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Immunity Coronavirus

Expert Claims Israel May Have Reached ‘Sort Of Herd Immunity’ From Covid-19

Eran Segal is a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science who recently spoke with the local Israeli media about how Israel in general may have reached a “sort of herd immunity” after getting nearly 4.9 million residents fully vaccinated. This led to a 97% decrease in the amount of new Covid-19 cases appearing in the nation.

“It is possible that Israel has reached a sort of herd immunity and regardless, we have a wide safety net. I think that makes it possible to remove some of the restrictions immediately.”

Segal claimed that now that most Israelis are immunized, a multitude of economic sectors can begin reopening to assist the nation in its recovery post-pandemic. He also cited that since the gatherings over the Purim and Passover holidays did not lead to any direct spike in cases, the vaccines were proving to be more than effective.

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If Israel does actually achieve this goal, they will be the first country in the world to hit herd immunity. Last week, researchers at the University College London said that the United Kingdom would reach herd immunity by Friday; a claim that was immediately disputed.

Israel has already begun rolling back on a multitude of coronavirus restrictions within the recent months as more and more citizens received their vaccinations. Businesses were able to reopen, even venues and other gathering activities were able to occur more frequently has morbidity levels dropped exponentially with the country’s world-leading vaccination drive.

The Israeli Health Ministry is expected to lift outdoor mask mandates in public spaces later this month while some restrictions on gatherings and schools are still being enforced to protect younger generations.

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Israel is continuously limiting the number of people who can enter and/or exit the nation every day as well, as many experts are worried about the multitude of variants around the world that could potentially undermine the effectiveness of their vaccination program.

Government ministers this past week voted to further ease certain Covid-19 restrictions in schools; they removed the requirement that made fourth graders learn in much smaller class sizes. Ministers also ended the requirement that made all students present a health declarations signed by their parents to enter into a classroom. All universities and colleges are also now able to hold all tests in person.

Currently, Israeli residents are allowed to gather outdoors in crowds up to 100 and up to 20 for indoor gatherings. Cultural and even venues are allowed to host up to 750 people under the Green Pass Program. This program is designed to grant access to public venues exclusively for individuals who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus.

As of this past Saturday there were 4,002 active Covid-19 cases throughout Israel; 221 of which were recently diagnosed last week. The Health Ministry claims that 268 individuals are in serious condition, but the death toll has remained at 6,292. According to the ministry over 5.3 million citizens are vaccinated with their first dose while 4.9 million are now fully immunized.

Two Positive Covid Tests

Michigan’s Surge In Covid-19 Cases Has Health Experts Worried For Rest Of The US

Michigan is currently in the middle of a major surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations that has many experts worried for the rest of the nation. Younger people are among the most vulnerable as they’re the last group to receive their vaccinations. Dr. Celine Gounder is an epidemiologist who spoke to the media about this recent surge.
“Michigan is really the bellwether for what it looks like when the B.1.1.7 variant spreads in the United States. It’s causing a surge in cases and it’s causing more severe disease, which means that even younger people, people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are getting very sick and being hospitalized by this.”

The B.1.1.7 strain was initially spotted in the United Kingdom but is now the most dominant strain of Covid-19 in America. Experts have claimed this strain is more contagious, may cause more severe disease and is potentially more deadly. Florida currently has the highest number of variant cases, filled by Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, according to the CDC.

Gounder claims Michigan’s surge in particular is caused by a combination of two factors: the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant combined with the fact that many states have already pulled back, or completely removed, all health and safety precautions meant to curb the spread of Covid due to the fact that vaccines are rolling out more quickly now.
“While some officials are trying to make a case for the federal government to ramp up vaccines to the state, that won’t help in Michigan’s case. Here’s why: it takes about two weeks after the Pfizer and Moderna second doses and about two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before people are immune. Meanwhile, the incubation period, which is the time from when you’re exposed to when you are infected with Covid, is four to five days.”
“So there is no way that a surge in vaccination is going to help curb this when transmission is happening right now. The hard truth is that the only thing that will curb transmission right now are measures that take effect immediately. For example, masking up, not dining indoors, and socializing outdoors,” Gounder explained.
Michigan is currently reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases everyday, when just a few weeks ago the state’s data showed that it’s daily case count was as low as 500. Dr. Rob Davidson is an emergency room physician in the state who told the media recently that “hospitalizations have gone up four fold in just the last two weeks.”
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN: “Hospitals are being inundated, Michigan needs to shut down and the government should send more vaccines to the state. Think about it this way: Every year during fire season, when forest fires get out of control, we don’t just leave the states to manage as best they can. We surge firefighting forces into those states. So Michigan is on fire now. And we need to put that out.”
Beyond just Michigan health officials are warning of sharp increases in Covid-19 all throughout the country. Minnesota officials are specifically claiming it’s “more important than ever to keep wearing a mask and physical distancing.” Some experts in the US think that the nation could prevent another surge in the coming weeks if all Americans just continue to treat this pandemic like they did in the beginning while the rest of the country waits to receive their vaccinations.
So far about 35.9% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of their vaccine and 21% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the record pace that the US is administering vaccines, the country could reach the vaccination numbers needed to control the virus over the next few months. The way to do that is to vaccinate like crazy,” Reiner said.
“The last 20 to 30% are going to be the hardest because a lot of folks in this country are still hesitant to get the vaccine. We’re seeing it all over the country. We need to really get down on the grassroots level, talk to people about their hesitancy and get shots into arms, because if we don’t vaccinate that last 30% or so, we’re still going to have to live with this virus for a very long time.”
Pandemic Mental Health

