9 months ago

COVID-19 vaccine studies give us hope, but a vaccine may not happen this year

The purpose of vaccination is to stimulate the immune response to prevent a disease. A person who is rendered resistant to a disease by vaccination is termed “actively immunized.” Active immunity may also result from recovery from a natural outbreak of a disease. Immunity transferred from plasma from a donor, which contains antibodies from a prior infection or vaccination is referred to as “passive immunity.” This type of immunity is immediate, but only temporary and is used mainly for treatment of hospitalized individuals. Various laboratories are also developing synthetic antibodies called “monoclonal antibodies” in cell cultures, which can be mass-produced for treatment of seriously ill patients.

Vaccines can contain either live or inactivate organisms. In the development of a live vaccines, the organism can be “attenuated” or weakened. Because live vaccine can replicate in humans, they can be given by nasal or oral route but may produce a mild form of the disease. Vaccines containing inactivate organisms are safer because they cannot produce a mild form of the disease. However, inactivated vaccines must be injected and require an adjuvant, a kind of immune response booster, which will increase the immune response. Adjuvants are usually composed of an oil base that serves to slowly release vaccine particles, which continually stimulate the immune response over time. The adjuvants are typically what causes some pain and inflammation after injection.

For some vaccines only a portion of the organism can be used to immunize. This is referred to as a subunit vaccine. Subunit vaccines are commonly used against influenza. SARS-CoV-2 virus vaccines have been recently developed using only the immunogenic spike protein of the virus or the RNA or DNA viral genes, which code for the spike protein. In the case of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the portion of its spike protein can induce antibodies which may block the entrance of the virus into the human’s cell membrane. Another type of vaccine is molecular (recombinant) vaccine, which contains an attenuated adenovirus vaccine (vector) combined with genes of the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 to trigger production of the immune system to destroy both the adenovirus vector and the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The adenovirus, which can cause a cold in humans, has been genetically altered so it is not able to replicate in humans and will not produce disease making it a safe vaccine.

There is always an interval of time between the administration of a vaccine and development of immunity. This varies between vaccines, but usually takes from seven to 14 days. Vaccines can induce a state of immunity, which can persist anywhere from one year to a lifetime. In the case of vaccine lasting only one year, partial protection can last for longer periods. Older individuals or those with reduced immunity do not respond well to vaccines. The capacity to fully respond to vaccines is termed “immunologically competence.” Similarly, to influenza virus vaccines immunologically compromised individuals may need a larger amount of vaccine to induce adequate immunity. At this time no one knows how long immunity will last against a COVID19 vaccine or if a booster vaccine will need to be administered.

Currently there are more than 160 potential vaccines for COVID-19 under study; optimistic experts hope that a viable vaccine may be ready by the end of 2020. Other experts caution that the timeline may be unrealistic. Only a small number of those vaccine candidates are being tested on people, and chances are many of the other projects won’t survive beyond the laboratory stage. Even so, vaccine experts point out that funding has been plentiful, many different approaches are under study and collaborations have developed between small firms developing the vaccines and large drug companies with the capacity to mass produce them—all giving reason for hope. The U.S. said it would fund and conduct the phase III trials—the final step to determine how well the vaccine works and if it’s safe—of three candidates: Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca Inc. and Johnson & Johnson Inc. The Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are already being tested in people, while Johnson & Johnson recently announced that it will begin its testing in the second half of July.

Here are some of the vaccines that are furthest along, with details on how the vaccine works. Moderna’s vaccine, mRNA-1273, uses messenger RNA, an approach that does not require a virus to make the vaccine. The messenger RNA, or mRNA, carries instructions for making the spike protein, a key protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that allows the virus to enter cells when a person gets infected. When the vaccine with this instruction molecule is injected, it goes to the immune cells and instructs them to make copies of the spike protein, acting as if the cells have been infected with the coronavirus. Allowing other immune cells to develop ways to protect you gives immunity.

This mRNA-1273 vaccine is in phase II of its clinical trial, designed to evaluate safety and effectiveness. Moderna, working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, intends to enroll 600 healthy volunteers equally divided into two age groups: 18 to 55, and 55 and older. The company announced on June 11 that it will start phase III of its trial in July with 30,000 volunteers. Phase III, the final clinical trial phase, evaluates effectiveness in a much larger group and compares how well the vaccine works compared to a placebo (a substance that does not contain the vaccine). Moderna will test a 100-microgram dose and said the company is on track to deliver 500 million doses per year. In mid-May, the company announced that all eight initial trial volunteers given two different dose amounts reached or surpassed the level of antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus.

