• Researchers in South Africa report concerns about a new  coronavirus variant, C.1.2, which was first identified in May 2021 and has since spread from the provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng to six of South Africa’s nine provinces and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland. Researchers noted that C.1.2 has mutations that “are associated with increased transmissibility” and an increased ability to evade antibodies. Source

• In the US, prescriptions for, and calls to poison centers about ivermectin, an antiparasitic medicine used in people and animals, have risen dramatically despite lack of evidence for its efficacy as a treatment for COVID-19 – and a plea from regulators to avoid using it. Source       

• WHO and UNICEF issue a joint statement calling for schools to stay open and take preventive measures to make them safer, including offering vaccines to school staff and children ages 12 and over with pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable to severe COVID-19, increasing ventilation, and, when possible, smaller classes and physical distancing. “The pandemic has caused the most catastrophic disruption to education in history, “said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, “We encourage all countries to keep schools open and urge all schools to put in place measures to minimize the risk of COVID-19 and the spread of different variants.” Source 

• New Zealand’s COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board announced the country’s first vaccine-related death after a woman died from myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle known to be a rare side effect from mRNA vaccines). Source

• The FDA is resuming use of bamlanivimab and etesevimab in 22 states and territories where the combined frequency of variants that are resistant to these monoclonal antibodies is under 5 percent. Source

• Pfizer is prioritizing marketing for its coronavirus vaccine, following full US FDA approval, posting new jobs on LinkedIn, including a senior director for its US COVID launch and a senior manager for US COVID consumer marketing. Source

• JAMA publishes research comparing humoral immune responses to mRNA coronavirus vaccines among 1,647 fully vaccinated healthcare workers in Belgium (688 received the Moderna vaccine and 959 were given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine). Overall, antibody titers were highest among vaccinated people with previous COVID-19. Among previously uninfected people, antibody titers were higher among Moderna recipients than those given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, regardless of age (geometric mean titer of  2881 U/mL versus 1108 U/mL).

The authors suggest that the higher dose and longer dosing interval might account for the difference between the mRNA vaccines, noting that this difference might not translate into increased protection against COVID-19. Source