CDC grants $61.7M to state for vaccine efforts

Erica Armstrong, research assistant in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, pipettes a solution into small tubes of suspended B cells, a first step in the effort to isolate B cells from human serum that produce coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies.

The Tennessee Department of Health has now reported a total of 891,331 cases of COVID-19 across the state, up 2,586 cases on Thursday from 14,823 new test results — a 13.6 percent positivity rate.

Of the total number of cases, 12,730 people have died — with eight deaths reported in the last 24 hours.

The number of active cases has more than tripled in the past two weeks, with state health officials reporting that 16,876 individuals are currently infected with the coronavirus. 

The number of patients hospitalized within the state has also nearly tripled in two weeks, with 947 people now being treated for illness caused by the virus. In terms of capacity, the state reports that 12 percent of inpatient beds and 10 percent of ICU beds remain available. Nearly 77 percent of the state's ventilator supply is still available.

So far, 2,667,943 Tennessee residents have been fully immunized against COVID, which amounts to 39.1 percent of the state's total population of about 6,830,000. More than 76,000 vaccine doses were administered during the past week, picking up the pace slightly after demand had waned throughout the summer. 

A total of 5,582,729 doses have been administered across the state.

The Metro Public Health Department has not recorded new outbreak data in the past week. 

Nashville has fully immunized 52.9 percent of its total population and administered more than 683,065 doses thus far. The Davidson County population is an estimated 695,000.

Republican lawmakers endorse COVID vaccine

A group of Republican state senators earlier this week signed a letter endorsing the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines and urging all state residents to get vaccinated as fast-growing outbreaks emerge in Tennessee.

In the letter, 16 senators, including Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, condemned the politicization of the pandemic and said, “The facts are clear — the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the risks.”

“Vaccines have been saving lives for over a century. As a result, polio and smallpox have been eradicated and measles, mumps and rubella are rare. Building on these 20th century medical breakthroughs, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed utilizing high standard and the best medical technology available,” the letter continued. 

Eleven Republican senators did not sign the letter. They include Mike Bell, Janice Bowling, Rusty Crowe, Joey Hensley, Brian Kelsey, Frank Niceley, Mark Pody, Kerry Roberts, Steve Southerland, John Stevens and Paul Bailey.

Vanderbilt partners with synthetic DNA manufacturer on emerging threats

The Vanderbilt Vaccine Center has partnered with synthetic DNA manufacturer Touchlight to explore antibody treatments for pandemic disease threats. 

The collaboration, funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for the Pandemic Prevention Platform, will look to use synthetic dbDNA to deliver antibody-based prophylaxis against infections, which would help the immune system overcome the symptoms. 

The research will aim to make these therapies available in a significantly faster timeline, according to a press release.

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