One in two COVID hospital cases develop complications: study

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As many as one in every two people hospitalized with severe COVID-19 go on to develop other health complications, according to comprehensive new research released on Friday.

Authors of the study said their findings showed a “profound” short- and long-term health impact on COVID-19 patients as well as on health and care services.

Data from more than 70,000 hospital patients across more than 300 British hospitals was collected for the research.

It found that the most common health complications were problems with patients’ kidneys and lungs, but neurological and cardiovascular conditions were also widely reported.

The rate of complications was high even among “young, previously healthy” patients, with 27 percent of 19-29 year olds and 37 percent of 30-39 year olds experiencing at least one complication after being hospitalized with COVID-19.

Authors of the research, published in The Lancet medical journal, said it should alert policymakers to the need to plan for long-term support for COVID survivors.

“This work contradicts current narratives that COVID-19 is only dangerous in people with existing co-morbidities and the elderly,” said senior author Professor Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool.

“Disease severity at admission is a predictor of complications even in younger adults, so prevention of complications requires a primary prevention strategy, meaning vaccination.”

The data showed that complications were more common in men than women and slightly higher in black patients than white patients.

Significantly, nearly one in three—27 percent—of patients were found to be less able to care for themselves after being discharged from hospital, irrespective of age, gender or race.

The authors said that the complications recorded in the research were separate from so-called “long COVID”, where sufferers manifest symptoms directly linked to the disease for weeks and often months after infection.

They called for longer-term monitoring of the health impacts on COVID patients and said governments should be prepared to organize specialized follow up care for survivors.

“It is important that with the high risk of complications and the impact these have on people, that complications of COVID-19—not just death—are considered when making decisions on how best to tackle the pandemic,” said co-author Aya Riad, from the University of Edinburgh.

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Allocating COVID vaccines based on health and socioeconomic factors could cut mortality

Allocating COVID vaccines based on health and socioeconomic factors could cut mortality

An estimated 43 percent of the variability in U.S. COVID-19 mortality is linked with county-level socioeconomic indicators and health vulnerabilities, with the strongest association seen in the proportions of people living with chronic kidney disease and living in nursing homes. The study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researchers suggests that allocating vaccines based on these factors could help minimize severe outcomes, particularly deaths. Results are published in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine.

“It is well known that COVID-19 deaths are concentrated in communities with underlying health and socioeconomic vulnerabilities. Our study estimates increase in risk from some of the key health and socioeconomic characteristics in the U.S.,” says Sasikiran Kandula, MS, the study’s first author and senior staff associate in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

“This information can guide the distribution of vaccines, particularly in parts of the world where vaccine supply is limited, in order to get them to communities where they are needed most,” adds senior author Jeffrey Shaman, Ph.D., professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

Currently, COVID-19 vaccination strategies in the United States are informed by individual characteristics such as age and occupation. The effectiveness of population-level health and socioeconomic indicators to determine risk of COVID-19 mortality is understudied.

To test their hypothesis that health and socioeconomic indicators can accurately model risk of COVID-19 mortality, Shaman and Kandula extracted county-level estimates of 14 indicators associated with COVID-19 mortality from public data sources. They then modeled the proportion of county-level COVID-19 mortality explained by identified health and socioeconomic indicators, and assessed the estimated effect of each predictor.

They found that 43 percent of variability in U.S. COVID-19 mortality can be traced to 9 county-level socioeconomic indicators and health vulnerabilities after adjusting for associations in deaths rates between adjacent counties.

Among health indicators, mortality is estimated to increase by 43 per thousand residents for every 1 percent increase in the prevalence of chronic kidney disease, and by 10 for chronic heart disease, 7 for diabetes, 4 for COPD, 4 for high cholesterol, 3 for high blood pressure and 3 for obesity prevalence respectively. Among socioeconomic indicators, mortality is estimated to increase by 39 deaths per thousand for every 1 percent increase in percent living in nursing homes, and by 3 and 2 for each 1 percent increase in the percentage of the population who are elderly (65+ years) and uninsured 18-64-year-olds, respectively. Mortality rate is estimated to decrease by 2 for every thousand dollar increase in per capita income.

