"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 3rd Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
After COVID, research on social isolation and loneliness is needed more than ever
With nearly 70% of Americans over the age of 65 now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many older Americans are once again safely hugging their (fully vaccinated) loved ones and returning to regular activities after more than a year’s hiatus. We’re all glad to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, but in addition to the tragic loss of life, COVID-19 magnified the already-dire problem of social isolation and loneliness among older adults. NIA has a robust history of promoting research to help understand how we can reduce loneliness and enhance social connection among older adults to improve physical and mental health outcomes. The pandemic underscored that rigorous research on the health impact of social isolation and loneliness — and the development of interventions to prevent or address these conditions — are needed now more than ever.
Parents: Kids are clamouring for great outdoors after Covid
Most parents see outdoor play as the key to combating loneliness that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused children. New research suggests more than half believe their children have been more lonely amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report from the NSPCC. Two in three parents believe play has become more important for their children since the start of the pandemic, and 79 per cent think playing outside will be vital for children's wellbeing.
Hygiene Helpers
A COVID-19 Vaccine Could Get West Virginians Cash, Guns Or Trips
West Virginia is giving its vaccine incentive program a boost to get more residents immunized from the coronavirus, Gov. Jim Justice announced on Tuesday. All residents who get a COVID-19 vaccine will be enrolled in the chance to win a college scholarship, a tricked-out truck, or hunting rifles, in addition to a $1.588 million grand prize. The program, which will run from June 20 through Aug. 4, will be paid for through federal pandemic relief funds. "The faster we get people across the finish line the more lives we save. That's all there is to it," Justice said. "If the tab just keeps running the cost is enormous. The hospitalizations are enormous. We have to get all of our folks across the finish line."
Amazon starts testing UK staff for coronavirus variants
Amazon is testing its front-line staff in Britain for coronavirus variants and feeding the data to public health officials, including in hotspots where a strain first found in India is spreading fast. The retail giant opened COVID-19 testing labs in the UK and the United States last year to provide voluntary testing for staff and can now also test for variants in Britain, where scientists have pioneered sequencing coronavirus genomes. Aided by a rapid vaccine rollout, Britain is on the verge of reopening its economy after months of lockdowns but the Delta variant first found in India has spread, including in areas where Amazon has its lab and some fulfilment centres.
‘A fantastic success’: Vaccines have broken link between Covid infections and hospitalisations, says NHS chief
Britain’s world-leading vaccine roll-out has “broken the link” between Covid-19 infections and deaths, an NHS chief has said. Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, stressed that many coronavirus patients needing hospital treatment were now younger so did not need critical care. He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “It’s all down to vaccines and it’s a fantastic success story. “The NHS has been delighted to play a part, linking up with the scientists who developed the vaccines, and then ensuring that we get millions of those vaccinations into everybody’s arms."
Sinovac vaccine restores a Brazilian city to near normal
Just one COVID-19 patient is in critical condition at the Dr. Geraldo Cesar Reis clinic in Serrana, a city of almost 46,000 in Sao Paulo state’s countryside. The 63-year-old woman rejected the vaccine that was offered to every adult resident of Serrana as part of a trial. Doctors say the woman was awaiting one of Pfizer’s shots, which remain scarce in Brazil. But she is an outlier here. Most adults rolled up their sleeves when offered the vaccine made by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, and the experiment has transformed the community into an oasis of near normalcy in a country where many communities continue to suffer. Doctors who treated COVID-19 in Serrana have seen their patient loads evaporate. They now help colleagues with other diseases and recently started eating lunch at home. Life has returned to the streets: Neighbors chat and families have weekend barbecues. Outsiders who previously had no reason to set foot in Serrana are arriving for haircuts and restaurant outings.
Community Activities
New Mexico Announces $5 Million Award for Vaccination
When the book is written about how states across the country tried to persuade people to get coronavirus vaccines, it will not accuse New Mexico of being subtle. On Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a lottery program through which the state will award cash prizes totaling $10 million, including a $5 million grand prize — among the largest single cash awards being offered by any state with a similar program. New Mexico’s program is called Vax to the Max. And its website does not downplay the program’s key enticement: “Get Vaccinated for Your Chance to Win the Grand Prize of $5,000,000!!!” a headline blares. Further down on the website is a large pile of $100 bills. As Governor Grisham wrote on Twitter: “Register to win! And let’s keep N.M. safe and healthy!”
