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Legal News: 5 Things you need to know about Annuities

5 Things You Should Know About Annuities

Income for life is nice, but it comes at a price

by Kim Lankford, AARP, May 21, 2020 

1. They're simple — and complicated.

3. You need to know what you want.

Income annuities provide guaranteed lifetime income. But there are other types of annuities that are much more complicated and potentially much more expensive (see the next section). Most of them may be more appropriate for sophisticated investors. Among these types of annuities:

  • Deferred fixed annuities can offer to pay a guaranteed rate of return on your investment for a set period of time, and taxes on the amount that you earn above what you initially invested are deferred until you take withdrawals.
  • Variable annuities let you invest in mutual-fund-like accounts and the money also grows tax-deferred. However, a normal variable annuity also exposes you to the risk that your investments may lose value. These annuities are more an investment vehicle with tax benefits than a way to get guaranteed retirement income.

An income rider to a variable annuity guarantees, for an additional fee, that you'll receive at least a minimum income for the rest of your life, no matter what happens to your investments.

Income riders are complex. For example, a rider may guarantee that the amount on which your eventual withdrawals are based increases by 5 percent per year, or lock in the high point that your investments have reached, even if the value drops after that. You can then withdraw up to 5 percent of that amount each year for your lifetime — no matter what actually happens to the investments. But if you take all of your money out of a variable annuity with income guarantees, you'll only receive the actual investment value, not the higher benefit base from the guarantee.

These annuities are most attractive to people who want to (and can afford to) risk some of their money in the stock market but plan to retire within three to five years and worry about a downturn in the first few years of retirement. “If it's a bad first five years, it's really difficult for you to recover from it,” says Mark Cortazzo, a certified financial planner and founder of MACRO Consulting Group in Parsippany, N.J., who helps people compare variable annuities and other investment options.

  • Fixed-index annuities let you benefit from a portion of a stock-market index's gains but protect your investment if the index declines. They typically tie their performance to an index, such as the S&P 500, but don't provide dividends. If the investments grow, you will usually only get part of that increase, such as 80 percent of the index's price increase, or a maximum percentage increase such as 6 percent, even if the index grows by much more. But the amount that you invest may be guaranteed not to lose money.

4. Safety comes at a cost.

The fees for income annuities are embedded in the payouts, and the safety comes at a cost because you can't access your principal in a lump sum after you hand it over to the insurance company.

The fees for variable annuities are spelled out in the prospectus, and while they may have advantages, they can be expensive compared with other types of investments. The average fees for variable annuities without additional features were 2.211 percent in 2019, according to Morningstar. Adding an income rider brings the average cost to 3.2 percent. This can be as much as two to three times what a 401(k) plan investor might pay.

However, some companies offer lower-cost annuities, such as one that charges just 0.25 percent for initial investments of $10,000 or more (or 0.10 percent for contracts of $1 million or greater) and has no surrender charges, but doesn't include an income guarantee. If this type of investment interests you, it is worth shopping around for the best deal.

Fixed-index annuities don't have fees spelled out separately; they're built into the structure of the product. For example, you usually don't receive dividends from the index and may receive only a portion of its gains. “Their performance is more like bonds than stocks,” Maurer says.

And both types of annuities can have hefty surrender charges if you want to withdraw the money you invested in them during the early years. For example, you'll typically have to pay a surrender charge of 7 percent if you cash out the annuity in the first seven years, with the charge gradually decreasing each year you own the investment. “Some fixed-index annuities have longer and higher surrender charges,” says Patrick Carney, a certified financial planner with Rodgers & Associates in Lancaster, Pa.

5. The seller — and the salesperson — matter.

Monthly payouts for income annuities (the kind discussed at the beginning of this article) can vary a lot by company, so it helps to work with a broker or adviser who deals with several insurers and can show you the best rates for your age and type of payout. In addition, a number of comparison websites can provide price quotes from several insurers for immediate and deferred-income annuities.

Since you're counting on the income to continue for the rest of your life, look for an insurer with a financial-strength rating of A or better, Carney recommends. Several providers, including Fitch, A.M. Best, Moody's and Standard & Poor's, rate insurance companies’ financial strength. Their ratings can be found online.

