China’s Sinovac Covid vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use.
Sinovac is the second Chinese vaccine to receive the green light from the WHO, after Sinopharm.
The WHO approval opens the door for the vaccine to be used in the Covax program, which aims to ensure fair access to vaccines.
Sinovac, which has already been used in several countries, has been recommended for over 18s, with a second dose two to four weeks later.
The emergency approval means the Chinese vaccine “meets international standards for safety, efficacy and manufacturing”, the WHO said.
Studies showed that Sinovac prevented symptomatic disease in more than half of those vaccinated and prevented severe symptoms and hospitalization in 100% of those studied, it added.
It is hoped that the decision to list the Chinese vaccine for emergency use will give a boost to the Covax initiative, which has been struggling with supply problems.
“The world desperately needs multiple Covid-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe,” said Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director general for access to health products.
“We urge manufacturers to participate in the Covax facility, share their know-how and data and contribute to bringing the pandemic under control,” she said.
As well as China, Sinovac is already being administered in countries including Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.
Sinovac says it has supplied more than 600 million doses at home and abroad as of the end of May. It says more than 430 million doses have been administered.
One of Sinovac’s main advantages is that it can be stored in a standard refrigerator at 2-8 degrees Celsius. This means Sinovac is a lot more useful to developing countries which might not be able to store large amounts of vaccine at low temperatures.
The emergency approval came as the heads of the WHO, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank appealed for a $50 billion investment fund to help end the pandemic.
In a joint statement they said the world had reached a perilous point, and that inequalities in access to vaccines risked prolonging the pandemic, and many more deaths.
They have called for the money to be invested in areas including vaccine production, oxygen supplies, and Covid-19 treatments, ensuring they are distributed fairly.
They also called on wealthy countries to donate vaccine doses immediately to developing nations.
Americans are advised to avoid 80% of countries worldwide because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a note to the media about the US state department’s updated travel guidance, it said the pandemic continued to “pose unprecedented risks to travelers”.
The current US “Do Not Travel” advisory covers 34 out of 200 countries.
Covid-19 has now claimed more than three million lives worldwide – more than half a million of them in the US.
The WHO warned the world was “approaching the highest rate of infection” so far, despite the global rollout of vaccination programs.
The state department said its decision to update its travel advisories was to bring it more in line with those from the CDC and “does not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country”.
However, it said the move would “result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80% of countries worldwide”. Anyone planning to travel to a country in the remaining 20% is advised to reconsider before proceeding.
The state department has not revealed which countries will be added to Level 4 – the highest of its four risk levels. Guidance will be issued individually for each country in the next few days.
Currently, only three places in the world are assessed at the lowest tier – Level 1, which advises “Exercise normal precautions”. They are Macau, Taiwan and New Zealand.
Even Antarctica is at Level 2 – “Exercise increased caution”, an extra warning to exercise caution because of the risk of terrorism.
The CDC currently recommends all Americans refrain from travelling domestically until they have been fully vaccinated and warns that international travel “poses additional risks” even for those vaccinated.
In addition, all air passengers coming to the US, including US citizens, must have a negative Covid test result or documentation of recovery from the virus before they board a flight.
While more than 860 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered in 165 countries worldwide, many countries are still struggling to contain the virus.
Brazil has recorded the third-highest number of cases and, at 368,749, the second-highest number of deaths in the world.
Canada has also reported a recent rise in cases and Papua New Guinea has been highlighted as a cause for concern.
While some countries – such as Israel and the UK – have secured and delivered doses to a large proportion of their population, many more countries are still waiting for their first shipments to arrive.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the number of people who have died worldwide in the Covid-19 pandemic has surpassed three million.
The milestone comes the day after WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the world was “approaching the highest rate of infection” so far.
India – experiencing a second wave – recorded more than 230,000 new cases on April 17 alone.
Almost 140 million cases have been recorded since the pandemic began.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on April 16 that “cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates”.
He added that “globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months”.
