Covid-19 vaccine in the US news summary: 8 May 2021

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US covid-19 vaccine latest news | 8 May 2021

Headlines

- WHO gives emergency approval to first Chinese covid-19 vaccine (full story)

- G20 commits financial support to ACT-A strategy

- WTO says vaccine patent waiver will drive talks

- UK declares new India strain "variant of concern"

- India welcomes Biden's support on patent access for vaccines

- Tucker Carlson cited for "dangerous anti-vaccination rhetoric"

- Putin says Sputnik vaccine as "reliable as a Kalashnikov"

- 108.9 million US citizens now fully vaccinated (track CDC data here)

- Harvard to require all students are vaccinated

- 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)

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

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

US covid-19: 32.65 million cases / 580,904 deaths (live updates from Johns Hopkins University)

Scroll through some of our related articles:

NYC given go-ahead to vaccinate tourists

Tourists coming into New York can also get their Covid-19 vaccine shots. Vaccinations will be available at various points in the city, locations can be found at the NYC Vaccine Finder.

Nation's vaccination rate down 20% from last week

The United States' vaccination rate has dropped to two million shots a day - a 20% decrease from just the week before. The CDC reports that 45.6% of the of the  population has received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccine and 33.9% are fully vaccinated.

Declining demand for Covid-19 vaccines is causing some states to turn down their full allocations of doses from the federal government, despite concerted efforts to raise national take-up rates.

US wants Covid vaccine waiver to benefit the world, not boost China biotech

The Biden administration is examining ways to ensure that a waiver of Covid-19 vaccine patents to aid poor countries will not hand sensitive US biopharmaceutical technology to China and Russia, responding to a chorus of concerns, US and industry officials say.

On Wednesday President Joe Biden backed the US entering negotiations at the World Trade Organization for the waiver of intellectual property rights as a means to boost vaccine supplies by allowing poorer countries to make their own. So far, vaccines have gone overwhelmingly to richer nations, which scooped up contracts for them earlier this year.

Covid-19 infection rates in wealthy countries have dropped as vaccination rates increased this year, but infections are still rising in 36 countries, with India's daily cases skyrocketing to nearly 400,000 a day. Western pharmaceutical companies, many of which have received government support to develop vaccines, strongly oppose the transfer of intellectual property to make them. They say poorer countries will be slow to set up manufacturing capacity and compete for scarce supplies, hitting production.

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer Inc, said on Friday that the proposed waiver would disrupt progress made so far in boosting vaccine supplies. "It will unleash a scramble for the critical inputs we require in order to make a safe and effective vaccine. Entities with little or no experience in manufacturing vaccines are likely to chase the very raw materials we require to scale our production, putting the safety and security of all at risk."

Many companies and now some US officials fear the move would allow China to leapfrog years of research and erode the US advantage in biopharmaceuticals. A senior Biden administration official said that while the priority is saving lives, the United States "would want to examine the effect of a waiver on China and Russia before it went into effect to ensure that it's fit for purpose."

Pfizer and Moderna spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment on technology transfer concerns, while a Novavax spokesperson referred Reuters to the company's statement opposing the waiver on Friday, which said proposals to "weaken intellectual property protections would not achieve equitable vaccine access."

Covid-19 linked to Diabetes

There is a bidirectional relationship between Covid-19 and diabetes, the New England Journal of Medicine reports. Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of severe Covid-19 while new-onset diabetes and severe metabolic complications of preexisting diabetes, including diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolarity for which exceptionally high doses of insulin are warranted, have been observed in patients with Covid-19.

Ziyad Al-Aly, who directs the clinical epidemiology center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri, has been studying the relationship between Covid-19 and diabetes and told Bloomberg, "“It took a while to convince me. It was hard to believe that Covid could be doing this". Al-Aly's team found that Covid survivors were about 39% more likely to have a new diabetes diagnosis in the six months after infection than non-infected users of the VA health system.

