"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 14th Oct 2021
WHO advisers recommend 3rd COVID vaccine dose for highest-risk groups
The group, called the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), said people in the immunocompromised groups should be offered an additional dose in the vaccine series, since they are less likely to respond adequately to vaccination with the standard series and are at high risk for severe disease. WHO leaders have previously urged countries to postpone broader use of booster doses to free up more vaccine for countries that had much less access to supplies. SAGE said its third-dose recommendation applies to all vaccines that the WHO has approved for emergency use. They include Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sinopharm, and Sinovac. For Sinopharm and Sinovac, two inactivated vaccines from China, SAGE said a third dose should be offered to people ages 60 and older as part of an extended primary series. It added that a third dose of a different vaccine could be considered, based on vaccine supply and access. However, SAGE urged countries to prioritize 2-dose coverage in that age group, then administer third doses, starting with the oldest age groups.
Do COVID vaccines prevent transmission of the virus?
But do vaccines actually limit the spread of the virus? A large study, not yet peer-reviewed, led by a team at Oxford University and looking specifically at the Delta variant has shown that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines do indeed reduce transmission of the disease. The study looked at almost 150,000 contacts who were traced from nearly 100,000 initial cases of COVID. The initial COVID-positive cases contained a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people and the aim was not only to see which groups were most likely to pass on the virus, but also which of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines were most effective in reducing transmission.
WHO chief urges COVID-19 vaccine sharing to make mass coverage 'reality'
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday urged countries and companies controlling the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to prioritize supply to the vaccine sharing program COVAX in order to meet vaccination targets. "We're working with leaders to support the prioritization and planning that's needed to make 40% coverage a reality with aggressive and ambitious action," he said at a media briefing.
The Covid report lays bare Test and Trace failings – Dido Harding’s mistakes won’t be forgotten
When the damning Parliamentary report into the Covid pandemic was published today, there was quiet pride within the NHS that its own performance was largely the subject of praise. Many of the best things about the state’s response to the virus, from the vaccine rollout to new treatments to agile management, were down to the health service. But there was also a sense of relief, as most of the heaviest criticism was directed at not just the government and scientific advisers but also at ‘NHS Test and Trace’ (which should really have been called ‘DHSC Test and Trace’, as Matt Hancock’s Department of Health and Social Care ran it, not the NHS). Some in the health service, who have long resented their brand being used and abused by Dido Harding’s controversial unit, pointedly remarked today that she had tried – and failed – this summer to become chief executive of the NHS itself. Or, as one insider put it: “We dodged a bullet there.”
Blackstone in London Sets Vaccine Rule to Work in Office
Blackstone, the giant private equity firm, will require employees who want to work in its London office to be vaccinated beginning next week, as the American company takes a more forceful approach to vaccinations than many other businesses in Britain. Across the United States, vaccine mandates, which require employees to be inoculated to remain in their jobs, are becoming increasingly common ahead of a rule by President Biden that will apply to companies with more than 100 employees. But in Britain, data protection and employment discrimination laws have prevented companies from mandating their own “no jab, no job” policies and have made it harder to physically separate unvaccinated workers. Instead, companies have been advised to encourage vaccinations rather than enforce them.
U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rates up thanks to mandates; cases and deaths down -officials
Vaccination rates against COVID-19 in the United States have risen by more than 20 percentage points after multiple institutions adopted vaccine requirements, while case numbers and deaths from the virus are down, Biden administration officials said on Wednesday. White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that 77% of eligible Americans had received at least one shot of a vaccine. Vaccination rates went up thanks to mandates put into place by private businesses, healthcare systems, social institutions and state and local governments, he said in a briefing.
South Korea launches panel to debate 'living with COVID-19'
South Korea established a panel on Wednesday to debate a strategy on how to "live with COVID-19" in the long-term, as the country seeks to phase out coronavirus restrictions and reopen the economy amid rising vaccination levels. Under the strategy, the government aims to relax coronavirus restrictions for citizens who can prove they have been fully vaccinated, while encouraging asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 patients aged below 70 to recover at home, the health ministry said last week. The government will also focus on the number of hospitalisations and deaths rather than new daily infections, and will consider not publishing the latter on a daily basis, Yonhap news agency has reported.
Neo-fascists exploit ‘no-vax’ rage, posing dilemma for Italy
An extreme-right party’s violent exploitation of anger over Italy’s coronavirus restrictions is forcing authorities to wrestle with the country’s fascist legacy and fueling fears there could be a replay of last week’s mobs trying to force their way to Parliament. Starting Friday, anyone entering workplaces in Italy must have received at least one vaccine dose, or recovered from COVID-19 recently or tested negative within two days, using the country’s Green Pass to prove their status. Italians already use the pass to enter restaurants, theaters, gyms and other indoor entertainment, or to take long-distance buses, trains or domestic flights. But 10,000 opponents of that government decree turned out in Rome’s vast Piazza del Popolo last Saturday in a protest that degenerated into alarming violence.
