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Joe Biden tests positive for COVID-19, returns to isolation

White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor said in a letter that Biden has experienced no reemergence of symptoms, and continues to feel quite well.

July 31, 2022 / 08:30 AM IST
US President Joe Biden.

US President Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 again July 30, slightly more than three days after he was cleared to exit coronavirus isolation, the White House said, in a rare case of rebound following treatment with an anti-viral drug.

White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor said in a letter that Biden has experienced no reemergence of symptoms, and continues to feel quite well.

In accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Biden will reenter isolation for least five days. The agency says most rebound cases remain mild and that severe disease during that period has not been reported.

Word of Biden's positive test came — he had been negative Friday morning — just two hours after the White House announced a presidential visit to Michigan this coming Tuesday to highlight the passage of a bill to promote domestic high-tech manufacturing. Mr. Biden had also been scheduled to visit his home in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sunday morning, where first lady Jill Biden has been staying while the president was positive. Both trips have been cancelled as Mr. Biden has returned to isolation.

Mr. Biden, 79, was treated with the anti-viral drug Paxlovid, and tested negative for the virus on Tuesday and Wednesday. He was then cleared to leave isolation while wearing a mask indoors. His positive tests puts him among the minority of those prescribed the drug to experience a rebound case of the virus.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Both the Food and Drug Administration and Pfizer point out that 1% to 2% of people in Pfizer's original study on Paxlovid saw their virus levels rebound after 10 days. The rate was about the same among people taking the drug or dummy pills, “so it is unclear at this point that this is related to drug treatment,” according to the FDA.

While Biden was testing negative, he returned to holding in-person indoor events and meetings with staff at the White House and was wearing a mask, in accordance with CDC guidelines. But the president removed his mask indoors when delivering remarks on Thursday and during a meeting with CEOs on the White House complex.

Asked why Biden appeared to be breaching CDC protocols, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “They were socially distanced. They were far enough apart. So we made it safe for them to be together, to be on that stage.”

Regulators are still studying the prevalence and virulence of rebound cases, but the CDC in May warned doctors that it has been reported to occur within two days to eight days after initially testing negative for the virus.

“Limited information currently available from case reports suggests that persons treated with Paxlovid who experience COVID-19 rebound have had mild illness; there are no reports of severe disease,” the agency said at the time.

When Biden was initially released from isolation on Wednesday, Dr. O'Connor said the president would “increase his testing cadence” to catch any potential rebound of the virus.

Patients should re-isolate for at least five days. Per CDC guidance, they can end their re-isolation period after five full days if fever has resolved for 24 hours [without the use of fever-reducing medication] and symptoms are improving. The patient should wear a mask for a total of 10 days after rebound symptoms started.”

Paxlovid has been proven to significantly reduce severe disease and death among those most vulnerable to COVID-19. U.S. health officials have encouraged those who test positive to consult their doctors or pharmacists to see if they should be prescribed the treatment, despite the rebound risk.

Biden is fully vaccinated, after getting two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shortly before taking office, a first booster shot in September and an additional dose March 30.
Associated Press
first published: Jul 31, 2022 08:30 am
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