The US, India and Brazil – the countries with the most recorded infections – have accounted for more than a million deaths between them, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Last week saw an average of 12,000 deaths a day reported around the world, according to AFP.
However, official figures worldwide may not fully reflect the true number in many countries.
Up until a few weeks ago, India appeared to have the pandemic relatively under control. Cases had been below 20,000 a day for much of January and February – a low figure in a country of more than a 1.3 billion people.
But then infections began to rise rapidly: April 17 saw a record set for the third day in a row, with more than 234,000 cases reported.
Hospitals are running low on beds and oxygen. Sick people are being turned away, and some families are turning to the black market to get the drugs they need.
The capital Delhi has gone into lockdown over the weekend, with restrictions put in place in several other states, as officials try to stem the tide.
Brazil – which has recorded the third highest number of cases and, at 368,749, the second highest number of deaths – is still struggling to control the outbreak.
On April 16, the health ministry announced more than 85,000 new cases over the previous 24 hours and 3,305 deaths.
Canada has also reported a recent rise, registering more cases per million than the US over the last week – the first time this has happened since the pandemic began.
Papua New Guinea has also been highlighted as a cause for concern. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted “the potential for a much larger epidemic” in the Pacific nation following a sharp increase in cases.
He added that Papua New Guinea – which has received 140,000 vaccine doses through Australia and the Covax scheme – is a “perfect example of why vaccine equity is so important”.
More than 860 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered, in 165 countries worldwide.
However, the WHO chief told UN officials on April 16: “Vaccine equity is the challenge of our time – and we are failing.”
Some countries have secured and delivered doses to a large proportion of their population.
Those with high vaccinations rates, such as the UK and Israel, have seen their numbers of new infections drop sharply.
While Israel has distributed 119 doses per 100 people, just 2.81 doses per 100 have been given in the Palestinian territories, recent data from Our World in Data at Oxford University showed.
However, many more countries are still waiting for their first shipments to arrive.
That is leading to warnings about growing “vaccine inequity”.
Dr. Tedros pointed out that in high-income countries, one in four people have received a vaccine, compared with only one in 400 in poorer countries.
The WHO is working on a global scheme, Covax, to get rich countries to share their vaccine with lower income countries. Covax plans to deliver about two billion vaccine doses globally by the end of the year, but many vaccines require two doses per person.
India has become the “fastest country in the world” to administer more than 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, amid a deadly second wave of infections.
The country achieved the feat in 85 days, whereas the US took 89 days and China 102 days, the Indian health ministry said.
However, India reported a record daily increase of over 150,000 cases – and more than 800 new deaths – on April 11.
There are reports the vast vaccination drive itself is struggling.
This week, half a dozen states reported a shortage of doses even as the federal government insisted that it had 40 million doses in stock and that the “allegations” of vaccine scarcity were “utterly baseless”.
The inoculation drive aims to cover 250 million people by July, but experts say the pace needs to pick up further to meet the target.
Everyone aged over 45 is now eligible for immunization at vaccination centers and hospitals. Most doses have so far been given to frontline workers and the over-60s.
The third phase – which began on April 1 – opened amid a sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases. India has been reporting an average of more than 90,000 cases every day since then.
On April 4, India became the second country after the US to report 100,000 new cases in a single day. More than half of those were confirmed in Maharashtra, which has India’s largest city Mumbai as its capital.
The country’s caseload had dropped sharply by the time it began vaccinating people early this year. It was adding under 15,000 infections daily. But cases began to spike again in March, largely driven by poor test-and-trace and lax safety protocols.
Experts say India’s second wave is being fuelled by people being less cautious – and mixed messaging by the government.
Since the pandemic began, India has confirmed more than 12 million cases and over 167,000 deaths. It’s the third-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world after the US and Brazil.
India launched its vaccination program on January 16, but it was limited to healthcare workers and frontline staff – a sanitation worker became the first Indian to receive the vaccine.
From March 1, the eligibility criteria was expanded to include people over 60 and those aged between 45 and 59 with other illnesses.
