The New York Times, December 30, 2021


A Johnson & Johnson booster shot provided strong protection against the Omicron variant, greatly reducing the risk of hospitalization, according to a clinical trial in South Africa.

The study, which compared more than 69,000 boosted health care workers with a corresponding group of unvaccinated South Africans, found that two shots of the vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization from Omicron by about 85 percent. In comparison, another study in South Africa found that two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by about 70 percent.

Continue reading “J&J’s booster shot provides strong protection against severe disease from Omicron, a study says.”

The New York Times, December 28, 2021


People who have recovered from an infection with the new Omicron coronavirus variant may be able to fend off later infections from the Delta variant, according to a new laboratory study carried out by South African scientists.

If further experiments confirm these findings, they could suggest a less dire future for the pandemic. In the short term, Omicron is expected to create a surge of cases that will put a massive strain on economies and health care systems around the world. But in the longer term, the new research suggests that an Omicron-dominated world might experience fewer hospitalizations and deaths than one in which Delta continues to rage.

Continue reading “Omicron Variant Might Help Defend Against Delta, Lab Study Suggests”

The New York Times, December 27, 2021


Edward O. Wilson, a biologist and author who conducted pioneering work on biodiversity, insects and human nature — and won two Pulitzer Prizes along the way — died on Sunday in Burlington, Mass. He was 92.

His death was announced on Monday by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

Continue reading “E.O. Wilson, a Pioneer of Evolutionary Biology, Dies at 92”

The New York Times, December 23, 2021 (with Rebecca Robbins)


The Food and Drug Administration on Thursdayauthorized a second antiviral pill for Covid but said it should not be a preferred treatment.

The F.D.A. cleared the pill, developed by Merck and known as molnupiravir, for adults who are vulnerable to becoming severely ill from Covid and for whom alternative Covid treatment options authorized by the F.D.A. are “not accessible or clinically appropriate.”

The F.D.A.’s decision reflects concerns that Merck’s pill is only modestly effective while also carrying the possible risk of causing reproductive harm. But in the coming weeks, it is expected to be more available in the United States than other treatment options.

Continue reading “Merck’s Covid pill is cleared for high-risk adults.”

The New York Times, December 22, 2021 (with Emily Anthes)


Three separate teams of scientists on two continents have found that Omicron infections more often result in mild illness than earlier variants of the coronavirus, offering hope that the current surge may not be quite as catastrophic as feared despite skyrocketing caseloads.

The researchers examined Omicron’s course through populations in South Africa, Scotland and England. The results in each setting, while still preliminary, all suggested that the variant was less likely to send people in hospitals.

Continue reading “Omicron Infections Seem to Be Milder, Three Research Teams Report”