Covid-19 vaccine in the US | news summary for May 5, 2021

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US covid-19 vaccine latest news | 5 May 2021

Headlines

- UN chief calls for vaccine licence sharing (see below)

- NFL, MLS, NASCAR, MLB offers with vaccination card (see below)

- 70% by 4 July: President Biden sets new adult target (full story)

- FDA set to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12-15 year-olds by early next week (full story)

- LA County: zero covid-19 deaths for the first time in 410 days

- Moderna covid-19 vaccine listed for emergency use

- Denmark bans Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine

- Canada to start to get Pfizer vaccines next week

- India facing deadly surge in cases; US and other countries pledge assistance. Read more

- Researchers suspect connection between swollen lymph nodes after vaccination in individuals who had returned positive tests for covid-19. Read more

- 105.6 million Americans now fully vaccinated

- AstreZeneca CEO denies overstretch on supply promises

- New recommendations from CDC for fully vaccinated individuals, read about them here

- CDC: More than five million Americans did not receive a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. 

- Covid-19 vaccine passports apps: which ones can be used in the US? Learn more

US covid-19: 32.53 million cases / 578,925 deaths (live updates from Johns Hopkins University)

Scroll through some of our related articles:

JB

Vaccine IP waiver could take months for WTO to negotiate-experts

Now that the U.S. President Joe Biden has backed a proposed waiver for covid-19 vaccine intellectual property rights, the next stop is for the World Trade Organization to hammer out a deal - a process that could take months.

Not only are the negotiations expected to be lengthy, they are also likely to result in a waiver that is significantly narrower in scope and shorter in duration than the one initially proposed by India and South Africa, trade experts said.

Prior to Biden's announcement, the two countries confirmed their intention to draft a new proposal at a WTO General Council meeting on Wednesday, prompting the body's new Director General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to express hope for "a pragmatic  solution."

CORONAVIRUS VACCINES

US supports waiving vaccine patents: what does it mean and how will it affect the pandemic?

US supports waiving vaccine patents: what does it mean and how will it affect the pandemic?

The Biden administration has confirmed that it will support an easing of global patent rules on pharmaceuticals to help ensure that people in developing countries are given access to life-saving coronavirus vaccines.

The news was announced on Wednesday after weeks of debate on the logistics and the morality of opening up the potential availability of privately-developed vaccinations. The move has already faced strong pushback from drug manufacturers and this announcement is no guarantee of a swift change of policy. 

Read our full coverage by Will Gittins here

Need information on how to and where to get a covid-19 vaccine? 

CVS is now offering walk-up appointments. 

Vaccine Finder through the CDC allows you to search by distance and vaccine manufacture 

Many states offer their own systems to help vaccine goers find appointments. 

Coronavirus

In what states is mask-wearing required and under what conditions?

In what states is mask-wearing required and under what conditions?

In states where state-wide mandates are and are not in place, the landscape can be confusing. Some states who do not have state-wide mandates still could have local orders or business-specific rules. At the same time, states who have implemented mandates may have different requirements depending on age or vaccination status.

Which states do not have a state-wide mask mandate?

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Where are masks required?

California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia

Read the full story here

What happens if you do not get a second covid-19 vaccine dose?

After the first dose, researchers found that these vaccines may only provoke a mild immune response and could lead someone to develop a more severe case of covid-19. Other studies have shown that one dose may provide a sufficient level of protection to prevent infection in the short term, but the immunity weakens without the second dose. When both doses are administered these vaccines have shown that they are able to provide a strong immune response for a longer period of time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a leader in medical research, the two doses create immunity in different ways. The first dose trains your body by introducing your immune system to the virus and the second kicks “the body's system into gear.” So, while, your body will be able to recognize the pathogen after the first dose, the odds of creating a greater immune response increase after the second dose. After the second dose, researchers also hypothesize that the process of creating antibodies will occur much quicker.

Read the full story from Maite Knorr-Evans here

Slate releases article arguing for greater uptake and use of vaccine passports in the US. 

What are covid-19 vaccination passports?

