The first people to get vaccinated
Do-it-yourself projects in the time of the coronavirus go far beyond homemade masks and Zoom knitting classes. For dozens of scientists who believe that exceptional times call for exceptional measures, experimental Covid-19 vaccines are the new frontier.
These researchers have inoculated themselves — and, sometimes, friends and family — bypassing the rigorous tests required for conventional vaccines and raising fears of potential side effects.
Methods, credentials and claims vary widely. At one end of the spectrum is the 23-person Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, whose ranks include a renowned Harvard geneticist. It plans to offer its vaccine for free and has produced a lengthy scientific document explaining how it works and how to recreate it.
At the other end are one-man shows like Johnny Stine, who runs the Seattle biotech firm North Coast Biologics. Mr. Stine charged people $400 for his unproven vaccine and got in trouble with the Food and Drug Administration, which ordered him to stop “misleadingly” representing it.
These experiments follow a long history of scientists openly testing vaccines on themselves and their children, but they have become less common in recent decades, according to a medical historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Defenders of the vaccine projects say that everyone can benefit from these scientists’ findings, as long as they’re measured about their claims and transparent about the process. But critics argue that little can be gleaned without extensive studies and trials, and that ineffective vaccines could offer a false sense of protection and even be harmful.
Moving forward in Russia. President Vladimir Putin said the nation’s vaccine, Sputnik V, announced in early August, was ready for use outside of clinical trials. Though health officials said mass vaccination would start next month, the health ministry has pushed back the timeline to November or December, when other countries have said a vaccine may be available.
The U.S. Open kicked off yesterday in New York. But for most of the players the Grand Slam event began at least two weeks ago, when they arrived at a hotel on Long Island to enter a quarantine bubble.
Typically, playing at the U.S. Open, even for those who don’t make it very far, comes with the perk of being able to enjoy New York City’s nightlife, neighborhoods or shopping during downtime. But not during the pandemic. Players this year are mostly confined to the arcades and cafes inside their hotel or the National Tennis Center.
The experience can feel particularly brutal for those who have traveled thousands of miles, only to quickly lose. Damir Dzumhur, who spent more than two weeks in the bubble, was sent home by the world No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic, in the first round Monday.
“My friends were telling me how lucky I was to be in New York,” Mr. Dzumhur said after his loss. “I keep telling them, ‘Don’t be jealous.’”
Quarantines aren’t all bad for athletes. Many have performed as well or better than ever, saying they have turned shutdowns into an opportunity. They feel refreshed by less exhaustive travel, enhanced focus on training and more time for injuries to heal.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 1, 2020
Why is it safer to spend time together outside?
- Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
Doctors in the capital of Nigeria went on strike, saying that the government had not followed through on its promise of hazard pay.
With the virus spreading quickly in Gaza, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas agreed Monday night to ease up on bombarding each other.
Hawaii, trying to quell a surge of the coronavirus that hit in mid-August, began requiring visitors and residents arriving on the islands to register online beforehand.
After tens of thousands of unmasked protesters turned out to rally against virus restrictions in Berlin, the city instituted a rule that requires masks for demonstrations with more than 100 participants.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
I gave myself permission to go up a jean size and to finally ditch the bras — worked wonders for my mental health!
— Jane Olenchuk, San Francisco
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.