University of Oxford scientists are partnering with AstraZeneca to develop a COVID-19 recombinant adenovirus vaccine made from a weakened version of a common cold virus taken from chimpanzees. A number of companies are using the recombinant adenovirus vaccine technique, because prior studies with the SARS and MERS coronaviruses have shown efficacy in animal studies. Recombinant adenovirus is genetically altered so it can’t reproduce itself in humans. A phase I/II clinical trial began in April in the U.K. to assess its safety and how well it works in more than 1,000 healthy volunteers 18 to 55 years old. Now, recruiting has begun for phase II/III trials, which will enroll up to 10,260 adults and children. For both phase II and III, volunteers will receive one or two doses of either the COVID-19 vaccine or a licensed vaccine that will be used as a control for comparison. In early June, Brazil, hard hit with COVID-19 cases, joined the clinical trials, planning to test 2,000 volunteers there. After reaching a license agreement with the University of Oxford and others, AstraZeneca agreed to supply more than 2 billion doses globally, anticipating delivery of 400 million doses before the end of 2020.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech Inc. are testing four vaccines, each using messenger RNA, with a different combination of mRNA to targeted antigens (to produce antibodies). Called BNT162, volunteers in Germany and the U.S. have received the vaccine in a phase I/II clinical trial. This trial will evaluate the safety, ability to give immunity and the optimal dose of the four candidates in a single and continuous study. Initially they are testing the vaccine on people 18 to 55 years of age. Once a given dose level is proven safe and effective, older adults will be immunized. Pfizer is predicting the production of millions of vaccine doses in 2020, increasing to hundreds of millions in 2021. Manufacturing sites have been identified both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Inovio Inc. has developed a vaccine, INO-4800, which is a DNA vaccine in phase I clinical trials, with 40 volunteers. The technology uses DNA designed to produce a specific immune response. A handheld smart device uses a brief electrical pulse to open small pores in the skin to deliver the vaccine. Once the DNA is inside a cell, it instructs it to make many copies of the artificial DNA, and this stimulates the body’s natural immune response. Results from the U.S. phase I trial are expected in June, and a phase II/III trial is expected then to begin. Human trials are also expected to begin this summer in China and South Korea. Multiple partners and collaborators are involved, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and others.

CanSino Biologics Inc. in Tianjin, China, is working with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology on a coronavirus vaccine using a type of genetically altered adenovirus known as Ad-5. The platform has been used successfully to develop the Ebola virus vaccine. In late May, researchers reported on results of the phase I safety study, in which 108 people got three doses (low, middle, high) of the vaccine. Most volunteers developed immune responses, but fewer had the neutralizing antibodies experts say are crucial to fight off the virus. The company launched phase II in mid-April, with over 500 enrolled.

Sinovac Biotech’s Inc. vaccine, CoronaVac, uses an inactivated version of the virus. Early results of a Phase II clinical trial released in June show that the vaccine induced antibodies to neutralize the virus after 14 days in 90 percent of people who received it. The vaccine requires two injections, given two weeks apart, according to the company. No serious side effects have been reported in either phase I or II trials, which included 743 healthy volunteers. Sinovac will partner with Instituto Butantan Inc. in Brazil to launch a phase III trial. The company said it will develop the vaccine for global use.

Scientists at Imperial College London have developed a vaccine using a concept called ‘”self-amplifying RNA.” The vaccine uses synthetic strands of genetic code, or RNA, based on the genetic material known about the coronavirus. Once injected, that RNA makes copies of itself, then instructs the body’s cells to make copies of the spike protein found on the outside of the virus. This is meant to train the immune system to respond to and fight off the coronavirus. Investigators launched a combined phase I/II study the week of June 15, initially giving the vaccine to 300 healthy volunteers. They will receive two doses over two visits, separated by a four-week interval. If the vaccine is shown to be safe and to produce an immune response, phase III trials would be launched later this year with about 6,000 volunteers. Investigators hope the vaccine could be available by spring 2021.

