Covid-19 vaccine in the US live updates: Summary 18 May

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Covid-19 vaccine latest news live | Tuesday 18 May 2021


- US vaccine rollout tops 346.6 million doses delivered, 275.5 doses administered

- US retailers lift mask restrictions

- US vaccine roll-out to children aged 12-15

- CDC updates mask advice: not required if vaccinated in most places (full story)

- India suffers record daily death figures as case total passes 25M

- Ohio lines up $1 million vaccine lottery

- Over 124 million US citizens now fully vaccinated (track CDC data here)

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

- US covid-19: 32.99 million cases / 587,203 deaths (live updates from JHU)

Scroll through some of our related articles:

Slow vaccine uptake in rural areas could slow the end of the pandemic

Vaccination rate in the United States' rural areas is way behind the rate in major cities and that could present an obstacle in the nation getting out of the pandemic, the CDC say. Around 60% of the population have now had at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine - still a way off the 70-85% needed to reach herd immunity.

The vaccination program is around 39% in rural counties, compared to over 46% in urban counties, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Nearly 80% of rural Americans live in areas considered "medically underserved" by the federal government.

"Because residents of rural communities are at increased risk for severe Covid-19-associated illness and death, vaccination disparities between urban and rural areas might hinder efforts to reduce morbidity and mortality from Covid-19 nationally," the CDC report said.

Fifteen US states reported zero Covid-19 deaths

Positive Covid-19 cases dropped to their lowest level since March 2020 this week with 15 states reporting zero deaths from the virus on Monday. The US reported a total of 392 deaths yesterday with cases falling in all 50 states. Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming reported no deaths from Covid-19 on Monday. However, some of those states, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, reported deaths on Tuesday.

Texas governor lifts mask mandate for schools

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered all government entities in the state, including school districts, to lift mask mandates by the end of this week, although existing guidelines for face-coverings in schools may remain in effect up until 4 June.

Abbott's executive order puts Texas at odds with the latest guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending that students in schools across the United States wear masks for the 2020-2021 academic year because not all will be inoculated against the coronavirus.

Abbott said Texas was making strides against the Covid-19 pandemic through vaccinations, antibody therapeutics and voluntary health-safety practices 'utilized by Texans in our communities,' leaving government mask requirements no longer necessary. "We can continue to mitigate Covid-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up," he said in a statement announcing the executive order.

Abbott and many other Republican politicians have cast mask mandates as an imposition on personal freedoms but nevertheless grudgingly required face coverings at the height of the pandemic as hospitalizations and deaths surged out of control. Texas lifted its state-imposed mask mandate 10 weeks ago but sued officials in Austin, the state's capital city, for refusing to go along with the lifting of those restrictions. Abbott said that from Friday, local governments or officials that attempt to impose a mask mandate or other restriction in defiance of his latest executive order barring compulsory face-coverings would be subject to a $1,000 fine.

Public school districts are given more time to comply, but after 4 June, "no student, teacher, parent or other staff member of visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus," his announcement said.

Fragrance expert helps Covid-19 patients learn to smell again

(Reuters) After 13-year-old Sahil Shah lost his sense of smell to Covid-19 in November, his parents looked everywhere for help. "We met with neurologists, neurosurgeons, ENT specialists, and all of them said if it was supposed to come back, it would have come back by now," said Sahil's father, Pratik Shah. But six months later, the teenager from Chicago still had no sense of smell or taste.

The family sought help from an unlikely source - New York fragrance expert Sue Phillips. She has helped develop and market perfumes for Elizabeth Arden, Lancome and Tiffany & Co, and now runs her own company, Scenterprises. "So let me tell you, first of all, I am not a doctor. I'm not a scientist. I'm not even a chemist," Phillips told a client at her boutique on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

To begin the process of helping people learn to smell again, Phillips sets up an array of 18 custom-blended fragrances. Starting with the lighter notes such as rose, lavender and mint, Phillips hands one scented blotter strip at a time to her client. If there is no response, she uses more robust scents, such as spice and musk.