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US COVID cases hit new plateau as Delta variant rises

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After declining fast for two months, the rate of COVID infections in the United States has leveled off since mid-June thanks to localized spikes in under-vaccinated regions of the country, data showed Monday.

It comes as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to gain traction, now accounting for 35.6 percent of sequenced cases in the past two weeks, according to the covSpectrum tracker. Authorities have said it is poised to soon become the country’s dominant strain.

The seven-day-average of new daily cases has hovered at around 11,500 since June 16, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or about 3.5 per 100,000 people.

A clear divide has emerged across the country, with cases rising rapidly in communities that have low rates of vaccination.

For example, the city of Springfield in the midwestern state of Missouri is experiencing a surge of 36.8 new cases per 100,000, and has just 35 percent of its population vaccinated with one or more doses, a dashboard maintained by COVID ActNow showed.

On the other hand, Burlington in the northeastern state of Vermont is seeing just 0.9 new cases per 100,000, and has 71 percent of its population vaccinated with one or more doses.

Nationally, 54 percent of the United States’ 332 million people have received one or more doses while 46.1 percent have had two doses, according to the CDC.

The national immunization drive peaked in mid-April but has been declining since, with vaccine hesitancy much higher in states that lean Republican than those that predominantly vote for Democrats.

Cases dropped steeply across the country from mid-April to the beginning of June, a period that coincided with spring weather and increased socialization outdoors.

The summer heat however has brought more people indoors, where the primarily airborne respiratory illness mostly spreads. Air conditioning contributes by drying out the air and making conditions more favorable for the virus to remain viable.

All of this spells danger for unvaccinated people, who are more exposed than ever in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant.

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Cuban COVID vaccine Abdala 92 percent ‘effective’, maker says

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Cuba’s Abdala coronavirus candidate vaccine showed “efficacy” of more than 92 percent after three doses, its maker said Monday, though it did not specify whether this was measured against infection, disease, or death.

Cuba is working on five coronavirus vaccines, and last month started immunizing its population using two of them yet to complete clinical trials.

On Monday, the BioCubaFarma laboratory tweeted that Abdala—one of the two already in use— “shows an efficacy of 92.28 percent in its three-dose scheme”.

The World Health Organization has set a 50-percent efficacy threshold for coronavirus vaccines to offer protection against the virus or disease.

The announcement came two days after authorities announced that Soberana 2, the other three-dose shot being developed in Cuba, was 62 percent effective after the first two shots.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel welcomed the news as an achievement which “will multiply pride” in the communist island nation.

Cuba has been relatively unscathed by the outbreak but has seen a recent sharp increase in cases, registering one of its worst days Monday with 1,561 confirmed infections in 24 hours. To date, it has recorded just over 169,000 cases and 1,170 deaths.

Under American sanctions, Cuba has a long tradition of making its own vaccines, dating back to the 1980s.

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Should COVID vaccines be compulsory for care home staff? Experts debate

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The UK government has announced that COVID-19 vaccination will become mandatory for staff working in care homes for older people in England. Staff will be given 16 weeks to get the vaccine. If they don’t get the jab, they will be redeployed from frontline care or lose their job.

Mandating vaccination would increase vaccine uptake in care home workers, but it would be a significant intrusion into individual freedom. Is it ethically justifiable?

Yes—Professor Dominic Wilkinson

In the early phase of the pandemic, some of the most medically vulnerable people ended up catching coronavirus from those caring for them; 40,000 patients in England are said to have caught COVID while in hospital. Some patients and care home residents died from infections that they caught from their caregivers. We must do everything possible to avoid repeating this tragic and distressing situation.

First, we should ensure that all those who are at a high risk of dying from COVID have access to the vaccine. About 10% of older adult care home residents have still not had a second dose of the vaccine.

Second, those who work in the frontline with vulnerable high-risk patients have an ethical obligation to take all reasonable measures to prevent the spread of the virus to those they are caring for. They must follow the guidance on things like hand washing and PPE. They should take part in lateral flow testing schemes. And they should be vaccinated.

Mandating vaccination can be ethical if it is both necessary and proportionate. A mandate is not necessary if there are less intrusive means of effectively increasing uptake, such as persuasion and incentives. The problem is that less intrusive means may be much less effective.

Persuasion has so far failed. There is strong evidence to suggest that vaccine mandates are the most effective way to increase uptake.

