the highest levels of government. The only high-level Biden administration official who routinely talks about the issue is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — and he brings it up often.
Vilsack, who’s serving in the role for a second time after eight years during the Obama administration, likes to point out in his speeches, for example, that the government now spends more treating diabetes than the entire budget of the USDA, which is about $150 billion.
In an interview with POLITICO, Vilsack noted that more than half of the $380 billion per year spent treating just cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes is now picked up by the government, including through programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
“Ironically, if you could eliminate those costs you would be able to afford a $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill [without pay-fors],” he said.
“It’s a significant issue that requires elevation,” Vilsack said. “We’re moving the dials that we can move at USDA. I think, however, it takes more than that. I think it takes multiple departments focused on this and multiple leaders saying this is an issue that requires some attention.”
Dealing with diet-related diseases hasn’t been top of mind in Congress, either. For example, there’s a bipartisan bill to require Medicare to cover medications and more types of specialists to help treat obesity. The legislation has been introduced repeatedly since 2013, the year the American Medical Association formally recognized obesity as a disease, but has not gotten much traction even as major Covid aid bills have moved through Congress.
Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine physician scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School who is a key advocate for the bill, said the pandemic has sparked much more interest among lawmakers and staff, but it hasn’t yet translated into legislative action.
One of the biggest challenges, she said, is that most people still do not understand obesity is a complex disease, not something that can be blamed on or fixed by personal choices, and it often requires multidisciplinary treatment that many people do not have access to.
“We aren’t taught about obesity,” Stanford said, referring to a lack of education in medical schools. “If doctors don’t understand obesity, why would the general public? Why would policymakers?”
Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a report on the state of the country’s response to diet-related diseases, concluding that there are scattered efforts across the federal government, but there isn’t enough coordination, nor an overarching plan.
“Congress should consider identifying and directing a federal entity to lead development and implementation of a federal strategy for diet-related efforts aimed at reducing Americans’ risk of chronic health conditions,” the GAO recommended.
Jerold Mande, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a fellow at Tufts University, who served in high-level positions at FDA and USDA in the H.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations, said the report should be a gut check. “We’re not serious,” he said. “You look at the GAO report, and you conclude we’re not serious.”
The GAO identified just six “regulatory” actions the government has taken to try to combat diet-related diseases, but those policies are “largely educational” Mande noted, citing the Nutrition Facts label, which he helped design and launch during the H.W. Bush administration.
Protests in northern Greece by virulent anti-vaxxers are under way this evening. Demonstrators in Thessaloniki have been chanting: “We are living under occupation. We have to understand it in order to liberate Greece.”
The protests come amid a surge in Covid-19 infections that is causing growing alarm as the country battles a fourth wave of the pandemic blamed largely on the refusal of a significant number of Greeks to have the jab.
The public health body (EODY) announced 2,727 new cases today following a record- breaking 4,696 diagnoses on Saturday. An additional 44 Covid-related fatalities brought the death toll to just under 16,000 in a population of around 11 million.
Of the 421 people on life support, 357 (85%) are unvaccinated, or only partially inoculated, with epidemiologists speaking of an “epidemic” among those who have yet to be fully jabbed.
Anti-vaccine protests has been especially strong in northern Greece, where far-right groups have also infiltrated the movement.
Prominent frontline doctors, many of whom speak regularly about the pandemic and the need to vaccinate against Covid-19, have reportedly received death threats.
In the latest case, Theodoros Vassilakopoulos, a leading professor of respiratory and critical care medicine, was physically assaulted in a taverna on Saturday after asking the restaurant’s owners to inspect whether its clientele were in possession of Covid-19 certificates.
Organisers of the anti-vaccine protest in Thessaloniki called on participants to support the taverna’s proprietors by giving the eatery glowing reviews on social media.
UK Covid 30 October. Cases, deaths, vaccinations, hospitalisations and testing data for today.
There were 875,931 tests reported on 28 October 2021. This shows a decrease of -10.8%compared to the previous 7 days.
Between 22 October 2021 and 28 October 2021, there have been 5,818,939 tests.
A confirmed case is someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
41,278 new people had a confirmed positive test result reported on 30 October 2021.
