December 2, 2021

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Vaccine mandates work, and more are on the way

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NY Times:

18,000 Shots Given to N.Y.C. School Employees Ahead of Vaccine Deadline

The mandate is the first full vaccine requirement for any group of city workers and affects well over 150,000 teachers and staff members.

New York’s requirement that virtually everyone who works in the city’s public schools be vaccinated against the coronavirus compelled thousands of Department of Education employees to get at least one dose of a vaccine in the past week, leading to extremely high vaccination rates among educators, according to preliminary data released on Friday.

At least 98 percent of principals and 93 percent of teachers as well as 90 percent of non-education staff members had been vaccinated by Friday, city officials said. The figures are likely to change by Monday, the deadline for meeting the requirement, because more employees are very likely get shots or provide proof of vaccination over the weekend.

Brendan Borrell/Atlantic:

Did Pfizer Peak Too Soon?

A decision to go with a lower dose might have helped speed things up last year. Now we may be seeing the consequences.

Although Pfizer has now sold authorities around the world on the imminent need for third shots to combat waning immunity, the company doesn’t believe that its vaccine, worth more than $30 billion to its bottom line, is inferior in any way to competitors. Recipients of Moderna’s shots, after all, may also need a booster eventually. “All of the real-world evidence you have to take with caution,” Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, Mikael Dolsten, told me recently. “It’s very hard to compare two very effective interventions.” Other experts see the evidence of a difference, however slight, starting to grow. Shane Crotty, a researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, told me that after looking at some of the recent data, he went to double-check his own vaccination record and was pleased to find Moderna listed on it. Is it possible that Pfizer, in its all-out sprint to bring the first-ever human mRNA vaccine to market, ended up delivering the second-best product?

Moving fast meant navigating significant uncertainties. Dosing was a particularly fraught issue, and the prospects for producing a successful mRNA drug or vaccine hinged on getting it right. A smaller dose would be easier to manufacture and less likely to produce side effects. At the same time, previous experimental mRNA vaccines had not been shown to induce the kind of long-lasting cellular immunity one could get from, say, an adenovirus vector vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s. Back in 2019, Moderna published data from a Phase 1 trial of two mRNA-based bird-flu vaccines: The results had looked solid in the first month or two, but antibody levels dropped back toward baseline by month six. The two doses of those vaccines had been spaced just three weeks apart, which may have limited the body’s immune memory. John Mascola, the head of the Vaccine Research Center at the NIH, told me that durability was going to be a big unknown with all of the COVID-19 vaccines, and the Moderna team “wanted to be conservative” in selecting sufficiently large doses and spacing those doses at four weeks. They knew from early-stage trials that with just 25 micrograms, the immune response declines by one-fourth after a month. A 250-microgram dose seemed too high. In the end, they settled on 100 micrograms.

A very effective second-best, if true. Moderna has a higher dose and a longer interval between shots. That might matter, but they both do the job. 

WaPo:

The Pandora papers: BILLIONS HIDDEN BEYOND REACH

A massive trove of private financial records shared with The Washington Post exposes vast reaches of the secretive offshore system used to hide billions of dollars from tax authorities, creditors, criminal investigators and — in 14 cases involving current country leaders — citizens around the world.

The revelations include more than $100 million spent by King Abdullah II of Jordan on luxury homes in Malibu, Calif., and other locations; millions of dollars in property and cash secretly owned by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Kenya, Ecuador and other countries; and a waterfront home in Monaco acquired by a Russian woman who gained considerable wealth after she reportedly had a child with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Other disclosures hit closer to home for U.S. officials and other Western leaders who frequently condemn smaller countries whose permissive banking systems have been exploited for decades by looters of assets and launderers of dirty money.

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Dan Froomkin/Presswatch:

Let me rewrite that for you!

As a companion piece to my post on a tragically problematic New York Times article about Thursday’s delayed vote in Congress, I’d like to try something new.

I’ll call it: “Let me rewrite that for you.”

I’m going to take a handful of recent articles that I felt badly missed the mark, and offer alternative ledes or nut graphs that I think do a better job of telling the truer story.

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Adcomm = advisory committees. Remember, President Biden and CDC Director followed the FDA committees closer than they followed the CDC committees when formulating booster policy.

Emma Green/Atlantic:

The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War

A faction of the right believes America has been riven into two countries. The Claremont Institute is building the intellectual architecture for whatever comes next.

As Donald Trump rose to power, the Claremont universe—which sponsors fellowships and publications, including the Claremont Review of Books and The American Mind—rose with him, publishing essays that seemed to capture why the president appealed to so many Americans and attempting to map a political philosophy onto his presidency. Williams and his cohort are on a mission to tear down and remake the right; they believe that America has been riven into two fundamentally different countries, not least because of the rise of secularism. “The Founders were pretty unanimous, with Washington leading the way, that the Constitution is really only fit for a Christian people,” Williams told me. It’s possible that violence lies ahead. “I worry about such a conflict,” Williams told me. “The Civil War was terrible. It should be the thing we try to avoid almost at all costs.”

That almost is worth noticing. “The ideal endgame would be to effect a realignment of our politics and take control of all three branches of government for a generation or two,” Williams said. Trump has left office, at least for now, but those he inspired are determined to recapture power in American politics. My conversation with Williams has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

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Jamie Harrison, DNC chair/Twitter:

🧵 Folks… sausage making ain’t pretty & sometimes legislating isn’t either. I’ve been in these situations when I ran the whip operation for @WhipClyburn . I learned patience is always the key to victory.

I remember the debate to pass Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill. 

We whipped the bill for weeks & there were enough no votes to kill the bill. On the morning of the vote we were 17 away from passage & had little hope we could find them. But, we asked Matthew’s mom to come address the caucus. Her heartfelt words transformed defeat to victory.  

As we look at these bills, it is important to step back and realize that one party is trying to figure out how to deliver programs to improve the lives of all Americans, and the other party is standing on the sidelines just watching & obstructing. 

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Jill Filipovic/Atlantic:

Is the Texas Abortion Law Backfiring on the People Who Pushed It Through?

As women rally for abortion rights this weekend, the law faces mounting challenges in the courts.

The law now faces multiple challenges in the lower courts after two out-of-state men sued a Texas abortion provider; they say they plan to collect a bounty if they win, making the stakes of the law—and its Wild West absurdity—remarkably clear. The Department of Justice has sued Texas over the law, aiming to prevent its enforcement; the first hearing on that case is happening today.

As the ban goes to court and the backlash against it grows, abortion opponents are claiming to be surprised that the law is being used as written—and are perhaps realizing, belatedly, that their vigilante strategy comes with more than a few perils. Meanwhile, demonstrators will gather this weekend for the fifth annual Women’s March, a mass protest that, this time around, is explicitly in defense of reproductive rights.

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