A mandate could be proportionate if the public health benefit of increasing uptake among staff would outweigh the harms. Given the considerable vulnerability of care home residents, this seems to be the case. Care home residents can’t choose who cares for them. Some remain only partly protected after vaccination. The risks of vaccination for workers are exceptionally low.

However, if vaccines are made mandatory for care home workers (or healthcare workers), they should be able to choose from available vaccines. Every effort possible should be made to address any concerns that they have about the vaccines.A conditional vaccination policy would be ethical.

Care home workers—and NHS staff—who have not had the COVID vaccine should be redeployed to areas other than frontline care. In the absence of a medical exemption, COVID vaccination should be a condition of employment in the same way that hepatitis B vaccination is currently for some health professionals.

No—Professor Julian Savulescu

Mandatory vaccination policies can sometimes be ethical. But the proposal to make vaccination mandatory for care home workers is muddle-headed.

There are rare but serious risks of vaccination: blood clots for AstraZeneca and probable myocarditis in Pfizer. COVID-19 deaths are predominantly in the elderly, while rare side-effects are mostly in the young.

For most, these small risks won’t change the risk-benefit ratio. But for some, the risk-benefit ratio looks very different.

Imagine a 20-year-old care worker on a zero-hours contract, like 24% of her colleagues, who worked through the pandemic and gained natural immunity from becoming infected. She, and those in her care, have little to gain from her undergoing vaccination to gain additional immunity.

A Public Health England study compared vaccine and natural immunity and found “equal or higher protection from natural infection, both for symptomatic and asymptomatic infection.” But under this scheme, our care worker would still be exposed to the additional risks of vaccination. Moreover, if she has to take time off sick with the common side-effects, thanks to her zero-hours contract, she won’t be eligible for sick pay for four days—and perhaps not then.

This won’t be the case for everyone. But it should be up to the individual who will suffer the outcome to make an informed choice. That is perhaps the most basic tenet of medical ethics: respect for autonomy.

It is true that autonomy is not always decisive in public health and that care workers have professional responsibilities to those in their care. But to justifiably override autonomy and remove someone’s livelihood, we need to know that doing so will be an effective measure and that it is necessary.

Increasing vaccine uptake may only have a limited effect in preventing transmission. The very limited data available suggests only a limited effect (as low as 35% and up to 50%). There are also confirmed reports of breakthrough infections, and even outbreaks, among fully vaccinated staff and patients.

Vaccination will confer some protection. But, at best, mandatory vaccination won’t stop family and friends from transmitting the virus while visiting care homes. Singling out one group for the coercive measure will be divisive and may lead many staff to leave the already-understaffed profession.

The policy is also unnecessary. Half of care homes have hit the target level of staff vaccination through voluntary means. Staff could be offered incentives to be vaccinated.

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What’s the Delta COVID variant found in Melbourne? Is it more infectious, and does it spread more in kids?

What's the Delta COVID variant found in Melbourne? Is it more infectious and does it spread more in kids? A virologist explains

Victoria’s current COVID outbreak took another turn last week when a new variant was discovered by health authorities. It’s not clear whether this new “Delta” variant emerged from Victoria, New South Wales or elsewhere, and it hasn’t yet been matched to any cases in hotel quarantine.

We’ve still got a lot to learn about this variant, and most data we have right now is coming out of the UK. We don’t know yet for sure whether the variant is deadlier or whether it spreads more in kids.

But early data suggests it’s more transmissible than other variants.

The good news is that both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines still work relatively well against it—though only after the second dose.

What’s the Delta variant?

The World Health Organization has a new naming system, using the Greek alphabet, for coronavirus variants of concern.

The Delta variant was previously known as the “Indian variant,” as it was first found in India. It’s one of three sub-lineages of the Indian variant, and is also known as B.1.617.2. The Kappa variant—the strain most prevalent in Victoria’s latest outbreak and which originated from South Australian hotel quarantine—is B.1.617.1.

The WHO has introduced this new naming system to avoid stigma associated with attaching country names to variants. There was concern the old naming system might decrease the likelihood of countries reporting new variants in future, for fear their country would be blamed for the variant.

One historical example is the “Spanish flu.” In fact, evidence suggests this flu strain probably didn’t originate in Spain.