Free beer, other new incentives for Biden’s ‘vaccine sprint’
Dangling everything from sports tickets to a free beer, President Joe Biden is looking for that extra something — anything — that will get people to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 shots when the promise of a life-saving vaccine by itself hasn’t been enough. Biden on Wednesday announced a “month of action” to urge more Americans to get vaccinated before the July 4 holiday, including an early summer sprint of incentives and a slew of new steps to ease barriers and make getting shots more appealing to those who haven’t received them. He is closing in on his goal of getting 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day — essential to his aim of returning the nation to something approaching a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy this summer.
Sudan initiative harnesses youth, medical savvy to fight Covid at community level
Two US-based Sudanese doctors have created a grassroots programme using a video mentoring system to deploy volunteer medical students across Sudan to help Covid-19 sufferers in their homes. Sudan is still recovering after a 30-year dictatorship and does not have the infrastructure to tackle the Covid crisis at the local level, says Dr Nada Fadul, one of the co-founders of Sudan’s Community Medical Response Team (CMRT). “We leveraged youth organisations that led to Sudan succeeding in overthrowing this dictator, finding that energy, directing it into a new channel to help get the country over this crisis,” says Fadul, an infectious disease physician at the University of Nebraska in the US. Medical students, many of whom were sitting at home because of Covid-19 school closures, already had the trust of community members in their neighbourhood, along with the energy, knowledge and training.
Covid Community champs to deliver key health messages
Training is under way for Covid Community Champions to ensure key health messages are provided about the pandemic. The champions have also prepared videos to highlight the importance of surge testing and vaccine availability. Covid Community Champions are people from all areas of Blackburn with Darwen, from different cultural backgrounds and across age groups who all want to make a difference in their neighbourhoods and help local communities recover from the damaging impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Covid: India's Sikh community steps up amid pandemic
Harteerath Singh, who lives in the northern Indian city of Gurgaon, has contracted the coronavirus twice. In both instances, he took some time to recover, only to return and lead his nonprofit organization's work on the ground. The Hemkunt Foundation was set up by Harteerath's father in 2010, but this year, the NGO was catapulted into the limelight after it provided thousands of oxygen cylinders — free of cost — to COVID patients who were facing breathing difficulties. This organization is not alone in providing humanitarian aid amid India's COVID crisis. The UK-based international nonprofit Khalsa Aid and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) are also carrying out on-the-ground relief work to bridge gaps in medical supplies. There is one common thread that ties these organizations — their faith.
COVID: Thousands of Indian children orphaned by pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated families across India, has left thousands of children orphaned or without one parent. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 1,700 children have lost both parents, while 140 have been abandoned and more than 7,400 have lost one of their parents to the virus, according to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). The NCPCR submitted the report to the Supreme Court on Monday, detailing the problems of children orphaned during the pandemic and the need to provide them with food, shelter and clothing. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh reported 2,110 children who were orphaned, lost one parent or were abandoned, followed by Bihar at 1,327 and Kerala at 952, according to government data. Child rights activists believe that this number is likely a significant underestimate. In response, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government last week announced measures to help orphaned children, with around 1 million rupees (€11,220, $13,700) set aside to be given to each child as a stipend, from the ages of 18 to 23. The funds would be offered from the PM-CARES scheme.
Working Remotely
Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Working From Home
With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal. While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.” But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.
Half of UK firms set to move office as shift to flexible working outlasts pandemic
Almost half of mid-to-large size UK companies plan to move offices within the next three years as the shift to flexible working outlasts the pandemic, a new survey suggests. The findings were described as a “watershed” moment for the future of office working and come as London’s army of property agents predict a busier than usual summer hunting new HQs for hundreds of businesses. Of nearly 500 senior executives at firms with at least 20,000 sq ft of leased space, 89% said they will be in a position to move out in the next 36 months due to lease expiries or break clauses.