The third phase included everyone above the age of 45.
India’s drugs regulator has given the green light to two vaccines – one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University (Covishield) and one by Indian firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin). Several other candidates are at different stages of trials.
In Germany, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on people to play their part and get vaccinated.
Speaking in a TV address to the nation on April 3, he said Germany was in the middle of a third wave and that it faced more restrictions.
The German also admitted that mistakes had been made – specifically in testing and in the vaccine rollout – and talked about there being a “crisis of trust” in the state.
Last month, German officials announced that the country would be placed in a strict Easter lockdown – only to reverse the decision just days later.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called the plan for a lockdown from April 1 to 5 a “mistake”, and said she took “ultimate responsibility” for the U-turn.
Italy also entered a strict three-day lockdown on April 3 in order to try to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases over the Easter weekend.
All regions are now in the “red zone” – the highest tier of restrictions – as the country records about 20,000 new cases a day.
Non-essential movement is banned, but people are allowed to have an Easter meal in their homes with two others. Churches are also open, but worshippers are being told to attend services within their regions.
On April 4, for the second year, Pope Francis will deliver his Easter message to an empty St Peter’s Square.
Germany’s vaccine committee (Stiko) has advised giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only to people aged 60 + because of a risk of rare blood clots.
The German drugs regulator found 31 cases of a type of rare blood clot among the nearly 2.7 million people who had received the vaccine in Germany.
Canada earlier suspended use of the AstraZeneca jab in people under 55.
AstraZeneca said international regulators had found the benefits of its vaccine outweighed risks significantly.
The company said it was continuing to analyze its database to understand “whether these very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia occur any more commonly than would be expected naturally in a population of millions of people”.
“We will continue to work with German authorities to address any questions they may have,” AstraZeneca added.
The EU and UK medicine regulators both backed the vaccine after previous cautionary suspensions in Europe this month.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency stressed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continued to outweigh the risk of side effects.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of the most widely used coronavirus vaccines in the West, and is meant to be supplied on a not-for-profit basis to the developing world.
The EU’s rollout of its vaccination program has been dogged by delays because of delivery and production problems, and Germany is among several states now fearing a third wave of infections.
On March 30, Italy’s PM Mario Draghi and his wife, who are both 73, received their first doses of AstraZeneca in a display of confidence in the vaccine.
Ahead of the Stiko announcement, the German cities of Berlin and Munich, and the region of Brandenburg, halted use of the vaccine in people below the age of 60.
“After several consultations, Stiko, with the help of external experts, decided by a majority to recommend the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only for persons aged 60 years and older on the basis of available data on the occurrence of rare but very severe thromboembolic side effects,” the committee said, as quoted by Reuters.
“Regarding the question of administering the second vaccine dose to younger persons who have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Stiko will issue a supplementary recommendation by the end of April.”
Germany was one of the European states which briefly suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month pending an EMA review into the possible link to blood clots.
When the EMA declared the vaccine “safe and effective”, Germany and others resumed its use but investigations continued.
The German medicines regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, has found 31 cases of cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (CSVT) among people who received AstraZeneca in Germany.
Almost all the cases are reportedly in younger and middle-aged women.
France already limits use of AstraZeneca to those aged over 55.
AstraZeneca has announced it downgraded the efficacy result of its coronavirus vaccine trial in the United States after health officials questioned the results.
The company adjusted the efficacy rate of its vaccine against Covid-19 symptoms from 79% to 76%, but said the trial results confirm it “is highly effective in adults”.
US health officials had been concerned the trial was using outdated data.
AstraZeneca said it now looked forward to getting US regulatory approval.
The US trials of the AstraZeneca jab had involved more than 32,000 volunteers, mostly in America, but also in Chile and Peru.
In the results announced on March 22, the company said the vaccine was found to be 79% effective at stopping symptomatic Covid-19 disease and was 100% effective at preventing people from falling seriously ill.