1 In 3 Covid-19 Survivors Diagnosed With Mental Health Disorders Within 6 Months Of Recovery

A pandemic study regarding the long term effects of Covid-19 in its survivors has estimated that 1 in 3 individuals were diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric conditions within six months of their initial infection. 

The study was published this week in the peer-reviewed journal, The Lancet Psychiatry. The study itself used electronic health records from more than 230,000 Covid-19 patients mainly from the US and specifically regarding 14 different brain and mental health disorders. 

The study found that “34% of survivors were diagnosed with at least one of the 14 conditions, with 13% of those people being their first recorded neurological or psychiatric diagnosis. Mental health diagnoses were most common among patients, with 17% diagnosed with anxiety and 14% diagnosed with a mood disorder.”

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Neurological diagnoses were much more uncommon, however, they were more prevalent in patients who experienced serious illness during their Covid-19 infection. 7% of Covid-19 patients who had to be admitted to intensive care had a stroke, for example, and 2% were diagnosed with dementia. 

“It shows the toll that COVID takes is not just with the (disease itself), but also with the aftermath of the condition, which can be extremely complicated, involving not only the brain but other organs in the body as well,” said Dr. William Li, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the study of abnormal blood vessel growth.

The study also looked at around 100,000 flu patients and more than 230,000 patients who were diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection within the past year and found that neurological and psychiatric diagnoses were more common in individuals who fought Covid-19. 

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“There was a 44% greater risk of brain or mental health disorder diagnoses after COVID-19 than after the flu, and a 16% greater risk than with respiratory tract infections,” according to the study.

Julie Walsh-Messinger, assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Dayton, recently discussed how it’s possible that “coronavirus infection could lead to anxiety or depression as these conditions have been associated with inflammation typically seen in Covid-19.”

“We’re seeing higher rates of depression and anxiety across the board regardless of (COVID-19 infection) or not. It’s hard to tease apart how much of it is general stress-induced anxiety or depression because of lack of ability to socialize, lack of ability to engage in activities that one normally enjoys, fear about the future and how much of it is specific to the disease’s progress. Even so, the study is an important first step in what clinicians can expect from their patients who have recovered from COVID-19,” she explained. 

“The size of the study also demonstrates how the long-term effects of COVID-19 can impact a country’s health care system even after the disease is gone. Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the pandemic. Health care systems need to be resourced to deal with the anticipated need,” said lead author Paul Harrison, a professor at the University of Oxford in the U.K.

Weekly Jobless Claims In The US Much Higher Than Anticipated

The Department of Labor reported that last-week showed first-time claims for unemployment rose at levels much higher than initially anticipated, especially due to the fact that the economy has been showing signs of recovering after the last year.

According to reports from the Labor Department “first-time claims for the week ended April 3 totaled 744,000, well above the expectation for 694,000 from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The total represented an increase of 16,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised 728,000. The four-week moving average edged higher to 723,750.”

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The labor market within the last week, however, has shown signs of recovery after the past year of the pandemic. Nonfarm payrolls in march increased by nearly 916,000 while the unemployment rate fell down to 6%.

This increase in jobs marks the biggest increase in employment in the US since August 2020. Before the pandemic the unemployment rate was at 3.5%, however, so there’s still plenty of work to be done, especially after last week’s unexpected reports.

