A version of this story appeared in the May 11 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
But beyond those perks lie the main incentives of the Covid-19 vaccines, which have sharply brought down cases, hospitalizations and deaths – and have brought us a first step towards life as we once knew it.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded emergency use authorization for the Pfizer shot to include youths aged 12-15 on Monday, making it the first coronavirus vaccine authorized for younger teens and adolescents. States will be given the go-ahead to administer the shot to the new age group as soon as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives its final approval, expected Wednesday, although doctors who already have doses on hand can use their discretion in using them before that. The move opens the door for another 5% of Americans (nearly 17 million people) to get inoculated and 85% of the US population will soon be eligible for the vaccine.
President Joe Biden welcomed the news on Monday, saying: “The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter.” The President’s comments highlighted the positive impact that the country’s robust vaccination program has already had in bringing down cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Nearly 58% of US adults have already had at least one dose and 34% of the entire population is fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
Other parts of the world, however, are battling cataclysmic outbreaks with few to no vaccines in sight, reminding us of the stark divisions caused by an inequitable global vaccine rollout. High- and upper-middle income countries represent 53% of the world’s population, but have received 83% of the vaccines, while low- and lower-middle income countries – which account for 47% of the global population – have received just 17% of the vaccines, according to new World Health Organization (WHO) data. “Yes, vaccines are reducing severe disease and death in countries that are fortunate enough to have them in sufficient quantities, and early results suggest that vaccines might also drive down transmission,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. “But the shocking global disparity in access to vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic.”
Tedros added that “globally, we are still in a perilous situation,” pointing to a rapid rise in cases and deaths in the WHO’s South-East Asia region, which includes India – where the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold. India officially recorded 329,942 cases of Covid-19 and 3,876 deaths on Tuesday, bringing its total case load to over 22.9 million and its death toll to 249,992. So far, less than 3% of the country’s 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated.
To protect more Indians against the virus, the Indian government has shifted its focus from supplying vaccines to other countries through the COVAX scheme, a vaccine-sharing initiative for lower-income countries, to prioritizing its own citizens. But as COVAX is largely reliant on India’s vaccine manufacturers, countries which are depending on those doses are still waiting.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Will waiving vaccine patents help bring the pandemic to an end?
A: Activists and some world leaders argue that doing so is the only way to speed up access to Covid-19 vaccines for developing nations at a time when richer countries have bought up the lion’s share of global supply. But some say what’s really needed is technology transfer.
There’s a whole group of people who have been talking about what they call “primary ovarian insufficiency” – an extremely rare condition when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs – and they’ve attributed that to other vaccines in the past, Maldonado says. So it wouldn’t be surprising if those same people are making that same spurious connection with the Covid-19 vaccine, she said.
There is no evidence at this point that this vaccine will affect development or fertility. It is a mRNA vaccine platform – it enters the cell and serves as a template for antibody development and almost immediately disintegrates into little pieces that are inert. It’s made from nucleic acids, which are basically the building blocks of all our cells, and these aren’t incorporated into anything. They just fall apart and are eliminated.
For more questions on kids and the Covid-19 vaccine, read the rest of CNN’s Q&A with Dr. Maldonado here.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Medical journal slams Indian government for ‘squandering’ early Covid-19 success
“If that outcome were to happen, Modi’s Government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe,” the Lancet editorial warned.
Quantifying the risk posed by the variant will require real-world data in addition to greater genomic surveillance, WHO officials said Monday, who added that they will be releasing more information on the variant on Tuesday.
On the second Mother’s Day of the pandemic, CNN spoke with five women who used to feel they could do it all. Today, their realities have shifted. “I just want to maintain okay. I don’t even want to be great right now,” one woman said. “I just want to be okay, I want to feel okay.” Explore their stories here.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a further easing of pandemic restrictions in England on Monday, saying the move would mark the “single biggest step” towards normality. From May 17, international travel to countries on a “green list” will be allowed without quarantining, and indoor hospitality and entertainment will re-open, along with some larger events, including concerts and sports events. The government also wants to see “intimate contact between friends” restored in England, senior minister Michael Gove told the BBC on Sunday. Asked if that meant hugs would be allowed again from around May 17, Gove answered: “Yes.”
