"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 14th Dec 2020

Isolation Tips
Grief in the Covid era will weigh on the American psyche for years to come
The rituals of grief and mourning are as old as time: the swift Jewish burial and seven days of sitting shiva to honor the dead; the Muslim washing and three-sheeted shrouding of a body; the solemn Mass of Christian Burial with Holy Communion and the promise of an afterlife. All these — and other rites of faith and community across the globe — have been brutally curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, with effects on the mental and physical health of those left behind that have yet to be grasped.
Fears of new Covid restrictions as councils struggle to fund self-isolation
More than 17 million people are living in areas under tier 2 restrictions that have seen infection rates rise over the last three weeks, new research has revealed amid growing concerns that councils are struggling to help people with the costs of self-isolation. With the government due to review the Covid-19 measures across England this week, an assessment of official data found that more than half of councils in which tier 2 restrictions are in place – or “high alert” areas - have seen infection rates rise since the last week of November. The areas cover some 17.5 million people. The research, carried out by Labour, found that 100 local authorities have seen an increase in cases since 24 November, compared with 87 that have seen a decrease. It has raised concerns that more areas could face the most restrictive tier 3 measures from this week. London is in danger of entering tier 3, with some boroughs suffering from the highest rates of the disease in England.
Hygiene Helpers
Scientists warn against Christmas gatherings in UK despite relaxed rules
“If people [aren’t] cautious, then we will pay for our Christmas parties with January and February lockdowns,” said Prof Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “With a vaccine just weeks away, why risk infecting vulnerable and elderly people we love?” Prof Susan Michie, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) and the Independent Sage group of experts, agreed. “One has got to respond to the situation as it is, not the situation as we’d like it to be,” she said, reiterating that people should think carefully about whether to meet up with others, and if they do, only meet outside. “If we really want to keep our loved ones safe, the best thing is not to see them.”
Covid drives record drop in global carbon emissions, research shows
The coronavirus pandemic has driven a record drop in global carbon emissions, researchers have found. They warned, however, that greener measures are needed as economies recover, to start delivering the annual emissions cuts required to to curb climate change. Britain saw one of the biggest drops in emissions at 13 per cent, the analysis showed. The country saw major reductions in transport - the largest source of climate pollution for the country - and was hit by two waves of restrictions.
Covid-19 in Wales: Mass testing a 'waste of resources'
Continuing mass testing in Wales could be a "massive-scale of waste of resources", a leading public health expert has said. Figures show less than 1.5% of people were testing positive as part of pilots in Merthyr Tydfil and the lower Cynon Valley. Dr Angela Raffle said there was little evidence to suggest it helped cut transmission. First Minister Mark Drakeford said mass testing "has a part to play". Dr Raffle, a senior lecturer in population sciences at Bristol University, said mass testing was "incredibly resource intensive". "We simply don't know whether you'll find enough cases who would have transmitted a lot, and who don't [transmit Covid-19] simply because you found them," she said. "And we don't know whether telling lots of people they're negative could actually undermine any potential benefit."
Community Activities
CNN to reveal the most inspiring moment of 2020
The two-hour special salutes everyday people who became bright spots during this challenging year -- frontline workers, advocates, scientists, teachers and neighbors -- by going above and beyond to help those in need and push for social justice. Among those being recognized: a) Covid-19 ICU nurse Shannon Basara endures untold stress at her job but benefited from the First Descents Hero Recharge program, which provides free adventures to frontline workers b) Scientist Mike Smith worked round the clock to develop a vaccine for Moderna. c) Dawn Baker, a volunteer vaccine tester and the first person in a Phase 3 clinical trial in the US d) Rahul Dubey sheltered 72 Black Lives Matter protesters overnight to prevent them from being arrested e) Tattoo artist Ryun King helped start the Cover the Hate campaign to cover hate tattoos for free f) Michelle Brenner earned the nickname of the "Lasagna Lady" by making and delivering thousands of free homemade lasagnas to anyone in her community g) Shelly Tygielski founded Pandemic of Love to match up people who need help with those who can provide it h) Desmond Meade, of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition worked to extend democracy in his home state by removing obstacles that prevented citizens with felony convictions from being able to vote i) DJ D-Nice brought his unique brand of joy to people in quarantine
Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine: Distribution, Side Effects and Everything You Need to Know
Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE received authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday to begin distributing their Covid-19 vaccine. As the shot goes into use across the U.S., here’s what we know and don’t know. Who is authorized to receive the vaccine? The FDA authorized the vaccine to be administered to people 16 and older to prevent Covid-19.
