COVID-19 Timeline: May 2021

February 17, 2022

At we have kept up with the spread of COVID-19 and the related bioethical questions that this pandemic brings. The posts that follow highlights news from May 2021 and were originally posted at These posts focus on the bioethical issues that medical professionals, bioethicists, public health officials, and scientists grappled with as SARS-CoV-2 swept the globe.

May 3: “U.K. Covid-19 Variant’s Hold in U.S. Has Silver Lining: Vaccines Counter It” by Brianna Abbott, The Wall Street Journal

The highly contagious U.K. variant of the Covid-19 virus, now the dominant virus strain in the U.S., is making the pandemic harder to control. But it also comes with a silver lining: The authorized vaccines work well against it.

May 3: “India’s Covid Calamity Has Sick Caring for the Sicker: ‘Alone to Save My Family’” by Vibhuti Agarwal, Shefali Anand, and Krishna Pokharel, The Wall Street Journal

The wave of Covid-19 sweeping India has hit hard and suddenly, swallowing entire families and neighborhoods and, in many cases, leaving the sick to care for the sicker. Those still healthy risk infection in crowded pharmacies, clinics and hospitals trying to find medicine and medical help for loved ones.

May 3: “Denmark Decides Not to Use Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine Over Rare Blood Clots” by Thomas Erdbrink, The New York Times

Denmark will not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Danish Health Authority announced on Monday, saying in a statement that the country could make adequate progress using other vaccines and did not need to run the risk of a rare, dangerous blood clotting condition that may be linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

May 4: “Exclusive: Pfizer Begins Exporting U.S.-Made COVID-19 Vaccine to Mexico” by Carol O’Donnell, Reuters

Pfizer Inc’s shipment of COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico this week includes doses made in its U.S. plant, the first of what are expected to be ongoing exports of its shots from the United States, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

May 4: “National Poll Shows ‘Concerning’ Impact of COVID on Americans’ Mental Health” by Megan Brooks, Medscape

Concern and anxiety around COVID-19 remains high among Americans, with more people reporting mental health effects from the pandemic this year than last, and parents concerned about the mental health of their children, results of a new poll by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) show.

May 4: “Europe’s Troubled Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Turns the Corner” by Bertrand Benoit, Giovanni Legorano, and Nick Kostov, The Wall Street Journal

A spring surge in Covid-19 cases is beginning to recede in Europe as the continent’s vaccine rollout is finally gathering pace, boosting hopes of a broad reopening of the region’s economy before the summer.

May 4: “The Era of Mass Vaccination Is Ending” by Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic

The era of mass vaccinations is ending: Although these big sites were key to speeding up vaccinations after a rocky start in the winter, many are beginning to find themselves idle as the country’s daily vaccination rate falls from its mid-April peak.

May 4: “A Crisis of Undiagnosed Cancers Is Emerging in the Pandemic’s Second Year” by Duaa Eldeib, video by Alex Garci, ProPublica

In the shadows of COVID-19, another crisis has emerged. With the pandemic in its second year and hope intermittently arriving along with vaccine vials, it’s as if a violent flood has begun to recede, exposing the wreckage left in its wake. Amid the damage is an untold number of cancers that went undiagnosed or untreated as patients postponed annual screenings, and as cancer clinics and hospitals suspended biopsies and chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

May 4: “Tokyo Games Need 500 Nurses; Nurses Say Needs Are Elsewhere” by Yuri Kageyama and Stephen Wade, Associated Press

Some nurses in Japan are incensed at a request from Tokyo Olympic organizers to have 500 of them dispatched to help out with the games. They say they’re already near the breaking point dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Olympic officials have said they will need 10,000 medical workers to staff the games, and the request for more nurses comes amid a new spike in the virus with Tokyo and Osaka under a state of emergency.

May 5: “COVID ‘Doesn’t Discriminate by Age’: Serious Cases on the Rise in Younger Adults” by Will Stone, Kaiser Health News, posted at Medscape

After spending much of the past year tending to elderly patients, doctors are seeing a clear demographic shift: young and middle-aged adults make up a growing share of the patients in covid-19 hospital wards. It’s both a sign of the country’s success in protecting the elderly through vaccination and an urgent reminder that younger generations will pay a heavy price if the outbreak is allowed to simmer in communities across the country

May 5: “Canada Become First Country to Approve Pfizer Vaccine for Children 12-15” by The Guardian

Canada has became the first nation in the world to authorise the use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 12 to 15, describing the move as a light at the end of the tunnel. upriya Sharma, a senior adviser at the Canadian federal health ministry, said on Wednesday that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was safe and effective in the younger age group.

