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Two studies suggest COVID-19 antibodies provide immunity - The Boston Globe
Research teams led by a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center vaccine specialist have published two studies of monkeys that suggest the answer is yes ― antibodies do provide protection, whether they are triggered by an infection or a vaccine.
Now research teams led by a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center vaccine specialist have published two studies of laboratory monkeys that suggest the answer is yes antibodies do provide protection, whether they are triggered by an infection or a vaccine. Both studies, which appear to be among the first peer-reviewed papers studying immunity to COVID-19 in primates, were published Wednesday in the journal Science. Dr. Dan Barouch, head of Beth Israels Center for Virology and Vaccine Research and lead author of the studies, said more research must be done to determine whether the findings apply to humans. But hes hopeful, given that humans and rhesus macaque monkeys share 93 percent of the same genetic make-up. We have to be careful about making predictions for humans, said Barouch, who is also affiliated with the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard University. "But I can say these data increase our optimism that natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity can be achieved in humans. Neither study determined whether the immunity response is permanent, or how long it may last. Barouchs laboratory is working on an experimental coronavirus vaccine with Johnson & Johnson that has received a pledge of more than $1 billion in funding from that company and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a federal agency. That vaccine uses a common cold virus to deliver a coronavirus antigen into cells to stimulate the immune system. Its expected to enter clinical trials by September and was not the subject of either published study. One of the studies involved nine adult monkeys. Researchers infected their noses and lungs with SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus quickly spread into their upper and lower respiratory tracts. The nine monkeys developed viral pneumonia, but all of them recovered within 28 days. A week later, researchers exposed the monkeys to the virus a second time. Although the scientists were able to detect tiny amounts of the virus in the lungs of some of the monkeys, none of the animals got sick. Their immune systems protected them. It has long been suspected that there would be natural protective immunity [after recovery from COVID-19] because most viruses do that, but thats not always the case, said Barouch, who cited HIV as a notable exception. Our team found this data very compelling. If the finding was confirmed in humans, it might fuel calls for immunity passports for people who recover from COVID-19 and test positive for the antibodies. That idea that has been floated by some scientists and governments as a way to enable people who fight off the disease to return to work. On April 24, the World Health Organization discouraged that, saying, There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. The other study by Barouchs researchers involved 35 rhesus macaque monkeys 25 vaccinated against the virus and 10 that werent. The vaccinated monkeys received one of six prototypes of DNA vaccines developed by his lab for the experiment. Each monkey got two doses. To provoke an immune response, each prototype used the genetic code for portions of the protein that scientists believe the coronavirus uses to invade cells. None of the prototypes are among dozens of experimental vaccines that have been developed by drug companies for testing in humans. Indeed, many scientists are skeptical of the clinical potential of DNA vaccines, and none has ever been licensed. Nonetheless, all of the vaccinated monkeys developed antibodies, some at levels comparable to those made by the monkeys that recovered from COVID-19 in the other study. Researchers then infected the 25 vaccinated monkeys, as well as the 10 that hadnt been vaccinated. None of the vaccinated monkeys developed high levels of the virus in their lungs. All 10 of the monkeys that werent vaccinated did. Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said he was impressed that the DNA vaccines protected all the monkeys because such vaccines generally arent very effective. If a DNA vaccine can work, then that really tells you this is probably doable, said Michael, whose institute is testing another type of vaccine on mice. Barouchs researchers also found a direct link between the level of antibodies in the vaccinated monkeys and the level of protection from infection, Michael said. Thats the holy grail of vaccine development, he said. If you can figure out a lab test that would accurately predict whos likely to be protected and whos not likely to be protected, thats huge. Dr. Louis Picker, associate director of the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, said no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Even the vaccine for measles is considered about 97 percent effective after two doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, he said that the two new studies has convinced me that this is an infection that will be controllable with vaccination. More than 100 experimental vaccines are in the works as drug firms, academic laboratories, and governments around the globe scramble to find a way to end the COVID-19 epidemic. Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at [email protected]
In televised town hall, Trump pushes for economic reopening, says he believes a coronavirus vaccine could be developed by year’s end - The Boston Globe
Anxious for an economic recovery, President Trump fielded Americans’ questions about decisions by some states to allow nonessential businesses to reopen while other states are on virtual lockdown due to the coronavirus.
