Russian scientists report modest amount of antibodies in volunteers given the vaccine for the virus.
On Friday, a team of Russian scientists published the first report on their controversial Covid-19 vaccine. Writing in the Lancet, they reported that volunteers produced a relatively modest amount of antibodies to the coronavirus.
In August, President Vladimir V. Putin announced with great fanfare that the vaccine — called Sputnik V — “works effectively enough” to be approved. He declared to be a “very important step for our country, and generally for the whole world.”
But vaccine developers roundly criticized the announcement, observing that no data had been published on the vaccine. In addition, the Russian scientists had yet to run a large-scale trial to demonstrate that the vaccine was safe and effective.
The new paper offers the first chance to take a closer look at Sputnik V.
Researchers at the Gamaleya Research Institute designed the vaccine using a different virus as a vehicle to deliver coronavirus genes into cells. The vehicle viruses, called adenoviruses, were disabled so that they would only be able to enter cells, but not replicate.
The adenoviruses carried a coronavirus gene encoding a protein on the virus’s surface. The cells make the protein, which then stimulated people’s immune system.
Similar adenovirus-based vaccines are also being tested by several other teams, including AstraZeneca, CanSinoBio, and Johnson & Johnson. CanSinoBio is using a strain of adenovirus called Ad5. Johnson & Johnson is using one called Ad26. The Gamaleya researchers combined the two, giving volunteers a shot of Ad26, and then, three weeks later, a shot of Ad5.
The Russian team published the results of what’s known as a Phase ½ trial. This is an early stage of clinical research, in which scientist give a vaccine to volunteers, observe whether they make antibodies to a virus, and check for any side effects.
The trial was relatively small. Only 40 volunteers received the full vaccine with both kinds of adenoviruses, and no one received a placebo for comparison. By comparison, CanSinoBio ran a Pha ½ 2 trial that included 383 people who received the vaccine and another 129 who got a placebo.
The Russian vaccine produced mild symptoms in a number of subjects, the most common of which were fevers and headaches. Other adenovirus-based vaccines have produced similar side effects. The researchers found that volunteers who got the full vaccine produced antibodies to the coronavirus. They produced immune cells that could respond strongly the coronavirus, too.
In their paper, the researchers noted that the vaccine did not produce as many antibodies as AstraZeneca’s vaccine, or the gene-based vaccine made by Moderna.
Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University who was not involved in the study, judged that the vaccine produced “good antibody levels in all volunteers.” But she added that no one yet knows what level of antibodies or immune cells are required to protect people from getting sick. “It is hard to tell whether the vaccine will be efficacious,” she said.
That is true of all Covid-19 vaccines currently in testing. Determine if a vaccine is efficacious requires a so-called Phase 3 trial, in which a large number of volunteers get either a vaccine or a placebo. In their paper, the Russian scientists wrote that they got approval on Aug. 26 to run a Phase 3 trial on 40,000 people.
President Trump’s vaccine chief sees a ‘very, very low chance’ of a vaccine by Election Day.
Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser for the White House vaccine program, said on Thursday that it was “extremely unlikely but not impossible” that a vaccine could be available by the end of October.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Dr. Slaoui said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to states to prepare for a vaccine as early as late October was “the right thing to do” in case a vaccine was ready by then. “It would be irresponsible not to be ready if that was the case,” he said, adding that he had only learned of the notification through the news media.
But Dr. Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser of the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine and treatment initiative, called Operation Warp Speed, described getting a vaccine by late October as a “very, very low chance.”
That message ran counter to optimistic assertions from the White House that a vaccine could be ready for distribution before Election Day in November. President Trump, during the Republican National Convention, said a vaccine could be ready “before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.”
Dr. Slaoui confirmed that the two main candidates, referred to as Vaccine A and Vaccine B by the C.D.C., were being developed by Pfizer and Moderna. He said there was “no intent” to introduce a vaccine before clinical trials were completed. The trials would only be completed when an independent safety monitoring board affirmed the effectiveness of the vaccine, he added.
The NPR interviewer, Mary Louise Kelly, raised the timing of a possible vaccine given in the documents the C.D.C. recently sent to public health officials, and asked whether its delivery was being motivated by political concerns.
“For us there is absolutely nothing to do with politics,” Dr. Slaoui responded, saying that those involved were working as hard as they could because so many people were dying of the coronavirus every day. “Many of us may or may not be supportive of this administration. It’s irrelevant, frankly.”
Though he expressed doubt that a vaccine would be ready by the end of October, Dr. Slaoui said, he firmly believed “that we will have a vaccine available before the end of the year and it will be available in quantities that can immunize patients, subjects at the highest risk.” That included the elderly and those working in jobs with high exposure to the virus.