Many countries have begun to implement or are considering using covid-19 vaccination passports to allow people to enjoy a more normal life and freedom of movement in very abnormal times. A covid-19 passport can be a paper or digital certification that someone has received the covid-19 vaccine or that they have tested negative for the virus recently.

Some countries are already using them for domestic travel and may require them for international travelers. In addition, people carrying the vaccine passport could gain access to certain venues to attend sporting events, concerts or just to dine out. The LA Dodgers have designated two sections of its stadium for fully vaccinated attendees who won't have to maintain social distancing starting Saturday.

Check out Greg Heilmen's article on the topic and to find out which states are using vaccine passports. 

New York Times reports that Pfizer's vaccine is "extraordinarily effective at protecting against severe disease caused by two variants of concern." 

Read the full NYT piece here and check out our piece on what variants are already circulating in the US. 

Cornoavirus

When will kids under 12 be able to receive a covid-19 vaccine?

When will kids under 12 be able to receive a covid-19 vaccine?

With all residents over the age of sixteen eligible to receive a covid-19 vaccine, the focus of clinical trials has shifted to the nation’s youngest residents. The trials have depended on tens of thousands of volunteers, and within the next few months, the results should be available. Parents who are worried about the safety of vaccines in children should be aware that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that these vaccines and their trials “have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.”

Vaccines will be made available to children as they are shown to be safe and effective. Pfizer-BioNTech could receive authorization to begin vaccinating children as young as twelve early next week. This news comes after preliminary findings from clinical trials showed that the vaccine was as effective in people ages twelve to fifteen as older patients.

Read the full story here

 

Big Pharma shares plunge as news that the Biden administration supports waiving the intellectual property rights related to covid-19 vaccines. 

JUST RELEASED: US Trade Representative Katherine Tai releases a statement saying that the Biden-Harris administration is in favor of "waiving intellectual property rights on covid-19 vaccines." 

Members from the Blackfeet Tribe sent around 1,000 doses of vaccines to their "First Nation" relatives in Canada. These were surplus doses that the tribe did not need and is an "illustration of the disparity in speed at which the United States and Canada are distributing doses. While more than 30% of adults in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, in Canada that figure is about 3%."

Vaccinations required, say CEOs

As we have already been reporting, a number of institutions are demanding that people have had a covid-19 vaccine administered before they can enter the facilities.

In this recent poll, 46% of people surveyed support the requiring of a vaccine before returning to work, although there are still many saying that they will not get the vaccine.

Could a hard line approach reduce hesitancy? What are the exceptions to the potential requirements? CNN reports.

Covid-19 vaccines: effectiveness explained

The fact that vaccinated people can still get covid-19 should not be a surprise. And it’s certainly no reason not to get vaccinated.

“Breakthrough” cases of covid-19 among vaccinated people are expected. It doesn’t mean that the vaccines currently in use are not highly effective. 

They are. They’re just not 100 percent effective.

So, yes, you can still get sick even if you’re vaccinated, but it’s exceedingly rare.

Read more on the numbers behind the vaccine effectiveness.

Get vaccinated: NFL, MLS, NASCAR, MLB freebies

The US government's covid-19 response team has been working with numerous businesses to encourage everyone to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Some of the incentives:

- The NFL is offering vaccines at 21 stadiums - 3 million doses administered at NFL locations. Now, they’ll offer 25% discount on NFLShop.com. And vaccinated individuals can enter a drawing for a chance to win 50 tickets to Super Bowl LVI in LA.

- The Cincinnati Reds are offering tickets for just $10 to fans who show their covid-19 Vaccination Card.

- NASCAR and MLS will each offer a sweepstakes that will include 2022 DAYTONA 500 tickets and trip to the 2021 MLS All-Star Game.

- In June, Major League Soccer clubs will be supporting fans that are vaccinated by offering a 30% discount for in-stadium merchandise purchases.

Harvard demands vaccinated students

Harvard University is the latest higher education institute in Massachusetts to require covid vaccines for the fall. The world-renowned school in Cambridge announced Wednesday that its students must be fully vaccinated before returning to campus.

“To reach the high levels of vaccination needed to protect our community, Harvard will require covid vaccination for all students who will be on campus this fall,” President Lawrence Bacow said in a statement.

