"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 29th Apr 2021
How your brain might trick you into thinking COVID vaccines are riskier than they really are
- Some people remain reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot due to concerns about severe adverse effects, such as blood clots and blood count abnormalities, recently reported in conjunction with the AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
- While extremely rare, thus far, those cases prompted regulators to recommend pausing use of the vaccine, a development that nearly 30% of Americans in a recent poll interpreted as an example of why COVID-19 vaccines may be unsafe, untested and best avoided. This example offers an important lesson: even when adverse events are rare and regulators are cautious, the spectre of harm and uncertainty can be enough for many people to hesitate.
- While we can empathize with these concerns, they spotlight the behavioural wiring of the human mind. People frequently have cognitive tendencies - what behavioural scientists call cognitive biases and heuristics - that can help them make decisions under certain circumstances. But in others, this wiring can also create mental blind spots that lead to poor choices...
How Your Brain Might Trick You Into Thinking Covid Vaccines Are Riskier Than They Really Are
Dr. Joshua Liao explores how omission bias affects the way your mind naturally thinks about the risk of measures like vaccination, and how you can rationally overcome it.
U.S. to send more than $100 mln in COVID supplies to India
The United States is sending supplies worth more than $100 million to India to help it fight a surge of COVID-19 cases, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday. The supplies, which will begin arriving on Thursday and continue into next week, include 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests, the statement said. The United States also has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca (AZN.L) manufacturing supplies to India, which will allow it to make over 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the White House.
Britain to send three container-sized oxygen factories to India
Britain will send three container-sized oxygen factories to India to help hospitals cope with soaring cases of COVID-19, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Wednesday.
Why The COVID-19 Variants Spreading in India Are a Global Concern
As the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in India continue to mount, public health officials are carefully watching yet another looming threat: the appearance of mutations that could be making the virus circulating there more infectious or more capable of causing severe disease. Scientists believe that the variants of SARS-CoV-2 responsible for this second wave of cases in India already include at least two mutations that make them more dangerous. These mutations are already familiar to COVID-19 experts. One is found in a variant first identified in South Africa, while the other is part of a variant believed to have emerged from California. Researchers believe that these two mutations may, respectively, make it easier for the virus to infect human cells, and to evade the protection provided by immune cells like antibodies. According to the latest data from the public genome database GISAID, 38% of genetically sequenced samples from India collected in March contain the two mutations—scientists have labelled this the B.1.617 variant.
India's surge leads to further global COVID rise as role of variants probed
COVID-19 cases in India last week made up 38% of the global total, and circulation of different variants—not just the B1617 variant that was first detected in the country—appears to be partly fueling the nation's massive surge, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly pandemic snapshot. India today reported more than 300,000 cases for the eighth day in a row, reaching a new single-day high of 379,459, with 3,647 more deaths, putting its fatality count over the 200,000 mark, according to the country's health ministry.
India grieves 200,000 dead with many more probably uncounted
Three days after his coronavirus symptoms appeared, Rajendra Karan struggled to breathe. Instead of waiting for an ambulance, his son drove him to a government hospital in Lucknow, the capital of India’s largest state. But the hospital wouldn’t let him in without a registration slip from the district’s chief medical officer. By the time the son got it, his father had died in the car, just outside the hospital doors. “My father would have been alive today if the hospital had just admitted him instead of waiting for a piece of paper,” Rohitas Karan said. Stories of deaths tangled in bureaucracy and breakdowns have become dismally common in India, where deaths on Wednesday officially surged past 200,000. But the true death toll is believed to be far higher. In India, mortality data was poor even before the pandemic, with most people dying at home and their deaths often going unregistered. The practice is particularly prevalent in rural areas, where the virus is now spreading fast.
'Life is precious' say Indian migrants fleeing COVID-hit cities
Amid India’s COVID-19 crisis, migrant workers are abandoning cities and heading for their villages in droves in a repeat of last year’s exodus when the lockdown shut industries and left them jobless - but this time they are worried about safety. India’s toll from the coronavirus surged past 200,000 on Wednesday with nearly 18 million people infected, according to government data, with the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Surat and Bangalore under lockdown. Healthcare facilities have been overwhelmed, with hospitals over-run and shortages of oxygen, medical supplies and hospital staff.
Indians rush for vaccines as coronavirus toll tops 200000
Indians struggled to register online for a mass vaccination drive set to begin at the weekend as the country’s toll from the coronavirus surged past 200,000 on Wednesday, worsened by shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen. The second wave of infections has seen at least 300,000 people test positive each day for the past week, overwhelming health facilities and crematoriums and prompting an increasingly urgent response from allies overseas sending equipment.