"What's been happening is we're training people to, I like to say, smell with your brain... I can see almost the fog lifting. And then they can start to smell again. And it's really amazing."

After visiting Philips, Shah's father said Sahil's smell is now at about 25%. "It's better than zero." A panel of experts recommended in a paper published in January in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that Covid-19 patients who lost their sense of smell receive a form of 'smell rehab' known as olfactory training. Harvard University neuroscientist Venkatesh Murthy said some smells can trigger memories and emotions and Phillips may be on to something.

"By trying various different fragrances, maybe for a particular person, you hit upon one or two things that the leftover sense of smell is able to perceive," he said, adding there was no harm in trying to use scents to restore smell.

Pfizer vaccine,100% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in adolescents

On 5 May 2021, Health Canada authorized the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in adolescents from 12 to 15 years of age, following the results of a Phase III clinical trial. Clinical trial evidence showed 100% efficacy in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age against confirmed Covid-19 illness. NACI recommends that a complete series with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine should be offered to individuals 12 to 18 years of age.

NACI Chair Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh explained, "NACI is recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in adolescents 12 to 18 years of age. This recommendation follows Health Canada's recent authorization for individuals 12 to 15 years of age and Phase 3 clinical trials showing 100% efficacy for preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in this age group and similar rates of reactions compared to adults based on follow-up from the trial to date.

"Although the risk of hospitalization, admission to ICU and death associated with COVID-19 is infrequent in this age group, we have seen that adolescents can still experience severe illness. The availability of this vaccine for teenagers in Canada will allow them to resume the activities that are so central to their health and well-being, including in-person schooling, events with friends and family, and extracurricular activities, in accordance with local public health measures."


Mexico aims to give population at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose by October

Mexico aims to ensure its population has had at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot by October before the onset of colder weather, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday.

Mexico has so far distributed nearly 24 million vaccine doses to its population of 126 million, and Lopez Obrador said he was sure it would receive more shots from the United States. By July, health authorities will begin providing vaccinations to people as young as 40, he told a regular news conference. Over the next month and a half, the pace of vaccinations in the world's largest Spanish-speaking country should accelerate as tens of millions of new doses arrive, the government says.

During the news conference, Lopez Obrador initially suggested Mexico could conclude its vaccination rollout before the winter, but he later clarified that the aim was to ensure everyone had had at least one shot by October. Last month, the president said Mexico would soon receive at last 5 million additional AstraZeneca Plc vaccination doses, on top of a previous US donation of 2.7 million doses of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company's Covid-19 vaccine.

On Monday, US President Joe Biden announced a plan to provide 20 million doses from several vaccine developers to countries in need of more supplies. Speaking alongside Lopez Obrador, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters that Mexico expects another 38 million vaccine doses to arrive between the end of May and 4 July. Depending on the spread of the virus and how vaccinations proceed, Mexico and the United States would look at easing some restrictions on their shared border beginning 22 June, the Mexican foreign ministry said.

India's Biological E. to produce J&J Covid-19 vaccine

India's Biological E. will produce the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine alongside its own candidate, its managing director told Reuters on Tuesday, which could boost the country's overall supplies amid a shortage.

"The infrastructure and plants are completely separate for both the products and we will be producing both independent of each other," Mahima Datla said in a text message, declining to give any timeline or other details. She told Reuters in February that Biological E. was looking to contract-manufacture about 600 million doses of the J&J vaccine annually.

India's government, however, did not factor in any production of J&J this year in the country in a list of likely vaccine output released last week. J&J confirmed to Reuters it was working with Biological E. on manufacturing its vaccine. "We believe Biological E. will be an important part of our global Covid-19 vaccine supply network, where multiple manufacturing sites are involved in the production of our vaccine across different facilities, sometimes in different countries and continents, before the vaccine can be distributed," a J&J India spokesperson said in an email.

