"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 6th Jan 2021
Varadkar urges employers to facilitate remote working
In Ireland, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has asked employers to facilitate their staff to work from home wherever possible at this "critical time" in the ongoing fight against Covid-19. "Christmas and New Year have passed and the vast majority of people are now back at work," Leo Varadkar said in a statement today. "We are now in the middle of a third wave of the virus and the increase in infections, hospitalisations and numbers in ICU is extremely concerning," Mr Varadkar said. Mr Varadkar said he was asking employers to encourage and accommodate their employees to stay at home unless they are essential workers.
The Times view on the new lockdown: End Game
The means to defeat the coronavirus are now available. Yet the rate of infection of Covid-19 in Britain is intensifying and risks overwhelming the National Health Service. That is the paradox driving public health policy. Unfortunately, the government has been continually reactive in adopting measures to halt transmissions. It has had to learn painfully that there is no route out of the crisis by half-measures. Policy needs to be tougher and speedier if the nation’s hardships are to be eased and then dispelled by a vast vaccination campaign. Failing to do this has already cost lives. The government needs to give a clearer message on the urgency of the crisis and the stages by which, with public support, it can be lifted.
Large US airlines back global COVID-testing requirements: Report
A group representing airlines in the United States has backed a proposal by public health officials to implement a global testing programme requiring negative tests before most international air passengers return to the US, according to a letter seen by the Reuters news agency. Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and other large carriers, also urged the Trump administration in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday “to move ahead with recommendations to rescind current entry restrictions on travellers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil as soon as possible … concurrently with the testing programme.”
Column: Will we still commute after the epidemic? - John Kemp
In the advanced economies, the coronavirus epidemic is likely to accelerate long-term structural changes in the location of work and accommodation and the transport systems that link them. But the rate of change will be tempered by enormous inertia in real estate and transit systems to accommodate a widespread shift in work from central cities to the suburbs and secondary cities. The current distribution of land use is the product of the railways in the 19th century and the automobile in the 20th century, which allowed people to travel much greater distances from home to the workplace. While many executives and professionals can afford to live in central areas of large cities if they want to take advantage of networking opportunities and cultural facilities, most workers are forced to live in suburbs and satellite communities where housing is cheaper.
US pharmacist 'tried to ruin Covid vaccine' because of safety fears, court told
Steven Brandenburg was detained following an investigation into spoiled vials of the Moderna jab, which would have inoculated 500 people. A US pharmacist convinced the world was “crashing down” told police he tried to ruin hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine because he believed the shots would mutate people’s DNA. Court documents from Wisconsin showed pharmacist Steven Brandenburg was detained following an investigation into the 57 spoiled vials of the Moderna vaccine, which officials say contained enough doses to inoculate more than 500 people.
Covid-19: England lockdown looms as hospital ejects 'Covid deniers'
A group of Covid-19 "deniers" were removed from a hospital by security guards after going there to take pictures of empty corridors to post on social media to back up their claims that there is no crisis, according to its chief executive. Describing the incident at Colchester Hospital, where the intensive care unit is running at maximum capacity because of the virus, Nick Hulme said it "beggars belief" some people were calling the pandemic a hoax. "Of course there are empty corridors at the weekend in outpatients, because that's the right thing to do," he added.
Covid: Can we really jab our way out of lockdown?
