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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New clinical trial data from two experimental coronavirus vaccines — one from Oxford University and AstraZeneca in the United Kingdom, and the other from CanSino Biologics in China — are providing cautious optimism in the race to combat the pandemic.

The big picture: Science has never moved this fast to develop a vaccine. And researchers are still several months away from a clearer idea of whether the leading candidates help people generate robust immune responses to this virus.

Driving the news: The Oxford and CanSino vaccines didn't lead to any severe adverse reactions or hospitalizations, according to the results released yesterday.

  • Safety — not efficacy — was the main thing these studies were supposed to be testing. And they performed well enough to move on to further trials.
  • Competing candidates from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have also performed well in safety trials.

Yes, but: Future trials will be the ones that tell us whether any of these potential vaccines actually trigger patients' immune systems to respond to the virus.

  • In the results released yesterday, Oxford researchers gave their vaccine to 543 people but only tested 35 for "neutralizing antibodies." A separate, nonrandomized group of 10 people got a booster dose of the Oxford vaccine a month after the initial dose.
  • Preliminary antibody responses from CanSino's vaccine were "disappointing" to several experts.

"It's a lot of hype," said Paul Offit, a physician and vaccine expert at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "It's just trying to read the tea leaves of what will be a large phase three trial."

The bottom line: There are 23 coronavirus vaccines in clinical testing right now, according to the World Health Organization.

  • We now have data on the first four, but the studies mostly are confirming that the vaccines aren't severely harmful and that large-scale studies are warranted — not that they definitely work yet.
  • "It is good and hopeful news indeed, but we'll only know when the large trials are done," tweeted Robert Califf, a former FDA commissioner under Barack Obama.

Go deeper: Read more about the state of the global race for a vaccine

Go deeper

Oct 29, 2020 - Health

Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Many of the states where coronavirus cases have recently skyrocketed are also seeing the highest death rates in the nation, a painful reminder that wherever the virus goes, death eventually follows.

Between the lines: Deaths usually lag behind cases by a few weeks. Given America's record-high case counts, it's reasonable to expect that death rates across the country will continue to rise in tandem.

Oct 28, 2020 - Sports

Boston Marathon delayed as COVID-19 surges

Photo: Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

The Boston Marathon, which is typically held in April, "will be postponed until at least the fall of 2021," because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Boston Athletic Association announced Wednesday.

The state of play: The BAA said it delayed the 125th annual event, which was scheduled for April 19, 2021, because road races are banned until Boston hits Phase 4 of its reopening plan. The city is currently in Phase 3 of 4.

Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

In the final week before Election Day, new coronavirus infections have soared to an all-time high — virtually guaranteeing that the pandemic will be the most prominent issue in America as voters prepare to choose the next president.

The big picture: Cases are surging and local hospitals are straining at the very moment that voters are choosing between President Trump, who continues to insist that the pandemic is almost over, and Joe Biden, who has made the crisis a centerpiece of his campaign.

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