The UK’s Covid-19 alert level was also lowered from level four – which states that transmission is high or rising exponentially – to level three – where the epidemic is in general circulation, on Monday. The country is now recording around 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day, compared with a daily peak of over 76,000 in January, according to government data. Daily deaths have also drastically dropped.
The UK has recorded the worst death toll in Europe with more than 127,000 fatalities, but emerged from a devastating second wave with the help of a successful vaccination campaign. More than 50 million vaccine doses have been administered nationwide so far, with the program on track to offer all adults a shot by the end of July, the government said Sunday.
Dr. V.K. Paul, a member of the Indian government-run think-tank Niti Aayog, said Friday that the outbreak was “not big,” and that the situation was being assessed and controlled. Paul explained there are two elements to consider: “One that we are using drugs that suppress the immune system… [and] besides this, when a Covid patient is given oxygen, there is a humidifier which has water in it and the tendency to get the fungal infection increases.”
India’s Covid-19 crisis has spiraled out of control, devastating families across the country and wreaking havoc on the country’s health system. And while the country’s current health emergency threatens to stall its own economic recovery, it’s also sending shockwaves through several important global industries, including the shipping, pharmaceutical, textile and financial sectors.
That’s because 80% of world goods trade by volume is carried on ships, with more than 200,000 of an estimated 1.7 million seafarers hailing from India. But as the country’s crisis persists, some experts fear that travel restrictions on people from India could led to an impending shortage of seafarers that could disrupt the global supply chain.
Another major concern is the pharmaceutical sector, given that India is the world’s largest supplier of generic drugs. In the US, 90% of all prescriptions are filled by generic drugs and one in every three pills consumed is produced by an Indian generics manufacturer, according to a joint study from Confederation of Indian Industry and KPMG in April 2020. But Indian drug makers get as much as 70% of their raw materials from China, a link in the supply chain that now looks vulnerable. Read more here on how India’s current situation could affect you.
ON OUR RADAR
- Up to 10,000 airline passengers at an airport in Sumatra, Indonesia, may have been tested for Covid-19 with reused nasal swabs in a scam that lasted for four months, police say.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed the B.1.617 coronavirus variant first detected in India as a “variant of interest.” Here’s what that means.
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has asked China to withdraw 1,000 donated doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, just two days after he got the shot himself. The vaccine isn’t authorized in the country.
- Hospitals in the Japanese prefecture of Osaka have no more beds available for severe Covid-19 patients, with bed occupancy rates surpassing capacity on Wednesday.
- New Zealand has suspended quarantine-free travel arrangements for flights from Australia’s most-populous state of New South Wales after an outbreak in Sydney.
TODAY’S TOP TIP
Confused on the difference between the B.1.526 and the P.1? We’ve got you covered here.
For the first time in more than a year, many of us are ready to imagine the next chapter of our lives. But as we prepare for the “new normal,” CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains how rest will play a crucial part as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.
But first we have to talk about change – and the stress that can accompany it.
Gupta says that stress can be good – and even essential for brain health. That’s because we used to think that humans have a certain number of brain cells, which eventually die off, and that was it. But we’ve learned more recently that it is quite possible that humans are able to generate new brain cells throughout our entire lives. As an extra bonus, humans also possess the ability to form new connections between those new brain cells, and maybe even change the brain circuitry, which is known as neuroplasticity. For some, the pandemic has allowed for space to begin taking those steps to rewire, and even expand, our neural pathways to build healthy habits for a happier and safer lives.
One of the great shifts that we could make, Gupta says, is to recognize rest. If we truly build rest into our schedules and treat it as the priority it should be, then even pretty intense stress can be okay and can help facilitate growth.