Germans deprived of mulled wine in Christmas lockdown
Germany’s tightened lockdown measures have eliminated one remnant of seasonal frivolity: “Gluehwein” or mulled wine, a staple of Christmas markets usually served in steaming mugs on cold days in town squares round the nation. A blanket outdoor alcohol ban, starting mid-week, was announced on Sunday among measures to curb the coronavirus second wave. Offenders will be fined.
COVID-19 vaccine not advised for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
They say that “it has been advised that until more information is available those who are pregnant should not have this vaccine”. Their statement adds that “many vaccines can be given safely in pregnancy” but because of “the new formulation of this particular vaccine the MHRA wants to see more non-clinical data before finalising the advice in pregnancy”. It adds: “It is standard practice when waiting for such data on any medicine, to avoid its use in those who may become pregnant or who are breastfeeding. This will be kept under review as more evidence becomes available”. The document adds - “Here are the key points you should consider until we have more evidence:
Now that there’s a coronavirus vaccine, how do you persuade people to take it?
In Philadelphia, public health officials think block captains may be more effective than football stars in persuading people to get coronavirus vaccines. Researchers in the Navajo Nation anticipate that directives about the shots will have to be reworded to resonate with Native people. And in Atlanta, where a federally funded project has been working with community leaders to increase minority participation in clinical trials, physicians have a lesson to learn in how to talk to patients about vaccines. Memo to docs? More empathy. Less authority.
The magnifying glass: how Covid revealed the truth about our world
The pandemic has illuminated deprivation, inequalities and political unrest, while reminding us of the power and beauty of nature and humanity
UK: Why do some ethnic minorities fear the coronavirus vaccine?
When 29-year-old Shabrez Ali from Bradford was a child, his mother was cautious about vaccines.“For the longest time, my mum didn’t want me to take jabs during primary and secondary school,” Ali, who has South Asian origins, told Al Jazeera by phone.He was not sure why, but guessed, “it may have been due to some potential conspiracies she might have heard in the past”. Since the UK went into its first coronavirus lockdown in March, Ali, who suffers from an autoimmune condition, has barely left the house. He had received a letter from the government urging him to “shield” because the immunosuppressant drugs he takes made him vulnerable.
Working Remotely
Covid-19: 'Third wave' warning and how work from home couples are coping
Easing England's Covid restrictions could lead to a third wave of the virus at the busiest time of the year for hospitals, according to NHS bosses. In a letter to the prime minister, NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, has urged "extreme caution" in moving any area to a lower tier. A review of the tiers is due to take place on Wednesday. The letter highlighted some parts of the country where there was a "worrying increase in infection rates across a wide range of areas", including Essex, Kent, London and parts of Lincolnshire. It comes ahead of the festive season when people will be allowed to form a "bubble" between 23 and 27 December, with the letter urging Boris Johnson to lead a "better public debate about the risks inherent in the guidance".
Holyrood out to clear the air with remote working push to tackle pollution
Scottish ministers want people to continue to work from home after the Covid pandemic in order to cut the country’s carbon footprint.With road traffic contributing to poor air quality, the government
Future of the City: Where did all the jobs go?
