This file photo shows United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attending a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not in frame) following their talks in Moscow on May 12, 2021. (MAXIM SHEMETOV / POOL / AFP)
ATHENS / BRASILIA / NAIROBI / TRIPOLI / KHARTOUM / PARIS / LONDON / MILAN / WASHINGTON / BUENOS AIRES / MOSCOW / HELSINKI / UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed on Thursday for $8 billion to equitably vaccinate 40 percent of people in all countries by the end of the year as the World Health Organization launched a plan aiming to inoculate 70 percent of the world by mid-2022.
"Crucially, the success of this plan requires equitable distribution," Guterres told reporters.
"Without a coordinated, equitable approach, a reduction of cases in any one country will not be sustained over time. For everyone's sake, we must urgently bring all countries to a high level of vaccination coverage," he said.
Guterres pushed the Group of 20 rich countries to deliver on their "desire to get the world vaccinated" at a summit in Rome later this month.
Argentina has recently approved the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm for children aged between three and 11.
The country's health minister Carla Vizzotti made the announcement last week. There are approximately 6 million children in that age group.
Vizzotti also noted Argentina plans to finish vaccinating people aged over three years old by the end of this year.
This file photo dated April 6, 2020 shows an arrangement of hydroxychloroquine tablets in Las Vegas. (JOHN LOCHER / AP)
The Brazilian agency that regulates health insurance plans has opened an investigation into allegations that a hospital chain tested unproven drugs on elderly COVID-19 patients without their knowledge, the regulator's director told a Senate inquiry on Wednesday.
It was the first instance of a regulatory agency pledging to look into misdeeds at Prevent Senior, a major healthcare chain serving tens of thousands of patients in the Sao Paulo area.
Paulo Rebello Filho, head of the National Regulatory Agency for Private Health Insurance Plans (ANS), said his staff has detected "assistance abnormalities" at Prevent Senior and the health chain will be put under special technical supervision.
At least nine people died of COVID-19 during the trials at Prevent Senior from March to April 2020, but their charts were altered to hide the cause of death, the inquiry was told last week by a lawyer for 10 whistleblowing doctors.
The Senators were told the hospital chain sought to validate far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's policy of advocating the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.
Prevent Senior has said the accusations, including the altering of patient charts and the firing of doctors who opposed the practice, are unfounded.
Rebello said the ANS opened an administrative process to investigate irregularities at Prevent Senior and has sent officials to verify "indications of operational failures."
Closer monitoring is not aimed at removing the hospital chain from the market but seeks to guarantee maintenance of quality care, he said.
Denmark’s parliament begins hearings on Thursday on whether Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen knew she was issuing an illegal order last year when deciding to cull the country’s entire mink population to prevent COVID-19 mutations.
Frederiksen and several key ministers and government officials will be testifying in court in the coming months for the parliamentary probe, which seeks to establish if the minority government knowingly broke the law when it decided to cull 17 million mink in November.
The move damaged the reputation of the government that otherwise is perceived to have handled the crisis well.
The center-right opposition is hoping that the probe will eventually lead to an impeachment trial against Frederiksen, whose decision followed warnings from health authorities that COVID-19 mutations could spread among the mink and potentially undermine vaccination efforts. Most of the parties in parliament still think the decision at the time was right.
The probe will also seek to uncover how the government acted when it discovered it didn’t have the necessary laws in place to order culling of the entire stock. Mink farmers later received $3 billion in total compensation.
Frederiksen is scheduled to testify on Dec 9. Several other ministers are also due to appear on the witness stand, including Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen.
Finland will pause giving Moderna’s Spikevax shots to men under the age of 30 in its inoculation program due to the risk of heart inflammation.
Finland’s Institute for Health and Welfare now recommends Pfizer shots for younger men, Mika Salminen, who heads the department for health security, said at a press conference Thursday. If a person has had the first shot with Moderna then the second one can be Pfizer, he said.
Finland’s decision comes a day after Sweden and Denmark decided to halt vaccinations with Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 shot for younger people because of potential side effects.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health also recommended that men under 30 consider choosing the Pfizer jab, citing new data from Ontario, Canada, as well as from Norway, Sweden and other countries.
Finland’s authorities plan to disclose more information later on Thursday.
