What We're Reading: Mitigating Variant Spread; Vaccine Supply Garners Concern; Merck Ends Vaccine Development

President to sign travel ban meant to contain more contagious variants of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); limited vaccine supply concerns top health officials; Merck ends COVID-19 vaccine development.

President Biden to Restrict Travel

In an effort to mitigate the spread of emerging variants of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), President Joe Biden plans to sign a travel ban today on most non-US citizens who recently visited South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. Reported by CNBC, former President Donald Trump lifted international travel restrictions last week even as more contagious variants of COVID-19 were being reported worldwide. The travel ban comes as the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, MD, notes that current COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against these more contagious variants, although they will still likely provide enough protection.

Vaccine Supply Garners Concern From Health Officials

As the Biden adminstration progresses toward its goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in 100 days, top health officials have expressed concern about the current state of limited vaccine supplies. According to POLITICO, state and local health officials nationwide have reported limited vaccine supply, which CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. MD, MPH, said will hopefully be increased after the first 100 days. Walensky further noted that the federal government can't be certain of the current size of the vaccine supply, an issue she attributed to challenges presented by the Trump administration’s vaccine rollout.

Merck Ends Development of COVID-19 Vaccines

Following poor results in early-stage studies, Merck has announced it will end its development of 2 potential COVID-19 vaccines and instead focus on assessing the efficacy of 2 treatments for COVID-19 not yet approved by regulators. Reported by The Associated Press, Merck said that although its vaccine candidates were well tolerated by patients, they provided an inferior immune system response compared with other vaccines. Notably, 1 of the treatments now being assessed, MK-7110, has the potential to minimize effects of an overactive immune response to COVID-19. The US government is paying Merck about $356 million to fast-track production of the potential treatment.