“Continuing claims provided some good news on the labor front, with the total dropping 16,000 to 3.73 million. That’s the lowest level for continuing claims since March 21, 2020, just after the Covid-19 pandemic hit and companies instituted wholesale layoffs in conjunction with the economic shutdown. Continuing claims run a week behind the headline weekly number,” according to NBC.

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California and New York account for a majority of the increase in employment; California saw a rise of 38,963 last week while New York saw a 15,714 increase. However, those increases were cancelled out by a 13,944 decline in Alabama as well as a 10,502 decline in Ohio.

Economists have reported that filing backlogs could be one of the larger factors that drive claims up throughout the nation, while spikes in Covid-19 cases are also keeping the filings elevated due to a lack of individuals able to work.

Federal Reserve officials claim that despite the recent progress America has experienced, “much more progress is needed on the jobs front before we can consider changing economic policy.” The most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting cited a better outlook for the US economy in the coming year based on a continued need for an easy policy.

Federal Governor Lael Brainard told the media this week that “the economic outlook has brightened considerably but there are still about 9 million fewer workers than there were before the pandemic. Central bank officials have said they want to see not only full employment but also inclusive gains across income, racial and gender lines. In that sense, we’ve got some distance to go before the outcomes are achieved.”

Doctor Giving Coronavirus Vaccine

Half Of US Adults Could Be Vaccinated By This Weekend 

According to an adviser from the White House, the United States is currently on track to have half of all adults vaccinated with at least one Covid-19 shot by this weekend, however, the adviser also emphasized that this doesn’t mean America is done with the pandemic. 

“We do have to remember that there are 100 million-plus adults that still haven’t been vaccinated. They’re not there yet, and you don’t win the war until you bring everybody over with you.”

President Joe Biden recently announced the goal of getting vaccinations open for all adults in all 50 states by April 19th, a task that is becoming more and more likely to occur as vaccine supplies increase, according to Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser who recently spoke to the press regarding the pandemic. 

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Dr. Anthony Fauci has claimed that around 70-85% of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach a proper herd immunity, and many states have a large population of people who don’t want to be vaccinated. Current data projects that certain states will likely be done vaccinating all willing adults by mid-June, while others could take until the end of 2021. 

Some states have been criticized for prematurely lifting mask mandates and other procedures meant to curb the spread of the virus due to the fact that they feel the vaccine’s release is enough to re-open the world. Fauci claims this couldn’t be more false: 

“It’s too premature to declare victory, we’ve got to continue to hang in there a bit longer by continuing with the public health measures.”

Slavitt claims that the US is more than equipped to stay on course with vaccination efforts, which is a great sign for the future of the nation in regards to this pandemic’s end. This is great news considering more and more health experts are growing concerned with the number of variants of the virus appearing throughout all 50 states. 

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky is the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who recently discussed how “the daily rate of new cases has been on the rise over the last four weeks due to highly transmissible variants like B117 spreading.” According to Walensky within the past week alone five states have accounted for 44% of new Covid-19 cases. 

Within the past week there have been around 453,000 new cases in the US; New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey accounting for 198,000 of those cases. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, “Michigan had the highest rate per capita and is leading the country in terms of new cases. Along with Michigan, Minnesota is also reporting some of the highest new cases in the country, however both states have high levels of vaccination.”

Many health experts are also discussing how to monitor which US citizens have been vaccinated and which haven’t in a post-pandemic world. Many believe that vaccine passports, or some form of official written proof of vaccination, should be required to enter into certain highly populated spaces. New York, for example, is currently testing out “Excelsior passes” to grant vaccinated citizens access to sports events and concerts at limited capacity. 

Director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota Michael Osterholm, recently claimed that “in addition to vaccination documentation debates, the US will also have to contend with ‘long Covid,’ a condition in which even patients with relatively mild illnesses could suffer symptoms long after their infection.”

One in three people who have been infected with Covid-19 have reported longer mental health and neurological symptoms, according to a recent study, so the US will have to continue to fund research that can help those individuals in their continued Covid journey after the pandemic comes to its eventual end.

Covid Virus

India Surpasses 100,000 New Covid-19 Cases In A Single Day 

India reported a record-breaking number of new Covid-19 cases this week, surpassing more than 100,000 cases in a single day; this makes India the second country after the United States to report more than 100,000 cases in a given day. 

Maharashtra is reported as the worst affected state, with hospitals being completely overrun by sick patients. The state is also known as India’s richest, and has reported more than 57,000 cases overnight. The country’s daily infection rates have been on the rise since February, and most experts credit that to the slew of new variants, along with the easing of multiple restrictions from authorities; many citizens have stopped wearing masks and distancing themselves from one another. 

