How good is good enough for a COVID vaccine?

As clinical trials of experimental COVID-19 vaccines approach points at which the data can be reviewed for possible FDA approval, public health and immunology experts debate whether a “partially effective” vaccine may be good enough for COVID-19 immunizations to get underway. The consensus is that a vaccine that only conveys partial immunity is likely to reduce severity of disease — therefore likely to reduce serious illness and deaths. However, accelerated clinical trials don’t answer all the questions that FDA reviewers usually ask before authorizing wide use of a new product. More on this in an article by Kaiser Health News.

Meanwhile, here are some of the latest top stories:

  • Time for America to unite behind face masks: “Masks should be used in combination with other modalities to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), including physical distancing, hand hygiene, adequate ventilation, and avoiding crowded spaces,” writes NIAID Director Anthony Fauci and colleagues in this week’s JAMA, adding that testing is important but is not - by itself - a way to control the pandemic.

  • But face masks alone don’t work, either: Vanderbilt University researchers say they found that Tennessee communities with mask mandates had lower COVID-19 hospitalization rates than those areas without widespread mask use, but hospitalizations for COVID-19 went up everywhere.

  • Pfizer’s CEO confirmed that its COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready for FDA review as quickly as previously expected, apparently because not enough infections have occurred within the study population. This is a challenging dilemma that has stymied other vaccine trials around the world. More on this in the STATNews article that was included yesterday.

  • Germany, France and Russia are among places imposing new, stricter “non-pharmaceutical interventions” to reduce the spread of COVID-19. NPIs are actions like social distancing, hand hygiene and face coverings. Limiting restaurants and bars has proven to be effective at helping people maintain six-feet separation.

In the past week, I have noticed an increasing level of “disinformation” about COVID-19 — from recognized media sites publishing false claims by untrustworthy sources to public officials perpetuating messages that contradict public health experts, facts and science. Be alert. For an interesting review of Russian disinformation related to COVID-19, check out this report by an Australian research group. Among its findings: Russia has very much been involved in promoting false COVID-19 stories in the USA.