The new system is a non-judgemental way to keep track of new variants.

It’s more infectious

The Delta variant has been detected in many different countries across the world, including the UK, US, Fiji, Singapore and now Australia.

In the UK, Delta is outcompeting the Alpha strain, formerly known as the “UK variant.” This alone suggests Delta is more transmissible than Alpha, which is significantly more transmissible than the original strain first detected in Wuhan, China.

The UK’s health secretary said Delta is 40% more infectious than Alpha, and Doherty Institute director Sharon Lewin estimated it’s about 50% more infectious than Alpha.

People infected with Delta tend to infect more of their household members than people with the Alpha strain.

We don’t know yet exactly why it’s more transmissible, but data suggests it’s better at replicating in our cells than other variants. In virology, viruses which are better at replicating in cells tend to be more infectious.

Does it have a shorter incubation period?

Probably not.

Public Health England looked at the time it took an index case with the Delta variant to infect someone in their household.

It found the time between the exposure date and the household member becoming symptomatic was four days, which isn’t significantly different to the Alpha variant.

We don’t know if it’s deadlier yet

There’s some evidence Delta is associated with a higher risk of hospitalisation compared to Alpha.

However, we can’t say this with absolute certainty because it’s very early days.

There’s selective pressure on a virus to become more transmissible, because a virus wants to replicate as much as possible.

But there’s not the same selective pressure on viruses to become more lethal, and it’s not in the virus’ interest to kill its host. The ultimate successful virus lives in its host indefinitely.

I was quite surprised to see suggestions that some SARS-CoV-2 variants are potentially deadlier, though factors that make them more infectious might also make them more lethal.

There are also lots of examples of viruses that become more lethal but at the cost of reduced infectiousness.

One example is bird flu. Because this virus targets the lower respiratory tract, it’s quite deadly because that’s the site where oxygen transfer takes place. However, this makes it harder to transmit.

Are there more cases in kids?

It’s hard to answer this question with certainty.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there are anecdotal reports of Delta being more transmissible in kids.

This same hypothesis was floated when the Alpha variant was first becoming dominant in some parts of the world.

My laboratory has recently investigated whether Alpha replicates better in the cells of children and found it did not.

We haven’t been able to test the Delta variant in our lab yet, but I’d treat this idea with caution, for two reasons.

The first is that the strain is likely more infectious in general, which could be leading to more cases in kids (and everyone).

And secondly, kids haven’t been vaccinated, whereas many adults have, which biases the data.

Our vaccines still work well against it

Some data suggest Delta has the ability to evade our immune systems. This is assessed by looking at the number of antibodies in vaccinated people, then seeing how well those antibodies neutralize the virus in the lab.

Indeed there is a drop off in antibody protection with this variant. However, the key thing to note is that a drop in antibodies in lab tests doesn’t necessarily severely hinder vaccines. Lab results should be treated with caution.

The good news is our current crop of COVID vaccines still remain relatively effective against Delta in the real world.

Data from Public Health England found one dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer was 33% effective against the strain, but two doses was 60% (AstraZeneca) and 88% (Pfizer) effective.

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Russia has nearly 425,000 excess deaths since start of COVID-19 pandemic – data

FILE PHOTO: Patients follow instructions while practicing Tai Chi at the Krylatskoye Ice Palace, which was converted into a temporary hospital for people suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Moscow, Russia, January 20, 2021. Picture taken January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov /File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia recorded nearly 425,000 excess deaths from April 2020 to April 2021 when it was in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters calculations based on data released by Russia’s state statistics service showed on Friday.

The number of excess deaths, which some epidemiologists say is the best way to measure the real death toll from COVID-19, exceeds the official COVID-19 death toll of 123,037 which is calculated by Russia’s coronavirus task force.

Rosstat, the Russian state statistics service, keeps its own records and said on Friday that around 270,000 people had died in Russia from COVID-19 and related causes since the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020 to April 2021.

In April this year, 20,323 people died from COVID-19 and related causes in Russia, which is 11.6% higher than the same period last year, the statistics service said.

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Israel to expand COVID jab rollout to 12-15 age group

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Israel’s health ministry announced Wednesday that children aged 12-15 would be able to receive coronavirus vaccinations, despite “a possible link” between Pfizer/BioNTech inoculations and myocarditis among young men.

