Coronavirus News Briefing – Oct. 11: Merck’s Antiviral, Utah Hospitals Overwhelmed by Cases

By Anna Breuer on 11 October 2021
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Havana, the capital of Cuba

Merck said that it had applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for what would be the first antiviral pill to treat the coronavirus.  Effectively a Tamiflu for Covid, the drug, molnupiravir, would represent a true breakthrough in the treatment of the virus as a convenient to dispense and relatively inexpensive treatment.

The Free Cuban Medical Guild reports that 76 Cuban health­care workers have died of the coronavirus even after receiving one of the island nation’s three-dose vaccines.  Most of the workers were physicians, the report said.

Meanwhile, in Utah, many hospital ICUs are overwhelmed thanks to a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the Delta variant. “We are seeing hospitalization numbers as high as, or higher than what we saw during the winter surge on any given day,” said the Utah Department of Health last week, which added that “Nearly all of the patients hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”

In Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, told Bloomberg Television on Monday that vaccination rates must rise before it would consider loosening travel restrictions. Lam did not say what percent of the population would have to be inoculated in order to open up the borders, however.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 238.5 million Covid-19 cases and almost 4.9 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, over 215.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 96,951, a -20% change.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,750, a change of -14% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has as of Saturday recorded 45.2 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 733,058. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, over 33.9 million, and a death toll of 450,699, although experts believe that both numbers are in reality significantly higher.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Monday, 216.9 million people in the United States – or 65.3% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 56.4%, or 187.2 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 401.8 million. Breaking this down further, 78.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 202 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 67.8% of the same group – or 175 million people – is fully vaccinated.

More than 3.68 billion people across the globe  have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, a figure that roughly equates to 48% of the world’s population, a 0.4 percentage point increase in the past 24 hours. There remains, however, a stark gap between the percentage of individuals vaccinated in more advanced countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where at least 65% of the population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, where vaccination rates are in the single digits, if not lower.

Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizenry.

It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity.  Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.

Jonathan Spira contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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