May 7: “COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Appear Effective Against Multiple Variants” by Lisa Winter, The Scientist

As variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge and spread around the globe, experts have been concerned about how they will affect the efficacy of the vaccines that were designed using the original form of the virus.

May 7: “Nepal Facing ‘Human Catastrophe’ Similar to India’s Amid Covid Surge” by Peter Beaumont, The Guardian

Nepal is struggling to contain an explosion in Covid-19 cases, as fears grow that the situation in the Himalayan country may be as bad, if not worse, than in neighbouring India, with which it shares a long and porous border. Following warnings by health officials earlier this week that the country was on the brink of losing control of its outbreak, Nepal has appealed for urgent international help.

May 7: “Moderna Announces First Data Showing Efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccine Booster in Development” by Damian McNamara, Medscape

The Moderna SARS-CoV-2 vaccine booster developed specifically with variant B.1.351 in mind shows efficacy against that strain and the P1 variant among people already vaccinated for COVID-19, according to first results released on Wednesday. Furthermore, data from the company’s ongoing phase 2 study shows the variant-specific booster, known as mRNA-1273.351, achieved higher antibody titers against the B.1.351 variant than a booster with the original Moderna vaccine.

May 7: “CVST With AZ COVID Vaccine: 1 in 40,000 ‘More Reliable’ Estimate” by Sue Hughes, Medscape

A new study that systematically monitored rates of vascular and thromboembolic events in people receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has found it to be associated with a rate of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) of 1 in 40,000.

May 7: “Pfizer, BioNTech to Donate Covid Vaccines to Tokyo Olympics Athletes” by Rachel Bachman and Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal

Participants in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will have access to donated doses of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccines, the International Olympic Committee said Thursday, as the Games’ organizers attempt to boost the prospects of a giant global event whose status remains uncertain. The vaccines are approved for use in less than half the nations around the world, however, and some public health advocates believe they are coming too late to make a significant difference.

May 7: “Covid-19 Retreats in the West, But the Pandemic Fight Is Far From Over” by Jason Douglas, Saeed Shah, and Ryan Dube, The Wall Street Journal

The center of the global Covid-19 pandemic has shifted decisively to low- and middle- income countries, fueling sickness and death on a scale that trends suggest could quickly exceed the world-wide toll in 2020. Already this year, more than 1.4 million Covid-19 deaths have been reported globally as the virus has torn through Latin America and swaths of Asia, according to official tallies compiled at the University of Oxford.

May 10: “Pfizer COVID-19 Shot Expanded to US Children as Young as 12” by Lauran Neergaard and Candice Choi, Associated Press

COVID-19 vaccines finally are headed for more kids as U.S. regulators on Monday expanded use of Pfizer’s shot to those as young as 12, sparking a race to protect middle and high school students before they head back to class in the fall. Shots could begin as soon as a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds, expected Wednesday.

May 11: “Pfizer-BioNTech Files for US Approval of COVID-19 Vaccine” by Ankur Banerjee, Reuters, posted in Medscape

Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SA have filed for a full U.S. approval for their COVID-19 vaccine, which is now authorized only for emergency use, the drugmakers said on Friday. A nod by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will make it the first approved COVID-19 shot and likely help ease hesitancy by raising confidence in the vaccine as an approval will be backed by longer-term data.

May 12: “Novavax Reports More Delays for Its Covid-19 Vaccine” by Katie Thomas, The New York Times

Novavax, one of the first players in the race to vaccinate the world against Covid, delivered disheartening news on Monday, saying that its highly protective vaccine would not be authorized in the United States or Britain until at least July, and that it would not reach peak production until the end of the year.

May 12: “CDC Director Says U.S. Is Planning for Covid Vaccine Booster Shots ‘Just in Case’” by Berkeley Lovelace Jr., CNBC

The U.S. government is planning for the potential need for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots “just in case,” the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CNBC. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky didn’t say what those plans were. However, should Americans require booster shots, the U.S. would likely need to make arrangements with drugmakers to supply additional doses and make plans for vaccine distribution.

