The New York Times, January 30, 2021

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Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, as thousands of patients are dying every day in the United States and widespread vaccination is still months away, doctors have precious few drugs to fight the virus.

A handful of therapies — remdesivir, monoclonal antibodies and the steroid dexamethasone — have improved the care of Covid patients, putting doctors in a better position than they were when the virus surged last spring. But these drugs are not cure-alls and they’re not for everyone, and efforts to repurpose other drugs, or discover new ones, have not had much success.

Continue reading “How the Search for Covid-19 Treatments Faltered While Vaccines Sped Ahead”

The New York Times, January 29, 2021 (with Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere)

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Johnson & Johnson, the only major drug maker developing a single-dose vaccine for Covid, announced on Friday that its shot provided strong protection against Covid-19, potentially offering another powerful tool in a desperate race against a worldwide rise in virus mutations.

But the results came with a significant cautionary note: The vaccine’s efficacy rate dropped from 72 percent in the United States to 57 percent in South Africa, where a highly contagious variant is driving most cases.

Continue reading “Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine Offers Strong Protection but Fuels Concern About Variants”

The New York Times, January 28, 2021 (with Kate Thomas and Sharon LaFraniere)

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Novavax, a little-known company supported by the U.S. federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, said for the first time on Thursday that its Covid-19 vaccine offered robust protection against the virus. But it also found that the vaccine is not as effective against the fast-spreading variant first discovered in South Africa, another setback in the global race to end a pandemic that has already killed more than 2.1 million people.

That could be a problem for the United States, which hours earlier reported its first known cases of the contagious variant in two unrelated people in South Carolina. And it came just days after Moderna and Pfizer said that their vaccines were also less effective against the same variant.

Continue reading “Novavax’s Vaccine Works Well — Except on Variant First Found in South Africa”

The New York Times, January 25, 2021

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Merck announced on Monday that it was abandoning a pair of Covid-19 vaccines in clinical trials.

The news came as a disappointment at a time when the United States and other countries are struggling to accelerate their sluggish vaccination campaigns and new coronavirus variants threaten to bring surges over the next few months.

The two projects are the second and third vaccines to be abandoned in clinical trials. The University of Queensland in Australia abandoned its own effort in December. Sanofi and other vaccine makers have paused some projects after getting disappointing initial results but are now regrouping to move forward.

Continue reading “Merck abandons two vaccines in clinical trials.”

The New York Times, January 19, 2021

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In late December, scientists in California began searching coronavirus samples for a fast-spreading new variant that had just been identified in Britain.

They found it, though in relatively few samples. But in the process, the scientists made another unwelcome discovery: California had produced a variant of its own.

That mutant, which belongs to a lineage known as CAL.20C, seemed to have popped up in July but lay low till November. Then it began to quickly spread.

Continue reading “New California Variant May Be Driving Virus Surge There, Study Suggests”