With the country in lockdown and a new faster-spreading variant of coronavirus rampant, it's clear the UK is in a race to vaccinate. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants all the over-70s, the most clinically vulnerable and front-line health and care workers to be offered a jab by mid-February, to allow the restrictions to be eased. That requires about 13 million people to be given the opportunity to be vaccinated - but so far only one million have been. And ensuring a quick rollout to the rest is fraught with difficulties. There is enough vaccine in the country, BBC News has learned, but getting it into people's arms could be hampered by: a global shortage of glass vials to package up the vaccines long waits for safety checks the process of ensuring there are enough vaccinators
Watching New Zealand's Covid success from bungling Britain has been torture
Like most Britons this past year, I’ve spent more time than I care to admit doomscrolling social media. But in between the muted festive lockdown celebrations, I also saw photos of crowded house parties, family barbecues and road trips to baches and beaches. My social feeds have split into alternate realities. Because although I’m a British citizen living in Oxford, I’m also a resident of New Zealand, where things really couldn’t be more different. As a resident of two countries, with friends and family in each, I’m used to witnessing events and political developments in both places at once. Usually this experience is a rewarding one where new ideas and cultural differences cross-pollinate in my brain and expand the way I see the world. But in 2020 it’s been an exercise in frustration. The torture of watching how one country has handed the Covid pandemic so well, while living in another that has bungled it so badly, has been one of the defining characteristics of my past year.
New York office vacancies rise to their highest point since 1999
Manhattan office vacancies hit 15.1% at the end of 2020, the highest since 1999 Many companies declined to renew leases amid uncertainty over pandemic Some have pivoted to smaller offices and expect to continue partial remote work However Goldman Sachs expects all of its workers to return by the end of 2021 Goldman CEO says the rollout of vaccines will allow office life to resume Nearly a third of office workers say they would quit if required to return
Covid-19 remote work trend may boost women's careers in Japan and South Korea
Covid-19 could be a tipping point in the push to retain more women in the workforce in Japan and South Korea and for them to have families with new flexible work arrangements expected to stay, according to researchers and recruiters. The pandemic has disproportionately hit women's careers across the globe, with studies finding they are more likely to work in sectors badly impacted by COVID-19 and are picking up a heavier load of unpaid childcare and chores than men. But in Japan and South Korea, where employees are often under pressure to work long hours in the office with reports of death by overwork, more flexible working could make women rethink leaving jobs to start a family.
Is 2021 the year we finally say goodbye to the office?
By mid 2020, Ireland had one of the highest rates of WFH in Europe, with over 40% by comparison with an EU average of 33.7%. The National Remote Working Survey confirmed that workplace productivity can be maintained in home working. Over 5,600 workers were surveyed and 62% of respondents agreed that working remotely increases their productivity. Workers now want more flexibility in choosing where they work. 94% of respondents to the National Remote Working Survey were in favour of working remotely on an on-going basis, for some or all of the time
Nearly 30% of working professionals would quit if they had to return to office after pandemic
Many companies plan to ask their employees to return to the office once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available later this year. Good luck with that. Twenty-nine percent of working professionals say they would quit their jobs if they couldn't continue working remotely, according to an online survey of 1,022 professionals by LiveCareer, an online resume and job search consulting service.
Home-schooling: How to help your child’s online learning
With schools once again closing their doors to most pupils in England, parents, many juggling work and childcare, are having to step in to fill the gap. If your child's school already puts work online, via Google Classroom, for example, this will probably continue. But these sort of tools tend to be used more by secondary schools than primaries. So older pupils are more likely to be in the routine of checking their school's chosen platform and completing work.
The National Museum of Computing offers free remote learning package to 400 underprivileged students
A plan to offer its remote learning programme to 400 students in deprived areas from across the UK has been announced by the independent charity - The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC). The remote learning packages extend the highly successful in-person programmes, reimagined for the online learning world, giving students an interactive and fun experience with STEM subjects during a difficult time for teaching.
Indonesia to start mass COVID vaccination drive on January 13
Indonesia will begin its nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme on January 13, with President Joko Widodo set to be given the first jab, made by China’s Sinovac Biotech. The mass inoculation programme will begin in the capital, Jakarta, Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin announced on Tuesday, while vaccinations in other regions will follow on January 14 and 15.
Italy to enter capital of ReiThera to support COVID vaccine development
Italy will invest in local biotech company ReiThera to support the development of its COVID-19 vaccine, a senior official said on Tuesday after the government called results of a Phase 1 trial encouraging. ReiThera is developing the vaccine with Germany’s Leukocare and Belgium’s Univercells and started talks with the European Union in September about supplying the bloc with doses. An initial trial involved 45 volunteers aged between 18 and 55. None of them showed serious side effects in the 28 days after the vaccination, said Giuseppe Ippolito, scientific director of Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani institute which conducted the tests.