Variable annuities are not as easy to compare. The investments and fees can vary significantly, and it gets much more complicated when analyzing income benefit riders. Fees are based on terms that may be defined differently from company to company. Companies may also differ on how investment gains are measured and how often measurements are made.

Fixed-index annuities can be even more complicated. Performance can be based on different indexes and limited by complex participation rate calculations or caps. In all cases, if you don't understand exactly what you are paying for, ask questions or consider a different type of investment.

"Annuities have historically offered some of the highest commissions for salespeople,” Maurer says. In other words, some advisers have every incentive to sell you a product regardless of whether it best suits your needs. You may only be getting part of the story if you work with a salesperson who only sells annuities and doesn't explain your alternatives.

Finally, if you already have an annuity and discover it might be too expensive or not the right fit for you, you need to be careful before cashing it out — you could end up with a big tax bill or surrender charges, and you may lose an income guarantee you had locked in. Make sure that you understand the potential cost and your alternatives before acting.

Office News: Be Prepared and Get Organized. . . .

The Law Office of Alexander F.X. Matulewicz, Esq. is ready to help you with all your probate issues.

We find it helpful to advertise by word of mouth to our co-workers, friends and relatives how important it is to be prepared when the day comes and one of ours has passed away.

The real question becomes, will you be ready with all the information necessary to answer who ges what? Do you want a funeral, casket, burial plot, or prefer cremation? Do you know where all the important information is being kept?

Is there a will, trust, power of attorney, healthcare proxy, bank account and insurance info? There are so many questions, but if you aren't prepared, who gets what, when, how - I'd want my closest family and friends to benefit from what I leave behind. You can't take it with you! And you don't want the state to get it.

The Office realizes people are hesitant to come forward, admit they need to do this now, before it's too late. My own father used to be afraid that if he wrote a will, he'd die. He also thought if he retired, he'd die. All crazy ideas and superstitions. When he did retire after 45 years, he did a part time job where he could still participate in working everyday. It was my mother who talked him into doing a will and getting things "prepared." As an RN she saw too many people die without a will and all the complications that come with it.

The Office even goes one step further to help you. Alex and his paralegal, Amy can come to your house and set up a free consultation - where you are most comfortable in your own surroundings. For example, I'm thinking my sister (and her family) can host a meeting and invite her elder inlaws, who are in failing health, to see the benefits of getting prepared. They can ask all the questions and explain their reservations about their reluctance. It's free consultation. You can learn so much. What do you have to lose?

Call the Office today and check it out at 508-660-0331. You will be glad you did!

Office News: How are you?

With all the talk about opening up various establishments in a state-wide roll out by dates one wonders what it all means. The unemployment numbers are mind boggling and recession like. People are afraid of losing money in the stock market, just trying to get by day-by-day. What about those being threatened to get evicted by their landlords? It's just a crazy world right now.

I spoke to a neighbor of mine who works at a restaurant with his wife and both don't know if their place will survive another month of "just takeout". It only provides approximately 40% of their profits. That's not enough to survive. They think it will have to close and it's been running in the family for well over 4 decades. Very sad indeed.

Imagine graduating from high school and having big plans to go on to college. The dreams, thoughts, plans, all put aside so we can "just live through each day". 

It has brought about many positive things too. My daughter thinks her company is going to have many people work from home permanently. She is working from home and discovered that she is more productive because there are less distractions and interruptions when at her workplace. She works harder and knows a lot is riding on her being successful and wouldn't mind having this arrangement become permanent. Wonders how many others feel the same way?

I'm thankful I've done the 30+ years in the corporate world and can more or less work at my own pace. I just want to make a difference every day by helping those that need it. I'm thankful I have my health and those I love are healthy too. Please, help those around you who need it. Especially those who do not ask for it but you know that they do. MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Be safe and help others. 

Legal News: Getting Your House in Order....how about your LIFE?

Happy Monday everyone!

I'm sure like most people, we are cleaning out closets, donating clothes to Goodwill, throwing out junk, updating things that long ago need to be replaced or outlived their effectiveness, etc.

