The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have recommended Catholics get the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna over Johnson & Johnson, if possible, because the latter adenovirus vector vaccine was developed with the help of abortion-derived cell lines.
In a statement released on March 2, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, encouraged Catholics to avoid getting the latest adenovirus vector COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson if alternatives are available.
Hydroxychloroquine Not Recommended for Prevention of COVID-19
In a guideline published in the British Medical Journal on March 2, the World Health Organization (WHO) is advising against the use of hydroxychloroquine to prevent infection from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
The WHO assembled an international panel of experts—consisting of physicians, scientists, an ethicist, and four patients who recovered from COVID—to review data of six randomized controlled studies involving 6,059 participants who were or were not exposed to an individual with the CCP virus.
They found that hydroxychloroquine had a “small or no effect” on hospitalizations, deaths, and laboratory-confirmed virus infections, and added that the anti-inflammatory drug may have increased the risk of adverse events.
WHO says Report on Virus Origins Due in Mid-March
The findings of a WHO-led mission to Wuhan, China, to investigate the origins of the CCP virus are expected in mid-March, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
Ben Embarek, a WHO expert on diseases that cross from animals to humans, had said at the end of the mission to China last month that the virus probably originated in bats, although it was not certain how it reached humans. He also said it was “extremely unlikely” the virus leaked from a Wuhan coronavirus research lab.
But days later, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appeared to walk back on this statement, saying that “all hypotheses remain open and require further study.”
Hundreds Gather in Illegal Protest in Sweden
Swedish police dispersed hundreds of people who had gathered in central Stockholm to protest CCP virus restrictions set by the Swedish government.
Swedish authorities said Saturday’s demonstration was illegal as it was held without permission. The rally was the first major protest against Sweden’s coronavirus restrictions.
Senate Democrats Reject All Republican Amendments But 3 Before Passing Relief Bill in Partisan Vote
Democrats rejected all but three Republican amendments to the $1.9 trillion relief bill, which cleared the Senate in a partisan vote Saturday.
Merck Says Study Shows Drug Causes Quick Reduction in Virus
U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co Inc said on Saturday the experimental antiviral drug molnupiravir it is developing with Ridgeback Bio showed a quicker reduction in infectious virus in its phase 2a study among participants with early COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.
“The secondary objective findings in this study, of a quicker decrease in infectious virus among individuals with early COVID-19 treated with molnupiravir, are promising,” said William Fischer, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, in a statement from the companies.
California OKs Reopening of Ball Parks, Disneyland
California has cleared a path for fans to hit the stands at opening-day baseball games and return to Disneyland nearly a year after CCP virus restrictions shuttered major entertainment spots.
New public health rules would allow live concerts at stadiums and sports arenas to reopen with limited attendance April 1. Amusement parks also will be permitted to reopen in counties that have fallen from the state’s purple tier—the most restrictive—to the red tier.
Brazil Variant Can Reinfect Survivors; Vaccine Antibodies Pass Into Breast Milk
A CCP virus variant circulating in Brazil is likely able to reinfect people who survived infections with earlier versions of COVID-19, new data suggest.
The variant that emerged in Brazil, called P.1, carries a mutation that is already known to make a variant prevalent in South Africa harder to treat with antibodies and harder to prevent with available vaccines. New data suggest that in many recovered patients, immunity to earlier versions of the virus will not afford immunity to P.1.
White House: Relief Bill Remains ‘Incredibly Progressive’ Despite Senate Compromises
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Friday that the $1.9 trillion relief package—panned by Republicans as a liberal wish list packed with non-pandemic-related spending priorities—is an “incredibly progressive bill,” and expressed the expectation that congressional progressives will give it their stamp of approval when the bill circles back to the House.
Psaki made the remarks at a White House press briefing in response to a question about how the demands of moderate Democrats were forcing a series of compromises on the bill, as it makes its way through the Senate, that might rankle the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. These include lowering the extra federal unemployment benefit top-up from $400 to $300, and tightening thresholds for who is eligible to receive stimulus checks.
Greece, Cyprus Woo UK Tourists as Travel Curbs Persist
Greece and Cyprus have both promised to facilitate the arrival of British tourists in the Mediterranean holiday destinations this summer, even as the UK authorities step up their crackdown on “illegal” foreign travel in the run-up to Easter.
In an interview published in The Telegraph on Saturday, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said that his country will “open up to our beloved friends from the UK.”
Speedy Variants Power Virus Surge Sweeping Europe
Europe recorded 1 million new CCP virus cases last week, an increase of 9 percent from the previous week and a reversal that ended a six-week decline, WHO said Thursday.
“The spread of the variants is driving the increase, but not only,’’ said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, citing “also the opening of society, when it is not done in a safe and a controlled manner.”
The so-called UK variant is spreading significantly in 27 European countries monitored by WHO and is dominant in at least 10 by the agency’s count: Britain, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Israel, Spain, and Portugal.
Meiling Lee, Katabella Roberts, Alexander Zhang, Tom Ozimek, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.