As of January 22, confirmed cases of COVID-19 now number more than 98 million around the world, including more than 25 million cases in the United States and more than 417,000 U.S. deaths. You can see a breakdown of coronavirus cases throughout the world and within the U.S. on the map and chart above.
Below you’ll find updates on the latest news about the coronavirus.
January 22 News Updates
New UK Variant Might Be Deadlier, But This Is Still Uncertain
Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that the UK variant may be deadlier, but this is still uncertain, BBC reported. Mathematicians comparing death rates of people with the new variant versus the old virus noted that out of 1,000 60-year-olds infected, 10 would die of the old virus while 13 might die from the new variant. However, hospital data didn’t show an increase in death rates — the increase was seen from researching everyone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Scientists with the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said it was a “realistic possibility” that the variant might be deadlier, but not known for certain. They noted: “Since the time lag from infection to hospitalisation and death is relatively long, data will accrue in coming weeks, at which time the analyses will become more definitive.” They also said: “It should be noted that the absolute risk of death per infection remains low.”
The government’s chief scientific advisor said the data wasn’t “yet strong.”
Elderly Deaths in Norway from Vaccine Being Reviewed for Context
Norway had a unique issue that other regions didn’t report. Twenty-three very frail, elderly people died after receiving the Pfizer vaccine, Reuters reported. Norway began its vaccination program focused on elderly who were in nursing homes. About 400 people die every week in nursing homes in Norway, and with the 13 deaths investigated so far, it hasn’t been determined if those were actually caused by the vaccine.
WHO said it couldn’t find evidence that those deaths were caused by the vaccine itself, noting that the deaths “are in line with the expected, all-cause mortality rates and causes of death in the sub-population of frail, elderly individuals, and the available information does not confirm a contributory role for the vaccine in the reported fatal events,” Bloomberg reported.
Norway itself has said that a link between the vaccine and the deaths hasn’t been established, but side effects like a fever or nausea may have worsened underlying diseases in the frail patients, CBS News reported. However, Norway is recommending that doctors consider if a patient may be too terminally ill for the vaccine.
COVID-19 Might Hide in the Brain, Causing Relapses, But Data Still Unclear
A study published in the journal Viruses indicated that mice infected with the coronavirus developed a severe brain infection after the virus had left their lungs. If the virus can “hide” in the brain, it might explain why some people get better and then relapse and become very ill again, Newsweek reported. It might also explain long-hauler symptoms.
In mice, virus levels remained high in the brain after six days, even while levels in the lungs diminished, indicating the possibility that the virus crossed the blood-brain barrier. The finding also leaves open a question of whether the virus might contribute to brain disorders years down the line.
However, Newsweek noted that it’s not clear if human brains are as susceptible to the virus as mice brains are. An immune response might also account for neurological symptoms.
Germany Plans to Vaccinate All Citizens by the End of the Summer
Germany has announced that it plans to vaccinate all German citizens by the end of the summer, Reuters reported. By the third quarter, Germany may have enough of a surplus to give some of the vaccines away.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for COVID-19, has said that WHO doesn’t believe the new coronavirus variant in the UK will have any negative impact on the vaccine, Global News reported. WHO’s emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said multiple variants have been identified over the last few months, but none have had greater severity or diminished the vaccine’s efficacy.
Results from Pfizer’s (and Germany’s BioNTech) vaccine trial point to the vaccine being more than 90% effective, The New York Times reported in early November. Some Pfizer trial participants said the side effects are worse than the flu shot, CNBC reported, although they’re not as bad as getting severe COVID-19. One participant said his chills were so bad that he cracked a tooth. Another said he had a low-grade fever and fatigue equivalent to having the flu. He was better by the next day.
The UK warned that people with serious allergic reactions to a vaccine, medicine, or food — or who have had near-fatal allergic reactions — shouldn’t get the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine, based on two reactions seen on the first day of publicly available vaccinations, AP News reported. Investigators are looking into exactly what happened to the recipients, who are NHS staff members and carried EpiPens for severe allergies. Both received treatment and recovered.
The FDA is investigating allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine in multiple states, The Hill reported in December. There were five reactions, including in Alaska. The FDA isn’t sure what’s causing the reactions, but is considering polyethylene glycol as a possible source. The FDA maintains that most Americans with allergies are safe to get the vaccine.
Two people have tested positive for coronavirus after getting the vaccine. However, because it can take people weeks to develop antibodies after getting the vaccine, this has no bearing on the vaccine’s efficacy. The first dose of the Pfizer vaccine also gives about 50% protection, with that rising to 95% after the second dose. Read more in Heavy’s story here.