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual learning helping students living with a disability learn vital skills and gain confidence
Tymekka Locke would love to be a barista when she leaves school, but like many of her classmates at the Mackay District Special School, she is not sure where to start. But a virtual learning program, helping teach vital skills from the safety of a classroom, might just be the answer. Over the past six months, students have been using headsets and screens to learn pedestrian safety skills, how to withdraw money from an ATM and the art of making different coffees. "We do coffees, or road safety, or [go to] the bank," Tymekka said. Mackay District Special School teacher Ria Erlank said the program was giving students like Tymekka the chance to gain skills and confidence for the workforce.
Public Policies
U.S. global vaccine distribution plan could be announced Thursday -Blinken
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that President Joe Biden could announce as early as Thursday details of Washington’s plan for distributing 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccine globally. "I want you to know as well that in a few short days ... possibly as early as tomorrow, the president is going to announce in more detail the plan that he's put together to push out 80 million vaccines around the world," said Blinken at a gathering at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica. Blinken reiterated that the U.S. distribution plan would be coordinated with the COVAX vaccine sharing facility and based on need "without any political strings attached."
Britain hosts G7 health summit amid pressure to broaden COVID vaccine access
Britain will host health ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) rich countries in Oxford on Thursday for a two-day summit, as pressure intensifies to do more to broaden access to COVID-19 vaccines across the world. British foreign minister Dominic Raab has said that equitable access to coronavirus vaccines will be at the top of the agenda when G7 leaders meet next week. But as health ministers gather at the University of Oxford, where AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine was invented, charities stressed Britain could do more by supporting a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical firms.
Vietnam to buy 20m doses of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine this year
Vietnam's health minister said on Wednesday that Russia had agreed to provide it with 20 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V this year, as the South-east Asian country races to secure supplies to expedite mass inoculations. Vietnam approved the Russian vaccine in March but has stepped up its procurement push after being hit by its biggest outbreak so far, although its overall cases and fatality numbers remain relatively low. "Vietnam is trying to get access to Covid-19 vaccine sources to speed up its vaccination roll-out at the earliest," Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a statement announcing the Sputnik V agreement.
Nepal receives 800,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine from China
Nepal on Tuesday received a consignment of 800,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China on grant basis as per the commitment made during talks between Presidents of the two nations. "As conveyed by Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China, during the telephone conversation with President Bidya Devi Bhandari on May 26, 2021, a consignment of 800,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Kathmandu today," Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a release. China on May 26, announced a grant of 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for Nepal.
Japan gives $800M to UN-backed COVID-19 vaccine program
Japan's prime minister announced Wednesday an additional $800 million contribution to the U.N.-backed initiative to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries, a four-fold increase of Japanese funding for the COVAX program. The pledge by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga comes as his government attempts to accelerate vaccinations in Japan, one of the world’s least inoculated countries, only about 50 days before it hosts the Olympics amid a continuing surge in infections. He spoke as Japan co-sponsored a fundraising event for COVAX with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which helps run the program. The program managers are seeking about $2 billion more to reach a target of $8.3 billion for its effort to fund free vaccines for low- and middle-income countries around the world.
China's Guangdong tightens coronavirus measures as cases persist
Cities in China's most populous province of Guangdong have locked down compounds and streets and ordered some travellers to furnish negative COVID-19 test results, as health officials battle to control outbreaks. All 10 of China's locally confirmed mainland cases on June 1 were in southern Guangdong, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday, seven in the provincial capital of Guangzhou and three in the nearby city of Foshan. China's manufacturing and export hub and its biggest province by economic output, Guangzhou has stepped up coronavirus prevention and control efforts since the latest wave of cases struck in late May.
World Health Organization authorizes China's Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use
The World Health Organization (WHO) has authorized a Covid-19 vaccine made by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac for emergency use. The decision will allow CoronaVac to be used in WHO's vaccine-sharing program, COVAX, which seeks to provide equitable global access to immunizations. It is the second Chinese vaccine to be given WHO authorization after Sinopharm was greenlit in early May. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news briefing Tuesday that CoronaVac was "found to be safe, effective, and quality-assured following two doses of the inactivated vaccine." WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) has recommended the vaccine for people over 18. Two doses should be spaced between two and four weeks.
