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As officials scramble to get vaccines and protective gear to the public, scientists are working overtime to gain knowledge of the long-term effects of COVID-19, said Anthony Fauci, MD, during a wide-ranging briefing at the White House today.
“Many of you are now aware of what had long been called ‘long COVID,’ ” said Fauci, the White House COVID-19 Response Team’s chief medical adviser. “But actually, what that really is is post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which we’re now referring to as ‘PASC,’ or P-A-S-C.”
He noted that the National Institutes of Health launched an initiative yesterday to further study the phenomenon, which Fauci called “alarming” and “puzzling.”
He stressed that even patients with moderate cases of the infection can develop PASC. Symptoms include fatigue; gastrointestinal problems; “brain fog,” or an inability to focus; depression; anxiety; sleep difficulties; and, in extreme cases, impaired lung capacity.
“New symptoms sometimes arise well after the time of infection, or they evolve over time and persist for months,” Fauci continued. “They can range from mild or annoying to actually quite incapacitating.” He referred to a study from researchers at the University of Washington that was published online February 19 in JAMA Network Open. In that study, more than 30% of the 177 participants reported symptoms that persisted for up to 9 months.
“It’s very difficult to treat something when you don’t know what the target of that treatment is,” Fauci said. “There are a lot of important questions with this series of initiatives that we will ultimately answer.”
White House Will “Waste No Time” Distributing J&J Vaccine
US Food and Drug Administration scientists determined that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective, according to a review released today. Once the single-dose vaccine receives emergency use authorization ― which is expected later this week ― the administration will begin working immediately to distribute it.
“Governors are carefully planning their efforts and getting ready for the possible new vaccine,” said White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients in a press briefing this morning. “If authorized, we are ready to roll out this vaccine without delay.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which would be the third for the pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans, was found to be more than 85% effective in preventing severe illness and 66% protective overall.
Zients said that if emergency use authorization is granted, three to four million doses will be delivered by next week and that 20 million are slated to be delivered by the end of March. Johnson & Johnson is required by contract to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June.
“While we await the decision, we want the American people to know we’re doing the work so if the emergency use authorization is granted, we’ll waste no time getting the lifesaving vaccine into the arms of Americans,” Zients said.
When the Biden administration assumed power 5 weeks ago, Zients said, it became clear the company was behind on manufacturing. Since then, the White House has helped with equipment and raw materials to accelerate the process.
“It was disappointing when we arrived,” Zients said, “and I think the progress is real.”
The White House response team also announced during the briefing that they will deliver 25 million fitted cloth masks for adults and children to health centers and food banks nationwide in a continued effort to protect underserved Americans.
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