Covid-19: UK Indians rally to help during Covid crisis
Scenes of people in India begging for oxygen during the nation's record Covid surge have shocked and moved the world. And no-one has been more moved than the global Indian diaspora. So how are those in the UK responding to the crisis? In a Hindu temple in Wembley, north-west London, the small congregation is chanting a special prayer for people thousands of miles away. The Hanuman Chalisa is a devotional hymn believed to have immense power for helping those in need. But for many people in Britain's Indian communities, their minds are on very practical ways to help as well.
Indians step up to the plate to cook for COVID patients, families
Concerned by a spike in COVID-19 infections in her gated community in Noida, a city bordering New Delhi, Plaksha Aggarwal wanted to help and started cooking for the patients and their families. After catering to a few families within her apartment complex earlier this month, she started getting calls from around the city. “I could not refuse people. They wouldn’t be calling unless they needed help. Some orders were for people who had just lost family members,” she told Al Jazeera. Within a week, Aggarwal was preparing 120 meals a day. “While in home isolation, having someone take care of your food or your kids’ meals because you cannot cook for them is just one less thing to stress about,” she says.
Fears of Covid ‘tsunami’ in Fiji after outbreak found to be Indian variant
Fijian health officials are bracing for a “tsunami” of Covid-19 cases, after the Indian variant was detected in the Pacific nation this week, with lockdowns announced in an attempt to stem the outbreak. The Pacific country had largely managed to avoid community transmission over the course of the pandemic, before a cluster emerged this month linked to a quarantine facility, and exacerbated after a woman with the virus attended a funeral with 500 people. The permanent secretary for health and medical services, James Fong, said six new cases had emerged in quarantine facilities on Tuesday and events in India showed the threat posed by the strain could not be underestimated.
Covid: Three cases of Indian variant found in Leicester
Three cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus have been found in Leicester, health officials have confirmed. Ivan Browne, the city's public health director, said Public Health England (PHE) had notified him of the cases. He said they were linked to travel from India, and further testing was being carried out at a city school.
Syngene targets delivering 500000 vials of remdesivir in India as COVID-19 surges
India’s Syngene International Ltd (SYNN.NS) aims to supply half-a-million vials of COVID-19 drug remdesivir through its local distribution partners next month, its top executive said, as the country faces shortages of the medicine amid a second wave. "At the moment we are operating at near maximum capacity (to produce remdesivir)," Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Hunt told Reuters on Wednesday. "I'd expect the volume of drug that we are supplying into the Indian market to step up as we get into May," he added.
BioNTech boss strikes upbeat note on Europe's vaccine drive
More than half of Europe’s population should have received the coronavirus vaccine in the next two months, allowing governments to consider easing lockdown rules for those who’ve been immunized, the head of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech said Wednesday. The European Union has lagged behind Britain and the United States in the race to get shots into arms, but in recent weeks the pace of vaccinations has picked up significantly. Ugur Sahin, whose company developed the first widely approved shot against COVID-19 with U.S. partner Pfizer, predicted that “50-60% of the population will have received the vaccine” by the end of June, at which point any easing of pandemic restrictions would affect a broad swath of the population.
Gates aids fundraising drive for global vaccine distribution
A new mass fundraising campaign aims to inspire 50 million people around the world to make small donations to Covax, the international effort to push for equitable global distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations. Called Go Give One, the campaign was launched Wednesday by the WHO Foundation and corporate, religious, and world leaders. Seed money for the effort was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The campaign will contribute to the $3 billion in Covax funding needed to vaccinate almost 30 percent of people in 92 low-income countries sometime next year. That support will come from donors like those who contribute to the Go Give One campaign as well as cost-sharing agreements. Meanwhile, the $6.3 billion that’s so far been committed to Covax has come primarily from global governments, in addition to the World Health Organization, Unicef, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Tony Blair urges UK to use international aid cash to boost global Covid-19 vaccination effort
Britain should repurpose its aid funding to countries to help them combat Covid-19, Tony Blair urged today. The former prime minister stressed that the UK should be “doing everything we can” to boost coronavirus jab roll-outs around the world. In an interview with Evening Standard editor Emily Sheffield, he was asked if aid budgets should be repackaged for the next year or so to help vaccinate people. “Absolutely, we should be doing everything we can to help countries,” he said. He stressed that he was “never in favour of cutting” Britain’s aid budget from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5, adding: “We have a massive interest in the world getting vaccinated.”
Pharmacists offer COVID-19 jab to the homeless in charity event
Two pharmacists have worked alongside other healthcare professionals to vaccinate the homeless and undocumented migrants against COVID-19 in central London. Sikh charity NishkamSWAT and London-based charity The Connection at St Martin’s jointly launched a vaccination initiative for the homeless, in partnership with the NHS. They ran two vaccination clinics last week and one on Monday outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in central London. Volunteering alongside a dentist, a GP and a clinical director were Gurinder Singh, a community pharmacist and lecturer at the University of Reading, and Captain Dal Singh Virdee, an army pharmacist who runs the healthcare arm of NishkamSWAT. Following the success of the first clinics, the charities are now receiving requests from other local homeless organisations in east and west London to run similar pop-up sites.