Covid-19: Cummings, Johnson, Hancock, and a maelstrom of avoidable harm
Boris Johnson’s announcement of a public inquiry into his government’s handling of covid-19, followed hard on the heels of the news that his former special adviser Dominic Cummings would give evidence against him to the health and science all party select committees.1 The prime minister, it seemed, was more concerned about how Cummings might damage his reputation than the health of his electorate. Cummings promised a series of revelations damning enough to embarrass any leadership.2 He didn’t disappoint, and he did more than simply hold court at the hearing, where he was an oracle, a one man systematic review on every pandemic question, the all seeing Eye of Sauron. Whether Cummings’s many allegations are correct or not, the inescapable conclusion is that the disastrous manner in which the government is run is a major contributor to excess deaths in the UK, although Johnson persists with his denials. The public inquiry that was needed a year ago—and could be quick and forward looking3—is still promised for next year, but it is a matter of urgency now
Australia's Victoria state extends COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne
Australia's Victoria state on Wednesday extended a COVID-19 lockdown in state capital Melbourne for another week in a bid to contain the latest virus outbreak, but eased restrictions in other regions. The lockdown, imposed on May 27 after the state reported its first locally acquired coronavirus cases, had been scheduled to end Thursday night. It will now end on June 10. The state reported six new locally acquired cases on Wednesday, versus nine a day earlier, taking the total infections in the latest outbreak to 60.
Russia's Sputnik Light vaccine approved for use in Mauritius - RDIF
Russia's single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine against COVID-19 has been approved for use in Mauritius, Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund, which markets the shot internationally, said on Wednesday.
Donor summit boosts COVAX funds; nations share doses
The global effort to boost doses of COVID-19 vaccine for low- and middle-income countries got a major shot in the arm today at a Gavi donor conference, netting new pledges totaling $2.4 billion from nearly 40 groups, including governments, private companies, and foundations. In other developments, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly snapshot of the pandemic that although cases have dropped for the fifth week in a row, some countries across all of its regions are experiencing significant rises. And five nations announced plans to share vaccine doses.
Pharma drug naming experts applaud WHO's choice of Greek alphabet for COVID-19 variants
What’s in a COVID-19 variant name? Thanks to the World Health Organization (WHO), Greek letters. The global health organization's new system uses the Greek alphabet in a standardized naming convention pharma drug naming experts agreed makes sense. Beginning with alpha, which is now the name of the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the U.K. in December, notable variants will be named in the order of discovery and matched to the corresponding letter in the Greek alphabet. So far, 10 variants labeled as “of concern” or “of interest” have been listed and given the new alphabet names. The newest is B.1.617.1 now called kappa, which was discovered in India in April. The global health organization instituted the system for simplicity’s sake—the strings of letters, numbers and period punctuations lent itself to mistakes and confusion—but also to avoid stigmatizing the countries where variants are discovered.
Maintaining Services
Millions of vaccines to be produced at major new Liverpool site
The national effort to get flu shots in the arms of vulnerable Brits has received a massive boost after the largest vaccine manufacturing site of its type in the UK started work in Liverpool. Although there has understandably been intense focus on the roll out of the coronavirus vaccine, the annual flu vaccination programme is also vitally important to easing winter pressures on the NHS. The high-speed syringe filling and packing facility in Renaissance Way, Speke, operated by pharmaceutical firm Seqirus, will produce more than 50 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine each year, with the ability to increase production to 200 million doses in the event of an influenza pandemic. The site now has a high-speed fill-and-finish facility, which enables start-to-finish onshore manufacturing, where previously the vaccine would be sent abroad to be put into syringes and packed, reports Business Live.
Moderna to double EU vaccine manufacturing with new Dutch site
Moderna will start producing a retooled version of its coronavirus vaccine in the Netherlands, doubling the company's expected EU production, the company announced today. The new contract, inked with the subcontractor Lonza, will allow Moderna to make approximately 300 million doses a year starting at the end of 2021. The Dutch site, in addition to a drug-substance site run by Rovi in Spain, will allow Moderna to make 600 million doses a year in the EU. Currently, the American company doesn't make any drug substance in the EU. Instead, it has outsourced its vaccine substance production to Lonza's site in Switzerland to supply the EU, U.K. and Canada. But production issues there forced the company to cut projected deliveries to the U.K. and Canada earlier this year.