On March 23, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it had been informed by data and safety officials monitoring the trial that information may have been used that provided an “incomplete view of the efficacy data”.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s Chief Medical Advisor, then warned reporters the company would “likely come out with a modified statement”.
AstraZeneca’s revised results now put the vaccine’s overall efficacy at 76% instead of 79%. Among the over 65s, its efficacy rose from 80% to 85% and against severe disease it remains 100% effective.
On March 25, Mene Pangalos, an executive vice president at AstraZeneca, said: “We look forward to filing our regulatory submission for Emergency Use Authorization in the US and preparing for the rollout of millions of doses across America.”
The US had ordered 300 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine when it emerged as a frontrunner in the global race to immunize people against Covid-19.
However, delays and controversies have seen three other vaccines beat it to a US rollout.
One city official described South Beach, which includes the world famous Ocean Drive, as being “overwhelmed” by crowds over the weekend.
“You couldn’t see pavement and you couldn’t see grass,” city manager Raul Aguila said.
He added that the emergency measures were “necessary not only to protect our residents but our visitors, including our spring breakers who we want to keep safe”.
On March 21, Miami Beach police told CNN they had arrested at least a dozen people after the curfew had come into force.
https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=BBCWorld&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1373448655189942273&lang=en-gb&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2Fnews%2Fworld-us-canada-56476904&siteScreenName=BBCWorld&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px Until the measures are lifted, police will prevent pedestrians or vehicles entering the South Beach area’s main party strips.
Raul Aguila told the Miami Herald that he has recommended keeping the emergency measures in place until April 12.
However, the emergency orders will expire on March 23 unless they are extended by local authorities.
Florida continues to be a coronavirus hotspot in the US. The state has recorded nearly two million of the country’s 29 million infections since the pandemic began.
According to new reports, Donald Trump’s main residence, Mar-a-Lago, has been partially closed after some staff members tested positive for Covid-19.
The Florida resort has served as President Trump’s official residence since he left office in January.
The club said in a statement that the Beach Club and a la carte dining room were closed, but did not specify how many people had tested positive.
Donald Trump had coronavirus last October, and was vaccinated in January.
At the time of his diagnosis, he was hospitalized for several days and treated with the low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone.
His wife Melania Trump and son Barron also tested positive for the virus, as did several White House officials close to the then-president.
In an email to members obtained by the Washington Post, Mar-a-Lago said it was following “all appropriate response measures” and its banquet and event services would remain open.
In January, images surfaced from a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago that showed a number of guests not wearing masks. The resort was handed a formal warning by Palm Beach County which said the event had violated coronavirus regulations.
The New York Times reports that the club is planning to host events during the RNC spring retreat next month.
France and Poland have re-imposed partial lockdowns as both countries battle a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks.
In France, some 21 million people in 16 areas, including Paris, are affected as the country fears a third wave.
In Poland, non-essential shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities are now closed for three weeks.
Poland has the highest new daily rates of Covid-19 cases since November 2020.
Covid-19 cases are also rising exponentially in Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel warning it is likely that the country will now need to apply an “emergency brake” and re-impose lockdown measures.
The vaccine rollout across the EU has been hindered by delayed deliveries, as well as the suspension in several countries of the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, over fears of possible side effects.
In France, the partial lockdown took effect from midnight on March 19.
Trains leaving Paris for parts of the country where lockdown restrictions do not apply, such as Brittany and Lyon, were reportedly fully booked hours before the measures were due to come into effect.
Traffic jams were reported on several roads leaving the capital.
The new restrictions are not as strict as the previous lockdown, with people allowed to exercise outdoors.
Non-essential businesses are shut, but schools remain open, along with hairdressers if they follow a “particular sanitary protocol”.
France has reported more than 4.2 million infections since the start of the outbreak, with nearly 92,000 Covid-related deaths, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.
In Poland, the three-week lockdown began on March 20.
Polish health officials earlier warned the nationwide restrictions were necessary because of a rampant British variant of Covid-19 in the country. The variant now makes up more than 60% of infections.