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The nation counted 103,558 new infections in a single day, giving India a total of 12.6 million cases; the highest after both the US and Brazil. The death rate in India is one of the lowest in the world for its size, with a total of 165,101 deaths. 

Overall though, India has recorded the most number of infections in the past week anywhere in the world. Some epidemiologists blame this rise on new virus variants completely. “The new variant, or variants of concern, probably explains a lot of it, rather than a simplistic explanation of behavior,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Centre of Social Medicine & Community Health in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Subhash Salunke, a former WHO official who advises Maharashtra on its COVID-19 strategy, claimed that “India has found hundreds of cases of the virus variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. Cases in the state will continue to rise for a couple of weeks and the only way out is by vaccinating all adults. If we start doing this, by the end of April we will see a downward trend.” 

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India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, and has already injected more than 77 million doses into residents at home since they began distributing the vaccine back in January. The amount of Covid-19 vaccinations per capita occurring, however, is lower than a lot of other countries; including China which has a larger population and a larger amount of individuals vaccinated.

India is currently only vaccinating people over the age of 45, including all health and frontline workers who at this point are thought to be all vaccinated. Officials recently discussed increasing the amount of vaccinations being distributed and exported within the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the press about these efforts over the weekend as well. 

“It was highlighted that all the efforts are underway to secure adequate quantities of vaccines to meet the rising domestic requirements as well as to meet the genuine needs of other countries.”

Health ministers are also condemning the multiple election rallies that have been occurring throughout the nation that have gained crowds of tens of thousands of mask-less people. It’s reported that Maharashtra will begin closing its shopping malls, theaters, bars, restaurants, and places of worship this week and will work to impose a complete lockdown by the end of the week, especially in smaller cities.

COVID-19 Hand Writing

Health Experts Warn Another Covid-19 Surge Could Look Different For Younger People

Health experts claim that while Covid-19 vaccinations in the US are currently rolling out at a successful rate, not enough individuals are protected in the country to gain a proper herd immunity, and another surge may be on the way if we don’t continue to protect ourselves in the coming months. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over the weekend more than 4 million vaccine doses were administered in 24 hours, and the nation is currently averaging more than 3 million doses a day. 

However, CDC data also shows that only 18.5% of Americans are fully vaccinated at this point. Dr. Celine Gounder is an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who recently spoke to the press about how this increase in case numbers is still a major cause for concern even with the rollout of multiple vaccines. 

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“I do think we still have a few more rough weeks ahead. What we know from the past year of the pandemic is that we tend to trend about three to four weeks behind Europe in terms of our pandemic patterns.”

In Europe specifically the highly contagious B117 variant of the virus has caused a major irse in case numbers and hospitalizations. Experts worry the US could face a similar fate if Americans don’t continue to abide by health and safety measures, regardless of if they’re vaccinated or not. 

“What’s worse is that the variant is changing the pandemic’s playbook and could spell trouble for younger groups that haven’t yet been vaccinated. We have to think about the B.1.1.7 variant as almost a brand new virus. It’s acting differently from anything we’ve seen before, in terms of transmissibility, in terms of affecting young people, so we have to take this very seriously,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

More than 54% of Americans 65 and older have been fully vaccinated at this point, according to CDC data, and more than 75% of individuals in that demographic have received their first dose. It’s for this reason that younger groups are being more closely monitored in terms of new cases and hospitalizations. 

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“We’re seeing in places like Michigan that the people who are now getting hospitalized by large numbers are people in their 30s and 40s, and now we’re even seeing children getting infected in larger numbers, too, and it’s not just Michigan. What we’re seeing is pockets of infection around the country, particularly in younger people who haven’t been vaccinated, and also in school-aged children,” former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke at a press conference this past weekend in which he urged all Americans to double down on safety measures to protect themselves and others from the virus and its new variants. 

“We say it over and over again and we need the local people, we need the governors and the mayors and others to be able to say, ‘We’re not out of it yet,’ people say, ‘Well, you just want to confine us forever.’ No, this is not going to last forever because every day that you get four million, three million people vaccinated, you get closer and closer to control,” Fauci said. 

Health experts believe if the entire country stayed indoors for the next six weeks while vaccinations continue, we’re likely be in a much better place by the summer.

World with Mask

World Leaders Come Together And Call For Pandemic Treaty 

Global leaders have joined together to call for a new treaty that would aim to help the world prepare for future pandemics. The call to action comes with a warning as leaders are concerned with the rising vaccine nationalism that wealthier countries are expressing while they hoard the patents for Covid-19 vaccines. 

