Thursday's health stories

Apr 8, 2021 - Podcasts

Biden adviser Atul Gawande on vaccine hesitancy and herd immunity

Nearly one in five American adults is hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, which could make it harder for the country to reach herd immunity. Meanwhile, the virus continues to mutate, with the CDC announcing this week that the British variant is dominant in the U.S.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Dr. Atul Gawande, author and Biden administration adviser, about what vaccine hesitancy means for the U.S. and the world.

National Park Service cancels Independence Day Parade for second year

People watch the Independence Day parade as it passes in front of the National Archives in Washington DC, on July 4, 2019. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Park Service announced Thursday it was canceling this year's National Independence Day parade because of logistical and planning limitations stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The big picture: It's the second year the annual parade has been canceled due to the pandemic.

Apr 8, 2021 - Science

Scientists hunt for antiviral drugs to fight COVID-19

Data: Milken Institute; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Antiviral drugs can be a key pandemic-fighting tool, but so far there's only one approved in the U.S. for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why it matters: Because some people won't get vaccinated, and because there will likely be new variants of the virus, we'll need effective treatments — including antivirals, former FDA commissioners Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan wrote earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal.

Apr 8, 2021 - World

Swiss students fake COVID-19 positives as prank, putting entire class in quarantine

A trio of students at a school in Basel, Switzerland, got more than they bargained for when they faked positive COVID-19 tests in a bid to get out of school, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The episode highlights the tenuous loopholes in remote schooling students as well as possible issues with Switzerland’s COVID-19 contact tracing app, as the trio falsified SMS messages from the app.

The result: The prank resulted in 25 classmates — plus several teachers — at Basel’s Kirschgarten High School being quarantined for 10 days.

What's next: Although the school won't expel the students for their prank, it is planning to pursue criminal charges for falsifying “health-relevant documents,” reports Reuters.

  • “This is not just a childish prank, this is a serious incident,” said Simon Thiriet, a spokesperson for Basel’s education department.
Updated Apr 8, 2021 - Health

College students are eager to get vaccinated

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly 90% of college students say they probably or absolutely will get vaccinated, according to a BeatTheVirus/Generation Lab poll exclusive to Axios.

Why it matters: College students have contributed to the nationwide spread of the virus, and their vaccination is necessary in bringing the pandemic under control before variants spread any further.

Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day

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Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus cases are holding steady across the U.S. as vaccinations increase and states continue to loosen their safety measures.

By the numbers: The U.S. averaged about 65,000 new cases per day over the past week, essentially unchanged from the week before.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 8, 2021 - Health

The world is watching the FDA's AstraZeneca decision

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine took yet another public relations hit yesterday, when the European Medicines Agency announced that the shot has a "possible" link to rare blood clots, and they should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of the vaccine.

What we're watching: Even before the link was announced, the U.S. didn't need the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on its existing supply of other shots. But what the Food and Drug Administration decides to do about the vaccine — if the company seeks U.S. authorization — will likely have global ramifications.

Apr 8, 2021 - World

New Zealand suspends all travel from India over COVID cases at border

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand, on Tuesday,. Photo: Mark Coote/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Zealand has announced a temporary entry ban on all travelers from India, including NZ citizens, after a spike in COVID-19 cases at the border from the South Asian nation — which set another pandemic record on Thursday.

Driving the news: NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a briefing the 17-day suspension after 17 of the 23 new coronavirus infections confirmed Thursday in returned travelers in managed hotel quarantine were from India.

CBS defends "60 Minutes" after Florida governor calls show "dishonest"

A screenshot from "60 Minutes" of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: CBS

CBS issued a statement defending "60 Minutes" Wednesday, after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said the program was "dishonest" about the state's partnership with Publix dominating COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Palm Beach County.

Driving the news: DeSantis called the show "smear merchants" for reporting Sunday that poorer communities had been left behind, with no Publix Super Markets in Belle Glade, in the Glades area of Palm Beach County.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Apr 8, 2021 - Technology

Health care leads the way for top private AI firms

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new list of the top 100 private AI companies shows that health is driving investment in the industry.

Why it matters: COVID-19 has shown the power and potential of AI applications for health, and the growth of the field will continue long after the pandemic has finally ended.