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Rob Stein

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For more than a year, Victoria Gray's life had been transformed. Gone were the sudden attacks of horrible pain that had tortured her all her life. Gone was the devastating fatigue that had left her helpless to care for herself or her kids. Gone were the nightmarish nights in the emergency room getting blood transfusions and powerful pain medication.

A new analysis by the University of Washington shows the omicron surge will peak in a massive wave of infections by the end of January but is likely to produce far fewer severe illnesses for most people.

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How bad could an omicron surge get this winter?

Until key questions about the new coronavirus variant are answered, it's impossible to predict its impact with certainty. Still, several teams of scientists are using computer models to project possible scenarios for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Updated 5:00 p.m. ET

There's more mixed news about the power of vaccines to protect people against the omicron variant — this time about the Moderna vaccine.

A preliminary study made public Wednesday studied blood samples in the lab from 30 people who had gotten two Moderna shots, and it found that the antibodies in their blood are at least about 50 times less effective at neutralizing the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Previous research had indicated the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is also less protective against omicron.

There's a lot we need to learn — and fast — about the omicron variant. Federal health officials have been scrambling since Thanksgiving to gather critical information to inform the U.S. response.

Key to that is ramping up the country's capacity to detect the variant in the U.S. population. Once it starts to show up around the country — and experts are confident that's a matter of when not if — tracking its spread will be crucial.

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Kelly LaDue thought she was done with COVID-19 in the fall of 2020 after being tormented by the virus for a miserable couple of weeks.

"And then I started with really bad heart-racing with any exertion. It was weird," says LaDue, 54, of Ontario, N.Y. "Walking up the stairs, I'd have to sit down and rest. And I was short of breath. I had to rest after everything I did."

The number of people getting COVID-19 vaccine boosters in the U.S. is now far outpacing the number getting their first shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That trend represents a big success for White House's aggressive booster campaign. But it also underscores the administration's flagging effort to achieve its high priority of vaccinating the remaining unvaccinated Americans.

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Updated Oct. 14, 12:45 p.m. ET

If you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as your first COVID-19 shot, a booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine apparently could produce a stronger immune response than a second dose of J&J's vaccine. That's the finding of a highly anticipated study released Wednesday.

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For the first time, doctors are reporting that they have restored vision to people blinded by a rare genetic disorder using the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as CRISPR.

Carlene Knight's vision was so bad that she couldn't even maneuver around the call center where she works using her cane.

"I was bumping into the cubicles and really scaring people that were sitting at them," says Knight, who was born with a rare genetic eye disease.

But that's changed as a result of volunteering for a landmark medical experiment. Her vision has improved enough for her to make out doorways, navigate hallways, spot objects and even see colors.

"It's nice. I don't scare people and I don't have as many bruises on my body," Knight says, laughing.

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Americans may be able to breathe a tentative sigh of relief soon, according to researchers studying the trajectory of the pandemic.

The delta surge appears to be peaking nationally, and cases and deaths will likely decline steadily now through the spring without a significant winter surge, according to a new analysis shared with NPR by a consortium of researchers advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson now says a booster shot to its COVID vaccine will improve immunity. Joining us now with details - NPR health correspondent Rob Stein. Good morning, Rob.

A head-to-head comparison of all three COVID-19 vaccines found Moderna is holding up better than Pfizer and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides the weakest protection.

But the researchers stressed that all three vaccines are still providing strong protection against people getting so sick that they end up in the hospital.

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Like millions of others, Kathleen Hipps thought she was safe from COVID-19 after she got two shots of the Moderna vaccine last spring. So she figured she just had a summer cold when she got the sniffles in July. But then she opened some Vick's VapoRub.

"Anyone who's ever smelled Vick's VapoRub knows how pungent of a smell it is. And I couldn't smell it. And that's how I knew I had COVID," says Hipps, 40, a Los Angeles lawyer who has two young sons.

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Johnson & Johnson says it has evidence that people who got the company's COVID-19 vaccine could benefit from a booster. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us now with the details. Hi, Rob.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

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There's more potentially worrisome news for vaccinated people: In very rare cases, people experiencing breakthrough infections may be at risk for long-COVID symptoms.

That's according to a small new study of fully vaccinated health care workers in Israel, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

For the first time, scientists have shown that a new kind of genetic engineering can crash populations of malaria-spreading mosquitoes.

In the landmark study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers placed the genetically modified mosquitoes in a special laboratory that simulated the conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where they spread the deadly disease.

Updated July 29, 2021 at 12:05 PM ET

This story has been updated throughout to reflect new research.

New data on the delta variant is coming in, and it's not looking good. The currently authorized vaccines are still very protective, especially against hospitalization and death. But when it comes to getting an asymptomatic or mild case of COVID-19, they may not be quite as protective as they were against earlier strains.

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