Horseshoe crab blood is key to making a COVID-19 vaccine—but the ecosystem may suffer.

Each spring, guided by the full moon, hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs clamber onto beaches across the U.S. mid-Atlantic to lay their eggs. For hungry birds, it’s a cornucopia. For drug companies, it’s a crucial resource for making human medicines safe.

That’s because these animals’ milky-blue blood provides the only known natural source of limulus amebocyte lysate, a substance that detects a contaminant called endotoxin. If even tiny amounts of endotoxin—a type of bacterial toxin—make their way into vaccines, injectable drugs, or other sterile pharmaceuticals such as artificial knees and hips, the results can be deadly.

“All pharmaceutical companies around the world rely on these crabs. When you think about it, your mind is boggled by the reliance that we have on this primitive creature,” says Barbara Brummer, state director for The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey.

Every year, pharmaceutical companies round up half a million Atlantic horseshoe crabs, bleed them, and return them to the ocean— after which many will die. This practice, combined with overharvesting of the crabs for fishing bait, has caused a decline in the species in the region in the past few decades.

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States have authority to fine or jail people who refuse coronavirus vaccine, attorney says

As drugmakers race to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, several legal questions are emerging: could the government require people to get it? Could people who refuse to roll up their sleeves get banned from stores or lose their jobs?

The short answer is yes, according to Dov Fox, a law professor and the director of the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego.

“States can compel vaccinations in more or less intrusive ways,” he said in an interview. “They can limit access to schools or services or jobs if people don’t get vaccinated. They could force them to pay a fine or even lock them up in jail.”

Fox noted authorities in the United States have never attempted to jail people for refusing to vaccinate, but other countries like France have adopted the aggressive tactic.

The legal precedent dates back to 1905. In a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the court ruled Massachusetts had the authority to fine people who refused vaccinations for smallpox.

That case formed the legal basis for vaccine requirements at schools, and has been upheld in subsequent decisions.
“Courts have found that when medical necessity requires it, the public health outweighs the individual rights and liberties at stake,” Fox said.

In 2019, New York City passed an ordinance that fined people who refused a measles vaccination.

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States have authority to fine or jail people who refuse coronavirus vaccine, attorney says

 As drugmakers race to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, several legal questions are emerging: could the government require people to get it? Could people who refuse to roll up their sleeves get banned from stores or lose their jobs?

The short answer is yes, according to Dov Fox, a law professor and the director of the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego.

“States can compel vaccinations in more or less intrusive ways,” he said in an interview. “They can limit access to schools or services or jobs if people don’t get vaccinated. They could force them to pay a fine or even lock them up in jail.”

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Abortion opponents protest COVID-19 vaccines’ use of fetal cells

Senior Catholic leaders in the United States and Canada, along with other antiabortion groups, are raising ethical objections to promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates that are manufactured using cells derived from human fetuses electively aborted decades ago. They have not sought to block government funding for the vaccines, which include two candidate vaccines that the Trump administration plans to support with an investment of up to $1.7 billion, as well as a third candidate made by a Chinese company in collaboration with Canada’s National Research Council (NRC). But they are urging funders and policymakers to ensure that companies develop other vaccines that do not rely on such human fetal cell lines and, in the United States, asking the government to “incentivize” firms to only make vaccines that don’t rely on fetal cells.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci says chance of coronavirus vaccine being highly effective is ‘not great’

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that the chances of scientists creating a highly effective vaccine — one that provides 98% or more guaranteed protection — for the virus are slim.

Scientists are hoping for a coronavirus vaccine that is at least 75% effective, but 50% or 60% effective would be acceptable, too, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Q&A with the Brown University School of Public Health. “The chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach.”

“You’ve got to think of the vaccine as a tool to be able to get the pandemic to no longer be a pandemic, but to be something that’s well controlled,” he said. 

The Food and Drug Administration has said it would authorize a coronavirus vaccine so long as it is safe and at least 50% effective. Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA’s commissioner, said last month that the vaccine or vaccines that end up getting authorized will prove to be more than 50% effective, but it’s possible the U.S. could end up with a vaccine that, on average, reduces a person’s risk of a Covid-19 infection by just 50%.

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Defeat COVID-19 by requiring vaccination for all. It’s not un-American, it’s patriotic.

Severe penalties for non-compliance

Nor is there an alternative to vaccine-induced herd immunity in a pandemic. Relying on enough people becoming infected and then immune is dangerous, as exemplified by the Swedish experience where the COVID-19 mortality rate exceeds that of its more cautious neighbors.Broad induction of immunity in the population by immunization will be necessary to end this pandemic. In simple terms, a refusal to be vaccinated threatens the lives of others.

So here’s what America must do when a vaccine is ready:

► Make vaccinations free and easily accessible.

► Exempt only those with medical contraindications to immunization. It is likely that more than one vaccine platform will prove effective (as was the case for polio vaccines) and, as a result, medical conditions that prohibit all COVID-19 vaccines will be rare.

► Do not honor religious objections. The major religions do not officially oppose vaccinations.

► Do not allow objections for personal preference, which violate the social contract.

How can government and society assure compliance with protective vaccines? Vaccine refusers could lose tax credits or be denied non-essential government benefits. Health insurers could levy higher premiums for those who by refusing immunization place themselves and others at risk, as is the case for smokers. 

Unnerving toll:Sweden hoped herd immunity would curb COVID-19. Don’t do what we did. It’s not working.

Private businesses could refuse to employ or serve unvaccinated individuals, schools could refuse to allow unimmunized children to attend classes, public and commercial transit companies — airlines, trains and buses — could exclude refusers. Public and private auditoriums could require evidence of immunization for entry. The only legal limitation on government or private action is that it not be discriminatory, and it’s hard to see how discrimination would occur if vaccinations were free and accessible to all.

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