For months after the Brexit referendum, Japanese bankers were invited on tours of Frankfurt. Some took in a football match and met one of the local club’s star players: Makoto Hasebe, former captain of Japan’s national team. Impressed by the German city’s clean air, green spaces and family-friendly atmosphere, most of the Japanese bankers switched their plans for establishing a post-Brexit EU base in Amsterdam, opting for Frankfurt instead. “One of the biggest issues we have with people is to get them here to see it and then they are pleasantly surprised by what they find,” said Hubertus Väth, head of the Frankfurt Main Finance lobby group.
Poll: 54% Of Remote Workers Hope To Continue After Pandemic
More than half of Americans who are working from home because of the pandemic want to work from home all or most of the time after the outbreak, according to a Pew Research Center survey published Wednesday, signaling the increase in remote work is likely to continue.
Employees under 50 working remotely during coronavirus pandemic struggle to stay motivated: study
Money isn’t enough of a motive to keep young adults engaged at work during a global pandemic, a new report claims. Forty-two percent of adults aged between 18 and 49 working from home say it’s been somewhat or very difficult to find motivation since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a survey published recently by the Pew Research Center. That’s significantly more than the 20% of adults 50 and older who said their motivation was lacking during the new normal. The survey found there were myriad factors for why young people felt less on track at work while remote including distractions from lack of childcare and working in a more confined space.
Bosses and employees divided over working from home rules
An expectations gap is opening between bosses and staff over the future of remote work as major companies say only 40 per cent of employees will be able to operate from home in future. The NSW public health order requiring employers to allow people to work from home will be repealed on Monday but bosses are grappling with the post-pandemic balance between home and office-based work. The order coincides with a report of some of Australia's largest organisations that found while almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of employees want a hybrid model that involves some working from home and some days in the office, employers say it will only be available to about 40 per cent of staff.
Coronavirus and return to work: five ways to support bereaved employees
During lockdown Bupa saw a 40% increase in enquiries to its EAPs from companies seeking advice on how to support bereavement and loss. Alaana Woods and Erika Gati-Howe outline some approaches that may help, and which OH can communicate to managers. Covid-19 is the biggest global crisis we’re likely to see in our lifetime – affecting people personally, collectively and professionally. Sadly, as the pandemic has progressed, more people will be dealing with grief. Losing a loved one is always hard. However, due to social isolation measures, people are experiencing bereavement differently. Many will be unable to attend funerals or be physically comforted by their friends and family outside their household, something which can be pivotal to the grieving process.
Indian travellers now keen to book places from where they can work remotely, survey reveals
Ever since the pandemic started, most working professional in India turned to work-from-home to meet their deadlines. While initially it required some effort to acclimatize to the situation, now many people have grown so accustomed, they are reluctant to get back to offices, especially since the risk of infection is still there. A new survey by Booking.com — a digital travel company — has now revealed that 63 per cent of Indian travellers are willing to quarantine in destinations, as long as they can work remotely.
Will Coronavirus Be the Death of Cities? Not So Fast
The Covid-19 crisis is bringing a Great Reset to our cities, suburbs and communities. Not just the health crisis—the economic and fiscal crises emerging in its wake, and the wave of protests for racial and economic justice that has swept up alongside it, are altering the way we live and work in powerful ways. This Great Urban Reset gives us a once-in-a-century opportunity to create more equitable and inclusive communities of all sizes and shapes. In the wake of the 2008 economic crash, I identified the Great Resets that remake and recharge economic systems in the wake of crises. They do so by giving rise to new ways of living and working that enable the economy to expand and grow.
Virtual Classrooms
Students are falling behind in online school. Where's the COVID-19 'disaster plan' to catch them up?
The goalposts are constantly shifting on a return to in-person learning, and about half of U.S. students are attending virtual-only schools. It's becoming increasingly clear districts and states need to improve remote instruction and find a way to give individual kids special help online. At the moment, plans to help students catch up are largely evolving, thin or non-existent. The consequences are most dire for low-income and minority children, who are more likely to be learning remotely and less likely to have appropriate technology and home environments for independent study, compared with their wealthier peers. Children with disabilities and those learning English have particularly struggled in the absence of in-class instruction. Many of those students were already lagging academically before the pandemic. Now, they're even further behind — with time running out to meet key academic benchmarks.