The Leadership Gap: Young workers most concerned remote work will impact career success
Young professionals and students have far greater concerns about the rise of remote work than their senior counterparts, according to a new report. The report suggests in the wake of the pandemic and Brexit, a remote-working ‘leadership gap’ could contribute to future skills shortages as junior and senior professionals have vastly different views on being out of the office. The number of senior professionals with no concerns about working remotely is almost double that of younger workers (23% vs 12%) and whilst 79% of all professionals were interested in remote working, the data skews in favour of senior professionals.
CNN's 'Tech for Good' showcases the technology that could shape the future of education
The pandemic has made online learning commonplace across the world, turning digital learning tools into a lifeline for many students. On this month's episode of 'Tech for Good', CNN anchor and correspondent Kristie Lu Stout meets the entrepreneurs demonstrating how technology can be used to support education, in spite of lockdowns and uncertainty.
The triple jeopardy of deprivation for online learning
Deprivation was a barrier to children getting an education during school closures. That’s not news. We all know of schools that had to print and post worksheets in the early days of the pandemic, and of pupils who struggled to join online lessons because they were sharing one computer with two other siblings. But what is new is some emerging evidence that graphically illustrates the scale of the problem. Pupils in areas of high deprivation faced three particular barriers: unequal access to devices, unequal quality of devices, cost of streaming.
New US data show jump in college students' learning online
An analysis of newly available federal data shows that a far larger proportion of college students take at least one fully online course than was previously understood. The analysis, first conducted by the ed-tech consultant and blogger Phil Hill, shows that based on 12-month reporting -- which the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System only recently began collecting for distance learning -- 51.8 percent of students took at least one online course in 2019-20. This number is much higher than the 37 percent reflected in the fall 2019 enrollment data that has been cited in the past, and on which most estimates of the prevalence of online learning have historically been based.
Biden's vaccine mandate for companies nears as proposed rule sent to White House
The U.S. Labor Department on Tuesday submitted to the White House the initial text of President Joe Biden's plan to require private-sector workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested regularly. The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration submitted the proposed rule for review. Some details could change, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. The move indicates the proposed standard could be released soon. The mandate will apply to businesses with 100 or more employees and will be implemented under a federal rule-making mechanism known as an emergency temporary standard. It would affect roughly 80 million workers nationwide.
Florida fines key county $3.5 million for mandating vaccines
Florida has issued its first fine to a county it says violated a new state law banning coronavirus vaccine mandates and for firing 14 workers who failed to get the shots. The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday issued the $3.5 million fine for Leon County, home to the state capital, saying the municipality violated Florida’s “vaccine passport” law, which prohibits businesses and governments from requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. “These are people that, presumably, have been serving throughout this whole time and now all of a sudden they’re basically getting kicked to the curb,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in St. Pete Beach.
BRIEF—Russia recommends RA drug olokizumab for COVID-19 of any severity
The Russian Ministry of Health has issued the 12th version of the Temporary guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. This time the expert analysis resulted in a significant expansion of olokizumab usage in clinical practice. Olokizumab is the first in Russia novel genetically engineered biological drug developed by R-Pharm, one of the country’s leading biotechs. In the new document, olokizumab is additionally included in treatment regimens for mild and critical COVID-19 patients in hospital setting.
Panama approves Pfizer COVID-19 booster for high-risk people
Panama has approved a booster dose of Pfizer Inc's (PFE.N) COVID-19 vaccine for high-risk people, including healthcare workers, bedridden patients, nursing home residents and people over 55, health officials said on Tuesday. The Central American country has reported 469,440 COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic and 7,275 deaths. More than 5.5 million vaccine doses have been administered since January, covering most of the eligible population. "We have decided to begin the process of applying a booster shot to the population with the Pfizer vaccine, starting tomorrow in public and private hospitals," Health Minister Luis Sucre said.
Russia, EU to discuss terms for recognising COVID-19 vaccine certificates -Ifax
Russia and the EU will discuss terms for the mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccine certificates for their respective shots at talks, the Interfax news agency cited Russia's health ministry as saying on Wednesday. The EU's ambassador to Moscow last week said Russia has repeatedly delayed inspections by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) necessary for the certification of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in the European Union
COVID-19: Minister apologises for 'hurt and distress' suffered by bereaved families in wake of damning report on pandemic handling
A minister has apologised for the "hurt and distress" suffered by families who have lost loved ones to coronavirus, the day after a colleague refused 11 times to say sorry for the government's handling of the pandemic. "The prime minister apologised earlier this year for all the hurt and distress all those families have suffered and I share that and of course I offer that as well," Conservative Party chair Oliver Dowden told Kay Burley.