France's health authority (HAS) is recommending a third COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for health workers, it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 236.57 million while the global death toll topped 4.82 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
A man receives a dose of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, outside the church of the Virgin Mary, during a vaccination roll out, in the town of Archanes, on the island of Crete, Greece on Sept 6, 2021. (MICHAEL VARAKLAS / AP)
Greek government announced on Wednesday to end some preventive measures against COVID-19, including local lockdowns, night curfews or ban on music in entertainment venues in the country.
Officials also reiterated a call to citizens to get vaccinated to facilitate the full return to normalcy.
Fully vaccinated individuals are granted additional freedom, according to the authorities.
In indoor areas of recreation, such as bars and restaurants, where only fully vaccinated people are allowed access, from now on there will be music and customers will be allowed to stand.
Following two national lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, Greek authorities have gradually eased restrictions and in recent months implemented additional safety measures only on a regional level when the epidemiological data were alarming.
Greece reported 2,876 new cases and and 34 deaths within 24 hours, while 334 patients were intubated in intensive care units.
A medical worker vaccinates a patient with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Claudia Comte exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art "Castello di Rivoli", near Turin, Italy, on May 27, 2021. (MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)
Seven months after the second dose, there is no reduction in the efficacy of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in the general population in Italy, while a slight decline is seen for some specific groups, the National Health Institute (ISS) said on Wednesday.
The report led by ISS and the health ministry examined data up to Aug 29 from more than 29 million people who had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
It said that in the general population, effectiveness against infection after seven months remained at 89 percent, while against hospitalization and death, this time six months after the second dose, it remained at 96 percent and 99 percent respectively.
The findings on protection from infection differ from a study carried out by Pfizer and published on Oct 4 in the Lancet medical journal.
That showed the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in preventing infection dropped to 47 percent from 88 percent six months after the second dose.
The ISS study did not make reference to the study in the Lancet, which focused on electronic health records of 3.4 million members of a US healthcare provider, but did not include data on adherence to mask guidelines and occupation, which could have affected testing frequency and exposure.
The ISS report said that immunocompromised people saw their protection against infection drop from 28 days after the second dose, with the reduction varying widely according to which diseases cause the weakened immune system.
In people with co-morbidities but who are not necessarily immunodepressed, the study reported a reduction in protection from infection which declined from 75 percent 28 days after the second dose to 52 percent after about seven months.
Efficacy among people over the age of 80 and nursing home residents also decreased slightly but remained above 80 percent, the ISS said.
Comparing the period in which the Alpha variant was prevalent with that in which the Delta variant was, efficacy against infection fell from 84.8 percent to 67.1 percent, while protection against hospitalization declined much less, from 91.7 percent to 88.7 percent.
Kenya's Ministry of Health on Wednesday received a consignment of 252,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to help intensify vaccination drives across the country.
The vaccines have been directly procured by the government as Kenya is on the verge of reaching the four million COVID-19 vaccination mark.
A vaccination campaign against the coronavirus is underway for detained migrants, organized jointly by the Libyan center for disease control and the International Organization for Migration, in Tripoli, Libya on Oct 6, 2021. (YOUSEF MURAD / AP)
The anti-illegal immigration department of Libya on Wednesday started vaccination campaign for illegal migrants inside a reception center in the capital Tripoli.
"Today, we are carrying a vaccination campaign against the COVID-19 in cooperation with the National Center for Disease Control and the International Organization for Migration, targeting 823 migrants," Husni Abu-Ayana, spokesman of the reception center, told Xinhua.
"First doses will be administered today and tomorrow. There are also police officers targeted for vaccination," he added.
According to the center, the campaign will target a number of reception centers in Tripoli and other nearby cities, and will last for three weeks.
Lithuania’s government is attempting to motivate people over 75 to get vaccinated by paying them 100 euros if they get two vaccine doses before No. 30 or a booster shot before March 31.
The incentives come as the vaccination rate of the elderly remains lower than in any other adult age group.
This photo shows a view of vials of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, at the Assad Iben El Fourat school in Oued Ellil, outside Tunis on Aug 15, 2021. (HASSENE DRIDI / AP)
Moderna plans to invest about $500 million to build a factory in Africa to make up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines each year, including its COVID-19 shot, as pressure grows on the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture drugs on the continent.
Moderna's proposed site will also include bottling and packaging capabilities. The company said it would begin the process of deciding the country and location soon.
"We expect to manufacture our COVID-19 vaccine as well as additional products within our mRNA vaccine portfolio at this facility," CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement on Thursday.