“As with existing student requirements for other vaccines, exceptions will be provided only for medical or religious reasons.”

1,000 CVS walk-in vaccination locations announced

CVS Health announced Wednesday it is accepting walk-in appointments for covid-19 vaccines at pharmacy locations across the country, including more than 1,000 locations in California. 

No appointments are necessary, according to a press release. Same-day scheduling, including appointments as soon as one hour from booking, is available at CVS.com.

The company’s covid-19 vaccine scheduler is updated throughout the day to account for same-day cancellations.

Find out more below.

Fraudulent vaccine cards sees bar owner arrested

 A saloon owner in the Central Valley has been arrested after state agents say he was selling fraudulent covid-19 vaccination cards out of his business.

Agents with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) arrested 59-year-old Todd Anderson of Acampo, owner of the Old Corner Saloon in Clements, after receiving word that the phony cards were being sold at the bar along Highway 88, according to a statement from the agency on Tuesday.

They allege that undercover agents were also able to buy the illegal cards.

Full story

CORONAVIRUS US

Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine for kids: ages, who can get and when?

The Pfizer-BioNtech covid-19 vaccine was the first jab to get FDA emergency use authorization to help slow the spread of the virus. Now almost five months and two additional covid-19 vaccines later, more than 100 million adults in the US have been fully vaccinated against covid-19, approximately half the total with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

In March the company announced that it would ask for FDA emergency use authorization for younger children with results exceeding those reported in participants from 16 to 25 years old. Clinical trials showed that side effects were similar in the 12 to 15 years old age group as the older cohort.

Greg Heilman bring you all the latest news on this.

Vaccine promos continue

We've previous told you about local promotions to encourage vaccine shots including a free beer and even hard cash.

Well, the latest of these that we've seen comes in at Lehigh Valley where you can get a free ticket to the game just by showing your vaccination card.

'Youth vaccine approval not excuse for hoarding'

As Dr Anand Swaminathan says, 'approval for the 12-15 age group should not give us permission to hoard vaccines.

'Increased funding/effort to get vaccines plus the logistics for massive distribution to the rest of the world is critical. We won't be safe until vax rates are high around the world.'

UN chief calls for vaccine sharing

UN chief Antonio Guterres believes vaccine makers should allow other companies to produce versions of their covid-19 shots, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday, as the World Trade Organisation discussed waiving patent rights to boost supply to developing countries.

'The Secretary-General has often called for technology transfers and sharing of know-how and voluntary licensing or sharing of licensing,' spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

WTO members are assessing signs of progress after seven months of talks on a proposal by South Africa and India to waive patent rights on covid-19 vaccines. WTO decisions are based on consensus, so all 164 members must agree. Some U.N. officials say the waiver discussion is a distraction and an ideological fight that won't solve the problem of how to scale up vaccine manufacturing. The 60 sponsors of the proposal from emerging economies are pitted against richer developed countries - such as Switzerland, the United States and in the European Union - where many pharmaceutical companies are based. Guterres has long called for covid-19 vaccines to be made available to all countries and appealed for more money to fund the COVAX vaccine sharing facility, which aims to buy up to 1.8 billion doses in 2021 to ensure equitable global access. COVAX is run by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN children's agency UNICEF.

Last month UNICEF called for vaccine Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to be simplified through 'voluntary and proactive licensing' but warned this alone wouldn't increase production.

'IPR holders would need to provide technology partnerships to accompany IP licenses, proactively share know-how and sub-contract to manufacturers without undue geographic or volume restrictions,' UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

'This challenge requires not forced IP waivers but proactive partnership and cooperation,' she said. She cited recent manufacturing partnerships as 'encouraging examples' and urged others to follow suit, to increase the scale and geographic diversity of manufacturing capacity.

Coronavirus

How many doses has the US secured and what will it be enough?

As we begin our journey through May 2021, more than 246 million covid-19 vaccines have been administered in the US, leaving around a third of the adult population fully vaccinated. 

As demand for vaccines decreases across the country and other global hotspots plead for help from international allies, the United States has faced increased scrutiny for the lack of vaccines it has sent abroad.

