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U.S. Government Gives Moderna Inc. $472 Million for COVID Vaccine

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Moderna Inc., a Cambridge, MA biotech company, announced on Sunday that they received additional funding from the U.S. government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the amount of $472 million.

What We Know:

  • The additional funding will support the expansion of the Phase 3 study of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273), which began Monday in Savannah, GA in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and BARDA. Phase 3 is a wide-spread human trial in order to test the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Moderna’s study will be tested at 89 U.S. sites and, due to additional funding, will be able to include approximately 30,000 healthy participants. They are the first in the United States to begin human trails for a Coronavirus vaccine.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID, claims that early results from the Phase 3 study may be available in November or December if the trial enrolls quickly in places with high case loads. The study will use public health data to identify high-incidence areas and epicenters so sites near the locations can be prioritized for enrollment. Fauci says that, “The trail is designed to show the vaccine is at least 60% effective in preventing COVID-19”.
  • In April, the company received $483 million from BARDA while the vaccine was still in the early stages of trials by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Including the recent addition, this puts the company’s total BARDA funding at $955 million.
  • Moderna and NIAID collaborated in the development of the vaccine and the conduct of the Phase 1 study. On July 10, the company surpassed Phase 2 of the study in collaboration with BARDA – which included 600 participants. According to BARDA, “The vaccine candidate received Fast Track Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May”.
  • According to CEO, Stéphane Bancel, the company is encouraged that their vaccine may help address the current pandemic and prevent future outbreaks of the disease. Because the vaccine uses a synthetic RNA to fight the virus, it may be able to immunize the body against the virus and has potential for faster development and manufacturing. The company claims they are on track for a 2021 production of about 500 million to 1 billion doses per year.
  • On Monday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expanded manufacturing capacity for the possible vaccine by reserving the Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) at Texas A&M University. The CIADM is a public-private partnership between BARDA and Texas A&M University System, with manufacturing subcontracted by FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies. The task values at about $265 million and would reserve the manufacturing expansion through December of 2021 for U.S. government partners developing vaccines under Operation Warp Speed, which was set out by President Donald Trump.
  • As the possibility of a preventative vaccine increases, the stock market has been more engaged, with the Moderna stock spiking when the Phase 1 results showed promise. Since then, it has risen and fallen periodically. However, it brings into question the possibility of President Trump’s reelection. Some analysts are claiming that if the vaccine were to be approved, manufactured, or even show some sort of promise by the November election, it may increase Donald Trump’s chances of winning. Between the stock market reengaging and the possibility of control over the virus, it could be that this vaccine is the boost Trump needs.

As the trial continues, scientists are hopeful to find a preventative measure to the virus. To sign up to be apart of the trial at your local site, visit here.

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Coronavirus

Connecticut Issues First $1,000 Fines to Travel Violators

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Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont speaks to reporters before surveying storm damage, Friday, Aug. 7, in Westport, Conn. (John Minchillo/AP)

The Department of Public Health of Connecticut has distributed its first $1,000 fine on Monday to two individuals who Gov. Ned Lamont said failed to follow the travel advisory for citizens who return home from states with high COVID-19 infection rates.

What We Know:

  • Lamont stated that the two anonymous people came back to Connecticut from being in Louisiana and Florida. Neither completed the health form needed from anyone coming from any state.
  • Aside from not filling out a form, one of the people did not want to quarantine for the necessary 14 days and was given an additional fine of $1,000. Lamont said a coworker had told state officials that the person was not obeying Lamont’s executive order. Additionally, officials received a hint about the other person.
  • Lamont’s chief operating officer, Josh Geballe, said the incidents happened a couple of weeks ago. One of the individuals is from Windham County, and the other is from Hartford County. For the moment, he stated, there are further investigations currently happening regarding possibly other offenders.
  • Geballe said in a statement that this is real and people need to obey these rules and comply since this is one of the riskiest areas for the state of Connecticut right now as people are traveling into this state, bringing the virus with them. People need to fill out the form and need to quarantine, and are expected to do that. He continued to say, “If not, there will be consequences.”
  • Geballe stated that the information on the forms is critical in case someone tests positive and officials need to trace who they may have come in contact with. So far, more than 20,000 of the health forms had been handed in so far, with approximately 1,000 filed every day. Geballe said its significant amount of data that can be used if needed.