Poland has had more than two million confirmed infections, and nearly 49,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Germany said on March 19 it was now classifying neighboring Poland as high risk. This means that from March 21 anyone crossing the border from Poland must provide a negative coronavirus test.
Despite assurances from the European medicines regulator that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, some countries remain reluctant to resume their campaigns using the jab.
Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands are among the countries that have restarted their AstraZeneca vaccination campaigns.
Health authorities in France have recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine be offered only to people aged 55 and over.
Finland’s health authority has announced a pause in its use of the vaccine that will last at least a week. That move, which follows two reports of blood clots in patients who had received the jab in the country, was said to be a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, Sweden, Denmark and Norway said on March 19 that they needed more time to determine whether they should resume AstraZeneca inoculations.
On March 20, Denmark said that two members of hospital staff in Copenhagen had developed blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reviewed the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears of a link to blood clots and found it was not associated with a higher risk of clots.
Peer-reviewed data confirmed it had been “generally well tolerated”, the statement added.
Denmark’s decision came days after Austria suspended use of a particular batch of the drug because a woman died 10 days after taking it. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg have also stopped using the batch.
Danish authorities said they were pausing use of the vaccine for 14 days in what Health Minister Magnus Heunicke called a “precautionary measure”.
Although no link had been established, he said “we must respond in a timely and careful manner” until a conclusion was reached.
The decision to put the vaccine on hold in Denmark and Austria is a setback for a European vaccination campaign that has stuttered into life, partly due to delays in delivery of the AstraZeneca drug.
The Danish authority said it was not an easy decision as it was during the biggest and most important rollout in the country’s history.
The EMA said its safety committee was reviewing the Austrian case, but made clear that “there is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine”.
The number of “thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen in the general population”, it added.
In a statement on March 4, the foreign ministry explained the move, saying it had received the request for authorization on February 24.
It said that previous requests had been given the green light as they included limited numbers of samples for scientific research, but the latest one – being much larger, for more than 250,000 doses – was rejected.
It explained the move by saying that Australia was not on a list of “vulnerable” countries, that there was a permanent shortage of vaccines in the EU and Italy, and that the number of doses was high compared with the amount given to Italy and to the EU as a whole.
Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “Australia has raised the issue with the European Commission through multiple channels, and in particular we have asked the European Commission to review this decision.”
Australia had already received a shipment of 300,000 doses and planned to begin local production next month.
South Africa began administering the unapproved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to healthcare workers as part of a study earlier this month. It came after early trials suggested the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offered “minimal protection” against mild disease from the variant dominant in large parts of the country.
So far the only other country to approve the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use is Bahrain, which gave it the green light on February 25.
Because the vaccine will require fewer doses than its two-shot Pfizer and Moderna counterparts, it will also require fewer vaccine appointments and medical staff.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a common cold virus that has been engineered to make it harmless.
It then safely carries part of the coronavirus’s genetic code into the body. This is enough for the body to recognize the threat and then learn to fight coronavirus.
This trains the body’s immune system to fight coronavirus when it encounters the virus for real.
This is similar to the approach used by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan to help Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic has been approved in the House of Representatives.
The vote was along partisan lines. Two Democrats joined Republicans – who see it as too expensive – in opposing it.
The relief bill must now go to the evenly-divided Senate, which has already blocked a key element – doubling the US minimum wage to $15/hour.
The Covid-19 relief package seeks to boost vaccinations and testing, and stabilize the economy.
The cash would be extended as emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state governments. Unemployment is close to 10%, with some 10 million jobs lost in the pandemic.
The vote comes in the same week the United States passed 500,000 coronavirus-related deaths – the largest figure of any nation in the world.
In brief remarks at the White House on February 26, President Biden hailed the House’s approval of the plan, saying he hoped it would receive “quick action” at the Senate.
He said: “We have no time to waste.
“If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly we can finally get ahead of this virus, we can finally get our economy moving again. And the people in this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering.”