I just have to look out my window to see neighbors sprucing up their yard, painting the shutters, installing a "she shed", clearing out their garage, having tall trees chopped down and cleared out - all because they have the time. They are tackling their to-do-list....FINALLY.

This brings me to think about all this time we have. Now that the "things" around them are in order what about their future? Governor Baker is about to declare what businesses are ok to start up and we can begin to adapt to our "new normal" life.

What about our future? Many people I know don't have any idea about their future. For those of you who have children, own a home, have money saved, do you have a will? You may want to start the process. Call Alex at 508-660-0331. It's a free consultation. Ask questions, get the ball rolling, begin to figure out what you need to do to be prepared, especially during this time of uncertainty. But please, DO SOMETHING! Remember, your closets are cleaned and organized now........get your life organized and I guarantee you, it will feel amazing!

You just have to call Attorney Alexander Matulewicz and he and his paralegal Amy Strand will be happy to help you. BE SAFE. BE PREPARED.

Legal News: Unusual Symptoms of COVID-19 You Need to Know About

From nose to toes, Doctors continue to discover uncommon signs of coronavirus infection

by Rachel Nania, AARP, May 13, 2020

Fever, cough and shortness of breath are not the only warning signs of a coronavirus infection, even if they are the most common. In recent weeks a growing number of doctors have documented a handful of otherwise unexpected symptoms in patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Some are reporting red or purple lesions on patients’ hands and feet; others are treating people with diarrhea and severe appetite loss. There are also patients who have lost their sense of taste and smell. These symptoms, strange as they may seem, reinforce what experts around the world have come to realize in recent weeks: The coronavirus is capable of causing more than a respiratory illness; it can launch a full-body attack.

“It takes a while for the full range of symptoms to kind of be known” when you’re dealing with a new virus, explains Lisa Winston, M.D., an epidemiologist and professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. At the start of the U.S. outbreak, the focus was primarily on treating the sickest patients, many of whom experienced classic respiratory symptoms and needed help breathing. “And then, as time went on and people saw more cases, they started to recognize some of the things that are a bit less typical,” Winston says.

Here are some uncommon signs of COVID-19 that fall outside the hallmark symptoms.

‘COVID toes’

If you had asked dermatologist Esther Freeman, M.D., last year what type of skin ailment a future viral pandemic might bring about, she never would have predicted red- and purple-colored toes that swell, burn and itch. But that’s exactly what she and other experts are seeing in patients with coronavirus infections, leading this unusual symptom to be dubbed “COVID toes.”  

“The good news is, they do go away,” says Freeman, director of Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health Dermatology and assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, who is also overseeing an international registry that catalogs the dermatological manifestations of COVID-19. “So we’re not seeing that this is going to cause permanent damage.”

Another plus: The majority of people with COVID toes — which Freeman likens to chilblains (also called pernio), an inflammatory skin condition that often occurs after exposure to very cold temperatures — don’t experience other symptoms of a coronavirus infection and don’t require hospitalization for care. “Many patients are developing these toe lesions well after their infection, or they’re otherwise completely asymptomatic, except for the toes,” she adds.

Though most cases of COVID toes occur in the feet, the hands can be affected, too. Rashes similar to those that result from hives and chicken pox have also been reported in people who test positive for the coronavirus.


For the latest coronavirus news and advice go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


As for how and why these skin conditions are happening, Freeman says, “Our knowledge on this is still evolving.” It could be an inflammatory response to the virus, for example, or even a result of small blood clots in the blood vessels of the skin. (Medical experts have reported concerning clotting issues in patients with COVID-19.) “I think that over the coming months, we’re going to learn a lot more about why this is happening,” Freeman adds.

If you notice a lesionlike rash on your hands or feet, contact your doctor or dermatologist about your symptoms, since it could signify a coronavirus infection. That said, it’s important to keep in mind that “not everything on your toes right now is from COVID,” Freeman says. “There’s certainly lots of other things that can appear on the feet, and there’s things that can even look similar,” which is why it’s important to talk with an expert. There is no specific treatment for COVID toes, but a high-potency topical steroid might reduce inflammation.