On Tuesday, Israel lifted nearly all COVID restrictions after a nationwide vaccination campaign for people aged 16 and up. There were just four new positive cases of the virus recorded in the country that day.

The health ministry also on Tuesday announced the findings of an investigation into a possible link between myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, and the coronavirus vaccinations administerd in Israel.

An observation of 275 myocarditis cases recorded between December 2020 and May 2021 among more than five million vaccinated people found that 148 of them “occurred around the time of vaccination”—27 after the first dose, and 121 after the second.

“There is some probability for a possible link between the second vaccine dose and the onset of myocarditis among young men aged 16 to 30,” the ministry said, with the link “found to be stronger among the younger age group, 16 to 19”.

The ministry noted that 95 percent of the people with myocarditis were “considered to be mild cases.”

On Wednesday, the ministry issued its stance on vaccinations for youths, in which it encouraged vaccinations for those at-risk—despite the myocarditis findings, while stopping short of recommending vaccinations for all children aged 12-15.

“It was decided to recommend imminent vaccinations to at-risk groups, including teens at medical risk of developing a serious case of coronavirus, teens living with at-risk family members, and families planning overseas travel,” a statement said.

“Beyond the at-risk groups, anyone else interested will be able to” receive jabs, the ministry said, adding that vaccinations for teens aged 12-15 would begin next week.

Noting its report on myocarditis, the ministry stressed that the risks of coronavirus complications were “much higher than the risks of receiving a vaccination”.

“The vaccine is effective and safe,” it said. “Even the myocarditis observed among males aged 16-19 was in low numbers, and in most cases passed without complications,” the ministry said.

At the peak of the epidemic in early 2021, Israel saw 10,000 new cases a day and 88,000 active cases, but a rapid campaign using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination brought those numbers down.

There were less than 340 active COVID cases in Israel on Wednesday.

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Australia’s COVID success under threat as Melbourne goes into lockdown

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Five million weary Melbourne residents were put back under lockdown on Friday, straining local resolve and testing Australia’s “zero-COVID” strategy of smothering outbreaks however small.

As authorities said a cluster of positive cases had grown to 39, streets in Australia’s second city emptied out for the fourth time since the pandemic began.

“It’s just very difficult,” resident Gavin Catt told AFP. “This lockdown is affecting us. Many families and friends can’t work.”

Melbournians have been ordered to stay at home for seven days to stall transmission and buy the authorities time to investigate how the virus again jumped from hotel quarantine into the community.

The outbreak is believed to have begun when a traveller infected with the Indian variant returned to Australia, but Victoria’s acting state Premier James Merlino called for military help with the investigation.

Around 15,000 close contacts have been identified and the list of venues visited by confirmed cases had grown to 130.

Merlino on Thursday blamed sluggish vaccine rollout and hotel quarantine failures for the latest outbreak.

“If we had an alternative to hotel quarantine for this particular variant of concern, we would not be here today,” he said.

It is believed to be the 17th time in six months that the virus has leaked out of makeshift hotel quarantine facilities, which are now facing tough scrutiny.

Fingers are also being pointed at Australia’s conservative federal government for the slow rate of vaccinations, which threatens to reverse the country’s early virus success.

Australia has recorded 30,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began—with a large portion in hotel quarantine—in a country of 25 million people.

But only two percent of Australians have so far been fully vaccinated.

“I’m from New York originally so I feel like we’ve had a really good go of it here in Australia in terms of how many people have gotten sick,” said David Gonzalez.

“So I guess I’m willing to accept a bit of a slow rollout but if these things happen more often, they just have to get more vaccines in the country.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his government’s handling of the crisis saying hotel quarantine facilities were “99.99 percent effective.”

But critics countered that a single infection leaking from a quarantine system that has processed thousands of travellers was sufficient to shut down an entire state, and the country’s second-biggest city.

In recent months, Australians had largely been enjoying few restrictions after the country successfully contained the spread of coronavirus.

But outbreaks in Taiwan and Japan have underscored how initial success containing the virus can quickly be eroded without widespread vaccination.

Australia is currently vaccinating around 75,000 people each day.