Johnson & Johnson said it expects to start testing its recombinant vaccine in people in the second half of July. The vaccine combines spike protein gene from the vectored coronavirus with a modified adenovirus. The first trial will include more than 1,000 healthy adults aged 18 to 55 and others 65 and older and will take place in the U.S. and Belgium.

The Trump administration has chosen five companies for “Operation Warp Speed,” the national program to accelerate the development, production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. They are: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Merck Inc., Pfizer and BioNTech, and AstraZeneca/Oxford University. Beyond investing in the vaccines, the U.S program will also oversee a plan to streamline and coordinate the testing of vaccines. The five potential vaccines will be evaluated using the same measurements to make comparisons easier, and a single, independent monitoring board will decide if any of vaccines have been proved to work.

Researchers will have access to at least 72 testing sites that have been identified across the country and an equal number in other countries, said Dr. Larry Corey, an expert in vaccine development at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who is helping to orchestrate the government program. The plan relies heavily on testing networks that have been built over the years for work on vaccines against HIV and other pathogens, according to Drs. Corey and Fauci. Testing sites are often based at university medical centers. If researchers can recruit a sufficiently large pool of participants in areas where the virus is infecting high numbers of people, less time probably will be needed to know if a vaccine works. Doing so can be a challenge, especially when dealing with a new virus that is poorly understood. Where the virus will be most active when a vaccine is ready for large-scale testing, for example, is “a moving target,” Corey said. “We have a virus that is sweeping through different areas,” Corey said. “How do we match our clinical trial sites with where the viral activity is the highest?” Brazil and other countries that may be experiencing outbreaks could be chosen for rapid efficacy testing.

The participation of 25,000 to 30,000 people for each vaccine will be needed in the final phase III stage of tests for each of the five vaccines. But it will be up to an independent board of outside experts to decide if that is actually the case for each vaccine. Moderna and AstraZeneca and, later, the other vaccines will be tested in the U.S. government program. To do so, statisticians on the board will perform complex calculations based on the data collected in the large trials to determine whether a vaccine has had a genuine effect that cannot have been due to chance and to estimate the specific level of protection it provides. If a vaccine is, in fact, very effective, those results will become clear quickly because the difference between people who are vaccinated and those who receive the placebo will be stark. In that case, the monitoring board could declare the vaccine a success, clearing the way for it to be put into use. The board probably would need longer to reach a decision about a lower-performing vaccine since it would take time to collect sufficient data to establish its effectiveness.

How many doses of a vaccine could be made by the end of the year is an open question? Pharmaceutical companies have announced partnerships with manufacturing companies as well as plans to begin mass-manufacturing their vaccines before it is known if they work. When the operations are up and running, tens of millions of doses of a vaccine could be produced each month, but getting the specialized equipment, staff and materials needed to produce the vaccines takes time.

At this time, few, if any, viral vaccine experts believe that an effective vaccine will be developed before the first of the year. Politicians are pressuring for a vaccine to be marketable before the end of the year. However, marketing a vaccine which has not undergone sufficient safety and efficacy studies could result in serious long-term effects in the public’s perception of the proficiency of scientific and medical agencies, and they may be hesitant to receive a more safe and effective vaccine developed in the future to prevent COVID19, influenza or other common diseases. Vaccines typically take several years to develop with testing for efficacy and longevity against natural infection being required. Additionally, some viruses can mutate, requiring new vaccines to be developed as currently required for influenza viruses. However, no significant mutations have been noted in the spike protein gene with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Regardless of when an effective vaccine is developed, the first doses will be given to front line individuals, which would include medical personal, EMTs, fire medics, police officers, firemen and military personnel, etc. Next in line would probably be politicians, nursing homes patients and care takers, prisons, people with preexisting health problems and those workers employed in businesses considered essential by federal, state and local governments, such as pharmaceutical, agricultural, food service, banks, gas stations, funeral homes, etc. Vaccines available for the general public in the U.S. and other first-world countries could be given at least three months after these groups. Second- and third-world countries, which lack modern medical infrastructure, could take an additional six months to be vaccinated.

