Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Aug. 15: U.K. Approves Booster Targeting Omicron, Pfizer CEO Tests Positive

100-Year-Old Tuberculosis Vaccine May Protect Against the Coronavirus

By Jonathan Spira on 15 August 2022
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Hillcrest High School in N.Y.C>

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 858th day of the pandemic.

On Monday, the United Kingdom, which was the first country to administer a coronavirus vaccine back in 2020 approved an updated Moderna vaccine that targets two coronavirus variant, namely the Omicron strain and the original virus.

“An updated version of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Moderna that targets two coronavirus variants (known as a “bivalent” vaccine) has today been approved for adult booster doses by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after it was found to meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness,” the government said in an official statement on Monday.

Half of the booster, dubbed “Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron,” will target the original virus strain, while the other half will take aim at the highly contagious omicron variant.

In other news we cover today, a hundred-year-old vaccine may offer protection against Covid, New York City is launching a formal investigation into whether 82 teachers used fake vaccine cards, and Shanghai is using drones to make sure residents comply with Covid restrictions.

Here’s a look at what has taken place over the past 24 hours.

UNITED STATES

The CEO of drugmaker Pfizer, Albert Bourla, said Monday that he had tested positive for Covid-19. Bourla reported in a tweet that he has “very mild symptoms.”  He also said he was isolating and had started a course of the Pfizer antiviral Paxlovid,

A 100-year-old vaccine used for tuberculosis may offer some protection from the coronavirus, researchers said.  A small study from scientists at Massachusetts general Hospital, published in the journal Cell Report Medicine, reported that the BCG, or bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccine was 92% effective versus a placebo in protecting against Covid infections.

In New York City, the Department of Education said it would place back on payroll 82 teachers who were suspended for reportedly falsifying coronavirus vaccine cards while it launches a formal investigation.  “Upon your return, the DOE will conduct an internal investigation related to whether the proof you uploaded is fraudulent,” an internal memo says. The teachers, however, will be isolated from others and not allowed into the classroom.

GLOBAL

Japan’s travel sector is calling for an end to what it terms “hugely damaging” coronavirus entry curbs after the country’s economy reported better than anticipated results in the second quarter, The government has kept tight restrictions on visits from foreign tourists in place despite the relaxation of other curbs.

Shoppers in an Ikea store in Shanghai rushed to flee the premises after local authorities ordered a lockdown at the store.  The lockdown came after a close contact of an individual who tested positive for Covid was traced to the store’s location. On Sunday, the deputy director of the Shanghai Health Commission, Zhao Dandan, said that the “Store and affected area” would be placed under “closed loop” management for two days.  People who were found in the loop would be required to undergo two days of quarantine followed by five days of health surveillance.

Meanwhile, one district in Shanghai is taking a high-tech approach to determining whether residents comply with Covid-19 policies.  Shanghai’s Yanngpu district is using drones to detect when and whether residents remain in compliance or violate policies. The move is causing anger over the potential for abuse of such technologies in the online world.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, August 15.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 595.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.5 million cases, and over 6.45 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 568.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.9 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Monday is 20,118,561, a decrease of 349,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,072,929, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 45,632, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the pat 24 hours.

The United States reported 10,704 new coronavirus infections on Monday for the previous day, compared to 6,854 on Sunday, 121,768 on Saturday, 137,589 on Friday, and 175,162 on Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to be over 100,000 and is now 103,738.  Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 102,902, a 17% decrease, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 488, an increase of 12% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 42,583, a 3% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Monday, recorded 94.7 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 1.06 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, close to 44.3 million, and a reported death toll of 527,069.

New data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed at the end of May that the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 812,890, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, after the United States.  Rosstat reported that 11,583 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in April, down from 35,584 in March and from 43,543 in February.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, 34.23 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 681,550, and has recorded 34.17 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.

Germany is in the number five slot with 31.5 million cases.

The other three countries with total case figures over the 20,000 mark are the United Kingdom, with over 23.4 million cases, in sixth position, Italy, with 21.5 million, in the number seven slot, and South Korea, with 21.4 million cases, as number eight.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Monday, over 261.9 million people in the United States – or 78.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.3%, or 223.5 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 606.2 million. Breaking this down further, 90% of the population over the age of 18 – or 232.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.2% of the same group – or 199.3 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.4% of that population, or 102.5 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Mondays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 67.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Monday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.45 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 5.98 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 20.7% 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 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

In addition, North Korea and Eritrea are now the only two countries in the world that have not administered vaccines.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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