Between 24 October 2021 and 30 October 2021, 286,011 people had a confirmed positive test result. This shows a decrease of -14.2% compared to the previous 7 days.
Vaccines are currently given in 2 doses, at least 21 days apart.
49,922,090 people had been given a first dose by the end of 29 October 2021.
45,672,948 people had been given a second dose by the end of 29 October 2021.
Some people with coronavirus have to go into hospital.
1,038 people with coronavirus went into hospital on 25 October 2021.
Between 19 October 2021 and 25 October 2021, 6,981 went into hospital with coronavirus. This shows an increase of 5.8% compared to the previous 7 days.
There were 8,983 patients in hospital with coronavirus on 28 October 2021.
Some people in the hospital need to use a special device called a mechanical ventilator to help them breathe.
There were 946 coronavirus patients in hospital beds with a mechanical ventilator on 28 October 2021.
There were 166 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus reported on 30 October 2021.
Between 24 October 2021 and 30 October 2021, there have been 1,097 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This shows an increase of 17.5% compared to the previous 7 days.
WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (Reuters) – U.S. intelligence agencies said on Friday they may never be able to identify the origins of COVID-19, as they released a new, more detailed version of their review of whether the coronavirus came from animal-to-human transmission or leaked from a lab.
The Office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said in a declassified report that a natural origin and a lab leak are both plausible hypotheses for how SARS-COV-2 first infected humans. But it said analysts disagree on which is more likely or whether any definitive assessment can be made at all.
The report also dismissed suggestions that the coronavirus originated as a bioweapon, saying proponents of this theory “do not have direct access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology” and have been accused of spreading disinformation.
The report issued on Friday is an update of a 90-day review that President Joe Biden’s administration released in August, amid intense political infighting over how much to blame China for the effects of the global pandemic rather than governments that may not have moved quickly enough to protect citizens.
China responded on Friday by criticizing the report.
“The US moves of relying on its intelligence apparatus instead of scientists to trace the origins of COVID-19 is a complete political farce,” Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said in an emailed statement.
“… It will only undermine science-based origins study and hinder the global effort of finding the source of the virus,” the statement said.
Former Republican President Donald Trump – who lost his bid for re-election as the deadly pandemic ravaged the U.S. economy – and many of his supporters referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus.”
Some U.S. spy agencies had strongly favored the explanation that the virus originated in nature. But there has been little corroboration and over recent months the virus has spread widely and naturally among wild animals.
The ODNI report said four U.S. spy agencies and a multi-agency body have “low confidence” that COVID-19 originated with an infected animal or a related virus.
But one agency said it had “moderate confidence” that the first human COVID-19 infection most likely was the result of a laboratory accident, probably involving experimentation or animal handling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
U.S. spy agencies believe they will not be able to produce a more definitive explanation for the origin of COVID-19 without new information demonstrating that the virus took a specific pathway from animals to humans or that a Wuhan laboratory was handling the virus or a related virus before COVID-19 surfaced.
The report said U.S. agencies and the global scientific community lacked “clinical samples or a complete understanding of epidemiological data from the earliest COVID-19 cases” and said it could revisit this inconclusive finding if more evidence surfaces.
China has faced international criticism for failing to cooperate more fully in investigations of COVID’s origins.
The embassy statement also dismissed that criticism.
“We have been supporting science-based efforts on origins tracing, and will continue to stay actively engaged. That said, we firmly oppose attempts to politicize this issue,” it said.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Writing by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler and Sonya Hepinstall
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
WASHINGTON — American intelligence agencies are unlikely to be able to draw a firm conclusion about the origin of the novel coronavirus without more information from China on the earliest cases or new scientific discoveries about the nature of the virus, said a newly declassified intelligence report released on Friday.
President Biden ordered the nation’s intelligence agencies in May to conduct a 90-day inquiry into the origins of the pandemic. When the key findings of that review were released in August, they failed to offer a single answer and instead reaffirmed the longstanding position of the agencies: The theory that the virus occurred naturally and the theory that it was accidentally created in a lab were both plausible.
But the report on Friday reiterated that the evidence to support either conclusion was thin, and that U.S. intelligence agencies know far too little about the origin of the virus. The intelligence community has concluded that the virus was not developed as a biological weapon.