In the past month, the US has been more willing to send doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries as it is currently not approved for use in the country. In March, the US sent four million doses to its neighbors Canada and Mexico. Following concerning data out of India and other global hotspots, the federal government, in conjunction with a few other countries, will send sixty million doses of Astra Zeneca’s vaccine to countries in need. 


Read more about Biden's latest vaccine promise, this time tied to Independence Day.

Vaccination centre: when size matters

The centre is said to be able to vaccinate the whole of Delhi in just three months, assuming the volume of vaccines is supplied in a timely fashion.

Canada authorises Pfizer covid vaccine for kids aged 12 and up

Canada on Wednesday approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12 years and up, becoming the first nation to do so.

"This is the first vaccine authorized in Canada for the prevention of covid-19 in children and marks a significant milestone in Canada's fight against the pandemic," Health Canada chief medical advisor Supriya Sharma told a news conference.

Almost half of Americans receive vaccine

44% of Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine so far. Nearly 32% have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Tocilizumab to treat Covid-19 patients with systemic inflammation

The Lancet published a report on the use of Tocilizumab to treat Covid-19 patients with systemic inflammation or hypoxia. It concluded, "In hospitalised COVID-19 patients with hypoxia and systemic inflammation, tocilizumab improved survival and other clinical outcomes. These benefits were seen regardless of the amount of respiratory support and were additional to the benefits of systemic corticosteroids".

Read the Lancent's full report on Tocilizumab here:

India's surge in Covid-19 cases briefly explained

The reasons behind India's recent massive surge in Covid-19 infections were explained on Twitter by Mayo Clinic physician Vicente Rajkumar. Covid-19 cases are growing exponentially in India, which reached 20 million Covid-19 cases this week amid growing calls for the country to go into a national lockdown.

Alberta reports blood clot death after AstraZeneca shot

The Canadian province of Alberta confirms the first death of a woman in her 50s after taking AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, the province's chief medical officer of health confirmed.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a statement, "As chief medical officer of health, I am sad to report that tonight we have confirmed the death of an Alberta woman in her 50’s from VITT following vaccination from the AstraZeneca vaccine. Out of respect for patient confidentiality and the privacy of the grieving family, we will not be providing additional case information.

“While any death is tragic, it is important to remember that the risks of dying or suffering other severe outcomes from COVID-19 remain far greater than the risk following AstraZeneca vaccine. The Alberta case marks the second VITT case and only death related to VITT out of more than 253,000 doses of AstraZeneca or CoviSHIELD/AstraZeneca that have been administered in Alberta to date.

“The global frequency of VITT has been estimated at approximately one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses of vaccine. In comparison, Albertans 50 to 59 who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are 350 times more likely to die from that infection than to experience VITT after an AstraZeneca vaccine. They are also at least 1,500 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than experiencing VITT after getting AstraZeneca.”

Pfizer

FDA expected to authorize Pfizer vaccine for 12-15-year-olds soon

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds very soon, US health officials said on Wednesday.

The approval is highly anticipated after the drugmaker said in March the vaccine was found to be safe, effective and produced a robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year-olds in a clinical trial.

"I think it's going to be very soon; I mean, I don't want to get ahead of the FDA but I believe it's going to be within several days," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC's 'Today' show. "I cannot imagine it's going to be much longer than that."

The vaccine has already been cleared in the United States for those aged 16 and above. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said they were expecting the FDA authorization soon. She told MSNBC that officials would move 'to make this available' as soon as it is approved and were already planning how to get doses available to pediatricians and others to administer it.

Walensky said more than 40% of U.S. adults have received a Covid-19 vaccine so far. Approval of the vaccine would boost the US immunization drive and help allay the concerns of parents over the potential impact of Covid-19 on their children as many youth prepare to attend summer camp and to return to school full time in the fall. Fauci acknowledged that CDC guidelines for summer camp are strict, with masks required at all times, but said the rules were being continuously evaluated.

WHO announce creation of new data hub to fight pandemics

German Health Minister Jens Spahn called on Wednesday for a 'global reset' in the fight against pandemics as Germany and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the creation of a new global hub in Berlin for gathering data on pandemics.