Russia, China sow disinformation to undermine trust in Western vaccines: EU
Russian and Chinese media are systematically seeking to sow mistrust in Western COVID-19 vaccines in their latest disinformation campaigns aimed at dividing the West, a European report said on Wednesday. From December to April, the two countries' state media outlets pushed fake news online in multiple languages sensationalising vaccine safety concerns, making unfounded links between jabs and deaths in Europe and promoting Russian and Chinese vaccines as superior, the EU study said. The Kremlin and Beijing deny all disinformation allegations by the EU, which produces regular reports and seeks to work with Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft to limit the spread of fake news
India's Maharashtra state may extend lockdown until mid-May- minister
India's western state of Maharashtra, home to the financial capital Mumbai, may extend its lockdown by a fortnight until mid-May to try to halt a rise in coronavirus cases, the state's health minister said on Wednesday. The state will not go through with a plan to open vaccinations to everyone aged over 18 from May 1 due to a shortage of doses, Rajesh Tope told reporters.
Data reveal fewer real-world COVID vaccine side effects
A new real-world study finds fewer side effects after vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech and the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines than reported in phase 3 clinical trials, while another paper notes some instances of facial paralysis after receipt of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine but no increased risk. In the first study, King's College London and other UK and US researchers mined data from the 627,383 users of the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, who self-reported systemic and local side effects within 8 days of the receipt of one or two doses of the Pfizer vaccine or one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Dec 8, 2020, to Mar 10, 2021. The study was published yesterday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. After the first Pfizer dose, 13.5% of recipients reported side effects, compared with 22.0% after the second Pfizer dose and 33.7% after the first AstraZeneca dose.
Can Regeneron make 'monoclonal antibodies' a catchphrase? New COVID-19 ad campaign gives it a go
What's the hottest new catchphrase on TV? Monoclonal antibodies. Well, maybe not yet, but the phrase is the star of Regeneron's new TV ad campaign. In one of four new TV ads, people wearing face masks go about their day casually chatting to one another or listening to the radio, repeating the phrase “monoclonal antibodies.” Then a doctor on a telehealth call tells an older male patient that he has COVID-19 and adds “let’s talk about monoclonal antibodies.” The first two TV commercials in the national campaign launched this week, with two more set to roll out over the next few days, a Regeneron spokesperson said.
One dose of COVID vaccine halves transmission, study shows
A single dose of the coronavirus vaccines deployed in England can cut transmission of COVID-19 within households by up to 50 percent, data from a new study showed on Wednesday. The Public Health England (PHE) research found that those who became infected three weeks after receiving their first jab of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines were between 38 and 49 percent less likely to pass the virus on to their household contacts compared to others who were unvaccinated. The shots also stop a vaccinated person developing symptomatic infection to start with, reducing the risk by about 60-65 percent from four weeks after one dose of either vaccine. The findings offer fresh insight on one of the big unknowns surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations – the extent to which they prevent transmission of the virus – and could strengthen the case for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to remove all of England’s lockdown restrictions by mid-June. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was quick to praise the results and urged people to continue coming forward for vaccines when offered a shot by health authorities.
Vaccine cuts the risk of passing on coronavirus by half
Vaccinated people are nearly 50 per cent less likely to pass on the virus even if they are unlucky enough to become infected, a study has found. The findings are the most convincing demonstration so far that, on top of blocking most infections in the recipient, vaccines also have a strong effect on transmission — raising hopes that a severe summer wave can be avoided as the country opens up. “This is terrific news — we already know vaccines save lives, and this study is the most comprehensive real-world data showing they also cut transmission of this deadly virus,” Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said.
COVID-19: Single dose of coronavirus vaccine 'can cut transmission by up to half' - and most common side effects revealed
A single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can cut transmission of the virus by up to half, according to a Public Health England (PHE) study. The research looked at people who have had a single dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines - the first two authorised for use in the UK.
Vaccinating adolescents could help prevent third wave of Covid in UK – study
Vaccinating older children and slowing down the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions are among measures that could help to prevent a third wave of Covid in the UK, according to a report from an organisation set up by the former prime minister Tony Blair. The government’s roadmap suggests all Covid restrictions could be lifted in England on 21 June. However, scientists have warned that even with an ongoing vaccination programme, the plan could lead to a resurgence of the virus and thousands, if not tens of thousands, of additional Covid-related deaths by summer next year. It is a scenario the prime minister, Boris Johnson, himself has acknowledged, saying on Monday another wave is a possibility we have “got to be realistic” about. However, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) has released a report saying a third wave is not inevitable, should three key actions be taken.