One thing to note, however, is that a doctor won’t be able to tell if the virus is still active in your body just by looking at your skin. “So the safest thing to do is to follow CDC guidelines for self-isolation and to discuss with your board-certified dermatologist or other physician whether COVID testing might be right for you,” Freeman advises.

Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and severe appetite loss

COVID-19 is producing symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and appetite loss in a number of patients young and old. A recent study out of Stanford University School of Medicine found that nearly one-third of 116 patients infected with the coronavirus reported mild gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. Earlier reports showed that among roughly 200 patients in China, more than half experienced diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also acknowledged GI issues on its list of COVID-19 warning signs.

“There’s no question at this point that GI symptoms can be a manifestation of COVID-19,” says William Chey, M.D., professor of gastroenterology and nutrition sciences at the University of Michigan. And oftentimes these symptoms can come on even in the absence of “the more typical and recognized” markers of a coronavirus infection, such as fever and cough, he adds.

Experts point to a few explanations for the tummy trouble. Chey says the virus can directly infect the cells that line the GI tract, which is why some patients can test positive for the virus with a stool sample, even if results from a nasal swab come back negative. GI issues could also be an indirect result of the body’s fight against infection. 

If you don’t have a history of GI trouble and experience a sudden onset of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite — with or without other COVID-19 symptoms — check in with your doctor. Your symptoms might warrant a coronavirus test.

And if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, consider confining yourself to your own room and bathroom, separate from others in your house. Chey says it’s not yet clear whether the virus can be transmitted fecal-orally, but if that is the case, “you should not be sharing a toilet with somebody that has COVID-19 unless, obviously, you have no other choice.”

A few other tips: Disinfect bathroom surfaces often, especially high-touch areas such as toilet and sink handles. Don’t share toilet paper rolls with someone who has COVID-19, and always flush with the cover closed, to minimize the spread of germs. Finally, continue to be vigilant about personal hygiene. “This whole issue about meticulous hand hygiene is so unbelievably important,” especially if the virus is spread by the fecal-oral route, Chey emphasizes. “People need to wash their hands and not touch their face.”


Save 25% when you join AARP and enroll in Automatic Renewal for first year. Get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.


Loss of taste or smell

On the CDC’s recently expanded list of common COVID-19 symptoms, one newcomer stands out. In addition to fever, chills and a sore throat, the public health agency now recognizes new loss of taste or smell as evidence of a coronavirus infection.   

“People who have colds, if they get a really stuffy nose, they may complain of lack of smell, but, you know, that’s sort of an unusual [symptom] right now in the absence of COVID,” UCSF’s Winston says. But it may be one of the best indicators of a coronavirus infection.

A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine tracked more than 2.5 million participants who reported their potential symptoms of COVID-19 on a smartphone app. About 65 percent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 reported loss of taste and smell, making it one of the strongest predictors of the illness among those studied. Similarly, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found that smell and taste loss were reported in 68 and 71 percent of COVID-19–positive subjects, respectively.

“But we don’t always ask those questions [about loss of taste or smell] when we are in the busy emergency room,” says XinQi Dong, M.D., director of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. When triaging patients, many health care workers “have been focused on the primary symptoms that they know to ask.”

Neurological effects complicate diagnosis in older victims

This is starting to change, though. Loss of taste and smell, which usually return after the virus runs its course, are two symptoms on a growing list of neurological effects doctors are noting in COVID-19 patients. Other indicators of the illness include dizziness, headache and confusion. In fact, a study in JAMA Neurologyfound that more than 36 percent of 214 patients in Wuhan, China, experienced neurological symptoms during their bout of COVID-19.

For older adults, in particular, these neurological effects can be just as devastating as the pulmonary impacts of a coronavirus infection, Dong says. They can also be easily overlooked or dismissed as dementia or other diseases common with aging.

Neal Sikka, M.D., an associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., says broader coronavirus testing is key to distinguishing COVID-19 patients from those who are suffering from a stroke or experiencing a complication from an underlying health condition.