Joe Biden had appealed for bipartisan unity when he took office last month.
He has championed what he calls the American Rescue Plan as a way to help struggling Americans through Covid-19.
However, Republicans say the plan is unnecessarily large and stuffed with Democratic priorities unrelated to the pandemic.
The divisions were reflected by the representatives.
The bill is the third major spending package of the pandemic, and actually not quite as big as President Donald Trump’s $2trillion last March.
A $1,400 cheque per person, although payments phase out for higher incomes
Extending jobless benefits until the end of August to help the more than 11 million long-term unemployed
Parents of children under the age of 18 to get a year of monthly benefits
$70 billion to boost Covid-19 testing and vaccinations
Financial support for schools and universities to help them reopen
Grants for small businesses and other targeted industries
Funds for local government
One of the other major elements is the increase of the minimum wage from $7.25/hour – where it has been since 2009 – to $15.
On February 25, Elizabeth MacDonough, the non-partisan Senate parliamentarian – who interprets its rules – said that raising the minimum wage would violate the budgetary limits allowed in this kind of measure.
The bill that passed in the House does still include the increase and it remains unclear how the issue can be resolved.
The minimum wage rise remains a key Democrat goal, particularly for the party’s progressive wing, and some top Democrats are considering a measure to penalize employers who pay less than $15/hour.
Republicans argue the minimum wage increase would be too heavy a toll on firms struggling to rebuild following the Covid-19 outbreak.
The package goes to the Senate – spilt evenly between Democrats and Republicans 50-50 – probably next week. The rules of the Senate do allow a reconciliation bill like this to be passed on a simple majority, rather than 60-40.
President Joe Biden has addressed the nation as the United States passed 500,000 Covid-related deaths, the highest number of any country.
He said: “As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate. We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.”
The president and vice-president, and their spouses, then observed a moment of silence outside the White House during a candle-lighting ceremony.
According to recent reports, the number of confirmed US infections now stands at 28.1 million, also a global record.
President Biden ordered all flags on federal property to be lowered to half mast for the next five days.
At the White House, the president opened his speech by noting that the number of American deaths from Covid-19 was higher than the death toll from World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined.
He said: “Today we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone – 500,071 dead.”
“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans,” President Biden went on to say.
“There’s no such thing, there’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary. They span generations. Born in America, emigrated to America.”
“So many of them took their final breath alone in America.”
President Biden drew on his own experience with grief – his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972 and one of his sons died from brain cancer in 2015.
He said: “I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens. I know what it’s like when you are there holding their hands; there’s a look in their eye and they slip away.
“For me, the way through sorrow and grief is to find purpose.”
Joe Biden’s approach to the pandemic is different to his predecessor, Donald Trump, who cast doubt on the impact of the deadly virus and was viewed as having politicized the wearing of masks and other measures needed to prevent the spread of the virus.
On January 19, one day before Joe Biden took office, he held an event to mark 400,000 Americans dying of the disease.
February 22 event, marking the latest death toll, comes about one month later.
Elsewhere in Washington, the bells at the National Cathedral tolled 500 times, once for every 1,000 Americans lost during the pandemic.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine will be tested on children aged between 6 and 17 in a new trial.
Some 300 volunteers will take part, with the first vaccinations in the trial taking place later in February.
Researchers say they will assess whether the vaccine produces a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17.
The vaccine is one of two being used to protect against serious illness and death from Covid-19 in the UK, along with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
As many as 240 children will receive the vaccine – and the others a control meningitis vaccine – when the trial gets under way.
Volunteers who live near one of the four study sites – the University of Oxford, St George’s University Hospital, London, University Hospital Southampton and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children – are being asked to sign up.
Those interested in taking part must complete a short questionnaire.
Andrew Pollard, professor of pediatric infection and immunity, and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, noted that most children were relatively unaffected by Covid and were unlikely to become unwell with the virus.
However, Prof. Pollard said it was important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young people as some children might benefit from vaccination.