Moderna plans mix of COVID-19 vaccine doses with new Lonza deal
Moderna is gearing up to halve the dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. drugmaker said on Wednesday, so that it can also be used to combat variants and inoculate children. It has agreed a deal with Swiss-based drugmaker Lonza which said a new drug substance production line in Geleen, Netherlands, will have capacity to make ingredients for up to 300 million doses annually at 50 micrograms per dose. "We're assuming that as of 2022, we are going to have a mix of dose levels on the market," a spokeswoman for Moderna said, following the announcement of Lonza's new production.
UK rights watchdog endorses compulsory Covid jabs for care home staff
The prospect of care home workers being required to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has moved a step closer, with a crucial endorsement from the UK’s human rights watchdog. Ministers are considering changing the law to make vaccination a condition of deployment for people in some professions that come into regular close contact with elderly and vulnerable people at high risk from the coronavirus. In a report to the government seen by the Guardian, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) admitted that making vaccines compulsory for care home staff would be a “significant departure from current public health policy”. But they judged that ministers were “right to prioritise protection of the right to life for residents and staff” and said it would be reasonable for care home workers to need a jab “in order to work directly with older and disabled people, subject to some important safeguards”.
AstraZeneca starts deliveries of Thailand-made vaccines
AstraZeneca’s partner in Thailand on Wednesday began its first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines after concerns they were behind on their production schedules for the country and parts of Southeast Asia. Siam Bioscience said the first locally produced AstraZeneca doses were delivered to Thailand’s Ministry of Health ahead of the June 7 start of the country’s official mass vaccination program. It did not say how many were delivered. AstraZeneca signed with Siam Bioscience last year to be its vaccine production and distribution center in Southeast Asia. It said that the vaccines would be ready for export to other Southeast Asian countries in July. As part of the plan, AstraZeneca has to deliver 6 million doses to Thailand in June, and 10 million doses monthly from July to November, with a final 5 million doses in December.
On a roll, Moderna taps Thermo Fisher for fill-finish duties and Lonza for booster shot manufacturing
The globe has come to depend on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, sending the biotech racing to expand its mRNA manufacturing capacity. In the next step of its effort to meet lofty supply expectations, Moderna is leveraging its relationships with two CDMO powerhouses to help. Moderna has tasked Thermo Fisher Scientific with fill-finish, labeling and packaging duties for its mRNA vaccine at Thermo Fisher’s commercial manufacturing site in Greenville, North Carolina, the company said in a Tuesday statement. The latest agreement will “support the production of hundreds of millions of doses,” and production is set to begin in the third quarter this year, the biotech said. Moderna already has a standing relationship with Thermo Fisher, which has supplied the drugmaker with raw materials for its COVID-19 vaccine, said Juan Andres, Moderna’s chief technical operations and quality officer.
Healthcare Innovations
Russia's CoviVac more than 80% effective against COVID-19 -Ifax
Russia’s third vaccine against COVID-19, CoviVac, is more than 80% effective according to preliminary data, the Interfax news agency cited the vaccine’s developer as saying on Wednesday. The Chumakov Centre could produce six times more than the previously planned 10 million doses of the vaccine a year, Interfax added.
Study identifies COVID risks for kidney dialysis patients
Among patients with kidney failure who underwent dialysis at clinics several times a week, the risk of COVID-19 infection was highest in those who were older, had diabetes, lived in communities with high coronavirus prevalence, and received dialysis at clinics serving more patients, finds a study yesterday in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Led by British researchers, the study also showed that COVID-19 infection risks were lowest among patients who received dialysis in clinics with more isolation rooms and mask policies for all patients, including those with no coronavirus symptoms.
Israel reports link between rare cases of heart inflammation and COVID-19 vaccination in young men
The COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to put young men at elevated risk of developing a heart muscle inflammation called myocarditis, researchers in Israel say. In a report submitted today to the Israeli Ministry of Health, they conclude that between one in 3000 and one in 6000 men ages 16 to 24 who received the vaccine developed the rare condition. But most cases were mild and resolved within a few weeks, which is typical for myocarditis. “I can’t imagine it’s going to be anything that would cause medical people to say we shouldn’t vaccinate kids,” says Douglas Diekema, a pediatrician and bioethicist at Seattle Children’s Hospital.