1. PRIORITY REVIEW OF PFIZER-BIONTECH VACCINE Pfizer-BioNTech on July 16 announced the US FDA granted priority review status for the Biologics License Application for their 2-dose SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine. An FDA official reportedly said a decision on whether to grant full approval for the vaccine’s use in people ages 16 and older will come soon, possibly within the next 2 months. The FDA must make its decision by January under the priority review. Pfizer-BioNTech completed their application in May and expects to apply for full approval for people ages 12 to 15 when data are available. Moderna has begun its application to the FDA for full approval of its 2-dose SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, and J&J-Janssen also is expected to seek full approval of its 1-dose vaccine. Full approval of a vaccine could impact US vaccination coverage by prompting vaccine mandates for some schools, businesses, or the US military, and by swaying some who are reluctant because of safety concerns to undergo vaccination.

2. FRANCE VACCINATIONS In an effort to control the surging Delta variant (B.1.617.2), French President Emmanuel Macron announced that proof of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test must soon be provided to enter certain public venues or transportation. 

3. HAJJ Historically, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca draws millions of visitors from around the world. Last year, Saudi Arabia limited visitors to only 1,000 pilgrims, but for the ongoing Hajj (July 17-22), the government is permitting a total of 60,000 visitors, limited to Saudi residents who are fully vaccinated, aged 18-65 years, and have no chronic health conditions. While this is considerably more people than were permitted in 2020, it is still far fewer than the more than 2 million who typically attend Hajj.

In order to reduce risk, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah implemented additional restrictions and protective measures. Upon arrival, pilgrims are assigned to groups of 20, with no mixing between groups. Individuals are assigned specific dates and times to visit the Grand Mosque, where 6,000 individuals are permitted to enter every 3 hours. Facilities at the Grand Mosque undergo sterilization between each session. Despite the additional protective measures, including the vaccination requirement, the US CDC still has a Level 3 Travel Warning in place (Avoid Nonessential Travel) for the Hajj, due in part to the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission associated with mass gatherings.

(J. Harris: Too bad. I surely hope that this type of Covid Caution doesn’t spread to really important super spreader events like  THE 81ST STURGIS MOTORCYCLE RALLY to be held in August in SD [].See you there???)

4. SUPER ANTIBODY In a study published July 14 in Nature, researchers describe a newly discovered “super antibody” capable of protecting against SARS-CoV-2 and a group of related coronaviruses, called sarbecoviruses. The antibody, named S2H97, is believed to work by attaching to a section of the ACE2 receptor binding motif on the virus spike protein that is only exposed when a sarbecovirus is attempting to enter a cell. S2H97 was able to prevent the spread of multiple sarbecoviruses between cells in a lab, and the antibody also protected hamsters from infection with SARS-CoV-2 isolated from the initial Wuhan, China, outbreak. Researchers further described the antibody as a pan-sarbecovirus due to its broad efficacy across the sarbecovirus subgenus. The description of a usually hidden antibody binding region in the ACE2 RBM is important because it could be used as a target for future vaccines and therapeutics. Additionally, a pan-sarbecovirus vaccine could be used to prevent outbreaks from as-of-yet-undiscovered members of the Coronaviridae family of viruses.


J. Harris: Our neighbors in LA must have more Covid, more Testing, or (likely) both.

AND LAST BUT NOT LEASED (Thank you George and Sam)


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