Study: J&J jabs effective against current Covid variants

Covid-19 has killed more than 4.2M people and infected around 201M globally. Here are all the coronavirus-related developments for August 6:

In this file photo taken on April 30, 2021 vials of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Janssen Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at the ZNA Middelheim hospital in Antwerp.
In this file photo taken on April 30, 2021 vials of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Janssen Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at the ZNA Middelheim hospital in Antwerp. (AFP)

Friday, August 6:

Study: J&J jabs effective against current Covid variants

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is working well in South Africa, offering protection against severe disease and death, joint lead investigator Glenda Gray said.

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She said the single-shot J&J vaccine offered 91% to 96.2% protection against death, while offering 67% efficacy against infection when the Beta variant dominates and about 71% when the Delta variant dominates.

The J&J vaccine was administered to healthcare workers from mid-February in a research study, which was completed in May, with 477,234 health workers vaccinated.

South Africa’s health regulator approved the J&J shot in April, and it is being used in the national vaccine programme alongside Pfizer’s.

Delta infections produce similar virus levels regardless of vaccine status

Public Health England has said that early evidence suggested the levels of virus found in people infected with the Delta variant are similar whether or not they are vaccinated, with possible implications for their infectiousness.

“Some initial findings… indicate that levels of virus in those who become infected with Delta having already been vaccinated may be similar to levels found in unvaccinated people,” Public Health England said in a statement.

“This may have implications for people’s infectiousness, whether they have been vaccinated or not.

However, this is early exploratory analysis and further targeted studies are needed to confirm whether this is the case.”

Russia reports 22,660 new cases

Russia has reported 22,660 new cases, including 2,583 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 6,402,564.

The government’s virus task force said 792 people had died of in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 163,301.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 290,000 deaths from April 2020 to May 2021.

Japan cases hit 1M as infections spread beyond Tokyo

Japan has reached the milestone of one million cases domestic media reported, as infections soared in Olympic host Tokyo and other urban areas as the country struggled to contain the Delta variant.

New cases in Tokyo hit 4,515, the second highest after Thursday’s record 5,042, while the neighbouring, populous prefecture of Kanagawa saw its cases soaring to more than 2,000, quadrupling in less than two weeks.

Infections in Osaka, the biggest city in the country’s west, also rose to a record-breaking 1,310, in a sign the pathogen is quickly spreading outside Tokyo.

Senegal battles surge in cases

At Dalal Jamm hospital in Dakar, only the whooshing sound of a ventilator and beeps from a monitor indicated that the pregnant patient in the intensive care bed was still alive.

A few cubicles down, another woman was on oxygen after giving birth while sick with the virus as a third wave threatened to overwhelm Senegal’s hospitals and some of its cemeteries.

Senegal, which until July had recorded fewer than 44,000 cases and 1,166 deaths, has registered more than 20,000 cases and 250 deaths since the start of July, according to health ministry figures.

The West African nation is not alone. Virus deaths in Africa reached a record peak in the week that ended on Aug. 1, partly spurred by the highly transmissible Delta variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

China reports its highest daily cases in current outbreak

China has reported its highest daily count for new cases in its current outbreak, fuelled by a surge in locally transmitted infections.

China reported 124 new confirmed cases in the mainland for August 5, according to the National Health Commission. That’s up from 85 a day earlier.

Of the new confirmed infections, 80 were locally transmitted, the health authority said, up from 62 local cases a day earlier.

The local cases were driven by a surge in infections in eastern Jiangsu province, which reported 61 new cases for August 5, up from 40 a day earlier. The new infections were mainly in the city of Yangzhou.

Thousands jam Philippine vaccination sites over false news

Thousands of people have jammed vaccination centres in the Philippine capital, defying social distancing restrictions, after false news spread that unvaccinated residents would be deprived of cash aid or barred from leaving home during a two-week lockdown.

Officials placed Metropolitan Manila backed under lockdown until August 20, as a new spike in infections that health officials say could be due to the highly contagious delta variant threatens to overwhelm hospitals. Three other regions, including nearby Laguna province, were also placed under lockdown until August 15.

Only authorised workers for essential businesses and residents on medical emergencies or food-buying errands can venture out. An eight-hour curfew was imposed in the capital region and police checkpoints were set up in city boundaries.

A day before the lockdown, false news spread on social media that unvaccinated residents would either be prohibited from leaving their homes to go to work or deprived of $20 aid. It sent large crowds heading for vaccination centers in the cities of Manila, Las Pinas and Antipolo even without prior registrations.

Hanoi to extend curbs until August 22

Vietnam’s capital Hanoi will extend its restrictions for another 15 days until August 22, the state Vietnam News Agency reported, following the discovery of new clusters of infections in the city over recent days.

South Korea nurse eligible for govt benefit after vaccine reaction

For the first time in South Korea, a nursing assistant who suffered paralysis after receiving a vaccine was recognised as a victim of an industrial accident, making her eligible for government benefits and financial compensation.

The nursing assistant, who has not been publicly named, received AstraZeneca’s shot on March 12 and later suffered from double vision and paralysis and was diagnosed with acute encephalomyelitis, according to a statement by the state-run Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service.

The service concluded that she is eligible for government compensation and benefits under the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act, because her medical situation was related to her work.

Olympic organisers report 29 new Games-related cases

Tokyo Olympics organisers have reported 29 new Games-related cases, bringing the total since July 1 to 382.

No athletes were among the latest positive cases.

Australia’s New South Wales reports record cases for second day

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state has reported record new infections for the second straight day as state capital Sydney neared its seventh week of a hard lockdown to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant.

New South Wales reported 291 locally acquired cases, most of them in Sydney, exceeding the previous daily high of 262 hit a day earlier.