The president acknowledged fear on both sides of the issue, some Americans worried about getting sick while others are concerned about losing jobs. Though the administration's handling of the pandemic, particularly its ability to conduct widespread testing, has come under fierce scrutiny, the president defended the response and said the nation was ready to begin reopening. Ill tell you one thing. We did the right thing and I really believe we saved a million and a half lives, the president said. But he also broke with the assessment of his senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, saying it was too soon to say" if the federal government was overseeing a success story." Trump's impatience also flashed. While noting that states would go at their own pace in returning to normal, with ones harder hit by the coronavirus going slower, he said that some states frankly I think arent going fast enough" and singled out Virginia, which has a Democratic governor and legislature. And he urged the nation's schools and universities to return to classes this fall. But many public health experts believe that cannot be done safely until a vaccine is developed. Trump declared Sunday that he believed one could be available by year's end although his own pandemic task force has predicated it could be another 18 months. Federal guidelines that encouraged people to stay at home and practice social distancing expired late last week. Debate continued over moves by governors to start reopening state economies that tanked after shopping malls, salons and other nonessential businesses were ordered closed in attempt to slow a virus that has killed more than 66,000 Americans, according to a tally of reported deaths by Johns Hopkins University. The US economy has suffered, shrinking at a 4.8% annual rate from January through March, the government estimated last week. It was the sharpest quarterly drop since the 2008 financial crisis. Roughly 30.3 million people have filed for unemployment aid in the six weeks since the outbreak forced employers to shut down and slash their workforces. It was the worst string of layoffs on record. Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, on Sunday predicted a spectacular 2021 with the right set of policies on top of a rebound from July through December of this year. He said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the administration would "pause to review the effectiveness of trillions in economic relief spending before making any decision on whether additional aid is needed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that state and local governments are seeking up to $1 trillion for coronavirus costs, The Senate planned to reopen Monday, despite the Washington area's continued status as a virus hot spot and with the region still under stay-at-home orders. The House remains shuttered. The pandemic is forcing big changes at the tradition-bound Supreme Court: The justices will hear arguments, beginning Monday, by telephone for the first time since Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention in 1876. Congressional Republicans are resisting calls by Democrats for emergency spending for states and local governments whose revenue streams all but dried up in recent weeks. The GOP is counting on the country's reopening and the rebound promised by Trump as their best hope to forestall another big round of virus aid. The leaders of California and Michigan are among governors under public pressure over lockdowns still in effect while states such as Florida, Georgia and Ohio are reopening. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said Sunday that the armed protesters who demonstrated inside her states Capitol depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of US history by showing up with Confederate flags, nooses and swastikas. Trump had tweeted LIBERATE and named Michigan and other states in mid-April. In a new tweet Friday, he urged Whitmer to make a deal with the protesters. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! Trump said. Despite the opposition of Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature, Whitmer has extended a state of emergency declaration and directed most businesses statewide to remain closed. Some people participating in other public protests across the US have not kept their distance from one another and have rallied without masks, not heeding public health recommendations. Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, called that behavior devastatingly worrisome. She said people will feel guilty for the rest of their lives if they end up infected and unwittingly spread the virus to vulnerable family members. We need to protect each other at the same time we're voice our discontent, she told CNN's State of the Union. An overwhelming majority of Americans support stay-at-home orders and other efforts to slow the virus' spread, according to a recent survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Asked about states that are reopening before they meet benchmarks laid out in federal guidelines she helped write, Birx said the guidelines are a pretty firm policy of what we think is important from a public health standpoint. She added that she and others have made it clear that people must continue practicing social distancing, scrupulous hand washing and other measures to protect themselves and others. Fox News Channel said it asked viewers to submit questions about reopening the country on the networks Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for a chance to appear on the rare broadcast from the Lincoln Memorial. Trump spoke from the memorials steps last July Fourth. Its also where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I have a dream speech in 1963. Trump recently compared his Independence Day audience to Kings.