Almost 14 million people to get a Covid vaccine jab by mid-February, vows minister
Almost 14 million people could receive a Covid vaccine by the middle of February, it has been announced. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said tonight that officials were hoping for all people in the top four priority groups to have received a jab in the coming weeks. And speaking afterwards, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said the NHS “family will come together” to get 13.9 million doses administered by the middle of February. In a tweet tonight, he said: "We can do this. The NHS family will come together and we will do this." Speaking from Downing Street, Mr Johnson outlined the NHS’s “realistic expectations” for the vaccination programme in the weeks ahead. He said: “By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”
Exclusive: Teachers Could Get Covid Vaccine From Mid-February, MPs Told
Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries suggests frontline key workers could begin getting jabs once 13m most vulnerable are inoculated. In a briefing with MPs on Tuesday, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries suggested teachers and other frontline key workers could be included in the next stage of vaccinations, which will cover the next five priority groups including over 50s and those with risky underlying health conditions. Any decision to inoculate teachers and key workers that early in the vaccination programme would mark a significant acceleration.
FDA says changing coronavirus vaccine dosing could put 'public health at risk'
The Food and Drug Administration won't recommend altering the dose regimens of the two coronavirus vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the U.S. without new clinical data, the agency said late Monday. In an unusual statement, commissioner Stephen Hahn and top agency official Peter Marks warned that changing the way the vaccines are used could put "public health at risk" because those immunized may falsely think they're protected from COVID-19. The vaccines from Moderna as well as partners Pfizer and BioNTech were proven to be 95% protective against symptomatic COVID-19 after two shots given a few weeks apart. Hahn and Marks' opposition comes after the leader of the White House's Operation Warp Speed effort, Moncef Slaoui, suggested using half-doses of Moderna's vaccine, citing study results indicating the immune response generated appeared equally strong in adults 18 to 55 years of age given doses half as strong as the one authorized.
The EU’s coronavirus vaccine blame game. Why so slow?
When it comes to getting people vaccinated, the EU is trailing behind the U.K., the U.S. and Israel — and a growing number of critics blames the European Commission. Over the weekend, Markus Söder, leader of Germany's Christian Social Union, and BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin criticized the Commission for not purchasing enough of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved by European regulators. The Commission fired back Monday, saying it had secured more than 2 billion doses of vaccines from seven producers with member states’ participation throughout the process.
Coronavirus vaccine: China slams West's 'elderly first' policy
Hu Xijin of The Global Times praised China for prioritising people aged 18 to 59 He lauded Beijing for having a 'responsible attitude' in tackling the coronavirus The state-run paper warned the West against pinning its hope on the vaccines A commentary urged the West to learn from China and adopt a national system Comes as Beijing steps up its effort in shaping the narrative about the pandemic
India says it hasn't banned the export of COVID-19 vaccines
India s government had not banned the export of any vaccines for COVID-19 the health ministry said Tuesday, days after the head of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer said it got emergency authorization to produce the shots as long as it didn't send them overseas. Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of Serum Institute of India, told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday that the company got the green light for its version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine on the condition that it not export shots to ensure that vulnerable populations in India are protected. AstraZeneca contracted Serum Institute of India to manufacture 1 billion doses for developing nations. That vaccine and another developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech were granted licenses for emergency use by Indian regulators Sunday.
New York reports first case of new coronavirus variant as U.K. orders third national lockdown
New York on Monday reported its first case of a U.K. variant of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious and has been reported in more than 30 countries. The news came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a third national lockdown for England amid a surging outbreak driven by the variant.