Weirdest term ever: How students have coped, from primary to third level
The principal of St Audoen’s National School in Dublin’s south inner city, Eilish Meagher, is starting the day as she has done every morning since September. She gulps down a quick cup of tea in the school kitchen and is outside the gates by 8.30am, standing with home school liaison officer Geoff Finan and special needs assistant Dawn Treacy. Since schools reopened in September under the shadow of Covid-19, parents can no longer go inside the school, so “that important part of the day, where a mammy or daddy or a parent or carer meets teacher and has a big chat about their concerns – if somebody has had a bad weekend, or something has happened – is missing. School is a huge part of the community. And we would always be very reliant on that information.”
Panoramic view of digital education in COVID‐19: A new explored avenue
The Covid‐19 pandemic has forced restructuring in several sectors to ensure the delivery of services are accomplished to the greatest possible extent. The Indian Government has imposed rigorous lockdown regulations, which has had an impact on all aspects of the economy and promotes the adoption of digital technology. The lockdown has accelerated adherence to online platforms for effective accessibility of the teaching and learning process without compromising on quality. Democratisation of technology has been a significant critical issue of the hour.
'A different twist': how school nativity plays have adapted to the Covid era
As the unfamiliar becomes familiar amid the pandemic, the nativity is no different – with schools across the UK getting creative in their depictions of the traditional play. “We didn’t want it to look like a filmed stage show, or a bit ‘naff’. We wanted it to be as realistic as possible,” said Jo Goode, headteacher of Grasmere Primary School in Cumbria. Unable to hold the traditional play in church due to Covid-19 restrictions, the school took 70 schoolchildren to the Lake District countryside, in their local area, to shoot the 20-minute film. In a revamped script, the play follows Mary and Joseph living in an inner city urban area. Fearing the repercussions of the pandemic they decide to run away to the countryside, rather than the usual trek across the desert. The film will be broadcast to local hospitals within the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay on Christmas Eve.
Amid coronavirus, students forced online, but Lebanon won't recognize online degrees
For students in Lebanon, obtaining a recognized degree during the coronavirus pandemic can be challenging. Where classes have moved online, and some students are seeking to pursue their studies entirely online, local laws don't recognize online learning. In Lebanon, online degrees are not recognized by the government, meaning students – even during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – cannot pursue online studies if they wish to enter the job force in Lebanon after graduation. At the end of February, Lebanese schools and universities were forced to move classes online as the novel coronavirus continued its rapid spread.
Public Policies
U.S. expects to have immunized 100 million against COVID-19 by the end of first-quarter 2021 - Slaoui
The United States expects to have immunized 100 million people with the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the first quarter of 2021, the chief U.S. adviser for efforts on COVID-19 vaccines said on Sunday. “We would have immunized 100 million people by the first quarter of 2021,” U.S. Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said in an interview with Fox News Sunday. He said the United States hopes to have about 40 million doses of vaccine distributed by the end of December, and another 50 million to 80 million distributed in January, and the same number in February. The vaccine requires two shots per person
South Korea's Moon warns of toughest COVID-19 curbs after two days of record cases
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in warned on Sunday that COVID-19 restrictions may be raised to the highest level after a second day of record increases in cases as the country battles a harsh third wave of infection. Presiding over an emergency meeting at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters for the first time since February, Moon urged vigilance and called for an all-out efforts to contain the virus. “Unless the outbreak can be contained now, it has come to the critical point of considering escalating social-distancing measures to the third level,” he said, referring to the tightest curbs under the country’s five-tier system.
Bahrain approves Chinese COVID-19 vaccine for use
Bahrain said Sunday it approved the use of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine, following its earlier approval of a vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. Separately, Kuwait has granted emergency use for the Pfizer vaccine. Bahrain's state-run news agency said the Sinopharm vaccine would be available in the island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. It offered few details though on study results of the vaccine, in line with the United Arab Emirates, which last week announced the vaccine was 86% effective.
