"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 10th Jun 2021
EU, U.S. to agree reduction of vaccine export barriers, summit draft says
- The European Union and the United States are set to agree at a summit on Tuesday to reduce export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines and drugs, a draft joint text says, arguing that voluntary sharing of technology is the key to boosting output.
- The document, seen by Reuters and still subject to changes, makes no mention of mandatory waivers on vaccine patents, which U.S. President Joe Biden has endorsed as a temporary solution to the global shortage of COVID-19 shots.
- The EU has repeatedly opposed the idea, which is backed by dozens of poorer nations.
- Brussels submitted a less radical counter-proposal to the World Trade Organization last week that highlights existing WTO rules allowing countries to grant licenses to manufacturers without the consent of the patent-holder.
- At a EU-U/S. summit in Brussels on Tuesday, the two parties are set to agree to establish a joint taskforce to boost vaccine and drugs production capacity that will aim at 'maintaining open and secure supply chains, avoiding any unecessary export restrictions.'
- The EU has urged Washington not to hamper the export of vaccines and materials needed for their production. Biden is using the decades-old U.S. Defense Production Act (DPA) to put the U.S, government first in line to buy American-made vaccines and treatments, and control the supplies they require.
- The draft also says the taskforce will try to expand global production of vaccines and drugs by 'encouraging voluntary sharing of knowhow and technology on mutually-determined terms,' - a far remove from forcing pharmaceutical companies to give away their patents to competitors.
EU, U.S. to agree reduction of vaccine export barriers, summit draft says
The European Union and the United States are set to agree at a summit on Tuesday to reduce export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines and drugs, a draft joint text says, arguing that voluntary sharing of technology is the key to boosting output. The document, seen by Reuters and still subject to changes, makes no mention of mandatory waivers on vaccine patents, which U.S. President Joe Biden has endorsed as a temporary solution to the global shortage of COVID-19 shots. The EU has repeatedly opposed the idea, which is backed by dozens of poorer nations.
S.Korea considers vaccinating workers at major companies
South Korea is considering plans to vaccinate workers at key businesses including chip and electronics firms to prevent disruptions to production, an official at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The labour ministry has sent letters to companies including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, SK Hynix Inc and LG Electronics Inc seeking information on their COVID-19 vaccination needs, the Maeil Business Newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing government and industry sources.
Biden administration to buy 500 million Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses to donate to the world
The Biden administration is buying 500 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to donate to the world, as the United States dramatically increases its efforts to help vaccinate the global population, according to three people familiar with the plans. The first 200 million doses will be distributed this year, with the subsequent 300 million shared in the first half of next year. The doses will be distributed by Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to share doses around the globe, and they will be targeted at low- and middle-income countries. Pfizer is selling the doses to the U.S. at a “not-for-profit” price, according to the people familiar with the deal.
Hospital suspends 178 health care workers for failing to get COVID vaccine
As of Tuesday, 178 health care workers employed by a Houston-based hospital system are on a two-week unpaid suspension after failing to meet the hospital system’s mandate to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, June 7. Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom announced the mandate in April, telling hospital staffers that if they failed to get vaccinated, they would be fired. The 178 suspended employees now have the two unpaid weeks to become fully vaccinated before termination. They can do so by getting the one-shot COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson or a second dose of either of the two mRNA vaccines. Boom noted in a letter to employees sent Tuesday that 27 of the 178 suspended employees have received one dose of vaccine.
Billionaire philanthropist: vaccine hoarding hurts Africa
Billionaire philanthropist Mo Ibrahim is sharply criticizing the hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines by wealthy nations, urging the international community to “walk the talk” of equitable distribution as Africa desperately lags behind. Ibrahim, a British mobile phone magnate who was born in Sudan, is hailed as a voice of moral authority across Africa. He is using his fortune to promote democracy and political accountability on the continent, including through his sponsorship of the $5 million Ibrahim Prize for African leaders who govern responsibly and who give up their power peacefully. He lamented the global “competition” for vaccines in an interview with The Associated Press. He said he views the the pandemic-era phrase “nobody is safe until everybody is safe” as a meaningless slogan until there is an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
Just over 50% of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But pace needs to pick up before a dangerous variant can take hold, Fauci says
The US is making significant strides in curbing the coronavirus pandemic just in time for the summer, with average daily cases near a 14-month low and just over half of eligible Americans having been fully vaccinated. About 50.1% of people ages 12 and older in the US -- the cohort eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in the country -- were fully vaccinated as of early Tuesday, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. But experts have warned that a Covid-19 variant first identified in India and now rising to prominence in the United Kingdom -- the Delta variant, or B.1.617.2 -- could pose considerable danger to those who are unvaccinated, including those who were previously infected by older strains.
