The World Health Organization is planning to deliver 600 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Africa by the end of the year, a senior official said during a WHO news conference on Thursday.
The delivery will be arranged via the COVAX scheme, and the initial 30 million doses are expected to arrive by March, WHO’s Africa director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said.
By the end of the year, the scheme is expected to cover about 20% of the population in African countries, based on two doses per person, she said.
“Health workers and vulnerable people in Africa need urgent access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” she said. “It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe.”
Moeti added that healthcare workers and other high priority groups will be prioritized in the vaccination drive.
Vaccinating the over 60s is the most effective way to cut deaths from coronavirus, researchers reported Thursday.
A mathematical model looking at various vaccination strategies shows that vaccinating younger adults does more to stop the overall spread of the virus, but immunizing the older groups saves more lives.
“We found that across countries those aged 60 and older should be prioritized to minimize deaths,” the team at the University of Colorado Boulder and the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in their report published in the journal Science.
The models they ran did not include the benefits of vaccinating people with chronic health conditions, who also have a high risk of severe disease and death compared to young healthy people. They also did not consider the current plan of vaccinating frontline health care workers and essential workers first. And they did not include vaccinating children in their modeling.
“The role of children during this pandemic has been unclear. Under our assumptions about susceptibility by age, children are not the major drivers of transmission in communities, consistent with emerging evidence,” they wrote. “Thus, our results differ from the optimal distribution for influenza vaccines, which prioritize school-age children and adults age 30-39.”
The federal government has already asked states to shift to vaccinating people over 65.
Shanghai’s Huangpu district reported six new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, according to the local health commission, the first infections in the city since November last year.
The first patient tested positive after a regular Covid-19 test for staff at the Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center.
The second case lives in the same residential compound as the first patient and tested positive during a regular test of medical personnel at the city’s Renji Hospital.
Both medical facilities suspended outpatient services, according to notices on their respective social media accounts. Authorities also declared the residential compound where these confirmed cases lived as being a “medium-risk area” on Thursday.
According to a statement from the Shanghai Health Commission, as of 10 p.m. Thursday, 72 close contacts had been tracked down and tested negative. Some 15,073 relevant personnel have received nucleic acid tests and got negative results.
All close contacts identified have been put under medical observation, and relevant locations where confirmed cases were known to have visited have been notified and disinfected, according to the local health commission.
Johnson & Johnson board member Dr. Mark McClellan said on Thursday the company plans to have “enough vaccines for 100 million Americans by spring.”
“I do know that J&J is making a very large supply, going all out with its production both here in the US and elsewhere around the world, with the goal of having perhaps enough vaccines for 100 million Americans by spring, by this April or so,” McClellan told CNBC.
“So that’s going to make a big difference in supply availability over the coming weeks and months, if the clinical trial does work out,”
McClellan also said that the vaccine’s clinical trial is “going on at very large scale right now” to make sure it’s safe and effective.
Close to seeking EUA: Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that Johnson & Johnson is “right around the corner” from seeking emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine from the FDA.
“Johnson & Johnson is right around the corner … (which) means that they’re probably a couple of weeks away from getting the data looked at, to have the FDA evaluate whether or not we’re in a situation where we could move ahead and start thinking about getting it out into the public,” Fauci told Bioreports’s Chris Cuomo.
Fauci also stated that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has some advantages, as it’s a single shot, and it doesn’t have as stringent of a cold chain requirement.
However, when asked if AstraZeneca is close to requesting an EUA for its vaccine as well, Fauci said they’re behind.
“AstraZeneca is not quite there yet, you know that’s one that’s being tested in multiple countries but it’s a bit behind, but not too far behind,” Fauci said.
Some people this week waited in line for up to five hours at Dodger Stadium — the largest vaccination site in the United States — amid low supply of the Covid-19 vaccine in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
Most of these individuals were over 65 years old.
“Some of the brave folks who came forward I know waited for up to five hours,” Garcetti said. “I worked that line apologizing to people,” he added.
The mass drive-through vaccination site stayed open until 11 p.m. PT Wednesday, three hours past the scheduled closing time, to assure everyone in line was immunized, Garcetti said. Officials have since increased staffing and deployed additional resources to reduce wait times. The average wait time Thursday was 30-40 minutes, Garcetti said.