Lamont told reporters during his coronavirus briefing that he “hates” to do it, but they are serious and want to show people how serious they are. He continued to say that people are incredibly doing the right thing, and those who are not, please be on notice.

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Southeast L.A. County Becomes Epicenter of Coronavirus Resurgence, Officials Blame Young Adults

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Assistant manager Luis Garcia sanitizes outdoor tables at Gloria's Restaurant in Huntington Park. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)
Assistant manager Luis Garcia sanitizes outdoor tables at Gloria's Restaurant in Huntington Park. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

A recent analysis suggests Southeast Los Angeles County has become the epicenter for the resurgence of the coronavirus, according to the LA Times. County health data all point towards a trend of working-class Latino communities being affected the most.

What We Know:

  • Memorial Day marked the first major holiday of the summer and with plans to reopen states soon following, COVID-19 spread like wildfire virus throughout the workforce since then. Many communities with higher rates of poverty, crowding and many essential workers who keep the economy afloat are the hardest hit by the wave of unemployment caused by the pandemic.
  • As of Sunday, Los Angeles County reported nearly 1,800 new cases of COVID-19 and a dozen more deaths, pushing the county’s totals over 208,500 cases and nearing 5,000 deaths. Younger residents are, unfortunately, a majority of all the new cases reported as of late. About 69% of positive cases are under the age of 50 at this point.
  • These statistics alone erased the regions once-promising reduction in cases, to now one of the highest rates in the country, and just under other areas of Los Angeles.
  • Data collected by the Times reported a county record of over 27,000 new COVID-19 cases in the region the past two months. The area now accounts for “19% of new infections, although it comprises just 12% of the countywide population.”
  • The upward trend of spikes in infections target the younger demographic of work-classing residents, such as Latinos, regardless of rural or urban settings. It is yet another weight Southern California faces after a historic issue of pollution, healthcare accessibility, gang violence, and more.
  • The dispersity of the Eastside, compared to the Westside, is the east has a greater percentage of low-income, essential workers and are more subject to overcrowding. According to experts, these are all perfect ingredients for COVID-19 to thrive.

On the other hand, the Westside isn’t experiencing the same troubles. Given that the Westside has always been predominantly white and more well off, the increase has not been as significant. Much of this can be credited to better access to testing and healthcare.

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New Zealand Faces New COVID-19 Cases

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement at a press conference late Tuesday night.

What We Know:

  • This comes just after New Zealand celebrated 100 days without transmission of new COVID-19 cases. New Zealand now has four new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and twenty-three cases are in managed isolation. All of the previous twenty-three cases are travelers who have returned home to the country.
  • The first new case has been identified as someone in their 50’s who had not traveled out of the country. All four of the new cases are within the same family, and more than one place of business is involved. Contract tracing is currently in progress. Close contacts of those who tested positive will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Starting at noon local time on Wednesday, August 12th, the city of Auckland went on level 3 lockdown until midnight on Friday, August 14th. Under level 3 restrictions, Auckland will require non-essential workers to work from home, while travel into the city is restricted to those who live in the area. The rest of New Zealand went on level 2 lockdown, which still allows people to attend work and school.
  • Prime Minister Ardern described the need for the restrictions.

“These three days will give us time to assess the situation, gather information, make sure we have widespread contact tracing so we can find out more about how this case arose and make decisions on how to respond to it.”

  • Director-General of Health for New Zealand, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, noted the need for vigilance to defeat the virus, “This case is a wake-up call against any complacency that may have set in. We cannot afford to let this virus spread.”

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, New Zealand has recorded a total of 1220 cases and 22 deaths due to the virus.

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