Germany to close shops and schools in tightened Covid lockdown
Germany will close most shops from Wednesday until 10 January and ban the sale of fireworks for New Year’s Eve, after Angela Merkel and state leaders agreed to impose a national lockdown in order to regain control of rising coronavirus infection rates before a “very difficult Christmas”. Non-essential shops, excluding food retailers, pharmacies and banks but including hairdressing salons and beauty parlours, will have to close their doors from 16 December. Schools and nurseries will also be required to offer only emergency care for essential workers for the last three days before the start of the scheduled Christmas holidays, with parents asked to look after their children at home “whenever possible”.
Up to 40 million Americans could lose their homes if Congress doesn't act: "It's life or death for me"
Ten months into the pandemic, renters owe an estimated $70 billion in back rent — and if the hold is not extended, 30 to 40 million Americans could lose their homes, CBS News' Nancy Cordes reports. The CDC had put a temporary hold on all evictions, to protect public health and prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, more coronavirus relief spending is again bogged down in Congress, and many Americans are already getting warnings that they will be tossed out if lawmakers don't act. In Houston, Texas, more than 17,000 evictions have been initiated since the pandemic began, and 300,000 or more could be coming if the federal moratorium is allowed to expire.
Mexico approves emergency use of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine
The Mexican government’s medical safety commission approved the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine Friday, making Mexico the fourth country to do so. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said Mexico's approval came after Britain, Canada and Bahrain. Mexico is set to receive 250,000 doses of the vaccine, enough for 125,000 people, because each person requires two shots. López-Gatell has said that front-line health workers will get the shots first.
COVID-19 vaccine to be provided free of cost in Kerala, says CM Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan today said that the COVID-19 vaccine will be provided free of cost in the state once it is available. Kerala on Saturday recorded 5,949 new COVID-19 cases and 32 deaths. The number of total cases in the state has jumped to 6.64 lakh and the death toll to 2,594, the Chief Minister said. “No one will be charged for the vaccine. This is the stand of the government,” the Kerala Chief Minister told reporters at Kannur.
Coronavirus vaccine: Minority groups and the very ill given priority
GPs who run short of vaccine for patients aged over 80 have been told to prioritise elderly people from ethnic minorities and those who have severe underlying health conditions. The first vaccines are set to be given by GPs on Tuesday from about 280 sites. They have been told to start contacting patients, who can expect to hear about appointments today and tomorrow. However, there is concern that dozens of practices have opted out of the programme, citing a lack of resources and fears that other patient care might be affected by the focus on Covid-19. In NHS guidance, those not taking part have been told to co-operate with local health chiefs to ensure their patients still have access to the vaccine.
South Korea reports 1,030 new coronavirus case, record daily rise
South Korea reported 1,030 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, the second daily record in a row as a country that had initial success controlling COVID-19 now battles a harsh third wave. Of the new cases, 1,002 were locally transmitted. It brings the total to 42,766 infections with 580 deaths, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Saturday said further tightening social distancing restriction to the nation’s highest level would be inevitable if the spread continues, which would be practically a lockdown for the first time in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Africa's hurdles toward a COVID vaccine
Coronavirus vaccines are now being administered in Europe, while Africa hopes to start by mid-2021. Until then, the continent of 54 countries will need to put the necessary logistics, such as refrigeration, in place. On December 8, 2020, the United Kingdom became the first country to begin vaccinating its citizens with the new BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Canada and Bahrain have also greenlighted it. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will meet on December 29 and is expected to approve the vaccine. But European Union countries are already putting modalities in place to receive and distribute the vaccine. Africa's hopes of receiving the vaccine are pinned on the global COVAX initiative, which aims to buy and deliver vaccines for the world's poorest people.