Speaking at a virtual news conference attended also by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the head of the WHO, Spahn said the world was still insufficiently prepared for pandemics. "We need to identify pandemic and epidemic risks as quickly as possible, wherever they occur in the world," Spahn said. "For that aim, we need to strengthen the global early warning surveillance system with improved collection of health-related data and inter-disciplinary risk analysis."

The new hub in Berlin, bringing together governmental, academic and private sector institutions, aims to harness global data to predict, prevent and respond to pandemic and epidemic risks worldwide. "There will be more viruses that will emerge with the potential of sparking pandemics," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the news conference.

The WHO has been criticised for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, sparked by a new coronavirus that emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Three independent panels are due to report this month on how the WHO and member states reacted, and propose changes. Tedros has said repeatedly that the UN agency is open to reforms.

More children hospitalised with Covid-19

West Michigan pediatricians are trying to dispel some of the myths surrounding side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine which have been circulating. Some people have raised concerns over the Pfizer vaccine being used on teenagers - with the FDA expected to authorise its use in those over the age of 12.

More young people have been hospitalised with Covid-19 infections in several states. It is worrying as there is a risk that children could suffer MIS-Cmultisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious complication which can affect children after the initial Covid infection has passed.

Dr. Liam Sullivan told Michigan Radio: “It’s nothing to be trifled with. We are seeing a little bit in adults now. And they're very, very sick people. And it's a very real syndrome. And I think talking to parents about the potential risk for MIS-C after a Covid-19 infection...is another way to help motivate them to get their children vaccinated. Because I don't think any parent wants to see their kid in the hospital going through something like that”.

Michigan has reported 106 confirmed cases of MIS-C to the CDC, as of 29 April, with ages ranging from less than a year old to 20. Nearly 70% of all cases were admitted to the ICU. The state isn’t reporting an exact number of MIS-C deaths, only that there have been less than five.

Sinofarm

WHO experts voice 'very low confidence' in some Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine data

(Reuters) WHO experts have voiced 'very low confidence' in data provided by Chinese state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm on its Covid-19 vaccine regarding the risk of serious side-effects in some patients, but overall confidence in its ability to prevent the disease, a document seen by Reuters shows.

There was no immediate reply from the World Health Organization to a query about any concerns linked to the Sinopharm vaccine, BBIBP-CorV. In Beijing, Sinopharm was not immediately reachable for comment outside working hours.

The 'evidence assessment' document was prepared by the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) for its review scheduled this week of the Sinopharm shot, authorised by 45 countries and jurisdictions for use in adults, with 65 million doses administered.

The experts review evidence and give recommendations on policy and dosages associated with a vaccine. The document includes summaries of data from clinical trials in China, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Vaccine efficacy in multi-country Phase 3 clinical trials was 78.1% after two doses, the document said. This was a slight drop from 79.34% announced previously in China.

"We are very confident that 2 doses of BBIBP-CorV are efficacious in preventing PCR confirmed Covid-19 in adults (18-59 years)," the document said. But it added: "Analysis of safety amongst participants with comorbidities (was) limited by the low number of participants with comorbidities (other than obesity) in the Phase 3 trial."

Among 'evidence gaps', it cited data on protection against severe disease, duration of protection, safety for use in pregnant women and in older adults and identification/evaluation of rare adverse events through post-authorisation safety monitoring.

"We have very low confidence in the quality of evidence that the risk of serious adverse events following one or two doses of BBIBP-CorV in older adults (≥60 years) is low," it said. "We have very low confidence in the quality of evidence that the risk of serious adverse events in individuals with comorbidities or health states that increase risk for severe Covid-19 following one or two doses of BBIBP-CorV is low," it added.

The SAGE analysis was prepared as a WHO technical advisory group currently reviews the vaccine for an emergency use approval, which would not only pave the way for its use in the global COVAX vaccine sharing platform but also provide a crucial international endorsement for a vaccine developed in China. A WHO spokesman said that a decision on the listing was not expected on Wednesday.

US News

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ends many of the state’s covid restrictions

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ends many of the state’s covid restrictions

On 3 May, Governor DeSantis signed a series of bills and executive orders into law. The first was a bill passed by the Flordia legislature, placed a state-wide ban on vaccine passports, weakened the ability of local jurisdictions to establish lockdowns, and allocated funding to prepare for future pandemics.