Moderna is working toward a single shot for both COVID and flu protection
Come for the COVID immunization. Stay for protection against the seasonal flu. That's the goal that Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel has set out for his company, one of the pioneering developers of effective COVID vaccines, which he shared during a discussion at Fortune's 2021 virtual Brainstorm Health conference on Tuesday. Bancel said the company hopes to use its messenger RNA (mRNA)-based technology, which can be more adaptable to changing viral strains, to knock out several pathogenic birds with one stone.
EU lawsuit against AstraZeneca begins in Brussels court
The European Commission’s lawsuit against AstraZeneca over the pharmaceutical giant’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines began at a Brussels court on Wednesday, with the bloc’s lawyers pressing for immediate deliveries of doses from all of the company’s factories, including those within the United Kingdom. The legal case is the latest twist in an ongoing saga between the European Union and the Anglo-Swedish company, which has seen the pair at loggerheads over the latter’s alleged shortfall of deliveries to the bloc. AstraZeneca’s vaccine was envisaged as a central part of Europe’s vaccination campaign, and a linchpin in the global strategy to get coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries because it is cheaper and easier to use than shots produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. But cuts and delays in delivery of doses to the EU have weighed on faltering mass immunisation efforts within the bloc, which trails behind former member state the UK, the United States and Israel, among other countries, on vaccination. Brussels has argued the disruption and supply issues amount to a failure by AstraZeneca to respect its contract with the EU. It has also accused the company of not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.
Swipe my phone: UK to use health service app as vaccine passport
Britain plans to use a National Health Service phone app as its COVID-19 'vaccine passport' certificate that will allow its population to travel internationally this summer, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday. Countries around the world are looking at a host of options that will serve as proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to allow travel, though airports, border agencies and airlines are worried there will be no clear global standard that will be accepted at all borders. So-called vaccine passports could range from a digital certificate with a scannable QR code in the European Union, to a National Health Service (NHS) phone app in the United Kingdom, or a humble piece of paper in some other countries.
Universities order students to get coronavirus vaccine to return to classes in the fall
In the US, a growing number of state universities are following their private counterparts in requiring all students returning to classes and campuses this fall to be vaccinated against coronavirus. In a bid to return to normality after months of online learning, at least 80 universities have said that all students must get a jab before they return to class. Among those making the requirements are Ivy League schools Brown, Cornell and Stanford, California's two state university systems, as well as several universities in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey.
US considering intellectual property waiver for COVID vaccines
The United States is considering options for maximising global production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines at the lowest cost, including backing a proposed waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights, but no decision has been made, according to the White House. The announcement comes as the US and other Western countries have begun providing aid and lifting export controls on medical equipment and vaccine raw materials amid pressure from countries where deaths and infections are surging, notably India. On Wednesday, India surpassed 200,000 deaths from the virus, although the actual count is expected to be much higher. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said “there are a lot of different ways” to maximise the global production of vaccines. “Right now, that’s one of the ways, but we have to assess what makes the most sense,” Psaki told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the IP rights waivers.
Forget the competition. Sanofi still plans to usher its COVID-19 shot aross the finish line
One of the top vaccine players opted to call it quits on its COVID-19 research after delays and setbacks. There are plenty of options already on the market or close to it. But not Sanofi. The French drugmaker and its partner GlaxoSmithKline, two of the world's top vaccine makers, expect phase 2 data on their recombinant protein-based shot in just a few weeks. If the data are positive, they plan to launch a phase 3 study immediately, Sanofi vaccine chief Thomas Triomphe said on a Wednesday conference call. And if all goes well, a Sanofi/GSK shot could be ready to roll out late this year or early next, execs said. As long as the pandemic is “not solved,” Sanofi will be “fully in” on its COVID-19 vaccine research, Triomphe said Wednesday. The drugmaker figures booster shots will be required in 2022, and Sanofi “will be there” to help with its vaccine, he added.
COVID-19: Almost 70% of adults in England now have coronavirus antibodies, latest figures suggest
Almost 70% of the adult population in England now have COVID antibodies, latest figures suggest. An estimated seven in 10 adults (68.3%) in private households were likely to have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in the week to 11 April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine candidate starts rolling review with Health Canada
Medicago has started a rolling submission with Health Canada for its plant-derived adjuvanated COVID-19 vaccine candidate: championing a unique and versatile platform that can also be scaled up easily. The tech - which the company has honed over years with its influenza vaccine candidate - uses plants to produce protein particles for the vaccine. If authorized, the COVID-19 vaccine will become the company's first commercial product.