England Covid lockdown likely to be in place until March, Gove warns
The third national lockdown imposed in England to try to deal with the huge increase in Covid-19 cases is likely to remain in place into March at least, with some measures lasting even longer, the government has indicated. The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, said he hoped the gradual lifting of restrictions could begin in mid-February, but that the time it took for the vaccines to take effect meant it was likely to be at least another couple of weeks before measures could start to be eased. “We can’t predict with certainty that we’ll be able to lift restrictions the week commencing the 15 to 22 [February], what we will be doing is everything we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated so that we can begin progressively to lift restrictions,” Gove told Sky News on Tuesday.
Germany set to extend hard lockdown as daily deaths mount
Germany s disease control center on Tuesday reported 944 more COVID-19 deaths, fueling expectations that Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country s 16 state governors will extend the country s lockdown until the end of the month. Germany’s latest lockdown took effect Dec. 16 after a partial shutdown starting in early November failed to reduce the number of daily new coronavirus infections. It was initially set to expire Jan. 10. Merkel's meeting with the governors on Tuesday will decide how long the lockdown should go on and to what extent schools will reopen. Another topic high on the agenda will be addressing criticism of the country's vaccination program amid frustrations over its gradual start. Vaccinations in Germany and the rest of the 27-nation European Union started over a week ago. In Germany, a nation of 83 million, nearly 265,000 vaccinations had been reported by Monday, the Robert Koch Institute said.
Japan weighs state of emergency in Tokyo area as COVID cases surge
Public health experts advising Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called on Tuesday for the swift imposition of a state of emergency in the Tokyo area as daily COVID-19 cases hit a record and some citizens accused the government of dragging its feet. The government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, said a decision would likely come on Thursday on whether to impose the second state of emergency since the start of the pandemic. Japanese media said it would take effect by Friday and last about a month. The government is anxious about the economic impact of another state of emergency as it prepares to host the Olympics in the summer.
Level 5 restrictions: 10 other lockdown measures that could be considered as Covid cases skyrocket
Ireland is in Level 5 lockdown as countries across Europe implement tough measures in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of Covid-19. As the number of Covid cases in this country hit record levels, we take a look at further restrictions which could be brought in to contain the virus.
Lebanon orders three-week lockdown to fight virus spread
Lebanon announced a full lockdown for three weeks, including a night curfew, to stem a rise in COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals in a country already facing financial meltdown. Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan said the lockdown would start on Thursday and run until Feb. 1, with further details on Tuesday on which sectors would be exempt. The lockdown will include a curfew from 6 pm to 5 am. “It has become clear that the pandemic challenge has reached a stage that is seriously threatening Lebanese lives as hospitals are not capable of providing beds,” Hasan told reporters after a meeting of the ministerial committee on COVID-19.
Germany heading towards extension of hard lockdown
The German government and the country’s 16 federal states have agreed to extend a strict lockdown until Jan. 31 in an effort to bring coronavirus infections under control, Bild newspaper reported on Monday, without providing a source. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state premiers are scheduled on Tuesday to discuss a possible extension of the lockdown beyond Jan. 10. Some, including Bavaria’s premier Markus Soeder, have already spoken in favour of an extension. Speaking after the Bild report, a government source told Reuters: “All but two federal states support (a lockdown extension until) Jan. 31. However, the formal decision will be made on Tuesday.”
UK offers lockdown-hit firms extra $6.2 billion of help
Britain offered a 4.6 billion pound ($6.2 billion) support package for businesses on Tuesday to soften an expected recession caused by a surge in COVID-19 cases that has triggered a third national lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown on Monday, saying a highly contagious coronavirus variant risked overwhelming the health service within 21 days. Most people must work from home and schools have closed for almost all pupils. Hospitality venues must stay shut, as well as non-essential shops. Britain’s economy looks likely to tip back into recession - shrinking in the final quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 - following a record 25% fall in output in the first two months of lockdown in 2020.