More than 20 national leaders wrote a piece that was published to several media outlets this week. The leaders included France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Germany’s Angela Merkel, all of which expressed that the idea of another pandemic isn’t a question of “if” but “when,” so the world needs to unite to be prepared. 

The overall message of the piece is calling for a greater sense of unity among world leaders as they battle future viruses. Countries need to avoid having nationalistic attitudes due to the fact that at the end of the day, we’re all struggling, people are dying and getting sick everywhere, so we have to come together and co-operate with each other. 

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“There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone. The question is not if, but when.”

The warning comes as a multitude of countries continue to block the trading of vaccine supplies and patents from other lesser developed countries. The European Union and the UK have been in a battle over AstraZeneca’s contract to supply their shot due to the fact that some EU member states have expressed constantly that they oppose the trading bloc’s put in place with the vaccine. 

World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had previously warned about the concept of “vaccine nationalism” and the type of damage it could do; including delaying the end to the pandemic itself. 

“We are committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics. We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response,” the leaders stated. 

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The leaders of the US, China, and Russia did not put their names on the piece; they’re also the main countries that are under fire for expressing vaccine nationalism since the first shot was approved. Tedros, however, claims that all WHO member states will be included in future discussions of an international pandemic treaty. 

“The open letter is being signed on an opt-in basis, but when the discussion on the pandemic treaty really begins all member states will be represented and included in those conversations,” Tedros explained. 

“There is quite significant support, not just through the op-ed but also through bilateral contact that we have with all of the nations across the world, including nations that did not sign this op-ed, but which are reacting quite positively to the idea,” President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said. 

Worldwide, there have been more than 127 million Covid-19 cases, and more than 2.7 million people have died. The articles calling for unity come after a multitude of surges appear throughout the world.

Covid-19 Mutation

Majority Of Covid-19 ‘Long-Haulers’ Experiencing Multiple Brain-Related Symptoms 

According to a new study, 85% of Covid-19 “long-haulers” are experiencing at least four lingering neurological symptoms even if they weren’t hospitalized for their initial illness. The lingering symptoms include brain fog, headache, and the loss of smell and/or taste. 

The study was published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology earlier this week. Researchers claimed to analyze information from 100 Covid-19 long haulers from 21 states. All participants were seen in person or over video conference at the Neuro Covid-19 Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The study went from May-November of 2020, and none of the participants were hospitalized when initially infected with the virus. 

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All participants claimed to experience Covid symptoms for more than six weeks, and on average they were seen for four to five months after their initial infection. Half of the participants had previously tested positive while the other half had tested negative but were still experiencing consistent Covid symptoms. The researchers of the study believed that all the participants who tested negative in the study likely did have the virus, but got it at the point in the pandemic when getting a test was nearly impossible.

“85% of participants reported at least four neurological symptoms. The most common symptom was ‘brain fog’ or trouble thinking, reported by 81% of participants; followed by headaches, reported by 68%; and numbness or tingling, reported by 60% of participants. More than half reported problems with their sense of taste or smell; 47% reported dizziness; 30% reported blurred vision; and 29% reported ringing in the ears,” according to the article. 

According to a previous study posted by Live Science Magazine last year, “‘long COVID-19’ is an important emerging entity requiring multidisciplinary expertise and care. It’s unclear how many people have long COVID, but some studies suggest that about 30% of people with COVID-19 experience lingering symptoms up to nine months after their diagnosis.”

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Study author Dr. Igor Koralnik claimed in a news conference that it’s likely millions of people are experiencing long Covid symptoms, so these studies are important. He also noted that more than 40% of the participants claimed to have struggled with anxiety and depression throughout their lives pre-pandemic, so more research is currently being done to see if there’s a link to mental illness and the long-Covid symptoms. 

“About 70% of participants were women, which matches the sex ratio seen in some other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which affects three times more women than men,” the authors wrote.

The authors also noted that this study was extremely preliminary and small, pointing out that a majority of the patients were white, and there’s a chance a lot of the long-haulers with negative Covid tests may have never had the virus to begin with. Researchers are planning on continuing these research efforts and are starting with analyzing how certain immune systems respond to Covid-19 proteins.

Why The Travel Industry Is Ready To Embrace Covid-19 Vaccination Passports

Many airlines are already looking into implementing a vaccine passport requirement to motivate safe travel as more individuals receive their doses around the world.