Florida has vaccinated approximately 70% of residents over sixty-five, leaving nearly a third susceptible to the virus’s deadly effects. Overall, around 30% of the adult population is vaccinated, and reports have shown that vaccine appointments are being left open across some of the state’s most populous areas.

From 20-26 April, Florida administered a little over 1 million shots. Over the last seven days, that number has dropped to 688,119 shots. The demand for vaccines is decreasing at an alarming rate. With the restrictions being lifted, community transmission at high levels, public health experts are concerned that the state could experience another wave of infections.

Read the full article here

US NEWS

New York COVID restrictions: opening and conditions in restaurants, cinemas, businesses and gyms.

New York COVID restrictions: changes to be aware of regarding re-opening and conditions in restaurants, cinemas, businesses, and gyms.

Businesses will be able to operate at full capacity starting 19 May for the first time since restrictions were put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic last year. Additionally, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will resume 24-hour subway service on 17 May.

Restaurants, retail stores, theaters, museums, barber shops, gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to operate at full capacity starting 19 May. However, Cuomo said that businesses will still need to conform to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on social distancing, mask wearing and other applicable health protocols.

Read our coverage for more details

New York COVID restrictions: changes to be aware of regarding re-opening and conditions in restaurants, cinemas, businesses, and gyms.

Businesses will be able to operate at full capacity starting 19 May for the first time since restrictions were put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic last year. Additionally, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will resume 24-hour subway service on 17 May.

Restaurants, retail stores, theaters, museums, barber shops, gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to operate at full capacity starting 19 May. However, Cuomo said that businesses will still need to conform to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on social distancing, mask wearing and other applicable health protocols.

Read our coverage for more details

'Human catastrophe' as India's Covid-19 surge spreads to Nepal

Nepal is being overwhelmed by a Covid-19 surge as India's outbreak spreads across South Asia, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Wednesday.

"We need to act now and we need to act fast to have any hope of containing this human catastrophe. This virus has no respect for borders and these variants are running rampant across Asia," said Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific director for the Geneva-based agency representing the global humanitarian network.

Nepal is now recording 57 times as many cases as a month ago, with 44% of tests now coming back positive, the statement said. Nepalese towns near the Indian border could not cope with the growing number of people needing treatment, while only 1% of the country's population was fully vaccinated.

"What is happening in India right now is a horrifying preview of Nepal’s future if we cannot contain this latest Covid surge that is claiming more lives by the minute," said Netra Prasad Timsina, chair of the Nepal Red Cross. "It is beyond distressing to see that people cannot say goodbye to their loved ones as cremations are taking place at record levels due to these new Covid variants, which are striking down people of all ages in Nepal."

The statement noted that other neighbours of India were also in the firing line as the outbreak spreads. Hospital intensive care units in Pakistan and Bangladesh were full or close to capacity, it said.

Pfizer

According to the Director of the World Health Organization between 35 and 40 billion dollars are needed within the next year to ensure most adults are immunized against covid-19.

Read full story from the BBC here

Vaccine

Thai travel agencies offer Covid-19 'vaccine tours' to US

Travel agencies in Thailand are selling coronavirus 'vaccine tours' to the United States, as some wealthy Thais grow impatient awaiting mass inoculations that are still a month away amid the country's biggest outbreak so far.

The tours reflect global differences in vaccinations, with the United States and Britain making swift immunisation gains, but many lower income nations - and increasingly their well-off citizens - are still working to secure doses.

Bangkok tour operator, Unithai Trip, has packages from 75,000 baht to 200,000 baht ($2,400 to $6,400) for trips to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, with prices dependent on the time gap between doses.

"Johnson & Johnson is one jab, but 90% of inquires want Pfizer," which needs about 20 days between the first and second doses, the agency's owner, Rachphol Yamsaeng, told Reuters. He said a group was tentatively scheduled to leave next week.

My Journey Travel is offering a 10-day trip to San Francisco for a Johnson & Johnson shot and said it has received hundreds of calls in three days. The vaccine tours could be a boon for Thailand's tourism agencies after travel collapsed during the pandemic. "All tour agencies are suffering now," said Rachapol, whose agency is also offering similar trips to Serbia. "Whatever we can do, we have to try to do it."

