Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Nov. 4: Kidney Transplant Patient Cured of Covid After 411 Days, Pfizer-BioNTech Bivalent More Effective

China to Approve BioNTech Vaccine for Foreigners

By Jonathan Spira on 4 November 2022
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A panda at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 939th day of the pandemic.

One Covid patient is particularly happy today to have finally tested negative.

A man in Britain who was infected with the virus for 411 days was cured after receiving a Regeneron cocktail of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies that is known to be effective against early coronavirus variants, said the patient’s doctors in London.  An analysis of the genetics of his Covid strain had shown he was suffering from a variant of the original virus found in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

“Some new variants of the virus are resistant to all the antibody treatments available in the U.K. and Europe,” said Dr. Luke Blagdon Snell, an infectious disease researcher at King’s College London and one of the patient’s doctors.

“Some people with weakened immune systems are still at risk of severe illness and becoming persistently infected. We are still working to understand the best way to protect and treat them,” Snell added.

The patient, who is 59 years old, first tested positive following a kidney transplant that took place in December 2020. The drugs he needed to prevent his body from rejecting the new kidney weakened his immune system and he couldn’t quite shake off the virus.

He tested positive intermittently until January 2022, despite receiving three vaccination shots, although information about the case was first released this week.

The man’s case is one of the longest-known COVID cases in the world, after another patient who was infected for 505 days, according to his doctors.

In other news we cover today, China is set to approve the BioNTech vaccine but only for foreigners, and new clinical data shows the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent shot to be more effective than the original booster.

UNITED STATES

Updated data from a Phase 2-3 clinical trial shows a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent coronavirus vaccine performs better against two circulating versions of the omicron variant, BA.4 and BA.5, compared with a booster shot of their original vaccine, the two companies said in a jointly-issued news release.

“As we head into the holiday season, we hope these updated data will encourage people to seek out a Covid-19 bivalent booster as soon as they are eligible in order to maintain high levels of protection against the widely circulating Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in a statement Friday. “These updated data also provide confidence in the adaptability of our mRNA platform and our ability to rapidly update the vaccine to match the most prevalent strains each season.”

GLOBAL

Chinese officials have agreed to approve BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccines in the country, albeit only for foreigners, German Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz said.  The German leader also said he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping discussed a potential pathway for gaining approval for the vaccines for the broader population in China.

Meanwhile, cases in China surged to a six-month high as tensions in affected cities continue to build.  Health officials there reported 3,411 new daily cases, news that requires officials there to walk a fine line between the so-called “zero-Covid” policy and social and economic angst.

Officials in Hong Kong have relaxed pandemic-induced restrictions and are allowing restaurants, bars and pubs to remain open with immediate effect past 2 a.m.,

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, November 4.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 636.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.3 million cases, and 6.6 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 616.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.5 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Fridayat press time is 14,033,521, an increase of 25,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 13,997,329, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 36,192, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 78,006 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 76,034 on Thursday, 29,310 on Wednesday, 45,128 on Tuesday, and 2,737 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 38,534.  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 40,101, an increase of 6%, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 339, a decrease of 6% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 27,252, an increase of 2%.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 99.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of jut under 1.1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,479.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 36.9 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 35.8 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 688,316, has recorded 34.9 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with over 25.7 million cases, the United Kingdom, with 23.9 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 23.5 million, as number eight, as well as Japan, with 22.5 million, and Russia, with over 21.4 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 266.4 million people in the United States – or 80.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 68.4%, or 226.9 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 636.9 million. Breaking this down further, 91.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 235.5 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.3% of the same group – or 202.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 9.9% of the U.S. population of the same population, or 25.5 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent 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 Thursday by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 68.2% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Friday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.92 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 2.84 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 23.4% 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 at or below 10%.

In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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