Teenagers in vulnerable health will get coronavirus vaccine, minister says
In the Netherlands, teenagers who fall into medical at-risk groups because they have heart problems or are obese for example, will be invited to get vaccinated against coronavirus, health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Wednesday. The national health council Gezondheidsraad has recommended that children with vulnerable health conditions should be given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which has been cleared for use among the under-18s. ‘Vaccinating these children will deliver both direct and indirect health benefits,’ the health council said. Family doctors will also be able to use their discretion to decide if other children should also be vaccinated
Australia's Melbourne to exit COVID-19 lockdown but some curbs stay
Australia’s second largest city Melbourne will exit a COVID-19 hard lockdown as planned on Thursday night, Victoria state authorities said, although some restrictions on travel and gatherings would likely remain for another week. After two weeks in a strict lockdown that forced people to remain home except for essential business, Melbourne's five million residents will get more freedom to step outside from 11:59 p.m. local time (1359 GMT) on Thursday. However, people must stay within 25 kms (15 miles) of their homes, officials said, in an effort to stop transmission during an upcoming long weekend. There will also be a total ban on house gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors
'This IS INSANE': Africa desperately short of COVID vaccine
In the global race to vaccinate people against COVID-19, Africa is tragically at the back of the pack. In fact, it has barely gotten out of the starting blocks. In South Africa, which has the continent’s most robust economy and its biggest coronavirus caseload, just 0.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a worldwide tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University. And hundreds of thousands of the country’s health workers, many of whom come face-to-face with the virus every day, are still waiting for their shots. The World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is facing a severe shortage of vaccine at the same time a new wave of infections is rising across Africa. Vaccine shipments into Africa have ground to a “near halt,” WHO said last week.
Vaccine rollout continues as Pakistan’s Covid-19 death rates fall
Pakistan has administered 10 million vaccine doses as Covid-19 cases and deaths steadily decline in the country. Asad Umar, minister for planning and development, announced the milestone in a televised ceremony. He asked people to get themselves vaccinated to return to a normal life. From the beginning of its campaign in March up to Wednesday, Pakistan counts more than 2.5 million people fully vaccinated and more than 4.7 million partially vaccinated
US increasingly unlikely to meet Biden's July 4 vax goal
For months, President Joe Biden has laid out goal after goal for taming the coronavirus pandemic and then exceeded his own benchmarks. Now, though, the U.S. is unlikely to meet his target to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4. The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest, but it is increasingly resigned to missing the president’s vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago. About 15.5 million unvaccinated adults need to receive at least one dose in the next four weeks for Biden to meet his goal. But the pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped below 400,000 people per day — down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago.
EU lawmakers OK virus pass, boosting summer travel hopes
European Union lawmakers on Wednesday endorsed a new travel certificate that will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests, paving the way for the pass to start in time for summer. The widely awaited certificate is aimed at saving Europe’s travel industry and prime tourist sites from another disastrous vacation season. Key travel destinations like Greece have led the drive to have the certificate, which will have both paper and digital forms, rapidly introduced. Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland.
Covid contract for firm run by Cummings friends was unlawful, judge rules
Michael Gove acted unlawfully when the government awarded a contract without a tender to a polling company owned by long-term associates of his and Dominic Cummings, then Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, a judge has ruled. Campaigners had taken legal action against Gove over the decision to pay more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money to the market research firm Public First, after the start of the coronavirus crisis in March 2020, and questioned the involvement of Cummings. Mrs Justice O’Farrell, who gave the ruling on the Cabinet Office contract with Public First, said: “The decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.” She ruled that the Cabinet Office’s failure to identify or consider any other research agency to carry out the work gave the appearance of “a real danger” that the contract award was biased.