A spokesman at the US embassy in Bangkok declined to immediately comment, but the US State Department's website lists medical tourism as a valid reason to visit. The United States is not the only destination offered to Thais. Another agency, Udachi, advertised a 23-day 'VACCation in Russia' to receive the Sputnik V vaccine for up to 210,000 baht ($6,700).

Thailand's main vaccination drive is set to begin in June with locally-produced AstraZeneca shots. Its latest outbreak has accounted for more than half of its total 74,900 infections and 318 fatalities. Thailand's tourism ministry warned on Wednesday that customers should carefully examine vaccination packages after the foreign ministry said US regulations may vary by state.

Coronavirus

What do swollen lymph nodes after a covid-19 vaccine indicate?

A new study shows a connection between previous covid infection and experiencing more moderate side effects, like swollen lymph nodes, after vaccination.

Read more about possible side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine here:

Pfizer

White House to shift covid-19 vaccine to states with more need

Covid-19 vaccine doses allocated to a US state but left unordered will become available to other states under a policy shift aimed at delivering vaccines to where they are most in demand, the White House said on Tuesday.

Vaccines have been allocated state by state based on population - a formula the Biden administration held to even as some states such as Michigan saw increases in coronavirus infections.

Under the new policy, unordered doses would be made available to states with a more immediate need, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

"They can still order ... up to their full allocation based on population," Psaki said. "They can also order less than their full allocation and ... the doses that are not being given to that state will then go into kind of an overarching supply that could then be distributed to other states by population."

The shift, first reported by the Washington Post, was conveyed to governors by the Biden administration on Tuesday.

New coronavirus cases in the United States fell for the third week in a row. About 30.5% of the population, or about 101,407,318 people, have been fully vaccinated as of last week.

Minnesota reports six cases of India Covid-19 variant

Minnesota reported six cases the Covid-19 B.1.617 variant which was first detected in India in October last year. Six people from three households, and people from two of those households had a “known association with travel,” said MDH infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann.

Ehresmann told reporters the infected people ranged in age from adolescents to people in their 60s, and she said one person who contracted the virus was hospitalized. The state recorded a further 11 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, taking the total to 7,174.

Protest

Over half of people in democracies feel freedoms have been overly curbed during the pandemic

Fifty-eight percent of people living in the world's democracies are satisfied with the response of their government to the Covid-19 pandemic though over half believe their freedoms have been overly restricted, a survey published on Wednesday found.

The survey of over 50,000 people from 53 countries also found that a little more than half feel their nation is democratic but many view economic inequality and the power of big tech companies as threats to democracy. Though the majority of respondents approve of how their governments had responded to the pandemic, 53% feel their personal freedoms have been excessively curbed by lockdowns, according to the survey.

"We now need to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic by delivering more democracy and freedom to people," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Chair of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, which along with AI-powered brand tracking firm Latana conducted the survey.

Some 64% of those questioned regarded economic inequality as the single biggest threat to democracy around the world. Respondents in the United States were most concerned with Big Tech companies' impact on democracy. Almost half of those surveyed globally worried about the United States threatening their democracy, while 38% feared Chinese influence and some 27% were wary of that of Russia.

With the election of President Joe Biden, the perception of US influence on democracy globally has improved from Donald Trump's administration. However, in Europe, Russia and China, US influence is still mainly perceived as negative.

Vaccine

32% of US population is now fully vaccinated

As of Tuesday 4 May, a total of 106,168,588 Americans have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, representing 32% of the population. 147,894,671 people, or 44.5%, have received at least one dose.

Of the total doses administered, 131,657,484 people have received the Pfizer vaccine, 107,477,821 received the Moderna vaccine, 8,449,067 were given the J&J/Janssen vaccine.

Covid-19 vaccine news: welcome

Hello and welcome to our dedicated live blog for Wednesday 5 May 2021.

Here we aim to keep you fully up to date with all the latest news and updates regarding the covid-19 pandemic and all aspects of the vaccine development and rollout across the United States.

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