There are currently no plans for children to be vaccinated with the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine in the UK, as it has only been authorized to prevent Covid-19 in people aged 18 or over.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is only authorized in those aged over 16. The vaccine priority list also excludes anyone under the age of 16, even the clinically extremely vulnerable.
The University of Oxford said it was the first trial of a Covid vaccine in the 6 to 17 age group. It said other trials had begun but only measuring efficacy in those aged 16 and 17.
On February 8, the WHO warned against jumping to conclusions about the efficacy of Covid vaccines.
Dr. Katherine O’Brien, the WHO’s director of immunization, said it was very plausible that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would still have a meaningful impact on the South African variant, especially when it came to preventing hospitalizations and death.
She stressed that the WHO’s expert panel held “a very positive view” of proceeding with the use of the vaccine, including in areas where variants were circulating, but that more data and information would be needed as the pandemic continued.
South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said his government would wait for further advice on how best to proceed with the AstraZeneca vaccine in light of the findings.
In the meantime, he said, the government would offer vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks.
Early results from Moderna suggest its vaccine is still effective against the South Africa variant, while AstraZeneca has said its vaccine provides good protection against the UK variant first identified late last year.
Early results also suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine protects against the new variants.
The EU has said AstraZeneca must honor its commitments and deliver the doses it ordered by diverting doses manufactured in the UK. However, the company said its contract for UK supplies prevents this.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told German radio on January 29 that the EU contract signed in August contained “binding orders”, and called for an explanation.
The commission later said it had agreed a plan to introduce export controls on coronavirus vaccines. It means individual member states will decide whether to allow the export of vaccines produced in their territory. It will be in place until the end of March.
A European Commissioner said it was being introduced to enhance transparency and to ensure that all EU citizens had access to vaccines.
Germany’s vaccine commission said this week that it could not recommend the use of AstraZeneca vaccine in people aged over 65, citing a lack of data on how it affected this age group.
The UK has been using the AstraZeneca vaccine in its mass immunization program for weeks now, and public health officials say it is safe and provides “high levels of protection”.
Confirming it had approved the vaccine, the EMA said that most participants in the test studies were between 18 and 55 years old. It said that while there were not yet enough results to show how the vaccine will work in older people, “protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines.”
Individual EU countries can still decide who vaccines should be given to, once they have been approved.
Talk show legend Larry King has died at the age of 87.
The giant of US broadcasting, who achieved worldwide fame for interviewing political leaders and celebrities, conducted an estimated 50,000 interviews in his six-decade career, which included 25 years as host of the popular CNN talk show Larry King Live.
Larry King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA, according to Ora Media, a production company he co-founded.
Earlier this month, the veteran talk show host was treated in hospital for Covid-19.
Larry King had faced several health problems in recent years, including heart attacks.
Ora Media said in a statement: “For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster.”
Larry King rose to fame in the 1970s with his radio program The Larry King Show, on the commercial network Mutual Broadcasting System.
He was then the host of Larry King Live on CNN, between 1985 and 2010, carrying out interviews with a host of guests.
Larry King also wrote a column for the USA Today for over 20 years.
Most recently, he hosted another program, Larry King Now, broadcast on Hulu and RT, Russia’s state-controlled international broadcaster.
The widely held view is that vaccines will still work, but researchers are on the hunt for proof.
The study focuses on a mutation called N501Y, which is emerged in both new variants.
This is thought to be important because it is in the part of the virus that makes first contact with our body’s cells and changes could make it easier to get in and cause an infection.
The researchers created two forms of the virus – one with and one without the mutation – and then bathed those viruses in blood samples taken from 20 patients that had been vaccinated in clinical trials.
The study results showed the immune systems of vaccinated patients were able to take out the new mutation.
However, the variant that emerged contain multiple mutations whose combined effects may help the virus evade the immune system.
