Aug 25, 2020

Axios Vitals

By Caitlin Owens
Caitlin Owens

Good morning...

  • Join Axios co-founder Mike Allen tomorrow at 12:30pm ET for a live, virtual event on the future of the Republican Party, featuring U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

Today's word count: 1,021, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: The partisan trust gap
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±3.3% margin of error for the total sample; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More Americans trust Joe Biden than to give them accurate information about the coronavirus than trust Donald Trump, but neither one cracks 50%, according to the latest installment of our Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

By the numbers: Just 31% of Americans say they trust Trump on the pandemic, compared with 46% who say they trust Biden.

  • Just 7% of Democrats trust Trump — and only 12% of Republicans trust Biden — to provide accurate information about the coronavirus.
  • Three in 10 members of the president's own party don't trust him on the issue.
  • Independents trust Biden significantly more than they trust Trump — but more than a third of independents say they don't trust either one.

My thought bubble: Trump's record of false, misleading or unsupported statements about the pandemic is well-established.

  • He claimed near the beginning of the U.S. outbreak that the virus would quickly vanish; he has touted experimental treatments that are not supported by solid clinical evidence; and over the course of the pandemic he has made many dubious claims about both the usefulness and availability of testing.

What they're saying: "Trump's not credible talking about COVID. It's very hard to spin a virus. At the end of the day, people know people that are sick, people know people that have died, and that's real," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

2. Rich countries race to lock down vaccine doses

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

It's increasingly clear that a minority of the global population — likely only a tiny sliver — will be able to obtain a vaccine in the near term, Axios' Dave Lawler writes.

Driving the news: 172 countries — but not China or the U.S. — have submitted "expressions of interest" in the COVAX initiative, which aims to distribute vaccines globally according to need, rather than wealth.

  • The Chinese government revealed it began an experimental program in late July to vaccinate high-risk groups.
  • President Trump is reportedly anxious to announce similar emergency authorizations soon.

The Trump administration has compared its approach to that of an airplane passenger securing their oxygen mask before helping others, Thomas Bollyky and Chad Bown write in Foreign Affairs.

  • "The major difference, of course, is that airplane oxygen masks do not drop only in first class," they write.

The U.K. has also purchased a first-class ticket — 340 total million doses for a population of 67 million.

  • That may sound excessive, but the U.K. has (like the U.S.) hedged its bets between several vaccine candidates, most of which require two shots.

And while the EU has led calls for equitable global distribution, the bloc has simultaneously secured hundreds of millions of doses for its members.

  • Japan has placed large purchase orders, as have countries like Indonesia and Brazil that have less cash to spend but are wary of being left out.

Go deeper.

3. What it's like to donate COVID plasma

A bag of blood plasma. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

As the Axios team discussed the FDA's weekend announcement on convalescent plasma, it turned out we have some firsthand expertise.

Here's Bryan:

  • To make a convalescent plasma donation at the New York Blood Center, I first needed to show proof of my positive COVID-19 test results, as well as indicate that I had been symptom-free for at least 14 days.
  • After an on-site test to prove that I actually had antibodies that could be shared — and a very extensive quiz about any past behaviors that might cause my blood to be rejected — I was taken into the plasma donation room.
  • There a sterile needle was inserted into my left arm (I'm right-handed), and my blood was siphoned off into an aphaeresis machine, where it spun in a centrifuge that separated out the plasma. The remainder of my blood flowed back into my arm.
  • The donation process was no more uncomfortable than giving whole blood — the needle does pinch, but it was longer, about 50 minutes, compared to 10 for whole blood.
  • What I don't know is whether the plasma I donated made a difference for a COVID-19 patient. The science — despite the FDA's move — remains far from clear.

🎬 If you'd like this explained to you by an inferior Bryan, "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston recorded his own plasma donation.

4. First confirmed reinfection

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers in Hong Kong said yesterday that they'd recorded the first confirmed case of person being infected with the coronavirus for a second time.

The big picture: This isn't necessarily shocking, or bad news — researchers had been expecting that reinfection could occur, and have known for a while now that antibodies to fight the virus might only last for a while.

  • "This is no cause for alarm — this is a textbook example of how immunity should work," tweeted Akiko Iwasaki, an immunology expert at Yale.

What's next: Researchers don't know how many people are likely to get reinfected, how severe those reinfections are likely to be, or what the full implications are for the length of the pandemic.

  • The patient whose reinfection was confirmed yesterday is a young, healthy male, who did not experience any symptoms in his second round of COVID.
  • There's some belief that subsequent infections can help firm up the body's immune response, according to the New York Times, but at the same time, asymptomatic people can still spread the virus.

"We've had, what, 23 million cases documented thus far, but the fact that one out of them at this point has been reinfected should not cause undue alarm as of yet," Columbia University epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman told NYT.

  • "However, it remains very, very concerning — and this does nothing to dispel that — that we may be subject to repeat infection with this virus."
5. Catch up quick
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

In the U.S....

  • In an interview with Reuters, Anthony Fauci laid out another compelling reason not to rush the availability of the first coronavirus vaccine: It could make it much harder to enroll people in clinical trials for other products.
  • FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, in a Twitter thread, said the agency's authorization for convalescent plasma came from career scientists, but acknowledged some mistakes in how he described the potential benefits.
  • A Florida judge struck down an emergency order from the Florida Department of Education that would have required all schools to reopen for in-person learning this month.

Around the world...

  • South Korean officials warned Monday that they might have to introduce restrictions such as closing schools and limiting gatherings, as they reported 266 more cases — marking its 11th consecutive day of new infections in the triple digits, per AP.
Caitlin Owens