Americans shift toward "pro-vaccine" direction after J&J vaccine pause

A recent survey from a research consortium revealed that 74% of respondents knew about the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine pause, but there was no evidence that the high awareness had a negative effect on vaccination attitudes.

Between 1 and 26 April, the consortium surveyed more than 18,750 individuals across the US to evaluate their attitudes toward vaccination. Between April 17 and 19, the researchers re-contacted 1,143 non-vaccinated individuals who responded before the J&J announcement to investigate whether the pause impacted their attitudes.

Among these individuals, the researchers uncovered a slight shift in the pro-vaccine direction. Part of the reason is that individuals who indicated they would get vaccinated “as soon as possible” or “after at least some people I know” received their vaccine.

Draper teenager hospitalized with brain blood clots after Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine

A 17-year-old from Draper, Utah named as Everest Romney started experiencing neck swelling and severe headaches shortly after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. Over a week later, doctors discovered he had three blood clots in and on his brain. It is not known which vaccine Romney received or whether the blood clots were related to other issues. He remains in hospital were he is receiving treatment. After nearly 100 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, the CDC reports there hasn’t been a single related case of a blood clot forming in the brain.

Officials said 360 Utahns have tested positive for Covid-19 and 139 people were hospitalized due to the virus. Over 23K additional vaccines were administered, bringing the state's total to more than 2.28 million.

Pakistan

UK variant accounts for 70% of Covid-19 cases in Pakistan

A coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom now accounts for up to 70% of Covid-19 infections across Pakistan, a research centre studying the disease in the country said on Saturday.

The country has imposed strict nationwide restrictions in the lead up to the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr next week in a bid to control a spike in cases, including banning public transport over the holiday period.

"There is a 60% to 70% prevalence of the UK variant in Pakistan (today)," Professor Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry, director at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi, told Reuters, adding that this figure was 2% in January.

The "UK variant", known as B.1.1.7 and first identified in Britain late last year, is believed to be more transmissible than other previously dominant coronavirus variants. Chaudhry added, however, that it was yet to be established if the variant was more deadly.

He also said a variant found in neighbouring India, which has seen a massive surge of cases in recent weeks, had not been detected in Pakistan yet, but that was because they did not have the kits needed to detect the variant, named B.1.617. The kits to detect the variant had been ordered and would soon arrive in the country, he said.

Chaudhry said there was a high possibility that the variant had already reached Pakistan since the diasporas of the two countries interact closely in Gulf states. Pakistan has seen a daily death toll of more than 100 in recent weeks. Overall, Pakistan has registered 854,240 infections and 18,797 deaths from Covid-19. While official daily infection numbers remain low, between 4,000 and 5,000, the country conducts only around 40,000 tests a day - a fraction of its 220 million population.

Ontario has now administered over six million doses

Ontario is on track to administer first Covid-19 vaccine doses to 65% of residents aged 18 and older by the end of the month. Around 45% of all adults have already received at least one shot.

The province is set to receive more than 780,000 Pfizer doses each week in May, with that increasing to more than 930,000 in the final week of the month.

Vaccine patent waiver could impact quality of shots, warns Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she was opposed to waiving patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines as this could jeopardise the quality of shots against the disease.

"I made it clear that I do not believe that giving away patents is the solution to make vaccines available to more people," Merkel said when asked about the European Union's readiness to discuss a US proposal to wave patent protections. "If a patent is given away and the quality is no long controlled I see more risk than chance," Merkel said, adding that manufacturers were better able to modify vaccines to make them effective against new variants of the coronavirus.

Children hugging vaccinated parents conspiracy theory is false

Last month, a fifth-grade maths and science teacher at the Centner Academy, a private school in Miami, warned her pupils that if their parents have been vaccinated, they should not hug them for more than five seconds because they might be exposed to harmful 'vaccine shedding'.

This claim has since been denounced as false. Dr. Jen Gunter, an obstetrician-gynecologist explained that the vaccine cannot be shed, nor is it infectious. “It is not biologically possible for the vaccine to do that,” Gunter said. "The vaccinated can’t affect the unvaccinated by breathing or being in close contact". 