J&J said last month it had sought permission to conduct a local clinical trial in India for its single-dose vaccine. Biological E., based in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, also plans to produce 75 million to 80 million doses of its own vaccine a month from August. The drug has been developed with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Dynavax Technologies Corp.

The United States said in March it would finance Biological E.'s efforts to produce at least 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022. Reuters reported on Tuesday that India was unlikely to resume major exports of Covid-19 vaccines until at least October as it diverts shots for domestic use, a longer-than-expected delay set to worsen supply shortages from the global COVAX initiative.


US vaccination number edging towards 60% of the population

With the Covid-19 vaccine rollout continuing in the United States, almost 60% of the population have now received at least one shot. 157,827,208 people have been given at least one dose of the vaccine while 123,828,224, 37.3% of the population, are now fully vaccinated. As of Tuesday, 44.2% of the nation over the age of 12 is now fully vaccinated.

Congressional Democrats have higher vaccination rate

A study from CNN showed how Democratic lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have a 100% vaccination rate against Covid-19, significantly outpacing Republicans in the House and Senate and illustrating the partisan divide over the pandemic.

Full story here:


Sweden's third covid wave ebbing fast as vaccines bite

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has seen the number of cases and intensive care patients drop fast in the recent weeks with more than 40% of the adult population now having received at least one dose of vaccine.

The Nordic country registered 10,017 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday, a decline compared to the 13,812 cases reported during the corresponding period last week.

Sweden has experienced a powerful third wave of the virus with the number of people testing positive per capita among the highest in Europe for months, in stark contrast to its Nordic neighbours where infections have remained relatively subdued throughout the pandemic.

However, with over 40% percent of the adult population having received at least one shot of vaccine and around 12% fully vaccinated, the number of people in intensive care has still fallen more than 30% from a peak three weeks ago.

The vaccine roll-out is also credited for deaths being relatively low this year compared to previous waves of the disease with data suggesting no excess mortality so far in 2021.

Sanofi/GSK report positive interim results for their covid-19 shot

An experimental covid-19 vaccine developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline showed a robust immune response in early-stage clinical trial results, enabling them to move to a late-stage study, the French drugmaker said.

Sanofi and Britain's GSK said a global Phase III trial would start in the coming weeks and involve more than 35,000 adults, with the hope of seeing the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year before a setback.

"The Phase 2 interim results showed 95% to 100% seroconversion following a second injection in all age groups (18 to 95 years old) and across all doses, with acceptable tolerability and no safety concerns," Sanofi said.


Spanish study finds AstraZeneca vaccine followed by Pfizer dose is safe and effective

A Spanish study on mixing covid-19 vaccines has found that giving a dose of Pfizer's drug to people who already received a first shot of AstraZeneca vaccine is highly safe and effective, preliminary results showed on Tuesday.

The Combivacs study, run by Spain's state-backed Carlos III Health Institute, found the presence of IgG antibodies in the bloodstream was between 30 and 40 times higher in people who got the follow-up Pfizer shot than in a control group who only received one AstraZeneca dose.

Meanwhile, the presence of neutralising antibodies rose sevenfold after a Pfizer dose, significantly more than the doubling effect observed after a second AstraZeneca shot.

Around 670 volunteers between the ages of 18-59 who had already received a first dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine participated in the study, with some 450 given a Pfizer dose.

Just 1.7% of the participants reported severe side effects, which were limited to headaches, muscle pain and general malaise, said Dr Magdalena Campins, one of the study's leaders. "These are not symptoms that can be considered serious," she said.

Call for evangelicals to get vaccinated

Macron thanks Biden for vaccine sharing

Emmanuel Macron (French President) thanked his US counterpart for the gesture of sharing unused covid vaccines with other nations adding that the fight against the virus 'must be global'.

Singapore also approves covid vaccine for use in 12 to 15-year-olds

Singapore has authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine for those aged 12 to 15 years old in a bid to extend protection to more groups as the country tackles a recent increase of infections, officials said on Tuesday.