“There may be a wait … so use the restroom beforehand, bring water and snacks, and make sure your gas tank is filled up or your car is charged,” Garcetti said.
While there are nearly 1.4 million people over the age of 65 in LA, only about 850,000 first doses have been delivered due to strained supply, Garcetti said. If production of the vaccine does not ramp up, officials say it will take until June 2021 for all healthcare workers and seniors over 65 in LA to get vaccinated with their second dose.
“We’re working day and night to expedite this process to deliver more of these vaccine to more Angelenos,” Garcetti said.
To date, five LA city sites have vaccinated more than 80,000 people. This week, Los Angeles County vaccination centers have immunized 46,635 people, a 90% increase since last week.
Surge in cases: LA County added 8,512 new coronavirus cases and 262 additional deaths on Thursday. According to Garcetti, the last time the county reported under 10,000 cases for two consecutive days was in the first week of December.
The seven-day average of new cases has decreased by 30%, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Hospitalizations have also decreased this week, down 7% since last Thursday.
To date, the county has reported a total of 1,046,021 Covid-19 cases and 14,641 deaths.
People can schedule their second doses of Covid-19 vaccine up to six weeks after their first doses if they are otherwise unable to get one in the recommended timeframe, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in guidance updated Thursday.
The recommended time between doses is three weeks for Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, and four weeks for Moderna’s vaccine.
“The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible,” the latest guidance says.
“However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. There are currently limited data on efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.”
The updated CDC guidance appears to clarify earlier language that said “there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine.”
Delaying the second dose up to six weeks is in line with what WHO advisers said earlier this month.
CDC says its guidance may be updated as new information and new types of Covid-19 vaccines become available.
Fauci’s response: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said people would be “taking a chance” if they follow the CDC’s updated guidance.
“You’re taking a chance, the data from the clinical trials, showed that in the Moderna trial, you should get the boost 28 days after the prime, that’s what I got, I got it exactly 28 days later, when you’re dealing with Pfizer it’s 21, that’s where the data show is the optimal effect,” Fauci told Bioreports Chris Cuomo on Thursday.
Fauci said it’s possible that delaying the second dose is “not going to be a big deal.” However, he said, we don’t know for sure because the vaccine data hasn’t been looked at for this extended time-period between doses.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said his government is “determined” to “realize a safe and secure Olympics” during a news conference Friday.
“We are determined to work closely together with the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, and the IOC to realize a safe and secure Olympics,” Suga said.
Earlier on Friday, The Times of London, citing an unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition, reported that the government “privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus,” Bioreports has not independently verified the report.
Suga added: “Regarding the Tokyo Games, it will be a symbol of humanity overcoming the novel coronavirus, and a chance to showcase Japan’s reconstruction from the devastating Northeastern earthquake and tsunami to the world. We will be well prepared on the measures for the infection.”
The Japanese government is determined that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead, organizers said Friday, following an unconfirmed report that a cancellation of the Games might be imminent.
On Friday, the Times of London, citing an unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition, reported that Japanese authorities had privately concluded that the Olympics could not proceed due to the ongoing pandemic. Bioreports has not independently verified this report, which officials in Tokyo were quick to refute.
In a statement, the Tokyo 2020 organizers said that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had expressed to them his determination to hold the Games, and that meetings were ongoing to ensure that they could go ahead while implementing thorough infection countermeasures and other precautions due to the pandemic.
“All our delivery partners including the national government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the IOC and the IPC are fully focused on hosting the Games this summer,” the statement said. “We hope that daily life can return to normal as soon as possible, and we will continue to make every effort to prepare for a safe and secure Games.”
Suga has yet not publicly spoken about the issue and his office declined to comment when approached by Bioreports on Friday morning.
The United States can look forward to getting back to some semblance of normality by fall if enough of the population gets vaccinated this summer, top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.
“If we get 70% to 85% of the country vaccinated, let’s say by the end of the summer, middle of the summer, I believe by the time we get to the fall we will be approaching a degree of normality,” Fauci said at a White House news briefing.
It was Fauci’s first appearance at a news briefing held by the new Biden administration, held on its first full day.
It won’t be perfectly normal by then, he said, but it will take the pressure off if three-quarters or more of the population gets vaccinated.
“The concern I have, something we’re working on, is getting people who have vaccine hesitancy who don’t want to get vaccinated because many people are skeptical about that,” Fauci added.