May 12: “Kids’ Weight Gain in the Pandemic Is Alarming Doctors” by Sumathi Reddy, The Wall Street Journal

Pediatricians say they are seeing alarming weight gains in children and adolescents as many return for in-person visits for the first time since the pandemic began.

May 12: “‘A Toxic Cocktail:’ Panel Delivers Harsh Verdict on the World’s Failure to Prepare for Pandemic” by Kai Kupferschmidt, Science

There was warning after warning after warning, and yet the world failed to do what was needed to prepare for a pandemic, the first comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 finds. This lack of preparation left countries short of essential supplies, burdened by underresourced health systems, and scrambling to coordinate a response, while large vulnerable populations had few options to protect themselves.

May 12: “US Advisers Endorse Pfizer COVID Shot for Kids 12 and Up” by Lauran Neergaard and Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

U.S. health advisers endorsed use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in kids as young as 12 on Wednesday — just as planned new guidelines say it’s OK for people of any age to get a coronavirus shot at the same time as other needed vaccinations. The shots will let kids safely attend camps this summer and help assure a more normal return to classrooms next school year, concluded advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

May 12: “C.D.C. Confirms More Cases of Rare Blood Clots Disorder Linked to J.&J. Vaccine” by Emily Anthes, The New York Times

Federal health officials have now confirmed 28 cases, including six in men, of a rare blood clotting disorder in adults who have received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

May 14: “Scientists Call for Deeper Investigation into Covid-19 Origin” by Amy Dockser Marcus and Betsy McKay, The Wall Street Journal

Prominent scientists are calling for a deeper investigation into the origin of Covid-19, including the possibility that a laboratory accident released the new coronavirus that caused the pandemic.

May 14: “UPDATE 2-U.S. CDC Finds More Clotting Cases After J&J Vaccine, Sees Causal Link” by Michael Erman and Julie Steenhuysen Reuters, posted in Medscape

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday it had found more cases of potentially life-threatening blood clotting among people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and sees a “plausible causal association”. The CDC said in a presentation the agency has now identified 28 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) among the more than 8.7 million people who had received the J&J vaccine. TTS involves blood clots accompanied by a low level of platelets – the cells in the blood that help it to clot.

May 14: “Taming the Virus: US Deaths Hit Lowest Level in 10 Months” by Heather Hollingsworth and Stephen Groves, Associated Press

COVID-19 deaths in the United States have tumbled to an average of around 600 per day — the lowest level in 10 months — with the number of lives lost dropping to single digits in well over half the states and, on some days, hitting zero. Confirmed infections have fallen to about 38,000 per day on average, their lowest mark since mid-September.

May 17: “Fake Covid Vaccine and Test Certificate Market Is Growing, Researchers Say” by Jamie Grierson, The Guardian

A hidden pandemic market advertising fake vaccine and test certificates for as little as £25 has grown exponentially, with more than 1,200 vendors in the UK and worldwide, researchers have found.

May 18: “Covid-19 Hospital Patients Tend to Be Younger Now” by Talal Ansari, The Wall Street Journal

Hospitals are seeing fewer Covid-19 patients but increasingly the ones who do land in the hospital are 50 or younger, according to national data. With older Americans vaccinated at higher rates, health officials and epidemiologists said they aren’t surprised that more hospital beds are being filled with younger patients.

May 18: “Cancel the Olympics, Says Tokyo Doctors Association” by Anthony Kuhn, NPR

With much of Japan in a renewed state of emergency due to a spike in coronavirus infections, a group representing some 6,000 primary care physicians in Tokyo has called for the Summer Games to be canceled. In an open letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga published Monday on its website, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association says hospitals “have their hands full” and have almost no capacity left to deal with a possible outbreak triggered by the massive international event.

May 18: “COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Underway for Kids 5 and Younger” by Lesley McClurg, NPR

Currently there are a lot more families willing to volunteer in trials than spaces available in the trials. Historically it’s much easier to recruit kids for studies during active disease outbreaks. COVID-19 has killed more than 300 kids across the country.