France to introduce night-time curfew in bid to slow spread of Covid-19
France is set to introduce a night-time curfew and delay the opening of cultural venues as the nation struggles to curb the spread of Covid-19. Jean Castex, the French Prime Minister, said on Thursday that infection rates were not falling as fast as was hoped following the country’s lockdown which began in late October. Its current lockdown will be lifted as planned on 15 December, which is when the daily 8pm to 6am curfew will begin.
World Trade council fails to act on proposal to waive IP rights to Covid-19 drugs and vaccines
In a widely anticipated meeting, a World Trade Organization council failed to act on a controversial proposal to temporarily waive some provisions in a trade agreement governing intellectual property rights, which would make Covid-19 medical products more easily accessible, especially by low-income countries. During the closed-door session, which took place on Thursday, several wealthy nations reiterated arguments that patent rights do not create barriers to wider access and affordability. The U.S., for instance, suggested a more targeted approach in which a license could be granted to a generic manufacturer to make a specific product for distribution in certain countries.
F.D.A. Clears Pfizer Vaccine, and Millions of Doses Will Be Shipped Right Away
The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use on Friday, clearing the way for millions of highly vulnerable people to begin receiving the vaccine within days. The authorization is a historic turning point in a pandemic that has taken more than 290,000 lives in the United States. With the decision, the United States becomes the sixth country — in addition to Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico — to clear the vaccine. Other authorizations, including by the European Union, are expected within weeks.
Maintaining Services
South Korea begins anti-coronavirus period ahead of college entrance exam
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in warned on Sunday that COVID-19 restrictions may be raised to the highest level after a second day of record increases in cases as the country battles a harsh third wave of infection. Presiding over an emergency meeting at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters for the first time since February, Moon urged vigilance and called for an all-out efforts to contain the virus. “Unless the outbreak can be contained now, it has come to the critical point of considering escalating social-distancing measures to the third level,” he said, referring to the tightest curbs under the country’s five-tier system.
Historic journey: Pfizer prepares to deliver 6.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines
Three semi-trucks loaded with the U.S.'s first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine rolled out of the parking lot of the Pfizer manufacturing plant early Sunday morning, met with cheering crowds of local residents who said they were proud of their hometown's contribution to science, and helping to bring the end to the coronavirus pandemic. The caravan of FedEx, UPS and Boyle Transportation trucks — led and tailed by unmarked police cars — pulled out of the parking lot about 8:25 a.m., headed to airports and distribution centers on a historic journey. Millions of doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine were inside those trucks, and could be injected into the arms of the American people as early as Monday morning.
Walgreens to hire 25,000 as part of plan to give COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home residents and staff
Walgreens expects to receive its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 21 and plans to inoculate nursing home residents and workers at more than 30,000 long-term care facilities nationwide. The company plans to hire about 25,000 people across the U.S., including up to 9,000 pharmacists and other health care workers, to administer the vaccine to long-term care facilities through a partnership with pharmacy service provider PharMerica, the companies said during a panel discussion Friday on the vaccine rollout.
Dozens of GPs opt out of Pfizer vaccine rollout next week forcing 100,000 patients to get their jabs elsewhere due to 'concerns over heavy workloads'
Doctors told to prioritise those from ethnic minorities if they run shot of vaccine Several GPs in Manchester, Yorkshire, Sussex and Lincolnshire have opted out Some 280 of Primary Care Networks set to administer the vaccine next week Follows initial Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine roll-out in 70 hospital hubs last Tuesday
Engineers develop mini Covid vaccine factory that can create 30,000 doses a day
British engineers have invented a miniature Covid-19 vaccine factory that can make 30,000 doses a day. Experts at King’s College London designed it to manufacture vaccines such as the Pfizer/BioNTech inoculation. It could end the logistical problems of delivering the frozen vaccine from factories on the continent to UK communities. Plans are on track to submit the game-changing “factory in a box” technology for regulatory approval by as early as March. It is estimated that 60 of the devices could make enough doses to immunise the nation in a matter of weeks. The innovative machine was designed by Professor Makatsoris Harris.