Analysts “assess that a natural origin and a laboratory associated incident are both plausible hypotheses for how SARS-CoV-2 first infected humans,” the report said. “Analysts, however, disagree on which is more likely, or whether an assessment can be made at all.”
Four intelligence agencies, and the National Intelligence Council, consider the natural causes theory more plausible. One agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, backs the lab leak theory. But none of those agencies have delivered to the director of national intelligence or the White House a high-confidence assessment, which shows the doubt that continues to swirl around the question.
The intelligence community has broadly concluded that the virus causing Covid-19 was not deliberately engineered in a lab. But even that conclusion is made only with low confidence. Some genetic engineering techniques make modifications difficult to identify, particularly given existing gaps in knowledge about the diversity of naturally occurring coronaviruses.
“Some genetic engineering techniques may make genetically modified viruses indistinguishable from natural viruses, according to academic journal articles,” the report said.
The intelligence report said the Wuhan Institute of Virology had previously made chimeras, or combinations of coronavirus that did not occur in nature. But that record provides little insight on whether the virus that causes Covid was genetically engineered, the report said.
Some Republican lawmakers have seized on that so-called gain-of-function work at the institute, arguing it buttresses the lab leak theory. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing this week, Representative Brad Wenstrup, Republican of Ohio and a medical doctor, called for more examination of the institute’s work on creating chimeras.
“In this case, that means experimentally combining components from two viruses into one for the sake of making it more infectious to the general public,” said Mr. Wenstrup, who has called for more hearings on the origin of the pandemic. “I can’t be sure that Covid-19 originated from a research-related accident or infection from a sampling trip, but I’m 100 percent sure there was a massive cover-up.”
The National Institutes of Health has said the chimera experiments in Wuhan were based on coronaviruses that were not the progenitors of the virus that causes Covid.
There is broad agreement in the Biden administration that China has not shared all it can about the origins of the outbreak. The intelligence report released on Friday called for more transparency by China, and said Beijing needed to release information about possible intermediate species that the virus could have infected before leaping to humans, what it knows about the nature of the first human infections and more data about the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s research work.
But the report also made clear that on some matters Chinese officials were initially caught off guard. Critically, American intelligence analysts have assessed that Chinese officials did not know about the existence of the novel coronavirus until after Covid was detected in the population and it was isolated by the Wuhan institute.
“Accordingly, if the pandemic originated from a laboratory-associated incident, they probably were unaware in the initial months that such an incident had occurred,” the report said.
The report also suggested that the Wuhan institute researchers were not aware of the virus until the outbreak was underway, since they quickly pivoted to working on Covid as the outbreak grew worse. The new report relied heavily on the apparent surprise of Chinese officials and the Wuhan institute’s researchers as the pandemic grew worse to buttress the natural causes theory.
The wide array of animals susceptible to the virus causing Covid, and the various ways humans in China come in contact with those animals — including trafficking, farming, sale and rescue — make natural transmission possible.
While no animal source has been found, “analysts that assess the pandemic was due to natural causes note that in many previous zoonotic outbreaks, the identification of animal sources has taken years, and in some cases, animal sources have not been identified,” the report said.
On the flip side, analysts who supported the lab leak theory have also not found a smoking gun. Instead, they have highlighted that previous coronavirus work at the Wuhan institute was conducted under “inadequate biosafety conditions that could have led to opportunities for a laboratory-associated incident.”
The report said that some of the closest known relatives to the virus that causes Covid were found in bats from Yunnan Province. Researchers bringing samples to Wuhan could “provide a plausible link between these habitats and the city.”
“These analysts note that it is plausible that researchers may have unwittingly exposed themselves to the virus without sequencing it during experiments or sampling activities, possibly resulting in asymptomatic or mild infection,” the report said.
However, scientists have estimated that viruses identified in Yunnan diverged 40 years ago from the ancestors of SARS-CoV-2. Other viruses found in Laos bear a much closer similarity in some of their genes, and scientists expect that further investigation will uncover even more closely related coronaviruses in bats.
Carl Zimmer contributed reporting.
If you had COVID and were double vaccinated you may not need a booster
Research suggests COVID infection plus vaccination provides the strongest protection against a wide range of variants, possibly for a long time.