May 19: “600,000 12- to 15-Year-Olds Have Been Vaccinated, CDC Says” by Ralph Ellis, Medscape

More than 600,000 children aged 12 to 15 have been vaccinated against COVID-19, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said Tuesday during an update on the national vaccination program. All of those vaccinations have occurred in the week since the CDC authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for that age group, Walensky said.

May 19: “To the Bat Cave: In Search of Covid’s Origins, Scientists Reignite Polarizing Debate on Wuhan ‘Lab Leak’” by Arthur Allen, Kaiser Health News

Once dismissed as a conspiracy theory, the idea that the covid virus escaped from a Chinese lab is gaining high-profile attention. As it does, reputations of renowned scientists are at risk — and so is their personal safety.

May 19: “Winning Idea: Ohio Vaccine Lottery Shows Some Incentives May Work” by Damian McNamara, Medscape

For some residents of Ohio, the prospect of winning $1 million is enough of an incentive to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated against COVID-19. In fact, since Governor Mike DeWine’s office announced the five weekly drawings of $1 million each, the number of people signing up has increased.

May 19: “US Weekly Deaths from COVID Fall to Lowest in 14 Months” by Reuters, posted in Medscape

U.S. deaths from COVID-19 last week fell to their lowest in nearly 14 months and the number of new cases continued to decline for a fifth week in a row, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county data. Deaths for the week ended May 16 totaled 4,165, the lowest weekly death toll since March 2020, when the country reported 2,293 deaths. On average about 600 people died from COVID each day, down from a peak of over 3,000 deaths per day for most of January.

May 20: “Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Shots Raise Tough Issues for Health Authorities” by Jason Douglas, The Wall Street Journal

While most countries are still cranking up their vaccination drives, some are already making plans to deliver millions of booster shots into arms later this year. Concerns that Covid-19 may morph into a seasonal menace are driving preparations in the U.S., the European Union and the U.K. for a winter vaccine booster program.

May 21: “Covid-19 Disrupts Years of Health Progress in U.S.” by Jon Kamp, Brianna Abbott, and Kara Dapena, The Wall Street Journal

Deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic are causing an extraordinary jolt in the U.S., inflating the nation’s death rate to the highest level seen in nearly two decades. Whether the U.S. will quickly snap back to pre-pandemic levels following a mass-vaccination effort remains to be seen.

May 21: “Ontario Resuming Use of AstraZeneca, But Only as Second Dose” by Rob Gillies, Associated Press

Canada’s most populous province is resuming use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, but only as a second dose for those who’d received it initially, officials said Friday. Ontario and several other provinces stopped giving out first doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca earlier this month on concerns over reported links to rare blood clots, which previously led some European countries to restrict its use.

May 24: “Intelligence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin” by Michael R. Gordon, Warren P. Strobel, and Drew Hinshaw, The Wall Street Journal

Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report that could add weight to growing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the laboratory.

May 24: “Employers Dangle Rewards for Vaccination Despite Legal Hurdles” by Bob Herman, Axios

Instead of mandating COVID-19 vaccination, more companies are offering employees cash, paid time off, and other financial incentives to get the shot. The big picture: Employers are favoring “carrots” over “sticks” in the push to get more people vaccinated.

May 24: “India Virus Death Toll Passes 300,000, 3rd Highest in World” by Sheikh Saaliq, Associated Press

India crossed another grim milestone Monday with more than 300,000 people lost to the coronavirus, while a devastating surge of infections appeared to be easing in big cities but was swamping the poorer countryside.

May 25: “Moderna Says Its COVID-19 Shot Works in Kids as Young as 12” by Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press

Moderna said Tuesday its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12, a step that could put the shot on track to become the second option for that age group in the U.S.

May 25: “Coronavirus Cases and Deaths in the United States Drop to Lowest Levels in Nearly a Year” by Christina Morales and Isabella Grullón Paz, The New York Times

The United States is adding fewer than 30,000 cases a day for the first time since June of last year, and deaths are as low as they’ve been since last summer. In much of the country, the virus outlook is improving.

May 25: “10K of More Than 101M Vaccinated in U.S. Infected with ‘Breakthrough’ COVID-19” by Brian P. Dunleavy, UPI

More than 10,000 people in the United States have been infected with COVID-19 after being vaccinated against the virus, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are among the roughly 101 million people nationally who received both doses of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the single-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson as of April 30, the agency said.

