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COVID-19 vaccine will be free for Americans: officials

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Vaccine Shot AFP/File / Johannes EISELE

If a COVID-19 vaccine is proven effective, the US will ensure it’s distributed for free to all Americans, officials said Thursday, underscoring there will be no shortcuts on safety.

“We are not at all reducing the regulatory rigor with which we will evaluate and hopefully approve vaccines,” Paul Mango, a senior health department official, told reporters.

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Washington has invested more than $10 billion in six vaccine projects and signed contracts guaranteeing the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses should they be approved following clinical trials.

The vaccine doses themselves will be paid for by the government.

Doctors or clinics that administer them will have to be paid but these costs should mostly be covered by private and public insurers.

“Most” commercial insurers have agreed to waive any out-of-pocket costs to their customers, said Mango.

“We are on track to deliver hundreds of millions of doses by January 2021,” he added.

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Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said he was “cautiously optimistic” that at least one of the six vaccines the US had invested in would come through by the end of the year.

Critics of President Donald Trump have expressed worries that the administration may bypass safety precautions to announce a vaccine is available before the election on November 3 — a charge Mango denied.

“We are not at all reducing the regulatory rigor with which we will evaluate and hopefully approve vaccines,” he said.

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Russia this week approved a vaccine even before the start of the last phase of clinical trials, in which the drug is injected into tens of thousands of volunteers to verify its effectiveness and safety.

“I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective, but I seriously doubt that they’ve done that,” Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease official said at a virtual panel hosted by National Geographic.

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Collins compared Russia’s vaccine, which they have dubbed “Sputnik V” after the Soviet Union’s pioneering satellites, to a game of “Russian roulette.”


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2020 Election

Trump’s new anti-mask rhetoric is the last gasp of a ‘flailing campaign’: Paul Krugman

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In a column for the New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman pondered why Donald Trump is once again ramping up his anti-mask rhetoric at a time when his health care advisors are urging the public to keep wearing the protective coverings. He then concluded it is nothing less than a cynical political maneuver by the president that will likely lead to more deaths.

Earlier this week the head of the CDC urged Americans to keep using masks, saying it was their best defense against becoming infected with COVID-19 only to have the president undercut that message on the same day.

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COVID-19

Swedish scientists are working on a radical COVID-19 blocker involving alpacas

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Tyson the alpaca could hold the key to developing a process to block the coronavirus. FRANCE 24's Catherine Norris-Trent and James André report from the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Leading scientists in Stockholm are working on a pioneering treatment involving llamas and alpacas such as Tyson in the fight against Covid-19.

"Tyson has the antibodies against SARS-Covid-2 virus," explains Dr Gerald McInerney, Associate Professor of Virology at the Karolinska Institute. "Camels, and alpacas and llamas and other animals from that family have special, small single-chain antibodies.Tiny antibodies they've proved can block Covid-19."

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COVID-19

Van Morrison rails against virus restrictions in new songs

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Music legend Van Morrison said on Friday he has recorded three "protest songs" against the UK government's coronavirus lockdown measures, in which he reportedly accuses scientists of "making up crooked facts".

The Northern Irish singer-songwriter will release the new tracks -- named "Born To Be Free", "As I Walked Out", and "No More Lockdown" -- at two-week intervals from September 25.

"Morrison makes it clear in his new songs how unhappy he is with the way the government has taken away personal freedoms," a statement said on his website announcing the releases.

In one of the trio of records, the musician sings: "No more government overreach / No more fascist bullies / Disturbing our peace."

In another, he sings: "No more taking of our freedom / And our God given rights / Pretending it's for our safety / When it's really to enslave."

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