Regardless of when and if effective vaccines are mass produced to vaccinate the world’s population, there will a significant number of people, who, for one reason or another, will refuse to be vaccinated. Therefore, mandatory vaccination cards could be required by various federal, state or local government agencies to be shown to enter schools, planes, mass transit, obtain drivers licenses, entrance into foreign countries or large events with several thousand attendees, etc. The Trump administration has promised that vaccines will be free for all individuals regardless of whether they have medical insurance or can afford to pay for them. In addition, a small economic incentive may contribute to the number of those people willing to be vaccinated in poor neighborhoods, as is currently available for vaccination against influenza.

The term “herd immunity” is often used to determine the percent of population that has develop immunity either in the form of a vaccine or natural infections. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected—not just those who are immune. Often, a percentage of the population must be capable of getting a disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than this threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is known as the herd immunity threshold. For most diseases 60 percent to 90 percent of the population needs to have immunity to stop the spread on the disease. However, currently no one knows what percent is needed for “herd immunity “against the COVID19 virus.

So far, no vaccine has ever been developed against a human coronavirus. That being said, the most important current procedures, which are needed to prevent the spread of the virus, are continuation of CDC and other medical, research and governmental agencies recommendations. Keep in mind some people may have the COVID-19 virus and spread it to others, even if they don’t have symptoms or don’t know they have COVID-19.

Important viral mitigation procedures are to wash your hands often with soap and water for least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoiding large gathering, practicing social distancing and wear a mask in public. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics and counters, daily. Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick, unless you’re going to get medical care. Daily testing of your body temperature is also effective. Use telemedicine if you are sick and need to talk with a doctor and use on-line communications for working at home when possible. Avoid public transportation, taxis and ridesharing if you’re sick.

Currently many people believe that the virus will disappear in hot weather and a second or third wave will not occur, and they want full opening of the economy and life to return to what it was prior to the dawn of the pandemic. Unfortunately, most medical experts do not believe that this scenario has or will occur, and that state and local governments have already rushed too fast to reopen society for economic reasons. The mantra of many people, agencies and companies is that they are tired of COVID19 isolation and will not adhered to important viral mitigation procedures. They believe that the economic pain of isolation is worse than the disease itself. Only time will tell if their beliefs are correct.

Regardless of when and if effective vaccines are developed, more rapid effective testing for the virus and/or antibodies with contact tracing needs to be developed and utilized to avoid the spread of the virus. Another avenue that needs to be addressed is the development of effective in-home antiviral medications, as are currently available for influenza and HIV infections, that will treat symptomatic people and prevent viral spread during a 14-day quarantine. Currently only in-hospital antiviral therapy is effective to reduce the severity of critically ill patients. Antiviral treatments will free up hospitals to treat none COVID19 infected patients. According to Dr. Corey, “A virus that we’ve never seen before is unpredictable … We have to anticipate all options.”

Joseph Giambrone is a professor emeritus in Auburn University’s Department of Poultry Science with a joint appointment in the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. During his graduate research career at the University of Delaware, he was part of a research group that developed the first vaccine against an antigenic variant of an avian coronavirus. During a sabbatical leave during his tenure at Auburn, he was part of a research group in Australia that sequenced the entire genome of antigenic variant of a coronavirus of chickens. During his 42-year research career as a molecular virologist, immunologist and epidemiologist, he has made critical advancements in understanding the ecology of viral pathogens, led efforts to improve detection and surveillance of viral diseases and developed new and effective vaccines and vaccine strategies to protect commercially reared chickens as well as pathogens, such as avian influenza viruses, which have spilled over into human populations. His research has had a profound impact on practices used today to reduce the incidence and severity of viral diseases of commercially reared poultry as well in human populations.

36 mins ago

Rep. Aderholt warns congressional Democrats moving to allow for taxpayer-funded abortions

FLORENCE — Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in the extreme case of saving the life of a pregnant woman or terminating a pregnancy that resulted from incest or rape.

The Hyde Amendment has stood the test time, most recently during the 2010 Affordable Care Act debate. However, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) warns now that Democrats have the House, Senate and White House, the Hyde Amendment is in their crosshairs.

At an appearance before the Shoals Republican Club on Saturday, Aderholt discussed the possibility of Democrats ending the Hyde Amendment, adding it could come down to one or two Senate Democrats preventing a vote to end the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate.

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“[O]ne of the things that is most egregious about what’s happening now is abortion — you know, one of those issues that has always been Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on. But one thing Democrats and Republicans could always somewhat agree on was federal funding of abortion off-limits. It’s one thing that if abortion would be allowed, and of course, I’m pro-life. I don’t agree with that. But at least the Democrats would embrace the idea we would not take federal government taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. That is out now. Democrats want to make it so federal funds, your tax dollars, can go for abortion. And that’s a really scary thing.”

