Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Immunity may last years.,


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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.


Credit…The New York Times

Biden called for U.S. intelligence agencies to “redouble” investigative efforts into the origins of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former top aide painted a damning picture of the U.K. government’s pandemic response.

Despite gains against the virus, the C.D.C. director said unvaccinated people remained at risk.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

Good news on immunity

Scientists have feared that immunity to the coronavirus, whether through infection or vaccination, may be short-lived. But a pair of novel studies suggest that immunity lasts for at least a year — and maybe even decades for some people.

“For people who have had Covid and have been vaccinated, this is excellent news because it means that they will probably never need a booster again — it seems like they’re pretty much set for life,” said my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli, who covers science for The Times. “For people who haven’t had Covid but are vaccinated, those people will probably need boosters, and within a year or so.”

Both of the studies looked at a type of immune cell that can remember the virus and lives in the bone marrow until it is needed to produce antibodies.

“Getting bone marrow is an involved procedure, it’s not just like drawing blood,” Apoorva said. “So the fact that they were able to get bone marrow from people, and not just once but multiple times, is a big deal.”

The scientists discovered that as these immune cells continued to evolve, the antibodies they produced became better at fighting infection.

“Even after the active infection was over, these cells kept learning because the immune system retained a piece of the virus,” Apoorva said. “Over time, the immune cells continued to improve how well they could target the virus. They became broader in their repertoire, so they could work against a much broader range of variants.”

Vaccines may not offer the same results, because immune memory is likely organized differently after immunization, than with an infection. And even those who have recovered from an infection still need doses.

“Some subset of people don’t necessarily produce a very strong immune response when they’ve been exposed to the virus,” Apoorva said. “So, really, everybody should get vaccinated, whether they’ve been infected or not.”

A shot at $1 million

Tonight the Ohio vaccine lottery campaign will give out its first of five $1 million prizes. Dubbed “Vax-a-Million,” it will be the first of several opportunities for Americans to win big money if they have been vaccinated.

Colorado announced its own $1 million lottery this week, and Oregon is offering a $1 million jackpot and $10,000 prizes. Elsewhere, state and local officials have offered free beer, dinner with the governor, or a $100 bond to lure the remaining 40 percent of American adults and teens who haven’t yet been vaccinated.

But have the incentives been working?

In Ohio, the results are mixed. In the days after the announcement of the lottery, vaccinations increased to 23,000 a day from about 16,000, a meaningful jump at a time when vaccinations nationally are declining. The additional shots came most prominently in rural areas.

Research has shown that incentives can work, and may increase vaccination rates by as much as eight percentage points. They’re not aimed at winning over people who are set against virus vaccines, but at those who feel uncertain, unmotivated or just haven’t gotten around to it.

But enticements can backfire. Some people in Ohio said the lottery made them feel pressure to get vaccinated, while some experts say offering too much money may inadvertently send a signal that the vaccine is problematic.

While big money may generate buzz, sometimes the best way to convince unvaccinated people is also the most personal — including open conversations with trusted members of the community, advice from personal doctors, or seeing friends and family get their shots.

Vaccine rollout

The E.U. may seek billions in penalties if AstraZeneca fails to deliver tens of millions of vaccine doses that it is contractually required to supply.

England opened vaccinations up to anyone over 30, while those 50 and over are having their second doses moved up because of the prevalence of the variant first discovered in India, Sky News reports.

Belgium halted use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for people under age 41 after a possible fatal case of a rare blood disorder in someone who received a shot, Reuters reports.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

What else we’re following

Puerto Rico, recovering from a spring surge, lifted a curfew that was in effect throughout the pandemic.

Singapore has provisionally approved a breathalyzer test that its makers say can detect the virus within 60 seconds.

Brazil passed 450,000 deaths and hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with virus patients, Folha de S. Paulo reports.

Will the Tokyo Olympics happen? Public health experts say it’s time to rethink.

The Atlantic argues that the understanding of the pandemic in the U.S. was shaped from the beginning by messy data on testing, cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

William Shakespeare, the first man in Britain to receive an approved Covid vaccine, died at 81.

What you’re doing

After the lockdowns began, I started playing online video games again, mostly a massively multiplayer online role-playing game from my childhood called RuneScape. It has been my way of staying connected with people. I’ve become friends with other gamers from all over the world through our love for this 20-year-old game, and I think also as part of our desire to be in community with others in these difficult times. It’s a community I never expected to become a part of and is one that I hope will last after the pandemic.

— Newton Kwan, Newcastle, Wash.

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