A doctor falsely told lawmakers vaccines magnetize people: ‘They can put a key on their forehead. It sticks.’
Sherri Tenpenny, a Cleveland-based doctor invited as an expert witness to a hearing in the Ohio House, had a grave warning for legislators about coronavirus vaccines. The anti-vaccination advocate known for spreading unfounded claims falsely told legislators that the drugs could leave people “magnetized.” “I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the Internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized,” Tenpenny said. “They can put a key on their forehead. It sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick, because now we think that there’s a metal piece to that.” Her baseless remarks — which also suggested that vaccines “interface” with 5G cellular towers — didn’t elicit strong pushback from legislators, who were listening to testimony in favor of a bill that would prevent businesses or the government from requiring proof of vaccination.
Coronavirus: South Korean mayor who boasted of securing 30 million vaccines apologises for nearly falling for fraud
A South Korean mayor who had boasted of his city’s ability to secure Covid-19 vaccines has publicly apologised after it was revealed he almost got taken in by fraudsters. Kwon Young-jin, mayor of Daegu, told reporters on May 31 that a foreign trading company contacted by an association of medical institutions in the city of 2.5 million had promised to provide 30 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to South Korea ’s government within three weeks. The opposition politician had been highly critical of President Moon Jae-in ’s efforts to secure vaccines, writing “headless politicians, incompetent government, coward scientists” on his Facebook page last month following Moon’s summit with US President Joe Biden, where a donation of more than 1 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines from Washington to Seoul was agreed.
Leading biologist dampens his ‘smoking gun’ Covid lab leak theory
A Nobel prize-winning US biologist, who has been widely quoted describing a “smoking gun” to support the thesis that Covid-19 was genetically modified and escaped from a Wuhan lab, has said he overstated the case. David Baltimore, a distinguished biology professor, had become one of the most prominent figures cited by proponents of the so-called lab leak theory. Originally quoted in an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in May, and widely requoted since, Baltimore had appeared to suggest that a specific feature in Covid-19’s genome, known as the furin cleavage site, was the “smoking gun” to the theory the virus had been contained inside a laboratory and then escaped via a leak.
Ukraine to keep COVID-19 lockdown despite fall in infections
Ukraine's health ministry will propose that the government maintains lockdown restrictions for the summer despite a fall in new coronavirus infections in the country, minister Viktor Lyashko said on Wednesday. On Monday, Ukraine registered 535 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest daily number of infections over the previous 24 hours for nearly a year and the ministry said infection rates declined for eight consecutive weeks. However, it reported 1,385 new cases as of June 9 and 77 deaths. "Despite the improvement in the situation, it should not be forgotten that COVID-19 has not been overcome," Lyashko told a televised government meeting.
Sinovac, Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccines prove highly effective in Uruguay -government
Uruguay on Tuesday released real-world data on the impact of Sinovac Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine among its population that showed it was over 90% effective in preventing intensive care admissions and deaths. The shot reduced deaths by 95% and intensive care admissions by 92%, and also showed 61% efficacy in cutting coronavirus infections, the government said. A total of 795,684 people - health workers and members of the general population between the ages of 18 and 69 - at least 14 days after receiving their second dose of Sinovac's CoronaVac were compared to unvaccinated people to determine the real-world vaccine effectiveness, the government said in a report
China builds new plant for IMBCAMS COVID-19 vaccine -state media
China is building a new COVID-19 vaccine factory that is capable of boosting annual production of a shot developed by a medical research institute to between 500 million and 1 billion doses, state-backed media said on Wednesday. The vaccine, developed by the Institute of Medical Biology of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (IMBCAMS), is one of seven shots approved for use in China. It was not immediately clear how many doses of the vaccine are currently produced and supplied for China's inoculation campaign.
What's Happening With Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 Vaccine?