Britons ordered to stay at home as third national lockdown begins
Britain began its third COVID-19 lockdown on Tuesday with citizens under orders to stay at home and the government calling for one last major national effort to contain the virus before mass vaccinations turn the tide. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown late on Monday saying the highly contagious new coronavirus variant first identified in Britain was spreading so fast it risked overwhelming the National Health Service (NHS) within 21 days. In England alone, some 27,000 people are in hospital with COVID, a number 40 percent higher than during the first peak of infections in April. “The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle, because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against COVID and in favour of the British people,” said Johnson.
Scotland to enter another effective national lockdown
Scotland will on Monday enter another effective national lockdown, likely to last until spring, The Times newspaper reported. Scottish government leader Nicola Sturgeon said earlier her cabinet would meet on Monday to discuss possible further steps to limit the spread of the virus, and ordered Scotland’s parliament to be recalled. It is expected the reopening of schools will be pushed back beyond Jan. 18, the newspaper reported
UK unveils $6.2 billion in extra lockdown support
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown late on Monday saying the highly contagious new coronavirus variant first identified in Britain was spreading so fast it risked overwhelming the health service. Britain announced on Tuesday 4.6 billion pounds ($6.2 billion) in new lockdown grants to support businesses and protect jobs.
WHO's Tedros 'very disappointed' China hasn't granted entry to coronavirus experts
The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday he was "very disappointed" that China has still not authorised the entry of a team of international experts to examine the origins of the coronavirus.
Italy’s 5Star Movement learns to love coronavirus vaccines
Italy, the first European country to see its hospitals overflow with coronavirus cases, is rolling out vaccines that many hope will mark the beginning of the end of the crushing pandemic. But the country faces an uphill battle to immunize its population — one of the most vaccine-skeptical in Europe — especially given that one of its ruling parties has long expressed such doubts itself. The populist 5Star Movement, which governs with the center-left Democratic Party, voiced vaccine skepticism as far back as 1998, when Beppe Grillo, the movement's founder and its former leader, questioned the use of vaccines in a televised skit in front of a live audience.
Brazil scrambles to secure COVID vaccine from India
Brazil made a diplomatic push on Monday to guarantee an Indian-made shipment of British drugmaker AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, hoping to avoid export restrictions that could delay immunisations during the world’s second-deadliest outbreak. In parallel, Brazil’s private clinics struck a preliminary deal for an alternative injection made by India’s Bharat Biotech despite a lack of public results from late-stage trials.
What do we know about the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out in Scotland?
Vaccination of the public and vulnerable people from Covid-19 in Scotland is well underway, but information on when the Scottish Government expects vaccines to reach all of the population remains thin on the ground.
Baker says 70,000 staff members at Mass. hospitals have received COVID-19 vaccine
Governor Charlie Baker said Tuesday that more than 70,000 “COVID-facing” staff members at Massachusetts hospitals have received the COVID-19 vaccine amid the ongoing distribution program that’s slated to expand to first responders on Jan.
COVID-19: More than a million have coronavirus in England, says PM - as variant is 'taking off' around UK
More than a million people in England are currently infected with coronavirus, the prime minister has said. Boris Johnson was speaking at a Downing Street news conference on the first full day of the nation's third lockdown, as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said one in 50 people in England have COVID-19. Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said it was "really quite a large number indeed" and warned the new variant is "taking off" in areas outside London and the South East.
Elderly residents who waited overnight for Covid vaccine are turned away as Florida centre hits capacity
Distribution has stalled in places across the United States due to the limited number of coronavirus doses currently available, and it caused one Florida vaccine centre to close its doors once it reached capacity. On Monday, a vaccination centre at Daytona Stadium, in Daytona Beach, Florida, reached capacity for distributing the Moderna vaccine. It was announced that the centre would be open Monday, 4 July, and Tuesday, 5 July, on a first come, first serve basis to administer the coronavirus vaccine to those who qualified. About 2,000 doses were available.
France cranks up vaccine rollout to deliver shots faster
France is stepping up its COVID-19 vaccine rollout by widening further its first target group to include more health workers and simplifying a cumbersome process to deliver jabs more quickly, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday. France’s inoculation campaign got off to a slow start, hampered in part by red tape and President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to tread warily in one of the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the world. But France has fallen behind neighbours such as Britain and Germany, and the president is now demanding the vaccination programme be expedited.