“The Hyde Amendment is what we’re talking about. They want to destroy the Hyde Amendment. So, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we keep the Hyde Amendment. It’s hard on Republicans — it’s hard on the House side, the Republicans being in the minority. Then on the Democrat side in the Senate with only 50 votes — then hopefully, we can get Manchin or some of those others to come along with us to try to make the rule out of order. We’re five seats basically from taking the majority in the House of Representatives.”

Aderholt was optimistic about Republicans’ chances in 2022 to regain control of the House but added his party had to be vigilant in the meantime.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

13 hours ago

Shelby, Tuberville vote against Democrats’ $1.9 trillion spending bill

U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Saturday voted against H.R.1319, the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion spending bill supported by President Joe Biden.

The bill originally passed the House with no Alabama Republicans supporting the bill, and — after numerous changes were made in the Senate — the same has now occurred in the upper chamber in a party-lines 50-49 vote. Due to Democrats using the budget reconciliation process to consider this legislation, they were able to act without bipartisan support. The measure will now head back to the House.

The spending bill, which is supposed to be for emergency COVID-19 relief, includes a litany of pet provisions slipped in by Democrats, such as the expansion of Obamacare subsidies and funding for blue state bailouts, Planned Parenthood, union pensions and other items unrelated to the pandemic.

The legislation includes $350 billion to bail out long-mismanaged state and local governments, multiple times the amount experts estimate was needed to address COVID-related items. Only 5% of the funding included for K-12 schools would be spent during the current fiscal year, with 95% instead spent over the next seven years. Additionally, agriculture-related funds in the bill would be spent over the next decade.

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“I voted against this bill today because it could further wreck the economy and ignite inflation,” Shelby explained in a written statement. “This legislation includes a host of non-COVID-related left-wing policies.”

“Not only does it cost the American taxpayers $1.9 trillion, but only nine percent of the funding in the bill goes toward the immediate fight against COVID and one percent toward vaccines,” he continued. “The bill does nothing to get kids back in classrooms and, instead, includes a massive cash bailout for some mismanaged states and local governments. Democrats are forcing a liberal wish list of pet projects through Congress that’s masked as a pandemic rescue package. I am disappointed that we were blocked at every turn from engaging and passing real COVID relief in a bipartisan, targeted manner, just like the Senate did five times last year.”

Republican senators attempted to improve the bill during a process that began Thursday and finally ended shortly after noon local time on Saturday. Tuberville himself filed 23 amendments to the legislation, focusing on providing targeted health and financial relief to those most impacted by the pandemic.

This included amendments to ensure that rural states like Alabama receive a minimum of 30% of all funds appropriated for testing and vaccinations, elementary and secondary schools, small businesses, colleges and universities, restaurants, and state and local governments. To ensure our nation’s most vulnerable have access to the resources needed to combat COVID-19, Tuberville also filed an amendment to remove funding designated for foreign countries and transfer those funds to support American nursing homes. Additionally, he filed amendments to increase funding for veterans’ healthcare and assist state veterans’ homes across the country in protecting their residents from coronavirus outbreaks.

RELATED: Democrats block Tuberville amendment barring federally funded schools from allowing biological males to compete in female sports

“Democrats refused to negotiate with Republicans on this bill from the start because they knew this reconciliation process was their best chance to pass President Biden’s progressive wish list,” Tuberville stated. “To put it into perspective, until today, the most partisan vote on the past five COVID relief bills was 92-6. This bill is a broken promise to the American people – one that hides under the name of ‘COVID relief’ when it should actually be called ‘liberal relief.’ Instead of targeting funds to the people, communities, and businesses who actually need it, this bill sends billions to bail out poorly managed states and puts less than 1% of funding toward vaccines.”

He concluded, “$1 trillion from past relief bills has not yet been used, and the small percentage of the funds in this bill that will actually go to people who really need it will take years to get there. This legislation is a reckless use of taxpayer dollars when what Americans and our economy really needs now is a plan to start reopening.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Auburn defeats Mississippi State 78-71 for Bruce Pearl’s 600th career win

In a season filled with uncertainty, injuries, and the looming notion that Auburn had self-imposed a post-season ban, the Auburn Tigers finished their season on a high note.