J&J is making some progress with its international rollout. The single-dose vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the U.K. regulator in late May and the U.K has ordered 20 million doses of the shot that is likely to be available later this year. J&J also filed for regulatory approval of the vaccine in Japan, noting that it could begin supplying doses to the country by 2022. Japan has made little progress with its vaccination drive so far, with less than 4% of its population fully vaccinated. The company is also looking to expand the vaccine's availability to India, working with manufacturer Biological E. to produce its shot locally. Overall, we still think the J&J shot has room for growth globally, as it could do much of the heavy lifting in getting the global population inoculated against Covid-19, considering its single-dose requirement and relatively easy storage.
Elementary students wearing face masks seen in trial face-to-face learning activity amid COVID-19 outbreak
Elementary students wearing face masks are seen in a classroom during a trial face-to-face learning activity amid the COVID-19 outbreak at a school in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 9, 2021
A third dose of coronavirus vaccine could be beneficial for some
Giving a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine to residents and staff of residential care centres would be beneficial, Belgium’s Public Health Institute Sciensano said Wednesday, basing their conclusion on the PICOV-VAC study conducted in January in two care centres in the country. While all participants, young and old, made antibodies against the coronavirus after receiving two doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, the study found that the number of antibodies made after receiving the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine was much higher in people who had been infected with Covid-19 before vaccination.
COVID-19: Vaccines will 'not be enough' and humanity must 'adapt' to coronavirus, expert warns
Vaccines alone will "not be enough" to beat the coronavirus and people will "have to adapt" their lifestyles and keep minimising contact with others to prevent it from spreading, a leading expert has warned. Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation's special envoy on COVID-19, told Sky News's Kay Burley that although "life has to go on", the public should continue wearing face masks and behave "carefully"..
Research now backs routinely offering pregnant women the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine
New Zealand and Australia will now routinely offer the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to women at any stage of pregnancy, following an update of vaccination advice. This comes as research suggests the risk of severe outcomes from infection is significantly higher for pregnant women compared to the general population. At the same time, data from pregnant women who have already been vaccinated around the world have shown no safety concerns associated with COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccination during pregnancy may also protect the baby. Research has identified antibodies in cord blood and breast milk, suggesting temporary protection (passive immunity) for babies before and after birth.
How world’s top vaccine maker stumbled in its COVID dose drive
Around the world, from Bangladesh to Nepal to Rwanda, vulnerable hotspots have been grappling with stalled Covid-19 vaccination programs as they run out of doses. Many of those shortages can be traced back to a single company: The Serum Institute of India. The world’s largest vaccine maker, Serum was last year named a top supplier of Covid shots to Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative aimed at securing an equitable global rollout. But the Indian company has been dogged by setbacks, from a ban on exports to a factory fire, that have hampered its ability to fill orders.
Small risk of bleeding disorder after AstraZeneca COVID vaccine
A study of 5.4 million Scottish adults has revealed a small increased risk of an autoimmune bleeding disorder after the first dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, although a causal link hasn't been established. The study, led by University of Edinburgh researchers and published today in Nature Medicine, assessed the risk of bleeding-related events among 2.53 million people (57.5% of the population of Scotland 18 and older) up to 27 days after the first dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from December 2020 to April 2021. Of the 2.53 million, more than 1.7 million received the AstraZeneca vaccine, while about 800,000 received the Pfizer version.
Brazil OK's clinical tests for homegrown COVID vaccine Butanvac
Brazil's health regulator Anvisa on Wednesday authorized Phase 1 and 2 clinical tests to be carried out on volunteers for the Butanvac vaccine developed by Sao Paulo's Butantan Institute biomedical center. The tests for the two-shot vaccine were initially authorized for 400 volunteers, but will later involve an expected total of 6,000 volunteers aged 18 and over, Anvisa said. The vaccine developed by Butantan, one of Brazil's two top biomedical research centers, will not need imported active ingredients like the main vaccines produced in Brazil, the AstraZeneca shot and Sinovac Biotech CoronaVac.
