Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Dec. 16: Boosters Provide Sufficient Protection Against Omicron, Says Fauci

France Restricts Travel to U.K., Canada Bans Non-Essential Travel

By Jonathan Spira on 16 December 2021
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Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence

Existing booster shots for coronavirus vaccines in the United States provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease specialist, although he added that there was still a lot scientists need to learn about the mutation.

“What we do know is that when you give a person like a third shot boost with an mRNA, you substantially increase and reconstitute their level of protection,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s podcast.  “So, if ever there was a reason to re-emphasize and stress the importance of getting a booster shot, this is that reason.”

The World Health Organization on Thursday said that the omicron variant is spreading faster than any previously detected strain of the coronavirus.

The French government banned non-essential travel to and from the United Kingdom and tightened testing requirements for travelers.  All travelers – regardless of vaccination status – will have to present a negative coronavirus test taken within 24 hours of departure. Previously, the time period was 48 hours.

In the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II cancelled a pre-Christmas family luncheon as a precaution due to the surge of coronavirus cases in the country.

Canadians were told to avoid non-essential international travel on Wednesday. The government issued a travel advisory to its citizens as the omicron variant continued to spread across the globe.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City said it would require proof of a vaccine booster shot for all opera goers starting January 17.  The mandate will extend to performers, musicians, chorus members, and house staff.

In New York, several additional Broadway shows including the megahit “Hamilton; “Tina,” a jukebox musical about the life of Tina Turner; and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” all cancelled performances on Wednesday after members of cast and/or stage crew tested positive for the coronavirus.  This followed multiple cancellations starting over the weekend for “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Freestyle Love Supreme.”

Meanwhile, multiple major universities including Cornell, Middlebury, New York University, and Princeton said they would move finals online, close all campus facilities, and cancel any gatherings.  Officials at Tulane said they would give students the option of finishing the remainder of the semester online.

Finally, Apple said it had closed three retail stores due to a rise in Covid-19 cases. The stores are located in Annapolis, Miami, and Ottawa.  The company said that there had been a rise in employee coronavirus cases and exposures.

As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 272.7 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.8 million new cases, and 5.3 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 245 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 121,188, a 40% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,302, an increase of 34% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded 51.3 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 823,390. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 34.7 million, and a reported death toll of 476,135.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 617,121, and has almost 22.2 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 239.9 million people in the United States – or 72.3% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 61.1%, or 202.8 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 488.3 million. Breaking this down further, 84.6% of the population over the age of 18 – or 218.5 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 72.2% of the same group – or 186.6 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 30% of that population, or 55.9 million people, has already received a booster shot.

Some 56.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, an increase of .1percentage points from the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 8.59 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 7.5% 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.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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