France's go-slow coronavirus vaccination strategy backfires
France’s cautious approach to rolling out a coronavirus vaccination program appears to have backfired, leaving barely 500 people inoculated in the first week and rekindling anger over the government’s handling of the pandemic. Amid public outcry, the health minister vowed Monday to step up the pace, and made a belated public plea on behalf of the vaccine, saying it offers a “chance” for France and the world to vanquish a pandemic that has killed more than 1.8 million people. President Emmanuel Macron was holding a special meeting with top government officials Monday to address the vaccine strategy and other virus developments. The slow rollout of the vaccine made by Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech was blamed on mismanagement, staffing shortages during holiday vacations and a complex French consent policy designed to accommodate unusually broad vaccine skepticism among the French public.
UK lockdowns force British Airways, easyJet to review flying plans
UK-based airlines British Airways and easyJet said they were reviewing their plans in response to new national COVID lockdowns, with reductions to already low levels of flying almost certain. Restrictions on travel due to the pandemic, and particularly a halt by some countries to passenger traffic from Britain due to an outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus, means that there are only a fraction of flights currently operating. But the new lockdown in England stops most people from travelling abroad, making more cuts likely, and putting airline finances under renewed pressure as carriers had hoped for a recovery in travel by the spring. Goodbody analysts said the lockdown would wipe out income from the school half-term holiday in February, usually a strong travel period, and risked impacting bookings for Easter and summer.
China steps up COVID measures near Beijing as local infections rise
-Chinese authorities shut sections of highways running through Hebei province that surrounds Beijing on Wednesday and closed a key long distance bus terminal in the provincial capital Shijiazhuang in efforts to stave off another coronavirus wave. The province, which entered a “wartime mode” on Tuesday, accounted for 20 of the 23 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases reported in mainland China on Jan. 5, more than the total of 19 cases in the province in the three previous days. The total number of new mainland cases, including those originating from overseas, fell to 32 from 33 a day earlier. Hebei also accounted for 43 of the 64 new asymptomatic cases - patients who have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but not yet showing symptoms of COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccine: FDA pushes back against delaying second dose as US officials, health experts weigh in on debate
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration weighed in on a debate over when the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine should be administered. The FDA said in a statement there is no adequate scientific evidence that supports changing the authorized COVID-19 vaccine schedule or dosing. "Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from COVID-19," the FDA said
No sign S.Africa's COVID-19 variant more contagious than UK version -WHO
There is no indication that the coronavirus variant identified in South Africa is more transmissible than the one spreading fast in Britain, the World Health Organization's technical chief on COVID-19,
WHO recommends two doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine within 21-28 days
People should get two doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine within 21-28 days, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, as many countries struggled to administer the jabs that can ward off the COVID-19 virus. Many are experiencing intensifying pressure on their health services due to surging coronavirus cases and the emergence of new variants that appear to spread more easily. Governments are introducing new lockdown measures to halt the spread while facing massive demand for vaccines which are seen as the best way out of the global health crisis. But with jabs in limited supply as production ramps up, the WHO has been examining how they can be used most effectively.
Relief for cancer patients as study shows those with solid tumours have the same level of immune response to Covid-19 as healthy people
Charity Cancer research UK studied blood samples of 76 cancer patients Forty-one of these patients tested positive for Covid-19 and 35 were uninfected Reveals people with solid tumours respond in same way as non-cancer patients But also found people with blood cancer have a milder immune response
Decades of basic research paved the way for today’s ‘warp speed’ Covid-19 vaccines
The emergency use authorizations of mRNA vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna and the likely gradual rollout of multiple others is our collective best hope for curtailing the Covid-19 pandemic. The speed at which these vaccines has been developed is remarkable, both in absolute terms and compared to the multiyear time frame it normally takes to create and approve new vaccines. Great credit is due to the pharmaceutical industry and the university and government scientists who have worked directly and diligently on Covid-19 vaccine programs in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere. They deserve accolades for their skillful hard work. But the Covid-19 vaccines did not come from nowhere. Decades of research by tens of thousands of scientists worldwide put in place the essential knowledge and methods that underpinned their rapid development.