"The data showed that the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine demonstrated high efficacy consistent with that observed in the adult population," the health ministry said in a statement, adding "its safety profile is also consistent with the known safety profile in the adult population".

The government will also extend the interval between two-dose covid-19 vaccines to six to eight weeks, from three to four weeks currently, it said.

Pfizer/BioNTech advantage

The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine can be stored at fridge temperature for much longer than previously recommended, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA)

Ohio Vaccine Lottery: how to enter and sign up to win $1 million

A new incentive introduced by Gov. Mike DeWine will see vaccinated Ohioans entered into a weekly draw, which he hopes will encourage more people to get the shot.

WHO welcomes US donation of more vaccine doses

The head of the World Health Organization hailed news on Monday that U.S. President Joe Biden will send at least 20 million more covid-19 vaccine doses abroad by the end of June, marking the first time the United States is sharing vaccines authorised for domestic use.

"I welcome @POTUS & 's commitment to donate 80M COVID19 vaccine doses to countries in need. Your commitment to global health is deeply appreciated! COVAX partners stand ready to support equitable distribution. Solidarity is the only way to save lives & livelihoods everywhere," WHO Director-General

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter, referring to the WHO-backed COVAX vaccine distribution platform.


Taiwan says it is in talks for covid-19 vaccines from US

Taiwan is in talks with the United States for a share of the covid-19 vaccine doses President Joe Biden plans to send abroad, Taipei's top official in Washington said, as the island deals with a rare spike in domestic cases.

Biden said the United States would send at least 20 million more vaccine doses abroad by the end of June, marking the first time the United States has shared vaccines authorised for domestic use.

Biden announced on Monday that his administration would send doses of the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, on top of 60 million AstraZeneca Plc doses he had already planned to give to other countries.

Hsiao Bi-khim, the de facto Taiwanese ambassador to the United States, told Taiwan's official Central News Agency said she had already expressed that Taiwan wanted to be included.


Coronavirus US: is it possible to travel without restrictions after the vaccine?

Is it possible to travel without restrictions after being vaccineted?

The CDC has revised its covid-19 guidelines for vaccinated Americans to make it easier to travel this summer, both for domestic and international destinations.


India's covid tally passes 25 million

India total covid-19 caseload surged past 25 million on Tuesday as a powerful cyclone complicated the health crisis in one of the states where the disease is spreading most quickly.

Covid-19 tests were administered to 200,000 people evacuated from coastal districts of the western state of Gujarat before the cyclone struck late on Monday and efforts were being made to try to limit any spread of infections.

"Masks have been arranged for people shifted to shelter homes," said Sandip Sagale, a top official in Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat.

India's total caseload since the virus first struck over a year ago, stands at 25.23 million, while the death toll is at 278,719, according to health ministry data.

Tokyo doctors call for cancellation of Olympic Games due to covid-19

A top medical organisation has thrown its weight behind calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympics saying hospitals are already overwhelmed as the country battles a spike in coronavirus infections less than three months from the start of the Games.

The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association representing about 6,000 primary care doctors said hospitals in the Games host city "have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity" amid a surge in infections.

"We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games," the association said in a May 14 open letter to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga which was posted to its website on Monday.

A jump in infections has stoked alarm amid a shortage of medical staff and hospital beds in some areas of the Japanese capital, promoting the government to extend a third state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures until May 31.


How to prove you are vaccinated to go without a mask under CDC guidelines

How to prove you are vaccinated to go without a mask under CDC guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated their guidelines giving those who are fully vaccinated more freedom to go maskless.

US News

Where to get 12-15 year old kids vaccinated in New York

Where to get 12-15 year old kids vaccinated in New York state

Following FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for use in 12-15 year-olds, New York and other US cities are starting a drive to get kids back in school.


CDC vaccine roll-out data

The latest snapshot from the vaccine roll-out via The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Covid-19 vaccine news: welcome

Hello and welcome to our dedicated live blog for Tuesday 18 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 and around the world.