Just The FAQs, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Barring an unforeseen breakthrough, intelligence agencies won’t be able to conclude whether COVID-19 spread by animal-to-human transmission or leaked from a lab, officials said Friday in releasing a fuller version of their review into the origins of the pandemic.
The paper issued by the Director of National Intelligence elaborates on findings released in August of a 90-day review ordered by President Joe Biden. That review said that U.S. intelligence agencies were divided on the origins of the virus but that analysts do not believe the virus was developed as a bioweapon and that most agencies believe the virus was not genetically engineered.
China has resisted global pressure to cooperate fully with investigations into the pandemic or provide access to genetic sequences of coronaviruses kept at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which remains a subject of speculation for its research and reported safety problems. Biden launched the review amid growing momentum for the theory –initially broadly dismissed by experts – that the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab.
The real issue with the COVID-19 lab leak theory? The US isn’t spying on China like it used to.
How does COVID-19 affect me? Don’t miss an update with the Coronavirus Watch newsletter
Former President Donald Trump and his supporters long argued that a lab leak was possible as they sought to deflect criticism of his handling of the pandemic.
China remains an exceedingly difficult place for intelligence operations and has fought back against allegations that it mishandled the emergence of the pandemic, which has killed 5 million people worldwide. Senior officials involved in the full report’s drafting said they hoped it would better inform the public about the challenges of determining the virus’s origins.
“We don’t think we’re one or two reports away from being able to understand it,” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
The full report notes that the Wuhan Institute of Virology “previously created chimeras, or combinations, of SARS-like coronaviruses, but this information does not provide insight into whether SARS Cov-2 was genetically engineered by the WIV.”
Information that lab researchers sought medical treatment for a respiratory illness in November 2019 “is not diagnostic of the pandemic’s origins,” the report said.
And allegations that China launched the virus as a bioweapon were dismissed because their proponents “do not have direct access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” are making scientifically invalid claims or are accused of spreading disinformation, the report said.
Did coronavirus come directly from animals, or was it released from a lab? Top American scientists join call for answers.
Four agencies within the intelligence community said with low confidence that the virus was initially transmitted from an animal to a human. A fifth intelligence agency believed with moderate confidence that the first human infection was linked to a lab.
Prior to writing the report, analysts conducted what the report describes as a “Team A/Team B” debate to try to strengthen or weaken each hypothesis.
The report identifies types of data that investigators still want China to provide access to, including records and tissue samples from several markets in Wuhan, including the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, Qiyimen Live Animal Market, Dijiao Outdoor Pet Market and others. Scientists originally believed the virus emerged from animals sold at the Huanan market, which they have since ruled out.
Confirming with 100% certainty the origin of a virus is often not fast, easy or always even possible.
In the case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS – a disease caused by a beta coronavirus, like the current coronavirus – researchers first identified the virus in February 2003. Later that year, scientists discovered the likely intermediary hosts: Himalayan palm civets found at live-animal markets in Guangdong, China. But it wasn’t until 2017 that researchers traced the likely original source of the virus to bat caves in China’s Yunnan province.
Associated Press writer Christina Larson in Washington contributed to this report.
Oct 29 (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE coronavirus vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years, making it the first COVID-19 shot for young children in the United States.
The shot will not be immediately available to the age group. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to advise on how the shot should be administered, which will be decided after a group of outside advisers discuss the plan on Tuesday.
Pfizer said it will begin shipping pediatric vials of the vaccine on Saturday to pharmacies, pediatricians’ offices and other places where the shots may be administered.
The FDA decision is expected to make the vaccine available to 28 million American children, many of whom are back in school for in-person learning.
It comes after a panel of advisers to the regulator voted overwhelmingly to recommend the authorization on Tuesday.
Only a few other countries, including China, Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, have so far cleared COVID-19 vaccines for children in this age group and younger.
The FDA authorized a 10-microgram dose of Pfizer’s vaccine in young children, lower than the 30 micrograms in the original vaccine for those age 12 and older.
Advisers on the FDA panel said a lower dose could help mitigate some of the rare side effects after paying close attention to the rate of heart inflammation, or myocarditis, that has been linked to both Pfizer and Moderna (MRNA.O) vaccines, especially in young men.