EU sceptical on vaccine waiver, but ready to discuss proposal

The European Union is sceptical about the usefulness of waiving patent rights to covid-19 vaccines as a way to fight the pandemic, but is ready to discuss a concrete proposal, the chairman of EU leaders Charles Michel said on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters before the second day of an EU summit in the Portuguese city of Porto, Michel said the way to fight the pandemic now was to quickly make more shots and lift export curbs on them in countries like the United States and Britain that make vaccines but do not sell them to others.

"In Europe we took the decision to make exports possible and we encourage all partners to facilitate the exports of doses," Michel said after discussions with leaders of the 27-nation bloc on Friday evening.

India and South Africa called last year for the lifting of patent rights to vaccines as a way of boosting manufacturing and ensuring the world is supplied.

Debate around the issue erupted anew on Wednesday when US President Joe Biden supported the idea, provided it was done through the World Trade Organization.

The time taken to get a WTO agreement and to build expanded vaccine-making capacity would mean that such a waiver would not provide a quick fix, sceptics say.

"On intellectual property - we don't think that in the short term that it is a magic bullet, but we are ready to engage on this topic as soon as a concrete proposal would be put on the table," Michel said.

(Reuters)

LAFC

Californians receive vaccine and merchandise discount at LAFC clinic

Pharmacy student Norbek Gharibian prepares a Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine in Los Angeles, California, on Friday, at a vaccination clinic setup by Los Angeles Football Club, partnering with the LA county Department of Public Health and USC Pharmacy, where those vaccinated were due to receive a 20% discount on merchandise at the LAFC team store.

LA County public health officials are concerned about the considerable drop in countywide vaccination rates despite easier access for the free vaccine being offered with more no-appointment and walk-in vaccine clinics branching out to specific and targeted communities.

(Photo: Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

AZ

AstraZeneca weighs seeking full U.S. approval for covid shot - WSJ

AstraZeneca Plc may skip asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization for its covid-19 vaccine and instead pursue the more time-intensive application for a full-fledged license to sell the shot, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Such a step would further delay any rollout of the British drugmaker's shots in the United States, according to the report which cited people familiar with the matter.

PF

Pope Francis backs waivers on intellectual property rights for vaccines

Pope Francis on Saturday supported waiving intellectual property rights for covid-19 vaccines, backing a proposal by U.S. President Joe Biden that has been rebuffed by some European nations, including Germany.

Macron

France's Macron: USA should ditch curbs on vaccine exports

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday urged the U.S. government to drop restrictions on exports of covid-19 vaccines and components for the vaccines.

Speaking at a European Union summit in Portugal, Macron told a news conference that rich nations had to open up their vaccine capacity to help less-developed states.

Pfizer seeks full FDA approval for covid-19 vaccine

Pfizer and its vaccine partner BioNTech have started an application to request the Food and Drug Administration's approval for its covid-19 vaccine.

Pfizer is the first coronavirus vaccine maker in the US to request full approval. Like Pfizer, the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines had been previously cleared for use under the agency's emergency use authorization — a less rigorous approval method to aid a swifter response to the pandemic.

An FDA approval for a vaccine means the agency has decided that its benefits outweigh the known risks following a review of the manufacturer's testing results.

If granted, Pfizer's full stamp of approval would only apply to the vaccine for people who are 16 and older. Meanwhile, the vaccine maker is seeking emergency use authorization for its covid-19 vaccine to include children between 12 and 15.

Read the full story

CORONAVIRUS US

What percentage of vaccination is needed for herd immunity?

In the early days of the Biden administration, the vaccination rollout gained steam quickly to reach a brief period with over 4 million doses being administered daily. As the vaccination rate slips President Biden has set a new goal to get at least 70 percent of the population vaccinated with a single dose before 4 July.