May 26: “WHO Seeks More Data on Second Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Up for Approval” by Chao Deng and Drew Hinshaw, The Wall Street Journal

The World Health Organization is seeking more data on Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s CoronaVac as it weighs whether to authorize a second Chinese Covid-19 vaccine under international pressure to help distribute more shots to poor countries.

May 26: “Large Vessel Stroke Linked to AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine” by Sue Hughes, Medscape

The first cases of large vessel arterial occlusion strokes linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have been described in the United Kingdom. The three cases (one of which was fatal) occurred in two women and one man in their 30s or 40s and involved blockages of the carotid and middle cerebral artery. Two of the three patients also had venous thrombosis involving the portal and cerebral venous system.

May 27: “Covid-19 Is Killing Hundreds of Pregnant Women and Babies in Brazil” by Luciana Magalhaes and Samantha Pearson, The Wall Street Journal

More than a hundred pregnant women are dying from Covid-19 every month in Brazil, more than twice the rate last year, according to government figures—a tragedy researchers largely blame on the P.1 variant of the virus that first emerged in the Amazon and overwhelmed hospitals. In total, more than 800 expectant and postpartum mothers in Brazil have died from the disease since the pandemic began.

May 27: “Covid-19 Treatment from Vir, GlaxoSmithKline Is Authorized” by Joseph Walker, The Wall Street Journal

A monoclonal antibody drug to treat early Covid-19 infections has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Vir Biotechnology Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline PLC, makers of the drug. The drug, called sotrovimab, is the third antibody medicine authorized to treat patients early in the course of disease who are at high risk of developing severe cases.

May 27: “Why a Grand Plan to Vaccinate the World Against Covid Unraveled” by Gabriele Steinhauser, Drew Hinshaw and Betsy McKay, The Wall Street Journal

This spring, American epidemiologist Seth Berkley had to break some bad news to the world’s poorest countries: millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses promised to them weren’t coming. The nations were counting on getting shots from Covax—a multibillion-dollar program to immunize the world, led by Dr. Berkley and championed by the World Health Organization.

May 28: “Employers Can (Mostly) Require Vaccines for Workers Returning to the Office” by Jaclyn Diaz, NPR

With more than half of adult Americans now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many employers have started laying the groundwork to get back to the office. Returning to a post-pandemic workplace can be daunting — even more so as employers attempt to navigate safety and consider the sometimes-thorny issue of vaccine mandates.

May 28: “European Regulator Recommends Pfizer Shot for Children 12-15” by Frank Jordans and Maria Cheng, ABC News

The European Medicines Agency on Friday recommended that the use of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech be expanded to children ages 12 to 15, a decision that offers younger and less at-risk populations across the continent access to a COVID-19 shot for the first time during the pandemic.

May 28: “Scientists Say They’ve Figured Out Why AstraZeneca and J&J’s Vaccines Can Cause Rare, Unusual Blood Clots” by Catherine Schuster-Bruce, Business Insider

Vaccines that use mRNA technology, including Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, deliver the genetic material to the fluid part of the cell. Adenovirus-based vaccines, such as J&J’s and AstraZeneca’s, deliver it to the central part of the cell, called the nucleus, the scientists said in a study, which hasn’t been scrutinised by other experts in a peer-review. According to the scientists, this is where the issue lies.

May 31: “US Overdose Deaths Spiked During Pandemic, Biggest Rise in Black and Latinx Communities” by Linda Carroll Reuters, posted in Medscape

U.S. overdose deaths increased by 42% overall in 2020 compared with 2018 and 2019, a new study of Emergency Medical Services records suggests. The analysis of data gathered from the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) found a spike in overdose-related cardiac arrests during the pandemic with the greatest increases seen among Latinx (49.7%) and African American (50.3%) individuals, researchers report in JAMA Psychiatry.

May 31: “Sanofi, GSK Kick Off Phase 3 Trial for COVID-19 Shot” by Dominique Vidalon, Reuters, posted in Medscape

France’s Sanofi and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline launched a late-stage human trial for a recombinant COVID-19 vaccine candidate on Thursday which they hope to get approved by the end of 2021. The study initiated by Sanofi and GSK is one of the first late stage trials that combines tests for boosters and variants, as drugmakers adapt their strategies to deal with an evolving coronavirus.


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