“We’re trying to be very vigilant and broad in our thinking” when a patient comes into the emergency room with confusion or change in mental status, Sikka says. “That could be some other type of infection; it definitely could also be a presentation of COVID. And so we are trying to do rapid testing on those patients to identify them early.”

And this catchall approach is what Dong expects will become the norm going forward, especially as health care providers learn about the different ways a coronavirus infection can show up in the body.

“You know, we started by thinking about COVID as very similar to SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] and MERS [Middle East respiratory syndrome],” which are two other respiratory illnesses caused by coronaviruses. “But this — there’s something different about this virus,” Dong says. “We’re catching up now, but if we had focused on not just fever, shortness of breath and dry cough, I think we might have caught more potential symptoms much earlier, especially in vulnerable older adults.”

More on Coronavirus

Legal News: When should parents tell their kids about their End-of-Life Plans?

Excerpts taken from AARP Bulletin dated April 2020.

My spouse and I are preparing our advance medical directives so our kids don't have to make decisions for us. One of the directives is whether we'd like palliative care or hospice care. What's the difference?

Both stress comfort and quality of life in managing life-threatening illness. The difference is that you can get palliative care while you're still pursuing treatment. Hospice is a type of palliative care, usually for those with life expectancy of six months or less. Private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid may cover hospice. Be sure to discuss your wishes with your family as well as putting them in writing. 

Preparing ahead of time is key. Think about calling Alex Matulewicz, a probate attorney with expertise in Wills, Trusts, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, at 508-660-0331. Make plans now. Tomorrow may be too late.

Legal News: Parent and Child: Assistance of Counsel - Constructive Denial

Lawyer's Weekly Dated 3/16/2020 (This Week's Decisions):

Where a mother's parental rights to her daughter were terminated by a juvenile Court judge, the mother was not constructively denied the assistance of counsel.

Affirmed.

"...We consider the options available to a judge when a parent provides no instructions to her appointed attorney considrning the proceedings. We conclude that a judge has the discretion to strike the attorney's appearance, but may instead have the attorney participate in the trial as an officer of the court. In such a circumstance, the attorney generally will be unable to advocate for a particicular outcome, and the attorney's consequent limited activity is not a constructive denial of counsel. Further concluding that the mother was not prejudiced by the judge's citations to two exhibits introduced after the termination trial, we affirm the decree.

"The mother argues that she was constructively denied the assistance of counsel. We disagree. Essentially, the mother asserts that, where an attorney who has received no instructions is denied leave to withdraw, that attorney must presume the parent opposes termination, and must advocate for that position to automatically be found ineffective. As we explain, such a presumption is not generally sound...

"The mother was not constructively denied counsel. She had been appointed five attorneys, and each of them moved to withdraw. ...The judge did not abuse her discretion in denying the fifth attorney's motion to withdraw, when it was the day of trial and the motion was based only on the apparently inaccurate premise that the mother had hired private counsel. ... A judge must balance the interests of the parent with the child's interest in finality. ...The judge acted within her discretion in denying the motion to withdraw. ...

"Assuming the dubious proposition that we can analyze the effectiveness of an attorney who has received no instructions from her client, the mother has not demonstrated any prejudice. ...As we discuss infra, 'the evidence of the mother's unfitness was overwhelming.' ...The mother has not identified any steps that would have allowed her to avoid termination of her parental rights or alleged any way in which she was denied a substantial defense. ...Accordingly, she has failed to show that counsel was ineffective."

 

Legal News: New Law Allows Notarization to Occur Remotely via Video Conferencing in Mass.

April 28, 2020

Dear Valued Clients and Friends,

Yesterday, Governor Baker signed a temporary piece of legislation allowing documents to be notarized remotely via video conference. This law will be in effect until three days after the Governor lifts the COVID-19 State of Emergency Order. After that date, all notarizations will revert to the pre-COVID-19 standards requiring in-person notarization. 

This will be welcome news for you if this new law enables you to complete pending matters that may have been put on hold. 