He estimated that there would be enough of the vaccine by the end of the year to immunize “probably between 20 and 25 million people.” Manufacturing would be ramped up so that there would be enough doses to immunize the U.S. population “by the middle of 2021,” he said.
Germany is considering shortening quarantine times.
German health authorities are considering shortening quarantine periods for those who have been in contact with patients testing positive for Covid-19 or those returning from high-risk countries to five days from 14 days currently.
“I think it is very sensible to limit the quarantine period to five days,” Karl Lauterbach, a lawmaker with the Social Democrats, the junior coalition partners in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told Die Welt, a daily publication.
“We know that the vast majority of people are no longer contagious five days after the onset of symptoms,” even if tests still show a positive result, said Mr. Lauterbach, who is also a medical doctor.
Mr. Lauterbach was responding to a suggestion by Christian Drosten, the country’s most influential virologist, that a shorter quarantine might be more effective than a two-week period because more people would follow it.
In late August, Ms. Merkel chided holidaymakers returning from high-risk zones for not respecting quarantine rules and announced fines and stricter controls. During that time, returning holidaymakers accounted for 40 percent of new infections, a number that has gone down in recent weeks as most Germans have returned to work.
On Tuesday, German authorities registered 1,311 new infections in 24 hours. There have been 246,948 cases in Germany so far and 9,310 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
The government has formally tasked the health ministry and the German version of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States with evaluating the safety and practicality of such a measure, a spokesperson said.
The U.S. added 1.4 million jobs in August as unemployment fell to 8.4 percent.
Employers continued to bring back furloughed workers last month, but at a far slower pace than in the spring, and millions of Americans remain out of work.
The U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, the Labor Department said Friday, down from 1.7 million in July and down sharply from the 4.8 million added in June.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent, down significantly from 14.7 percent in April.
“We still have a long way to go,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist for S&P Global.
The report on Friday provides some of the first clear data on the state of the economy as emergency federal spending winds down, including a $600 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits that helped keep many households afloat early in the pandemic. Economists warn that without that supplement, which expired at the end of July, millions of families will struggle to pay rent and buy food, reining in the broader economy.
But because the August jobs data was collected early in the month, it may not reflect the full impact of the loss of benefits, economists warn.
The virus forces millions out of Latin America’s universities, reversing years of progress.
Over the past two decades, millions of young people in Latin America became the first in their families to go to college, a historic expansion that promised to propel a generation into the professional class and transform the region.
But as the pandemic grips the region, killing hundreds of thousands and devastating economies, an alarming reversal is underway: Millions of university students are leaving their studies, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.
The exodus threatens decades of achievement that helped move entire communities out of poverty.
Since the early 2000s, enormous investment in elementary and high school programs — and a decision to build new universities — helped higher education enrollment across Latin America more than double, according to the World Bank.
As the health crisis deepened, The New York Times spent weeks speaking to students, parents, professors, officials and university rectors across Colombia.
Amid lockdowns, youth unemployment has spiked, and many students cannot pay tuition, which even at public schools can cost anywhere from one to eight times the monthly minimum wage.
Most courses have moved online, but millions do not have internet, or even a reliable cellphone connection.
Some students said they were going hungry to pay for data, while others hid in stairwells to steal Wi-Fi from neighbors.
At the Universidad Nacional, a prestigious public university in the capital, Bogotá, several students went on hunger strike on Aug. 10, camping out in a dozen tents on the otherwise empty campus, calling on the government to cover their tuition as their families hit bottom.
“I don’t see any other way to pay for the semester,” said Gabriela Delgado, 22, a music student and hunger striker.
For weeks she slept in a tent between the economics and humanities buildings, shuffling to daily medical check-ins. When she had the energy, she pulled out her cello to play fragments of Bach for fellow protesters.
The strike ended on Aug. 28 without the government’s having met their demands.
GLOBAL ROUND UP
After reaching a 100-day milestone, Thailand finds a new virus case.
Just as Thailand reached 100 days without detecting a locally transmitted case of the coronavirus, health officials announced on Thursday that a man jailed for drug use was found to be infected.
The man, who worked as a D.J. in Bangkok nightclubs, tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, a week after being admitted to a jail in the city. The discovery prompted a lockdown of the detention facility and dozens of inmates and staff members were placed in isolation. So far, no one else has tested positive, officials said.
Thailand is one of the few major countries to reach the 100-day milestone. New Zealand celebrated reaching 100 days last month only to discover a new local outbreak two days later that prompted officials to lock down the city of Auckland.
