The Olympics bars spectators, the Delta variant continues to spread, and Pfizer plans for boosters and third doses. Here’s what you should know:
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The Tokyo Olympics bars spectators as other countries navigate the return of in-person events
Yesterday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that there won’t be any in-person spectators at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics due to rising cases of Covid-19. A new state of emergency will go into effect in Tokyo on Monday and last through August 22. The news is a reversal of an announcement from a few weeks ago, when the International Olympic Committee said a reduced number of local fans would be allowed to attend the Games in person. Vaccination rates in Japan remain low compared to other countries like the US and Britain.
Meanwhile, as vaccinations continue to rise in other parts of the world, some countries are navigating the return of large in-person events, albeit not without a few hiccups. Singapore has said it will allow larger gatherings for people who are fully vaccinated when more than half of its population has gotten their shots later this month. In the US, concert venues are filling once more. And fans have been gathering across England to watch the European Championship soccer tournament, though researchers think this could be linked to a sudden spike in cases.
The Delta variant causes an uptick of cases in the US and around the world
As of this week, the Delta variant is officially the dominant strain of coronavirus circulating in the US. While current vaccines are still effective against the mutation, unvaccinated Americans are at a significant risk. Hospitalizations and new cases are up, particularly in parts of the country where vaccination rates have stayed relatively low. More than 99 percent of Americans who died from the disease in June were unvaccinated. All of this is happening as people are traveling more freely this summer, and other diseases quashed by pandemic prevention measures are able to make their comeback.
The Delta variant continues to cause problems around the world, as well. South Korea, where the virus was once thought to be largely under control, is increasing social distancing measures in Seoul as it faces what might be the worst wave the country has seen yet. And the WHO said yesterday that Africa is also experiencing its worst surge in cases, with cases rising in more than 16 countries across the continent.
Drugmakers investigate boosters and third doses amid new research about vaccine efficacy
Pfizer recently announced that it intends to seek emergency authorization from the FDA in August for a third dose of the vaccine to boost immunity, especially amid the rise of the Delta variant. The drugmaker said that early data from its booster study indicates that antibody levels jump significantly after a third dose. That said, even if Pfizer is granted approval from the FDA, it will be up to public health authorities to determine whether a booster is necessary when many still haven’t gotten their initial doses of the shot. Pfizer and BioNTech are also developing a booster shot that specifically targets the Delta variant.
Researchers are working hard to understand the new strain, as well as what continued mutations could mean for immunity. New research published this week found that fully vaccinated people are well protected against the Delta variant, but that only receiving one shot of the two doses offers little protection, another reminder of how important it is to receive the full course of vaccination.
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How did the pandemic change sleep habits?
When many workers weren’t commuting to the office and students weren’t going to in-person class, lots of people found themselves sleeping later and longer. For researchers who look at sleep, this provided an opportunity for a real-time study, and demonstrated that work schedules often cause people to sleep less and rise earlier than they would if they were listening to their bodies. Now, as more and more people return to work and school in-person, some experts are saying this new knowledge about how people sleep and wake should inform schedules going forward.
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