Foundation to spend $1.3B to vaccinate Africans for COVID
One of the world’s largest foundations will spend $1.3 billion over the next three years to acquire and deliver COVID-19 vaccines for more than 50 million people in Africa. It’s a first-of-its-kind effort for a Western nonprofit to bolster Africa’s lagging vaccination campaign amid widespread fears of a third wave of infections on the continent. The Tuesday announcement from the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, which has more than $39 billion in assets, comes days after the World Health Organization said Africa was encountering an alarming mix of a spike in virus cases and “a near halt” of vaccine shipments. The delays have been tied to India’s halt on vaccine exports, among other things. The foundation will purchase single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the discounted rate negotiated by the African Union during its 220 million dose deal with the vaccine manufacturer. Those vaccines will begin to be delivered to the AU’s 55 member states from July to September, with an option to purchase an additional 180 million doses through next year.
Delta variant accounts for 6 percent of new U.S. coronavirus infections
A highly transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in India accounts for 6 percent of new infections in the United States, the Biden administration said Tuesday. Yet vaccines appear to be highly effective against this version of the virus that has quickly spread into Great Britain and elsewhere. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, revealed the extent of the variant’s push into the United States, but said it appears to be slowed by vaccines. “It’s essentially taking over” in the United Kingdom, Fauci said at a briefing for reporters. “We cannot let that happen in the United States, which is such a powerful argument” for vaccination, he said.
Early adopters of Chinese vaccines see case surges; China plows ahead anyway
Early adopters of China’s vaccines have seen dramatic surges in COVID-19 cases—despite high vaccination rates—and are now backing away from the country’s offerings. In Bahrain, for instance, officials are now offering high-risk people who have already received two doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine a third vaccine dose—but one made by Pfizer-BioNTech. The apparent vote of no confidence by officials is striking: Bahrain was one of the first countries to back and rollout Sinopharm’s vaccine, and it has had a highly successful vaccination campaign. Nearly 58 percent of the Persian Gulf country has received at least one dose of a vaccine, and most of the vaccines given in Bahrain are from Sinopharm. But the country is now seeing its worst wave of COVID-19 yet and the government has recently issued a two-week lockdown to try to get transmission under control.
Delta coronavirus variant believed to have 60% transmission advantage - UK epidemiologist
The Delta coronavirus variant of concern, first identified in India, is believed to be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant which was previously dominant in Britain, a prominent UK epidemiologist said on Wednesday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that England's full reopening from COVID-19 lockdown, pencilled in for June 21, could be pushed back due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
Singapore's death toll from COVID-19 tops casualties in SARS outbreak
Singapore has reported its 34th death due to COVID-19, taking its toll from the pandemic beyond the 33 casualties recorded during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. The city-state was one of the worst-hit countries by SARS outside mainland China, based on numbers of infection and death, according to the World Health Organization's data.
‘Prevention fatigue’ driving sudden COVID surge in Taiwan: Expert
After 18 months of successfully keeping COVID-19 at bay, Taiwan is now facing a surge in cases after an outbreak was discovered in mid-May. From just 1,200 cases and a handful of deaths among the island’s population of 23 million, the number of confirmed cases had reached more than 11,000 by Tuesday and the death toll had risen to 308.
Global COVID-19 patterns reflect dual-world track
In its weekly snapshot of the pandemic yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said overall cases declined 15% last week, led mainly by steep drops in its Europe region and Southeast Asia region, which includes India. Deaths dropped by 8%. The five highest-burden countries are India, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and the United States. Some of the countries reporting the steepest rises over the past week include Zambia (191%), Uganda (137%), South Africa (22%), the Philippines (19%), and Colombia (17%). More than 80 countries have now reported the more transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant,
India records 92,596 new COVID-19 cases over past 24 hours
India on Wednesday reported 92,596 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, and 2,219 deaths from the coronavirus. The country's total COVID-19 case load now stands at 29.1 million, while total fatalities are at 353,528, according to data from the health ministry.
Coronavirus wave takes Haiti, yet to begin vaccinations, by surprise
For more than a year, Haiti escaped the worst ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting few cases and fatalities - a rare break for the poorest country in the Americas, which has so often been beset by misfortune. COVID-19 treatment centers closed for lack of patients, Haitians resumed life as normal, and the government hesitated to even accept its allotment of free AstraZeneca vaccines through the U.N.-backed COVAX mechanism due to safety and logistical concerns.