The regulator said on Friday that known and potential benefits of the Pfizer vaccine in individuals aged between 5 and 11 outweigh the risks.
For the pediatric shots, the FDA has authorized a new version of the vaccine, which uses a new buffer and allows them to be stored in refrigerators for up to 10 weeks.
In the United States, around 58% of the population is fully vaccinated, lagging other nations such as the UK and France. Many adults, who have been hesitant to get a vaccine, may be more cautious about giving the shot to their children.
“We certainly hope that as people see children getting vaccinated, and being protected and being able to participate in activities without concern, that more people will get their kids vaccinated,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said at a press conference.
“And as we accumulate more experience with the vaccine, more comfort with the safety will occur.”
Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine showed 90.7% efficacy against the coronavirus in a clinical trial of children aged 5 to 11. read more
“This is a day so many parents, eager to protect their young children from this virus, have been waiting for,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a statement
The United States started administering the vaccine to teens between ages 12 and 17 in May. Vaccination coverage among the age group is lower than in older groups, according to the CDC. read more
Pfizer’s vaccine was the first to be authorized for emergency use in the United States in December last year for those age 16 and older and was granted full U.S. approval in August.
Earlier this week, Moderna reported interim data showing that its vaccine generated a strong immune response in children ages 6 to 11 years. It is awaiting a U.S. regulatory decision on the authorization for children between ages 12 and 17.
Reporting by Manas Mishra and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New Jersey; additional reporting by Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru and Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Shinjini Ganguli and Arun Koyyur
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Allegations that the Covid-19 virus was designed as a bioweapon – a theory aired by some senior Republicans – are based on “scientifically invalid claims” whose proponents “are suspected of spreading disinformation”, the US intelligence agencies have reported.
Most of the 17 US agencies also agree that the virus had not been genetically engineered, while observing it is becoming increasingly difficult to detect signs of such tampering. However, the intelligence community is still divided on the question of whether the virus was spread by animal-to-human transmission or as the result of a lab accident, concluding that that may never be known barring a dramatic breakthrough in Chinese cooperation.
A summary of the findings were first published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in August, but on Friday the ODNI published a fuller version of the study, giving explanations for their agencies’ conclusions.
The theory that the virus, known as Sars-CoV-2, was a bioweapon, which was propagated by Senator Tom Cotton and other hardline Republicans, is rejected at the start of the ODNI report.
“We remain skeptical of allegations that SARS-CoV-2 was a biological weapon because they are supported by scientifically invalid claims, their proponents do not have direct access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), or their proponents are suspected of spreading disinformation,” the study said.
On the question of genetic engineering, the report said that most intelligence analysts believe the virus was not human-made in any way, though that assessment is calibrated as low confidence. As of August this year, there have been no sign of genetic signatures that are usually the telltale signs of engineering, it said, but pointed to academic studies that “some genetic engineering techniques may make genetically modified viruses indistinguishable from natural viruses”.
Four intelligence agencies assessed “with low confidence” that the virus spread from animals to human through natural interaction. The assessment was based on the generally agreed finding that the Wuhan Institute for Virology (WIV) appeared to have been taken by surprise by the new virus and had scrambled to identify it.
“They also see the potential that a laboratory worker inadvertently was infected while collecting unknown animal specimens to be less likely than an infection occurring through numerous hunters, farmers, merchants, and others who have frequent, natural contact with animals,” the study said.
One US agency, not named in the study but reported to be the Defence Intelligence Agency, believes “with moderate confidence” that the outbreak was the result of a lab accident at the WIV or elsewhere, the theory promoted by supporters of Donald Trump.
As evidence, it pointed to the fact that the “closest known relatives to Sars-CoV-2 in bats have been identified in Yunnan province, and researchers bringing samples to laboratories provide a plausible link between these habitats and the city”.
The report noted that the WIV “previously created chimeras, or combinations, of Sars-like coronaviruses, but this information does not provide insight into whether Sars-CoV-2 was genetically engineered by the WIV”.
The ODNI report said a more definitive account of the origins of the virus is likely to be impossible without greater Chinese cooperation, but it is not optimistic that will happen, noting China’s efforts so far to block further investigation by the World Health Organization.