We have taken steps to make the process easy for you. If you are interested, your attorney will send you instructions, set up the video conference, and guide you through the entire process. A requirement of this law is that all parties involved in the signing – you, your attorney or paralegal, and witnesses - must be physically located in Massachusetts at the time of the video conference/signing. Also, the actual signing must be done during the video conference, and proper government issued identification must be presented to the notary. 

Please call Alex it you have questions. If you have matters in progress that you believe could be completed remotely now, please feel free to contact us directly. Call Alex at 508-660-0331 today.

Legal News: Coronavirus Vaccine: When Will We Have One, Who Gets It and Will It Work?

As the pandemic rolls on, researchers race to find answers

by Rachel Nania, AARP, May 1, 2020

In the case of the new coronavirus, a vaccine would make a person resistant to an infection from the virus and the illness it causes — COVID-19 — or, at the very least, make it so that a person who becomes infected has “a shorter course [of disease] or not as many complications,” Moody explains.

Who is working on a coronavirus vaccine?

Everyone — government scientists, biotech companies, university researchers — is involved in the effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine. It's a crowded field with nearly 100 different projects underway, but Kathleen Neuzil, M.D., professor in vaccinology and director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says that's a good problem to have.

"Many more vaccines are going to fail than succeed, so you want a lot of shots on goal,” Neuzil says.

Another reason why it's advantageous to have so many institutions working on prevention efforts is because a pandemic, by definition, means this a global rather than national issue to resolve. “We are going to have a demand for a vaccine for over 7 billion people,” Neuzil says.

If more than one works, that's OK. Think of the flu vaccine, Neuzil says: There are multiple formulations on the market, including the injectable high-dose vaccine and the nasal spray vaccine, for example. If more than one coronavirus vaccine proves safe and effective, it might be that one works better in older adults while another is better for children.

"And as I said, we really need every person on Earth, theoretically, to be able to receive this vaccine,” Neuzil says. “So, to me, [having more than one option] is a positive, because we need so much.”

Will the coronavirus vaccine be made up of the live virus?

A handful of existing vaccines — including polio, chicken pox and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) — contain a weakened version of the live virus that causes the disease. Because it's the closest thing to a natural infection, so-called live attenuated vaccines “are good teachers for the immune system,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains.

Few research teams are taking this approach with the coronavirus vaccine, however, since “it takes a lot of time to be sure [the virus used in the vaccine] is weak enough that it doesn't cause disease,” Neuzil says. And in a pandemic, time is of the essence.

Instead, scientists are looking at different ways to introduce a piece of the virus to the body — whether it's a protein from the virus or a genetic code that the body can use to make its own protein to stimulate an immune response. Some are also studying the possibility of introducing the coronavirus by way of a vector, where a gene for a protein of the coronavirus, for example, is inserted into a harmless form of another virus and delivered to the cells. The advantage of this approach, Neuzil says, is that the vector-carrying vaccine “looks more like the real virus than perhaps just a piece of the protein does.”

"These are just different ways that we're trying to get at the same goal; we're trying to have the body make its own immune response to the virus,” Neuzil says. “Since this is such a new disease, we don't really know what's going to work the best for [the coronavirus], so we're trying a number of different approaches.”

When will a vaccine be available?

The answer to the question on everyone's mind — when will a vaccine be available? — varies depending on whom you ask. Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a key member of the White House coronavirus taskforce, told NBC's Today Show on April 30 that he thinks it's “doable” to have a vaccine ready by January “if things fall into the right place.” Previously he had said it would be at least a year, likely longer, before we have a vaccine.

But even that time line is “optimistic,” says Amesh Adalja, M.D., an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

The reason? Researchers need time to prove a vaccine is safe and effective in a series of months-long clinical trials before it is mass-produced and distributed throughout the world.

"And those processes take time because, you know, you've got to give people the full injection series, you have to follow them for long enough to see if there's an effect and it's got to be done in a setting where you can actually tell if people are protected or not,” Duke's Moody explains.

Can the process be sped up?

A number of coronavirus vaccine candidates are already being tested in humans in early phase 1 clinical trials. Previous vaccine research for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are also caused by coronaviruses, gave scientists a head start.