In a note to clients on Friday, the National Australian Bank warned that it is “clear that virus outbreaks from hotel quarantine remain a significant risk for Australia until a high degree of vaccine penetration is reached”.

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COVID booster shots likely needed within a year

COVID booster shots likely needed within a year: fauci

Fully vaccinated people will likely need a COVID-19 booster shot within about a year, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert and Pfizer’s CEO said Wednesday.

“We know that the vaccine durability of the efficacy lasts at least six months, and likely considerably more, but I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so after getting the primary,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.

Fauci also said Wednesday that variant-specific booster shots may not be needed.

“Instead of having to play whack-a-mole with each individual variant and develop a booster that’s variant-specific, it is likely that you could just keep boosting against the wild type, and wind up getting a good enough response that you wouldn’t have to worry about the variants,” he said. The wild type is the original strain of the virus.

Meanwhile, trials of a Pfizer booster vaccine are ongoing, company CEO Albert Bourla said.

“I believe in one, two months we will have enough data to speak about it with much higher scientific certainty,” he told CNN.

“If they got their second shot eight months ago, they may need a third one,” Bourla said, adding that booster shots could be coming between September and October of this year.

He said Pfizer will have to see what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves, and what its recommendation will be on how best to protect the American people.

Moderna has also been working on a booster shot—a half dose of its vaccine—to fight COVID-19 variants like B.1.351, first seen in South Africa, and P.1, first discovered in Brazil, CNN reported.

Medical experts believe coronavirus may end up being like the flu, which requires a new shot every year both because the circulating strains mutate quickly and because immunity wears off quickly.

Fully vaccinated welcomed to travel to EU countries

The fully vaccinated will soon be welcome to visit countries in the European Union, officials there announced Wednesday.

The new measures for tourists and other travelers could take effect as early as next week, The New York Times reported.

Visitors will be allowed into the bloc’s 27 member states if they’ve been fully immunized with vaccines approved by the European Union’s regulator or the World Health Organization. They include the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines.

That would make Americans, who have been receiving shots from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, eligible to travel to the EU.

Visitors from countries considered safe from a COVID-19 perspective will also be allowed to visit Europe, and a list of those countries will be finalized on Friday, the Times reported.

EU member states will still be able to require negative PCR tests or quarantines for certain visitors.

The EU will also have a legal “emergency brake” that will let it quickly return to more restrictive travel rules if a threatening new variant or other COVID-19 emergency emerges, the Times reported.

US to share another 20 million vaccine doses with countries in need

President Joe Biden announced this week that the United States will share another 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccines with countries that are in dire need of shots.

The move comes on the heels of his promise to share 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with the world by July 4. This latest batch of 20 million doses will include Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well as AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has yet to be approved by federal regulators before being shipped overseas, CNN reported.

“We need to help fight the disease around the world to keep us safe here at home and to do the right thing helping other people. It’s the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do, it’s the strong thing to do,” Biden said during a media briefing at the White House on Monday. “We want to lead the world with our values, with this demonstration of our innovation and ingenuity, and the fundamental decency of the American people.”

As more and more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Biden administration has been starting to help other nations get their populations vaccinated as the pandemic worsens globally. Biden said the vaccines would be shipped by the end of June, when the United States has enough for all of its citizens, the Times reported.

In February, Biden said a $2 billion U.S. contribution would go toward a global coronavirus vaccine initiative, CNN reported. The funding will provide support to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, known as COVAX. Biden also pledged an additional $2 billion in funding contingent on contributions from other nations and dose delivery targets being met, CNN said.

A staggering 11 billion doses are needed to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population, according to Duke University researchers, the Times reported. Only about 1.7 billion have been produced so far, the analytics firm Airfinity estimated.

“It’s great to share, but redistributing 20 million existing doses has little impact on the global demand for the 10-to-15 billion doses needed,” Lori Wallach, who oversees global trade work for advocacy organization Public Citizen, told the Washington Post. “Obviously, it’s better to share than not, but it’s like offering 20 million bites from our existing slice of pizza when… we need to be getting a bunch of new pizza production lines going as fast as possible.”

In the United States, the vaccination picture is much brighter. Biden has said there will be enough vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of this month. As of Wednesday, 125.4 million Americans were fully vaccinated and over 56 percent of adults had received at least one dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recently approved the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15.

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