Nicola Sturgeon: Care homes with Covid-19 outbreaks must tell families of residents
There is a “big responsibility” on care home providers to ensure good communication with relatives, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said. Speaking at the coronavirus daily update on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said she would investigate the reported case of a woman who first found out about a Covid-19 outbreak at the care home of a relative in the North East through the media. It comes after investigations were launched by the Crown Office into outbreaks at two care homes in the North East.
Brazil rolls out COVID-19 vaccination plan
The Brazilian government unveiled its long-awaited national vaccination plan against COVID-19 on Saturday with an initial goal of vaccinating 51 million people, or about one-fourth of the population,
US offers to help increase production of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine
The US government is offering to help increase production of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, as it tries to secure another 100m doses of the jab that regulators are reviewing. Operation Warp Speed, the government programme to accelerate the development of a vaccine, is trying to double its pre-order of doses, after soaring demand has led to a shortage, according to people familiar with the matter. Operation Warp Speed is trying to help Pfizer obtain more raw materials and equipment under the Defense Production Act to ensure it can produce the extra doses by June 2021, according to one of the people.
Ultra-cold freezing presents next challenge in Covid vaccine race
Demand for ultra-cold storage freezers has spiked as governments and manufacturers prepare to ship Covid-19 vaccines around the world and along the so-called last mile to those most vulnerable to the disease. Unique characteristics of the two leading Covid-19 vaccines mean they both have to be transported frozen. The shot developed by US biotech Moderna, currently under regulatory review in the US and the EU, can survive for six months at minus 20C, the temperature of a standard domestic freezer. The vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, approved for use in the UK this month, must, in contrast, be transported at minus 70C.
Healthcare Innovations
U.S. FDA authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it authorized the use of Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, with the first inoculations expected within days, marking a turning point in the United States where the pandemic has killed more than 292,
GSK/Sanofi Covid vaccine delayed until end of next year
A coronavirus vaccine being developed by GlaxoSmithKline and its French partner, Sanofi, will be delayed until the end of next year after trials revealed it failed to produce a strong immune response in older people. The drug companies hoped to have regulatory approval for the candidate vaccine in the first half of 2021, but interim results from a phase 1/2 trial showed an “insufficient” response in the over-50s, the age group most vulnerable to severe Covid-19. The results released on Friday are a stark reminder that despite a flurry of positive results from vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, NIH/Moderna and Oxford University/AstraZeneca, developing effective vaccines at speed is no simple task.
J&J cuts size of Covid-19 vaccine study due to prevalence of disease
Johnson & Johnson is cutting the size of its pivotal U.S. Covid-19 vaccine trial — the only major study testing a single dose of a Covid vaccine — from 60,000 volunteers to 40,000 volunteers. The change is being made possible by the fact that Covid-19 is so pervasive across the country, according to a person familiar with the matter. The more virus there is in the U.S., the more likely it is that participants will be exposed to it, meaning researchers will be able to reach conclusions based on a smaller trial. Changing the size of the study does not indicate that results will come on a different timetable, or anything about whether they will be positive or negative
Boston Biogen conference of 175 people led to 300,000 infections across the world
A strategy meeting of 175 senior managers at Biogen Inc was held at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel in late February. In a recent study of 772 patients, researchers found one distinct strain in more than one-third of patients linked back to the conference. The strain was found in at least 29 states, including Florida, North Carolina and Indiana, and countries such as Australia, Slovakia, Sweden At least 99 people at the meeting tested positive for COVID-19 and researchers now believe the conference is responsible for up to 330,000 global infections
Five key genes linked to severe COVID-19 found, suggesting drug targets
Five key genes are linked with the most severe form of COVID-19, scientists said on Friday, in research that also pointed to several existing drugs that could be repurposed to treat people who risk getting critically ill with the pandemic disease. Researchers who studied the DNA of 2,700 COVID-19 patients in 208 intensive care units across Britain found that five genes involving in two molecular processes - antiviral immunity and lung inflammation - were central to many severe cases. “Our results immediately highlight which drugs should be at the top of the list for clinical testing,” said Kenneth Baillie, an academic consultant in critical care medicine at Edinburgh University who co-led the research.