Bruce Pearl managed to get his team involved and excited in a season where they could have easily folded and written this season off. However, Pearl got his team focused on the season at-hand and managed to pick up his 600th career win against Mississippi State today.

On Auburn’s post-game radio broadcast, Pearl talked to Andy Burcham after the game. On how he got his team motivated in a year like this, he said, “Really happy with our effort tonight. I was concerned heading into this game knowing that this is our last practice, and this is our last game. You know, we aren’t playing for the tournament, so what is going to be the motivation?”

Effort is the main takeaway from Pearl’s response, and his team has struggled with almost every problem this season except effort.

With what is an admittedly underwhelming season by Auburn’s standards, the Tigers used effort to defeat Mississippi State 78-71 in front of their home crowd in Auburn Arena.

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Earlier in the week, Pearl said that this week of practice was different than any he has ever had at Auburn because the players and coaches knew that this was without a doubt the last game of the season.

For the Tigers, four different players scored in double figures. Allen Flanigan continued to improve and led the team in scoring with 22 points along with four rebounds and two assists.

The team as a whole had one of their best halves of the season in the second half of this game.

Auburn shot 82% from the charity stripe this game which is well above average for the Tigers. They also shot 5-10 from three in the second half, and were over 50% from the field as a whole.

Defensively, the Tigers stepped up big and made it more difficult for the Bulldogs to answer Auburn’s scoring runs. On what changed in the second half, Pearl said, “We played a little bit more zone in the second half. I think we did really well in the zone in this game.”

With Sharife Cooper still out, Auburn needed players to step up again. While Flanigan and Williams led the way in scoring, Jamal Johnson stepped into the point guard role once again this season.

Johnson has been selfless in bouncing around to whatever position he has been needed. He shot 4-8 from deep and dished out seven assists in this game.

On Cooper’s absence, Pearl said, “To win two out of the last three games without Sharife, is just a testament to how much our guys have improved as well as how great of a job my staff has done.”

JT Thor led the team in rebounding with nine boards in the game. Thor also scored ten points against the Bulldogs including a three-pointer.

Dylan Cardwell had one of the more impressive highlights of the game with a turn around three-point jumper as time was running out on the shot clock. In the final game of the season, Cardwell took his first and only long range shot of the season and drained it.

On Cardwell’s circus-type shot, Pearl said, “You know what’s funny is that he hasn’t worked on that shot, but he has been working on his three-point shot. So that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”

On what it means to get his 600th career win, Pearl said, “It means I’m old, that’s what it means. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Pearl later continued saying, “I hold myself to a high standard. I answer to God and God only, and he has a really high standard. There is no way I can meet that standard, but I’m going to try, and that is what I expect from the people around me.”

Auburn’s coach will be looking for more wins in the future. As for now, the Tiger’s season is officially over, and Pearl will be looking forward to getting to work on next season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

14 hours ago

Alabama finishes regular season with win over Georgia, looks ahead to SEC tournament

Alabama is enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory and continued with their winning ways today as they defeated Georgia 89-79 in the Bulldogs’ house.

The Tide have been cruising through the SEC this season, with only two blemishes on their conference record.

With the regular season SEC championship already claimed by Bama, they now have their sights set on the SEC tournament title. They will get a double bye in the tournament and will be the favorite to win it all as the number one seed.

Simply put, if Alabama plays like they have all year, they should have no problem winning the SEC tournament. They have not won their conference tournament in 20 years, so this team will be looking to make a statement that Tide basketball is back.

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Continuing to play as they have all season will consist of not straying far from their game plan, as well as keeping the ball in the hot hand. However, for Alabama the hot hand is almost everywhere on the court.

In the win today over the Georgia Bulldogs, they had five players score in double figures. Jahvon Quinerly led the team in scoring with 18 points. Quinerly also had four rebounds and four assists in today’s game.

Georgia got out to an early 14-point lead in the first half of this matchup but couldn’t hold on as Alabama took over the second half. The Bulldogs kept the game close in the closing minutes, but there was no stopping the Tide’s barrage of threes.

Alabama went 10-22 from deep, which at 45% is well above their season average of 35%. Even from the three-point line where Alabama has looked comfortable all year, they are still improving.