However, a big conversation taking place in the research community right now is what later phases of the trials might look like. Will the lengthy and rigorous process of data collection be followed, or fast-tracked?

"I think there is a chance that we won't see that traditional pathway” of three by-the-book phases, Moody says. Instead, there could be something akin to a “global phase 3 trial,” where millions of people are vaccinated with “a best shot” before all of the data are collected.

"We could debate how wise that is. But I think, you know, it's one of those things like if you're in the middle of a war, you kind of do what you've got to do,” Moody argues. “This is going to be an unprecedented situation where it's going to be really hard to wait the length of time that we all want to wait.”

The key, experts say, is finding the balance between speed and safety. In the case of the new coronavirus, some parts of the vaccine process can be accelerated, Adalja says. “But there is a lot of testing that needs to be done if you're going to make a vaccine that's going to vaccinate the entire world,” he adds. Because even a small adverse effect, when amplified on a global scale, can impact a lot of people.

Another part of the development process that can slow things down is production. It could take years to make the billions of doses needed to protect people from the coronavirus. However, Neuzil says, some drugmakers may be willing to take a risk and start making their vaccines before doses and formulas are finalized “so that the manufacturing part doesn't hold this up.” The approval process overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can also be fast-tracked, but not skipped.

Does it usually take this long to develop a vaccine?

Though the time lines projected for the coronavirus vaccine may seem long and “frustratingly inefficient,” Moody says, in reality this process is moving at record speed. Vaccine development typically takes 10 to 15 years, according to a vaccine history resource created by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The fastest vaccine created thus far was for mumps; that process took four years.

"I think it's really important for people to understand that the response to this pathogen has been faster than any other pathogen in history,” Moody says. “The fact that you had a virus that was first reported in China in December, and by March we were already talking about setting up a phase 1 trial … I think the speed of the response, both by the medical community and by everyone else, is actually pretty astonishing.”

What if scientists don't come up with a vaccine that works?

That's also a possibility. Moody says that's why it's important to pursue therapeutics for COVID-19. Currently, there is no FDA-approved treatment available.

"If we had sort of the Tamiflu equivalent for coronavirus where you could be exposed and take Tamiflu and, you know, be protected, or you could get early disease and it could attenuate the disease or shorten the course, that would be great,” Moody says of the antiviral treatment for influenza. “There's a lot of work being done there. And I think all of that work needs to proceed as well.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on April 29 preliminary results from an international clinical trial that showed patients severely ill with COVID-19 who received the antiviral drug remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received a placebo. More research is needed, but NIAID's Fauci called the findings “optimistic."

Once the vaccine is developed, will high-risk populations get it first?

"That's an interesting and also a somewhat complicated question,” Moody notes. The early phases of clinical trials are usually conducted in young, healthy people, and the population at highest risk for severe illness from a coronavirus infection includes adults 65 and older and people with chronic health conditions. So if trials are fast-tracked or certain phases are skipped, it could be risky to vaccinate the high-risk population without adequate testing first.

"If we get to a point where you have a vaccine that looks like it's effective but has a limited supply, then my expectation is it will probably end up going first to people who are on the front lines,” Moody says. “So health care workers, EMS, police, fire — all the people who are in situations where they've got to interact with the public.”

A major issue to consider, however, is that the definition of frontline workers extends beyond health care workers and emergency responders. Grocery workers, delivery personnel and public transportation employees are all essential workers who are also at high risk of exposure, Moody points out. “And how do you prioritize that? That's going to be a complicated discussion,” he says. “I don't know how well our society has done at having those conversations, but I think they are conversations we're going to have to have.”

Will the coronavirus vaccine be annual, like the flu shot?

It's hard to say at this point. So far, the new coronavirus has not shown signs of “rapid genetic change,” like influenza viruses, Neuzil says. That's why a new flu vaccine is needed every year. If that continues to be the case, a coronavirus vaccine likely wouldn't need to be administered on an annual basis. At the same time, Neuzil says she would be “surprised if a vaccine for a respiratory virus conferred lifelong immunity.” So it will probably fall somewhere in between.

