Coronavirus News Update – Dec. 8: Booster Effective Against Omicron, Says Pfizer

By Anna Breuer on 8 December 2021
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The pandemic is increasing people’s blood pressure, a study found.

Initial laboratory tests suggest that a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will offer significance protection against the omicron variant, the two companies said Wednesday.  Lab tests also showed that the omicron variant does not appear to significantly affect the body’s T cells, a type of white blood cell that helps protect the body from infection, which means that individuals who have received two doses of the vaccine “may still be protected against severe forms of illness,” the drugmakers said.

Emerging scientific evidence appears to show that the omicron variant has increased transmissibility but it does not cause more severe disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Biden, said during a virtual White House briefing on Tuesday.  “It appears that with the cases that are seen, we are not seeing a very severe profile of disease,” he said.

Health officials in Germany reported that the country had recorded its highest number of daily deaths from Covid since February of this year on Wednesday. The Robert Koch Institut reported 527 deaths over the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative total to 69,601.  The news came on the day that Olaf Scholz was sworn in as the country’s new Bundeskanzler.  Karl Lauterbach, a prominent epidemiologist, will replace Jens Spahn as Gesundheitsminister.

Finally, if you think the coronavirus pandemic is causing your blood pressure to creep up, you are correct. A study published in the scientific journal Circulation held that the pandemic has caused average blood pressure readings to rise.  The study, conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Quest Diagnostics, looked at the blood pressure measurements of nearly a half-million adults, noting that there had been little or no increase in the first three months of 2020 compared to the prior year but that readings increased significantly from April 2020 through December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 267.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.7 million new cases, and almost 5.3 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 241 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.5 million.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 120,071, a 27% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,298, an increase of 13% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 50.3 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 812,205. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 34.7 million, and a reported death toll of 473,952.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 616,067, and has almost 22.2 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Wednesday, 236.4 million people in the United States – or 71.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 60.1%, or 199.7 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 472.2 million. Breaking this down further, 83.5% of the population over the age of 18 – or 215.8 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 71.6% of the same group – or 184.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.

Some 55.3% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, a figure that is unchanged since the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 8.28 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 6.3% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 65% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain 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 citizens.

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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