John Petty and Jordan Bruner both went 2-3 from downtown in the win over Georgia. If these two can keep shooting lights out along with Jaden Shackelford and Quinerly, then the Tide will have to continue to live on the three-point line. Head coach Nate Oats has stated he doesn’t want to “live or die by the three,” but Bama has prescribed to the don’t fix what isn’t broken method this season.

While their players can score underneath on the drive, when a team is hitting long range shots like the Tide are, they don’t just stop for philosophy’s sake unless a team makes them abandon the three.

For a team like Alabama, which has been dominant all year, to continue improving into March should have other teams concerned for the upcoming tournaments. As a one seed in the conference tournament, and a projected two seed in the NCAA tournament, the Tide are by no means underrated.

However, with limited non-conference play this season, the Tide could possibly show the nation that they deserve a one seed in the NCAA tournament if they can win their conference tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

15 hours ago

How Back Forty Beer Company helped to launch Alabama’s brewery scene

About 13 years ago, making beer in Alabama was just a dream for people like Jason Wilson, whose Back Forty Beer Company would go on to help lay the foundation for today’s thriving craft-beer scene.

“I called the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) board and said I’d like to fill out an application for a manufacturing brewery in Alabama,” Wilson recalls. “They said, ‘Son, we’ve not given one of those out since Prohibition.’ I said the application should be short then. They said, ‘If you’re willing to try, I’m willing to send it to you.’”

Both as a fledgling beer baron and during his time as president of the Alabama Brewers’ Guild, Wilson helped push for state laws that allowed stronger beers, brewery taprooms, big bottles including growlers, and on-premise sales—all essential to the industry’s growth.

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Getting started wasn’t easy for the Gadsden native. While raising capital to equip his Gadsden brewery, he had to use a Mississippi brewery to make his premiere beer, Truck Stop Honey Ale.

“They agreed to let me come down on weekends, as long as I was out by Sunday,” says the gregarious Wilson, who stepped down from daily operations in 2019, becoming chairman of Back Forty’s board and self-styled chief storyteller.

Back Forty, which sold its first beer in January 2009, opened its Gadsden brewery three years later and steadily built a seven-state distribution footprint. In 2018, a satellite brewery, taproom, restaurant, and outdoor beer garden opened in Birmingham under a licensing agreement with Doug Brown.

The Birmingham facility, near historic Sloss Furnaces, opened an expansion early this year that increases brewing capacity, adds a canning line, and provides a venue for rehearsal dinners and corporate events.

It also includes a zone for customers to enjoy special ales that are stored for months in casks, where they take on flavors from the wood. “We’re calling it the Back Forty Barrel Room,” Brown says. “We’re lining the walls with barrels aging beers.”

Brown plans other Back Forty outposts, starting with a Huntsville location that he hopes to have open in a couple of years.

The Gadsden and Birmingham breweries operate independently. Each produces the core lineup that includes Naked Pig Ale and Freckle Belly IPA. They also each produce their own seasonal and specialty beers—traditional and modern styles, and whacky-yet-it-works concepts like Peanut Butter Porter, a strong dark ale made with peanuts and peanut butter essence.

Russ Bodner, the executive chef in Birmingham, is standardizing company-wide the ingredients, recipes, and methods for making his kitchen’s popular pub food, like the Back Forty Burger and Korean Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

“When we open other locations, we’ll mirror everything—the beer menu, kitchen menu, and even the music that we play,” Brown says. “Each location will have some uniqueness but we want a common experience.”

A fifth-generation Alabamian, Wilson says he’s proud of the role breweries like his have played in fabricating Alabama’s nationally recognized food and beverage scene.

He’s seen more than four dozen Alabama breweries open since he filed that ABC application. He’s collaborated with some of the state’s best chefs, including for a dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City.

“We’ve been part of an awesome culinary revolution,” he says.

Back Forty’s Flagship beers

Cart Barn Light (ABV: 4½ percent)

Pawpaw’s Peach Wheat Ale (ABV: 4½ percent)

Truckstop Honey Brown Ale (ABV: 6 percent)

Naked Pig Pale Ale (ABV: 6 percent)

Rollin in the Haze hazy IPA (ABV: 6 percent)

Bama Mosa Brut (ABV: 7 percent)

Freckle Belly IPA (ABV: 7½ percent)

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)