"I usually remind people that we've only known about this virus not quite five months yet,” Neuzil says. “We are learning a lot.”

Legal News: Be Aware of Potential COVID19 Scams

Scam Alert: This email is from fraudster lying about being tied to the World Health Organization. Note it is from a gmail address, not from the WHO.

Bill Brown, an FBI official in Washington, has an urgent message for anyone victimized by a coronavirus-related fraud: “Please do report it.” When scams are reported, Brown says, agents and analysts are able to cull incoming complaints to “make sure that we're addressing every credible threat, and every credible target, quickly and efficiently."

Brown, a supervisory special agent and chief of the bureau's Economic Crimes Unit, spoke to AARP about fraud trends during the pandemic. He also discussed anticipated crimes on the horizon.

The unit he leads probes large-scale frauds that victimize individuals, businesses and industries.


Scam concept. Money trap concept

GETTY IMAGES

 

Beware COVID-19 Scams on the Horizon

Here are frauds FBI official Bill Brown expects are lurking on the horizon due to the pandemic:

• Ponzi schemes. Since the U.S. had a strong economy leading up to the novel coronavirus, some aggressive investments in the past may turn out to be smoke and mirrors. In a Ponzi scheme, belief in the success of a non-existent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors using funds coming in from subsequent investors. If you can’t reach your investment advisor or broker, or can’t withdraw your money, those are red flags.

• Frauds involving so-called “safe havens.” Be careful of making investments that promise overly inflated rates of return. The rates may not be “astronomical,” but if they exceed major banks and credit unions are offering, exercise caution. 

• Frauds involving investments in gold and silver.These may not even use the words “COVID-19” to lure potential investors, he says. Remember that all that glitters is not gold.

Today there's a laser focus on the U.S.-based and foreign crooks who are chasing a payday from the pandemic. They're government impostors. They're money launderers. They're con artists collecting cash for bogus charities. They're hucksters touting fake and even dangerous “cures” for a disease for which there is no approved remedy.

"COVID was a curveball this year that nobody anticipated, but it is one of our top priorities right now,” Brown says.

The FBI is part of the Department of Justice. More than 3,600 complaints about COVID-19 scams were made to the bureau's Internet Crime Complaint Center as of April 21, the department said.

According to Brown, experience with economic hardship during the Great Recession and with past disasters including the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina has helped law enforcement forecast what misdeeds might surface during the ongoing global health crisis.

Scams that are trending include:

Phishing schemes

These are telephone calls, texts or advisories to click a computer link. The aim is to steal money or personal information, or to infect computer devices with malware.

Be very cautious about what information you reveal during the pandemic, Brown says. Your data might not be exploited right away — but after three, six or 12 months — so don't count on a quick fraud alert from a bank or credit bureau, he says.

Work-at-home schemes

Fraudsters may offer what they describe as an employment opportunity, but in reality people who accept offers from bad actors are being set up to launder the ill-gotten gains of criminal activity.

The crook might say: “I want you to open a bank account or I want you to make a deposit, and all you have to do is wire [money] somewhere else,” Brown says. Don't become an unsuspecting “money mule."

Fraudulent charities and fake entities

Bad actors create them to rip people off. “Everybody has a solid heart and they want to help out in the situation,” he observes.

Advance-fee schemes

Crooks lie and assert they have scarce products for sale. They demand payment in advance but never deliver the goods. “Right now we're seeing a lot of complaints coming in,” Brown says.

Take your time, talk to a trusted friend

How to stay safe? Says Brown: Be cautious and skeptical. Refuse to act in haste. Consult a trusted person if you are confronting what could be fraud.

Ahead, he envisions more government impostors and complaints from people who incorrectly assumed they were communicating with an FBI or Internal Revenue Service agent or a Social Security Administration employee.

"Those are going to definitely pop up, especially with the stimulus checks,” he says, referring to the $1,200 economic impact payments being distributed to millions of Americans" by the federal government.

The government will not contact you and threaten to dock your Social Security check because of some steep fine you supposedly owe, Brown notes.

If you think you are a victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or email at disaster@leo.gov.

If it is a cyber scam, file a complaint through the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.-