Covid: Trials to test combination of Oxford and Sputnik vaccines
UK and Russian scientists are teaming up to trial a combination of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines to see if protection against Covid-19 can be improved. Mixing two similar vaccines could lead to a better immune response in people. The trials, to be held in Russia, will involve over-18s, although it's not clear how many people will be involved. Oxford recently published results showing their jab was safe and effective in trials on people. The researchers are still collecting data on the effectiveness of the vaccine in older age groups while waiting for approval from the UK regulator, the MHRA. AstraZeneca said it was exploring combinations of different adenovirus vaccines to find out whether mixing them leads to a better immune response and, therefore, greater protection.
Sanofi suffers major setback in development of a Covid-19 vaccine
One of the world’s leading vaccine manufacturers has suffered a major setback in its work to produce a Covid-19 vaccine. The problem will push the timeline for deployment of Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine — if it is approved — from the first half of 2021 into the second half of the year, the company said Friday. The news is not just disappointing for Sanofi and its development partner, GlaxoSmithKline, which is providing an adjuvant used in the vaccine. The companies have contracts with multiple countries, including the United States and Britain, as well as the European Union. Sanofi had hoped to start a Phase 3 trial of the vaccine this month and had projected it could produce 100 million doses of vaccine in 2020, and 1 billion doses in 2021.
Australia Scraps Covid-19 Vaccine That Produced H.I.V. False Positives
Australia on Friday canceled a roughly $750 million plan for a large order of a locally developed coronavirus vaccine after the inoculation produced false positive test results for H.I.V. in some volunteers participating in a trial study. Of the dozens of coronavirus vaccines being tested worldwide, the Australian one was the first to be abandoned. While its developers said the experimental vaccine had appeared to be safe and effective, the false positives risked undermining trust in the effort to vaccinate the public. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said that his government would compensate for the loss of 51 million doses it had planned to buy from the Australian consortium in part by increasing orders of vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Novavax. The government has said it plans to begin inoculating citizens by March
Peru suspends Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine trial after 'adverse event'
Peru suspended trials for China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine due to a “serious adverse event” that occurred with one of the volunteers for the study, the Peruvian government said in a statement on Saturday. The health ministry said the event is “under investigation to determine if it is related to the vaccine or if there is another explanation.”
Covid vaccine: Four Pfizer trial participants developed facial paralysis, FDA says
New documents have revealed that four participants in the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine trial developed Bell's palsy - a condition that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. The patients were taking part in the US vaccine trial, which included 38,000 participants. The Bell’s palsy is believed to be unrelated to the vaccine, with cases in the trial occurring at the same rate as in the general population. A document by the FDA said: “Among non-serious unsolicited adverse events, there was a numerical imbalance of four cases of Bell’s palsy in the vaccine group compared with no cases in the placebo group, though the four cases in the vaccine group do not represent a frequency above that expected in the general population.”
Oxford COVID-vaccine paper highlights lingering unknowns about results
The first formally published results from a large clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine — which scientists hope could be among the cheapest and easiest to distribute around the world — suggest that the vaccine is safe and effective. But the data also highlight a number of lingering unknowns, including questions about the most effective dosing regimen and how well it works in older adults. The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, UK, and the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca in Cambridge, UK, has been closely watched, in part because it is likely to be simpler to distribute than the two RNA-based vaccines from companies Pfizer and Moderna, which need to be stored at low temperatures. The Oxford team is also now the first of these three leading COVID-vaccine developers to publish results from its phase III trials in a peer-reviewed journal — so far, the findings have been disseminated only through press releases.