The New York Times, July 30, 2021

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A batch of early coronavirus data that went missing for a year has emerged from hiding.

In June, an American scientist discovered that more than 200 genetic sequences from Covid-19 patient samples isolated in China early in the pandemic had puzzlingly been removed from an online database. With some digital sleuthing, Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, managed to track down 13 of the sequences on Google Cloud.

Continue reading “Those Virus Sequences That Were Suddenly Deleted? They’re Back”

The New York Times, July 28, 2021 (with Apoorva Mandavilli and Sharon LaFraniere)

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Pfizer reported on Wednesday that the power of its two-dose Covid vaccine wanes slightly over time, but nonetheless offers lasting and robust protection against serious disease. The company suggested that a third shot could improve immunity, but whether boosters will be widely needed is far from settled, the subject of heated debate among scientists.

So far, federal health officials have said boosters for the general population are unnecessary. And experts questioned whether vaccinated people should get more doses when so many people have yet to be immunized at all.

Continue reading “Citing New Data, Pfizer Outlines Case for Booster Shots”

The New York Times, July 23, 2021

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As Israel struggles with a new surge of coronavirus cases, its health ministry reported on Thursday that although effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine remains high against severe illness, its protection against infection by the coronavirus may have diminished significantly compared with this winter and early spring.

Analyzing the government’s national health statistics, researchers estimated that the Pfizer shot was just 39 percent effective against preventing infection in the country in late June and early July, compared with 95 percent from January to early April. In both time periods, however, the shot was more than 90 percent effective in preventing severe disease.

Continue reading “Israeli Data Suggests Possible Waning in Effectiveness of Pfizer Vaccine”

The New York Times, July 23, 2021

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Two decades after the draft sequence of the human genome was unveiled to great fanfare, a team of 99 scientists has finally deciphered the entire thing. They have filled in vast gaps and corrected a long list of errors in previous versions, giving us a new view of our DNA.

The consortium has posted six papers online in recent weeks in which they describe the full genome. These hard-sought data, now under review by scientific journals, will give scientists a deeper understanding of how DNA influences risks of disease, the scientists say, and how cells keep it in neatly organized chromosomes instead of molecular tangles.

Continue reading “Scientists Finish the Human Genome at Last”

The New York Times, July 9, 2021 (with James Gorman)

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In the latest volley of the debate over the origins of the coronavirus, a group of scientists this week presented a review of scientific findings that they argue shows a natural spillover from animal to human is a far more likely cause of the pandemic than a laboratory incident.

Among other things, the scientists point to a recent report showing that markets in Wuhan, China, had sold live animals susceptible to the virus, including palm civets and raccoon dogs, in the two years before the pandemic began. They observed the striking similarity that Covid-19’s emergence had to other viral diseases that arose through natural spillovers, and pointed to a variety of newly discovered viruses in animals that are closely related to the one that caused the new pandemic.

Continue reading “A Group of Scientists Presses a Case Against the Lab Leak Theory of Covid”