Vietnam came close to 100 days before discovering an outbreak in coastal Danang that spread throughout the country and claimed 34 lives, Vietnam’s first deaths from the pandemic.
Taiwan, one of the most successful places in containing the virus, has gone more than 140 days without a case of local transmission, with the last case recorded on April 8.
Thai health officials said it was unclear how the 37-year-old man became infected, adding that he had not traveled outside the country. He was living with his family in Bangkok and had worked at three locations in the Khao San Road tourist area before reporting to jail on Aug. 26. Health officials said Friday that they had traced and tested nearly 200 people who had contact with the man, including family members and fellow inmates, and so far none had tested positive.
Thailand was the first country outside China to discover a case of the coronavirus. As of Friday morning, it had more than 3,400 cases and 58 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
Thailand has succeeded in containing the virus in part by halting the arrival of foreign tourists, which has dealt a major blow to the nation’s economy. Thailand is one of the world’s most popular destinations and tourism makes up about a fifth of the economy.
The discovery of the new case comes as the government is considering opening its borders to select foreign tourists. Under one plan, they would have to undergo 14 days of quarantine at a hotel before being allowed to travel within the country.
New Zealand on Friday reported its first death from the coronavirus in more than three months, after a man in his 50s who contracted the virus in Auckland died in a hospital. The country, which had previously come close to eliminating the virus, has recently seen a small spike in cases from an unknown source. “We have always recognized that further deaths linked to Covid-19 were possible,” said Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of the Health Ministry.
Doctors in South Korea on Friday agreed to end a two-week strike after the government committed not to push through medical system overhauls until after the coronavirus subsided. Thousands of doctors, mostly interns and residents, have been on strike since Aug. 21, protesting the government’s plan to increase the number of medical school students and open public medical schools. In a deal signed Friday, the Health Ministry and the Korea Medical Association, a lobby for doctors, agreed to revisit and review the government’s proposals after the epidemic is over. Some doctors criticized the deal as insufficient and threatened to continue their walkout.
France has closed 22 schools because of virus infections, the French education minister said on Friday, less than a week after millions of students returned to classes around the country amid a surge in cases. The minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, told Europe 1 radio that ten of the shuttered schools were in La Réunion, an overseas French territory in the Indian Ocean, and he noted that a vast majority of France’s 60,000 schools were still open. About a hundred or so classes were also closed, he said, adding that an entire school was usually shut down after the detection of three or four positive cases.
Italy’s former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who tested positive this week for the virus, was admitted to a hospital Thursday night, his staff said. “There was the need for a small precautionary hospitalization,” Senator Licia Ronzulli, a close aide, said on the Italian TV show Agorà, “to monitor the development of Covid-19.” She added that Mr. Berlusconi, 83, was feeling good. Mr. Berlusconi, the leader of the center-right party Forza Italia and a media mogul, was initially asymptomatic and isolated in his mansion near Milan. He was hospitalized after the appearance of some symptoms, his staff said in a statement. “The clinical picture is not worrisome,” the statement added.
As some New Yorkers flee the city, others move closer to the office to bypass public transit.
While many city dwellers with the wherewithal are moving to the suburbs, where they can find more space and work more comfortably from home, real estate agents are reporting a surge of interest from clients looking to live closer to their city jobs. For essential workers and those whose jobs require them to be on-site, the issue is especially germane.
From her East Village walk-up, Jessica Fine used to take the subway to her job as a physician assistant on the Upper East Side. When the pandemic began, she switched to Citi Bike for the three-mile commute.
Now she has plans to move, so she can avoid the subway for good.
In the spring, she and her fiancé started hunting for a co-op to buy. “Proximity to work is a big factor for me,” said Ms. Fine, 29. “We are looking in the radius where I can bike or walk to work. I work in a hospital, so I will never be working from home.”
Many New Yorkers cannot avoid a lengthy subway or bus ride because they commute to jobs in Manhattan from other boroughs. But until this year, said Ryan Aussem, an agent with Brown Harris Stevens, most of his buyers were generally content with a 20-minute subway commute.
“Now, it’s: Let’s make that a 15-minute walk,” he said. “You have people who are really focusing on a long-term play in their life, where they are altering their transportation situation so they can have a safer, or what is perceived as safer, way to get to work.”
Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Emma Bubola, Aurelien Breeden, Ben Casselman, Joyce Cohen, Choe Sang-hun, Richard C. Paddock, Gaia Pianigiani, Campbell Robertson, Christopher F. Schuetze, Julie Turkewitz and Carl Zimmer.