If you were offered a COVID-19 vaccine, would you take it? Research paints a mixed picture. In one poll mentioned by The Drum, 28% of 18- to 34-year-old respondents in the UK said they would reject a vaccine if offered one. However, marketers can play a major part in encouraging vaccine uptake.
Ultimately, the success of vaccines in helping to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a close will depend on how many people take them. Here is how pharmaceutical companies, medical providers and healthcare agencies could persuade members of the general public to do exactly that.
Vaccine hesitancy: a challenge predating the COVID-19 pandemic
You don’t have to look far beyond the COVID-19 picture to see examples of skepticism about vaccines in general. Such reticence has, in some instances, led an array of vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, to re-emerge.
In 2019, long before the current pandemic erupted, the World Health Organization ranked vaccine hesitancy among the ten leading threats to global health.
It’s unsurprising, then, that Glen Halliwell, business unit director at Publicis healthcare agency Langland, believes that government and health services must engage in “broad education” about the COVID-19 vaccine – including “what it is for, what it will protect you against, how to get it and how many injections are required to be protected.”
He added: “Critical here is ensuring we reach the members of the community where English is not their first language, or where cultural or religious concerns regarding vaccine ingredients may lead to some hesitation.”
What threshold do we need to reach to achieve herd immunity?
Lee Fraser, who has served as Digitas Health’s chief medical officer since 2014, insists: “In order for vaccines to be successful in ending the pandemic, we will need to get vaccination rates into the mid-70% range at a minimum.”
However, he warned: “In a climate where we have seen a decline in the public’s belief in science and erosion of fact in favor of social and public opinion, studies suggest only 60% of people are currently willing to get a vaccine.”
Which marketing strategies could help – and which probably wouldn’t?
While some individual vaccines have been given their own branding by marketers, WPP Health Practice’s international chief executive officer Claire Gillis says: “I actually think that the important brand is the corporate brand. Go to the doctor and ask for the ‘Pfizer vaccine’.”
Meanwhile, though the UK government’s reported attempt to apply patriotic livery to each AstraZeneca vaccine kit would unlikely have been of much use, the UK’s National Health Service has, more encouragingly, decided to partner with influencers to promote vaccine adoption.
In an interview with La Sexta TV on December 28, Salvador Illa emphasized that vaccination would not be mandatory.
He said: “What will be done is a registry, which will be shared with our European partners… of those people who have been offered it and have simply rejected it.
“It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection.”
The health minister added: “People who are offered a therapy that they refuse for any reason, it will be noted in the register… that there is no error in the system, not to have given this person the possibility of being vaccinated.”
According to a recent poll, the number of Spanish citizens who have said they will not take the vaccine has fallen to 28% from 47% in November.
In other comments, Salvador Illa said people would be contacted by regional authorities when it was their turn to be inoculated.
He told reporters: “People who decide not to get vaccinated, which we think is a mistake, are within their rights.
“We are going to try to solve doubts. Getting vaccinated saves lives, it is the way out of this pandemic.”
The number of people who have died from Covid-19 in Spain rose above the 50,000 on December 28. Spain has registered more than 1.8 million infections during the pandemic.
The country is under a nationwide curfew, between 23:00 and 06:00, until early May. In many places, people are only allowed out in that period to go to work, buy medicine, or to care for elderly people or children.
Spain’s regional leaders can modify curfew times and can also close regional borders for travel.
Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU. The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic.”
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on December 26: “This really is a happy Christmas message. At this moment, trucks with the first vaccines are on the road all over Europe, all over Germany, in all federal states. Further deliveries will follow the day after tomorrow.
“This vaccine is the crucial key for defeating the pandemic. It’s the key for us getting back our lives.”
Health workers in north-east Germany decided not to wait for December 27 and started immunizing elderly residents of a nursing home in Halberstadt.
The authorities in Slovakia also said they had begun vaccinating.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio urged his compatriots to get the vaccine: “We’ll get our freedom back, we’ll be able to embrace again.”
In Hungary, the first recipient of the vaccine was a doctor at Del-Pest Central Hospital on December 26, the state news agency says.
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