Germany’s virus cases rise by 3,448

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 3,448 to 3,784,433, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 24 to 91,754, the tally showed.

Thailand reports record 21,379 cases

Thailand has reported 21,379 cases and 191 deaths, both new records, data from the country’s task force showed.

The new cases brought total infections to 714,684 and total fatalities to 5,854 since the pandemic began last year.

Victoria enters sixth pandemic lockdown as Australia widens restrictions

More than half of all Australians woke up to hard lockdowns as the country battles to contain outbreaks fuelled by the Delta virus variant, with Victoria reporting a slight easing in locally acquired cases.

Lockdowns have been enforced across the east coast, including Australia’s three largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – putting more than 60% of the country’s 25 million population under strict stay-home orders.

Victoria, home to nearly 7 million people, was plunged into its sixth lockdown since the pandemic began on Thursday night, just weeks after exiting its last, jolting residents and triggering an anti-lockdown rally in state capital Melbourne.

Six locally acquired cases were detected in Victoria on Friday, a day after several unlinked new infections in Melbourne suddenly emerged. It reported eight cases on Thursday.

Of Friday’s cases, all are linked to previously reported ones but were not in quarantine during their infectious period, the state’s health department said.

Pregnant women get jab in Cuba

As cases surge in Cuba, health authorities have started vaccinating pregnant women and nursing mothers.

The Abdala vaccine, one of two vaccines developed in Cuba, began being administered to pregnant and nursing women last week.

The Adbala vaccine requires three doses for immunisation.

Over 2,000 expectant mothers were reported to have contracted coronavirus in 2021, and 22 have died, according to authorities.

Since the start of the pandemic, Cuba has recorded 3,184 deaths and 431,013 confirmed infections, a huge share of them just in recent weeks.

The World Health Organization recommends the vaccine for pregnant women who are at high risk of becoming infected or who have underlying medical conditions that would make them more vulnerable to serious illness.

Two leading obstetric groups in the United States recently recommended immunising all pregnant women.

Additionally, in recent studies, evidence indicated that women are at increased risk for severe infections and preterm births.

California to mandate vaccines for health workers

California will require all of its roughly 2.2 million health care workers and long term care workers to be fully vaccinated by September 30 as the nation’s most populous state is losing ground in the battle against new infections of a more dangerous coronavirus variant.

The order, issued Thursday by the California Department of Public Health, is different than what Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said last month when he announced health care workers would have the choice of either getting vaccinated or submitting to weekly testing.

Now, the order does not give health care workers a choice.

It says all must be fully vaccinated by the end of September, with exceptions for people who decline the vaccine because of a religious belief or workers who cannot be inoculated because of a qualifying medical reason backed up by a note signed by a licensed medical professional.

US cases reach six-month high, Florida grapples with surge

Daily new cases have climbed to a six-month high in the United States, with more than 100,000 infections reported nationwide as the Delta variant ravaged Florida and other states with lower vaccination rates.

The seven-day average of new reported cases reached nearly 95,000, a five-fold increase in less than a month, Reuters data through Wednesday showed.

Seven US states with among the lowest vaccination rates – Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi – account for half of the country’s new cases and hospitalisations in the last week, White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters on Thursday.

“We’re seeing terrifying #COVID19 trends in our hospitals,” County Judge Lina Hidalgo wrote on Twitter. She is the top official of Harris County, the most populous county in Texas and home to the city of Houston. “At this point if you’re unvaccinated by choice, you’re complicit in this crisis.”

The US government will supply booster shots to Americans with compromised immune systems, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, said Thursday. A day earlier he warned that cases could double to 200,000 per day due to the variant in the coming weeks.

Brazil reports 40,054 cases and 1,099 deaths – ministry

Brazil has had 40,054 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, and 1,099 deaths, the health ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 20,066,587 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 560,706, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest after the United States.

Brazil’s northeastern states drop plan to buy Russia’s vaccine

Brazil’s northeastern states have suspended plans to import Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine due to the conditions set by the country’s health regulator Anvisa, Piaui state’s governor, Wellington Dias, said.

Dias met with representatives of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) that is marketing the vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, and said he was told that the 37 million doses originally destined for Brazil would be supplied to Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia.

Anvisa has withheld Sputnik emergency use authorisation in Brazil, but last month allowed northeastern states to import 2 million doses under strict conditions that included testing the vaccine to detect adenovirus replication before using it, as well as testing and monitoring people receiving the shots.

RDIF said the northeastern states consortium was still committed to buying the Russian vaccine and denied that doses reserved for Brazil would be destined for other countries.

The Russian fund said a shipment scheduled for Friday had been suspended due to “new requirements imposed by Anvisa in recent days.”

Anvisa said in a statement that no new conditions had been set for Sputnik imports and that the 22 conditions decided in June were needed to fill “information gaps.”

Mexico posts 21,569 new cases, 618 more deaths

Mexico’s Health Ministry has reported 21,569 new confirmed cases in the country and 618 fatalities, bringing its totals to 2,922,663 infections and 243,165 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published earlier this year suggested the actual death toll is at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure.

Novavax again delays seeking US approval for vaccine

Novavax Inc has again delayed its timeline for seeking US authorisation for its two-dose vaccine but expects to become a major distributor to lower and middle-income countries this year.

It had previously said it would seek emergency use authorisation (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration in the third quarter of 2021 but now expects to file in the fourth quarter.

Novavax shares dropped around 7% in after-hours trading.

“It’s a matter of getting validation work done” to demonstrate consistency in the vaccine’s manufacturing process to the FDA, said Chief Executive Officer Stanley Erck during an interview with Reuters.

He added that other countries’ regulators have been more aggressive in moving Novavax’s vaccine through the authorisation process.

The company said it has filed for regulatory authorisation for its shot in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

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