Study: US COVID cases, deaths far higher than reported
An estimated 14.3% of the US population had antibodies against COVID-19 by mid-November 2020, suggesting that that the virus has infected vastly more people than reported—but still not enough to come close to the proportion needed for herd immunity, according to a study published today in JAMA Network Open. In the cross-sectional study, researchers from study sponsors Pfizer and Merck analyzed data from random community seroprevalence surveys and five such regional and national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveys to estimate infection underreporting multipliers. Seroprevalence surveys reveal the proportion of a population that has antibodies against a certain disease, such as COVID-19.
Not so fast: FDA warns of 'premature' changes to COVID-19 vaccine dosing in clash with Slaoui
Amid concerns over limited COVID-19 vaccine supplies, some have proposed tweaking the shots’ dosing to immunize more people. One suggestion came from none other than U.S. vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D. But the FDA’s stepping forward to dismiss the idea—at least for now. Any changes to currently authorized vaccine dosing regimens pose a “significant risk of placing public health at risk” and undermine “the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from COVID-19,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D., and Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., head of the agency’s biologics department, said in a statement Monday. The comment came on the heels of Operation Warp Speed chief Slaoui saying the vaccine task force is working with the FDA and Moderna to potentially reduce the company’s mRNA-1273 dose in half to stretch the supply.
Moderna dials up low-end COVID-19 vaccine supply estimate, setting sights on 1B doses in 2021
Moderna Therapeutics is angling to surpass the hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses it’s already pledged to governments worldwide. And, on Monday, the drugmaker signaled that it's inching toward that goal, dialing up its low-end manufacturing predictions for the year. Moderna has raised its base-case global production estimate from 500 million doses to 600 million doses this year. The supply bump comes as the company continues to invest and staff up, with a view to potentially hit 1 billion doses in 2021, Moderna said. The company will need those extra doses, too: It recently received expanded vaccine orders from the likes of Canada, the U.S. and the EU. The FDA in December cleared the shot for emergency use in Americans 18 years and older, with Health Canada following suit a week later.
UK scientists question COVID-19 vaccine dosing delay
Five UK medical scientists have criticised a British government plan to delay giving second doses of COVID-19 vaccines by up to 12 weeks, saying proven dosing schedules should not be altered “without solid scientific support or evidence”. In an opinion piece published online in the BMJ British Medical Journal, the scientists said the plan was based on “assumptions” rather than scientific evidence or trial data. They also questioned the rationale behind prolonging the time between first and second doses. The scientists from the universities of Nottingham, Manchester and De Montfort wrote that suggestions by officials on the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunization (JCVI) that the delay strategy was due to shortages of COVID-19 shots in the UK were “disputed by vaccine manufacturers”.
Explainer-How safe is it to switch and space COVID-19 vaccine doses?
Britain and other nations are considering ways to stretch scarce supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, including by delaying second doses, reducing dose sizes and switching vaccine types between the first and second shots.
The Nigerian scientist sequencing new COVID strain as cases rise
A Nigerian scientist has spent the holiday season in his laboratory doing genetic sequencing to learn more about the country’s COVID-19 variant, as cases increase in the country. Virologist Sunday Omilabu says the information he gathers about the variant will help battle the spread of the disease in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 196 million people. Nigeria has confirmed 89,163 COVID-19 cases, including 1,302 deaths, according to the figures released on Sunday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The variants discovered in the UK and South Africa, they are distantly different from the variants discovered in Nigeria,” said Omilabu, who said it is not unusual for viruses to mutate and cause variants. Nigeria is seeing more infections of COVID-19 but it is not yet certain if that is from the variant, said Omilabu, the director of the Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology at the Lagos University College of Medicine and Teaching Hospital.