The move comes as a debate rages between drugmakers and governments about waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and give more developing countries access to shots after rich nations bought up most of this year's supply.
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech struck a deal in July for South Africa's Biovac to help make around 100 million doses a year of their COVID-19 vaccine for Africa.
But Moderna is the first company to plan its own factory on the continent. It has supplied more than 500 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine so far.
The company wants to "extend Moderna's societal impact through the investment in a state-of-the-art mRNA manufacturing facility", Bancel said.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said men under 30 should consider choosing Pfizer Inc’s vaccine over the one made by Moderna Inc.
The latest data indicates myocarditis is more common after vaccination with Moderna’s shot than with BioNTech/Pfizer’s shot, the institute said.
A healthcare worker inoculates a child with a dose of the Coronavac COVID-19 vaccine at the Providencia school in Santiago, Chile on Sept 27, 2021, during the start of vaccinations in schools for children between ages 6 to 11. (ESTEBAN FELIX / AP)
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
The number of new COVID-19 infections has been dropping over the past month throughout the Americas, even though only 37 percent of the people in Latin America and the Caribbean are fully vaccinated, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
In the last week, 1.2 million people were confirmed with COVID-19 in the region, down from 1.5 million new cases the previous week.
Alaska has the most serious current outbreak in the United States, overwhelming emergency rooms, and Mexico is reporting a jump in new cases, the health agency said.
And while South America is continuing to see a drop in infections, Chile has had a surge in cases in the capital Santiago and port cities Coquimbo and Antofagasta.
PAHO also said it has closed vaccine supply agreements with Sinovac Biotech Inc and AstraZeneca Plc for the delivery of 8.5 million doses this year, and with China's Sinopharm Group for next year.
Jamaica, Nicaragua and Haiti have yet to reach even 10 percent vaccination coverage, PAHO said.
"We must focus our attention to close this gap as quickly as possible," PAHO Director Carissa Etienne told reporters in a weekly briefing in which she urged countries with surplus vaccine doses to share them with countries in the region to save lives.
PAHO is doing all it can to speed up vaccination in the region, by delivering doses through COVAX - the World Health Organization co-led vaccine access program - by supporting donations and by direct purchases of vaccines through its revolving fund, Etienne said.
In the past week, 875,000 vaccine doses arrived in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, though that is still not enough to protect the population, she added.
PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa said donations are badly needed because COVAX will not be able to meet its target of providing doses for 20 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean by the end of this year.
A woman wearing a face mask walks in Moscow on Oct 5, 2021. (DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP)
Russia reported 27,550 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the biggest one-day tally it has recorded this year, amid a wave of infections that has pushed officials to urge people to get vaccinated.
The government coronavirus task force also said that 924 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the last 24 hours, close to a record one-day toll.
Sudan's Health Ministry on Wednesday received the first batch of some 499,000 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine via the COVAX facility.
The batch of vaccines was donated by the US government.
Sudan's Health Ministry Under-Secretary Yosra Mohamed Osman said in a statement, "So far, we have vaccinated more than 1.7 million citizens."
Britain dropped its advice against all but essential travel for 32 countries and territories on Wednesday as it continued to simplify its coronavirus travel regime after progress in fighting COVID-19 across the world.
The change will allow people to travel more easily to destinations such as Algeria, Malaysia and Senegal as many travel insurance firms exclude cover for places where the government advises against travel, the foreign ministry said.
Britain recently replaced its so-called traffic light system with a single red list and has reduced testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers.
The government is still advising against all but essential travel for scores of countries and territories on its red list which include Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Thailand.
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to examine the FY 2022 budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. (GREG NASH / POOL / AFP)
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday that the average number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations over the last seven days has dropped by 12 percent and 14 percent respectively, but cautioned that deaths remained constant at 1400 per day.
Meanwhile, the US government is committing to purchase an additional 180 million rapid COVID-19 tests for $1 billion, adding to the $2 billion test buying plan it announced in September, a top US health official said on Wednesday.
The combined purchases will help quadruple the United States' test output by December to around 200 million tests per month, Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said during a press call.
"We'll continue to pull every lever to expand manufacturing production of tests which will have the impact of driving down the cost per test and making sure that tests are widely available and convenient," Zients said.
The government will also double the number of pharmacies it partners with to provide free COVID-19 tests to 20,000 pharmacies, Zients added.
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