There is hope that children, one of the key groups needed to help reach herd immunity, will soon be able to get their shots. Emergency use approval is expected this week from the FDA for the Pfizer vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years old.

Read the full story

World turns to China for vaccines after India, US Stumble

The world is fast becoming ever more reliant on China for vaccines, with India’s raging virus outbreak stifling its ability to deliver on supply deals, even as the US tries to position itself as a champion of wider access.

Over the past few weeks, leaders of some of the globe’s most populous nations have sought more shots from China despite concerns about their effectiveness. Demand is expected to rise even further now that the World Health Organization has authorized a vaccine from China’s Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd. and is expected to soon do the same for Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s. That will allow developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to access them through Covax, the global vaccination effort.

Full story

Another state bans vaccine passports

Montana becomes the last state to pass legislation banning the introduction of covid-19 vaccine passports, either from businesses or from government. They had been some suggestion that, as the United States' vaccine rollout continues, some venues may be able to reopen, but only to those who can prove they have had a vaccine. 

These 'passports' have garnered some support but the White House has maintained that it has no intention of introducing any such legislation and doing so would be unpopular with many. 

Scientist attacked for dismissing vaccine falsehoods

Unfortunately, the national vaccination effort has been plagued by numerous attempts to discredit the science behind the vital breakthroughs. Not only that but one scientist, Profesor Peter Hotez, has been the subject of online attacks in his battle to discredit those who argue against the vaccines. Here, MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace runs through the story...

EU calls on US and others to export their vaccines

Reuters - On Friday, the European Commission called on the United States and other major covid-19 vaccine producers to export what they make as the European Union does, rather than talk about waiving intellectual property rights to the shots.

Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference on the sidelines of a summit of EU leaders that discussions on the waiver would not produce a single dose of covid-19 vaccine in the short- to medium-term.

"We should be open to lead this discussion. But when we lead this discussion, there needs to be a 360 degree view on it because we need vaccines now for the whole world," she said.

"The European Union is the only continental or democratic region of this world that is exporting at large scale," von der Leyen said.

She said about 50% of European-produced coronavirus vaccine is exported to almost 90 countries, including those in the World Health Organization-backed COVAX program.

"And we invite all those who engage in the debate of a waiver for IP rights also to join us to commit to be willing to export a large share of what is being produced in that region," she said.

Only higher production, removing exports barriers and the sharing of already-ordered vaccines could immediately help fight the pandemic quickly, she said.

"So what is necessary in the short term and the medium term: First of all vaccine sharing. Secondly export of vaccines that are being produced. And the third is investment in the increasing of the capacity to manufacture vaccines."

Von der Leyen said the European Union had started its vaccine sharing mechanism, citing delivery of 615,000 doses to the Western Balkans as an example.

CORONAVIRUS VACCINES

Sinopharm vaccine: efficacy, dose, stock and differences with Pfizer, Sinovac, Moderna, Janssen...

The Chinese-manufactured vaccination becomes the first non-Western covid vaccine to be approved by the WHO, and may provide a vital alternative for isolated populations.

Full details

Coronavirus US

How many people have died from the covid vaccine in the US?

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has been widely condemned for suggesting thousands of US citizens have died from covid vaccines, a claim experts dismissed.

Full story

WHO gives emergency approval to Sinopharm, first Chinese covid-19 vaccine

Reuters - The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday it had approved a covid-19 vaccine from China's state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm for emergency use.

The vaccine, one of two main Chinese shots that collectively have already been given to hundreds of millions of people in China and abroad, becomes the first covid-19 shot developed by a non-Western country to win the WHO's backing.

It is also the first time the WHO has given emergency use approval to any Chinese vaccine for any infectious disease.

A WHO emergency listing is a signal to national regulators on a product's safety and efficacy and would allow the shot to be included in COVAX, the global programme to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries.

The WHO has previously given emergency approval to covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and, last week, Moderna.

Covid-19 vaccine news: welcome

Hello and welcome to our dedicated live blog for Saturday 8 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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