US to reopen land borders in November for fully vaccinated
Beleaguered business owners and families separated by COVID-19 restrictions rejoiced Wednesday after the U.S. said it will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze. Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to workers whose jobs are deemed essential. New rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set for air travel. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the U.S., such as truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated. Shopping malls and big box retailers in U.S. border towns whose parking spaces had been filled by cars with Mexican license plates were hit hard by travel restrictions.
Australia's CSL reaffirms commitment to making AstraZeneca COVID vaccine
Australian biotech CSL said on Thursday it was committed to its agreement for the production of about 50 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine into 2022. The announcement came after a media report said the British drugmaker's vaccine, Vaxzevria, will no longer be manufactured in Australia due to demand for vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer and Moderna have established a market dominance by using mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine technology to fight the pandemic.
English school return spurred COVID in children, but cases fell in adults - study
COVID-19 infections in children in England rose in September after schools returned from summer holidays, helping to keep cases high even as there was a fall among adults, a large prevalence study showed on Thursday. The REACT-1 study, led by Imperial College London, is the latest to find that more children are getting infected with COVID-19 following the reopening of schools at the start of September. Infection numbers in Britain are currently much higher than in other western European countries, with more than 30,000 new cases reported every day this month, but have not risen above summer levels following the return of schools in England despite the higher infection rates in children.
Ivermectin Demand Sends Sales Soaring for Foreign Generic Drugmakers
Before the pandemic, Taj Pharmaceuticals Ltd. shipped negligible amounts of ivermectin to Russia for veterinary use. But over the past year it’s become a popular product for the Indian generic drug maker: Since July 2020, Taj Pharma has sold $5 million worth of the pills for human use in India and overseas. That’s a bonanza for a small family-owned company with an annual revenue of about $66 million.
'It's not Satanism': Zimbabwe church leaders preach vaccines
Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in Zimbabwe when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine. Many followers put faith in prayer, holy water and anointed stones to ward off disease or cure illnesses. While mandates — a blunt no vaccine, no entrance rule — is the way to go for some, there’s a subtler approach for the Apostolic and other anti-vaccine Pentecostal groups, partly, but not only, because they are deeply suspicious of vaccines.
Back from the brink: how Japan became a surprise Covid success story
Just days after the Tokyo Olympics drew to a close, Japan appeared to be hurtling towards a coronavirus disaster. On 13 August, the host city reported a record 5,773 new Covid-19 cases, driven by the Delta variant. Nationwide the total exceeded 25,000. Soaring infections added to resentment felt by a public that had opposed the Olympics, only to be told they could not watch events in person due to the pandemic. Hospitals were under unprecedented strain, the shortage of beds forcing thousands who had tested positive to recuperate – and in some cases die – at home. The then prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who had ignored his own chief health adviser in pushing ahead with the Games, was forced to step down amid stubbornly low approval ratings. A state of emergency in the capital and other regions that had been in place for almost six months looked likely to be extended yet again.
J. & J. Recipients May Be Helped More by Other Brands’ Booster, Study Says
People who received a Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine may be better off with a booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, according to preliminary data from a federal clinical trial published on Wednesday. That finding, along with a mixed review of Johnson & Johnson’s booster data from the Food and Drug Administration released earlier in the day, could lead to a heated debate about whether and how to offer additional shots to the 15 million Americans who have received the single-dose vaccine. The agency’s panel of vaccine advisers will meet on Friday and vote on whether to recommend that the agency authorize the company’s application for boosters for recipients of its vaccine.
Covid-19 Vaccine Effects on Death Rates Differ by Country, Why?
It’s one of the great puzzles of the pandemic. Most developed economies are now highly vaccinated with some of the most effective shots on offer, so why are the latest Covid-19 outbreaks more deadly in some places than in others? While it’s clear vaccines led to a drop in fatalities during the most recent delta variant-driven waves compared with earlier bouts with the virus, some countries saw deaths fall to a greater degree than others, an outcome scientists still don’t have answers for. Countries like Germany, Denmark and the U.K. have seen Covid deaths fall to roughly a tenth of previous peaks, according to Bloomberg calculations using data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In Israel, Greece and the U.S., fatalities fell but remained more than half of the previous peaks.
FDA scientists neutral on Moderna Covid-19 vaccine booster ahead of key meeting
Food and Drug Administration scientists did not take a clear position as to whether the agency should authorize booster doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in documents released Tuesday. Posted ahead of a two-day meeting convened by the FDA on booster shots of both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the documents laid out the case for authorizing Moderna’s proposed booster — a half dose of the existing vaccine — but also noted that data so far make it unclear that the third dose is needed. “Some real world effectiveness studies have suggested declining efficacy of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine over time against symptomatic infection or against the Delta variant, while others have not,” FDA scientists wrote in a briefing document. However, they wrote, current data suggest that Covid vaccines that are available in the U.S. still protect against severe Covid-19 disease and death.