Earlier this week, the Minister of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar announced that coronavirus vaccine distribution would be changed to meet demand. The full range of vaccines will be available, not just the first few doses. He said HHS is calling on state governments to provide the vaccine to the most vulnerable in addition to the elderly in nursing homes.

“We tell states to offer vaccinations to all of their most vulnerable people,” Azar said. Initially, the vaccine was only available to healthcare workers, people living in nursing homes, and nursing home staff. Now anyone 65 years of age or older and adults with risky comorbidities can get the vaccine. Mr. Azar’s policies include those aged 16 and over. Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for use over the age of 16, but Moderna is only approved for use by people over the age of 18. This applies to anyone aged 16 and over with conditions such as cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, pregnancy, and several other conditions listed by the CDC.

This new plan was not widely accepted. The Washington Post reported that several states are simply following the original CDC guidelines. Under the CDC’s original plan, the first phase would have been the nursing home residents, staff and health workers, then people over 75 and key frontline workers, and finally older adults between 65 and 74 and people with “high risk diseases”. “This move by the Trump administration skips the middle group, which included otherwise healthy frontline workers who were at risk of exposure to Covid-19 because of their work.

President Biden has put forward his own American rescue plan. The nearly $ 2 trillion plan provides $ 160 billion in funding for a national vaccination program. which would cover: national vaccine distribution; Expansion of the test and vaccination sites; Reopening schools and protecting frontline workers. The plan also includes coverage for immigrants regardless of their status.

The vaccine is free; There’s no copay.

Safe for (almost) everyone

The vaccines prove to be largely free of side effects. Earlier this month, the CDC released a report of allergic reactions due to the Pfizer vaccine. The report found that there were just over 11 allergic reactions per million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The vast majority of these reactions occurred within 15 minutes of receiving the vaccine. Because of this, people are asked to remain under observation for the first 15 minutes.

The CDC recently recommended that people who were allergic to the first dose should not receive the second dose. Likewise, people who have had severe allergic reactions to any other vaccine or to “polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate” in the past should consult a doctor before receiving the vaccine. People with other allergies such as food allergies or latex allergies can receive the vaccine. The CDC has stated that people with a known allergy to any of the vaccine components should not be vaccinated.

According to the New York Times, the vaccine is a mixture of genetic material, salts, and fats. Most salts and fats are not common causes of an allergic reaction. For those concerned, a full list of ingredients for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is available. According to the CDC, people with possible allergies to the vaccine can also be vaccinated under appropriate medical supervision. However, the CDC guidelines suggest doing this under the supervision of an allergist-immunologist.

Moderna, the maker of the other main vaccine, announced that its vaccine will offer at least a year of immunity to SarsCoV2.

Other treatments

While widespread vaccination is essential to ending the Covid-19 pandemic, treatments are still needed for people who are and become sick. There are already several approved and tested drugs for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. Even so, research into new treatment options continued. There are currently 78 active or soon to be active studies in phase 1; 262 in phase 2; and 104 in phase 3. These are trials in the United States.

Not all studies relate to drugs. Plasma, a component of blood that can be rich in immune proteins, has long been a focus of Covid-19 research. In early January, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article by a team at Fundación INFANT in Argentina that showed that early administration of convalescent plasma to older adults with mild cases of Covid-19 reduced the risk of severe respiratory disease. In early 2021, it was announced that a large UK study testing whether blood plasma would have an effect on serious cases of Covid-19 was halted after researchers found no significant benefits in treating Covid-19 in very sick patients . The study included 900 patients. Although this study has been completed, research is still ongoing into convalescent plasma.

The same international team of researchers found that two immunosuppressive drugs that treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, namely tocilizumab and sarilumab, improved survival rates and shortened the time a patient stayed in intensive care. The UK has now approved these drugs for the treatment of seriously ill Covid-19 patients.

Other studies on these anti-inflammatory therapies did not give the same positive results; Some said the differences were due to the timing of therapy and the large differences in disease severity. In the UK, treated patients received therapy almost immediately after receiving oxygen.

According to Scientific American, Covid-19 could be the leading cause of death in 2021.

Sabrina Emms is a science writer who has worked as a researcher studying the way bones are formed.

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