In mid-November, company data indicated that Moderna’s vaccine was 94.5% effective, CNN reported. Out of 15,000 participants who got the vaccine, only five developed COVID-19 and none were severely ill. Out of 15,000 given a placebo, 90 developed COVID-19 and 11 had a severe form of the disease. Side effects like body aches and headaches were reported in some participants.
Moderna (and CanSino) both stopped giving high doses for the second dose because of the side effects, StatNews reported. Moderna’s current vaccine uses the lower dose for the second dose.
New data released in mid-December shows that Moderna’s vaccine is highly protective, The New York Times reported. The vaccine had an efficacy of 94.1% in a trial with 30,000 participants. Side effects were not dangerous but were unpleasant, including fever, headache, and fatigue. These occurred after the second dose most commonly and people may need to take a day off work after getting the vaccine. No one who received the vaccine in trials developed severe COVID, although 30 people in the placebo group did. Three people developed Bell’s palsy in the vaccine group (and one did in the placebo group), but it was not at a higher rate than would be expected in the general population without a vaccine.
Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines use mRNA, which teaches the body’s immune system to make antibodies to the protein spikes. This would be the first mRNA vaccine on the market.
On November 19, it was announced that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine clinical trials showed it was safe and triggered a good immune response in people of all ages, CNBC reported. The vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) had few side effects, according to The Lancet. The vaccine was about 62% effective in people who got two full doses, BBC reported in late November. Another trial showed about 90% efficacy in 3,000 people who got a half-dose first and then a full dose the second time rather than two full-sized doses, which is being studied in more detail. The Oxford vaccine is made from an adenovirus that was modified to help human cells create the spoke protein so the immune system can recognize it, Nature reported.
AstraZeneca is also testing a component of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in its own clinical trials, according to a press release. The Russian vaccine uses two inoculations based on two different human adenovirus vectors, delivering genetic material from the coronavirus’ spike.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Sky News reported. The vaccine will start to be rolled out on January 4. People receiving this or the Pfizer vaccine will get their second dose about 12 weeks after the first.
Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine is 92% effective after evaluating 16,000 participants, The Indian Express reported. Russians who receive the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine are being asked not to drink alcohol for two months after, the New York Post reported. This is the amount of time they said it takes the vaccine to be effective and alcohol can be a strain on the body’s immune response, the experts said.
Novavax announced that in its Phase 1 vaccine trial for NVX-CoV2373, antibodies were induced in 100% of participants, The Motley Fool reported. The vaccine had mild side effects, typically worse with the second dose. On November 9, it was granted fast-track designation by the FDA and is in late-phase clinical development. this vaccine uses a proprietary MatrixM adjuvant. It’s not using an mRNA vaccine, ScienceMag reported. Instead, Novavax is using a baculovirus to insert a gene for the spike protein, harvesting the spike proteins and using that in an adjuvant.
Inovio is working on a vaccine called the INO-4800 DNA vaccine. Inovio announced positive results from two Phase I clinical trials in early July. The Phase 1 trial was expanded to include older participants in June and July. On November 16, Inovio announced that it was starting the Phase 2 portion of its Phase 2/3 trial. This is a nucleic-based vaccine that will be stable at room temperature for more than a year and doesn’t need to be frozen.
Kaiser Permanente in Washington began enrolling Phase 3 volunteers for Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen’s vaccine, KPWashington Research reported in late October. These trials are sponsored by NIAID. KPWHRI has also been testing a Moderna vaccine. Janssen’s vaccine uses a human adenovirus to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Johnson & Johnson had to temporarily pause trials for a safety concern for its modified adenovirus vaccine (similar to Oxford’s.) It has a Phase III study in place for 60,000 volunteers, The Indian Express reported.
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline vaccine early trials were disappointing, The New York Times reported in mid-December. The vaccines didn’t produce a good immune response in older participants, although it did in people under 50.
Coronavirus Trends in the United States
An interactive map from MappingSupport.com shows recent trends in deaths per state over the last 14 and 7 days, using seven-day averages from Johns Hopkins’ data. You can view the full map here. Green means the trend is decreasing, red means the deaths are increasing. Circles show the prior 14 days and triangles show the prior seven days. When using the map, be sure and read the “Map Tips” in the upper left corner to learn how to turn overlay layers on and off. The map legend can also be found under “Map Tips.”
If you are concerned about your symptoms, talk with your doctor right away.