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- The United States reached the sobering milestone of 600,000 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, meaning one in every 550 people in the nation has died from the virus. This coincided with the two states that have recorded the most deaths, California and New York, reopening and dropping most of their Covid-19 restrictions. Amid the grief, cases and deaths have fallen in the country, while vaccination rates are holding steady as many shed their masks and return to their pre-pandemic lives.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now calls the Delta coronavirus strain, also known as B.1.617.2, a “variant of concern,” a designation given to strains that scientists believe are more transmissible or can cause more severe disease. The variant, which was first identified in India, shows increased transmissibility and a potential reduction in neutralization by some monoclonal antibody treatments. Experts worry that it could pose a risk to people who have not received the vaccine.
- At Sunday’s summit G7 leaders issued a call for a new study into the origins of Covid-19, including in China, after an initial report was deemed lacking because Beijing had refused to cooperate. They also outlined steps to end the pandemic, and collectively pledged hundreds of millions of vaccine doses. But critics say this is not enough. “At least 11bn vaccine doses are needed to guarantee all countries the same levels of anti-Covid protection as the west. Without that worldwide coverage, the disease will continue to spread, mutate and return to threaten even the vaccinated,” former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote in the Guardian.
- England kicked back its June 21 lifting of Covid-19 restrictions by four weeks due to the growth of the Delta variant. Cases of the strain are rising in the UK at 7% week on week and the government fears that if restrictions were to be fully lifted next Monday, then hospitalizations could increase to the levels seen in the country’s first wave. Meanwhile, new studies have found that the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are protective against the variant. However, another study found that the Delta variant doubles the risk of hospitalization compared to the B.1.1.7 or Alpha variant. This means the UK is in a race against time to get jabs in arms over the next four weeks.
- The United States has fully vaccinated more than 45% of its population against Covid-19, official data shows, but just 10% of the world’s population – around 782 million people – is fully inoculated, according to Our World in Data. The figures highlight the persistence of global inequality in access to vaccines, which are highly effective in preventing illness and death, and will help economies recover from the pandemic.
- Inequalities within the 10% of the world’s population who have been vaccinated are also stark: More than 30% of people in North America and 28% of people in Europe are fully vaccinated, compared to about 11% in South America and 8% in Asia. In Africa, less than 1% of the population is vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Our World in Data. China is one Asian country powering ahead with vaccines, having now administered more than 1 billion Covid-19 shots, according to National Health Commission data reported by state media outlet Xinhua.
- A new national survey found that nearly five times more people in the US were infected with coronavirus last year than was officially reported. The National Institutes of Health team found as many as 16.8 million people had Covid-19, never noticed symptoms and were never diagnosed with it by the end of last July. That’s five times the reported number.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel mixed-and-matched her Covid-19 vaccines, raising questions over whether doing so is now allowed in the country. Merkel initially received an AstraZeneca shot in April but was given the Moderna vaccine for her second dose a few days ago, a government spokesman said Tuesday. The European Medicines Agency in April said it had no guidelines on mixing and matching vaccines, as data on the practice had yet to be submitted to the body. Canada has approved mixing and matching vaccines. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actively recommends against mixing vaccines.
- India’s health ministry on Tuesday designated the new Delta Plus Covid-19 strain as a “variant of concern.” Delta Plus is a version of the Delta variant first identified in India. Delta has become the dominant Covid-19 strain in many countries, including the UK, and is poised to become dominant in the US. It has been detected in 22 people in three Indian states so far.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Is it OK to mix coronavirus vaccine brands?
A: As of May 31, nearly 170 million Americans had received at least one dose of the vaccine. In that time, fewer than 800 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis – inflammation of the tissue around the heart – have been reported after receiving the vaccine, according to the CDC, most of them after the second dose. And these are preliminary numbers – they might be lower as further investigation could show that not all of these people actually had myocarditis or pericarditis.
With CDC data showing that 64.6% of the adult population is vaccinated with at least one dose and with shots available to Americans 12 and older, pediatricians are now working to fill in some of the gaps in vaccine coverage.
One month after Sandhills Pediatrics in Southern Pines, North Carolina started offering the Covid-19 vaccine, the practice administered 940 doses of the Pfizer vaccine – 268 went not to patients, but adults over the age of 23.
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TOP 3 READS OF THE WEEK
The US’ donation is likely to draw the ire of Beijing, which has bridled at Taipei’s apparent refusal to accept its offer of Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines. Taipei, on the other hand, has accused Beijing of blocking its efforts to purchase vaccines internationally, rather than trying to help.
When the Tokyo Olympics put out a call for volunteers, Nima Esnaashari signed up along with thousands of others in Japan eager to soak up the atmosphere of the world’s biggest sporting event. But the closer the Games get, the more anxious he’s becoming about the risk of catching Covid-19. Like the majority of Japan’s population, he hasn’t been vaccinated and doesn’t know if he’ll receive a dose before the pandemic-delayed Games begin on July 23.
This comes as Japan’s ruling coalition and other lawmakers on Tuesday voted down a no-confidence motion, which was called over opposition to the Tokyo Olympics going ahead.
Watchdog announces review of NIH grants that likely includes money connected to Wuhan lab
Federal government investigators said Tuesday that they are launching a review into how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) manages and monitors its grant program, which likely includes money connected to a Wuhan lab that GOP lawmakers have been scrutinizing. Republicans have zeroed in on NIH’s relationship with EcoHealth Alliance, the global nonprofit that helped fund some research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, to attack Dr. Anthony Fauci and score political points.
One NIH official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the review openly, called it “political” in nature but believed that ultimately it would be a good thing and would clear NIH of any wrongdoing. The comprehensive review also coincides with renewed questions over the origin of the Covid-19 virus and the potential role that China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology may have played.
This spring, researchers gave the full two doses of the Chinese vaccine Coronavac to 27,160 adults – about 95% of the city’s adult population. While researchers’ full findings have not yet been peer-reviewed or published, preliminary results released on June 1 showed an 80% reduction in the number of symptomatic cases, with an 86% decrease in Covid-related hospitalizations and a 95% drop in mortality.
At least 577 Indian children lost both parents to Covid between April 1 and May 25, when India was battling its second wave of the outbreak, according to government figures. But non-government organizations fear that many other orphans – potentially thousands – have been missed in the official count due to the difficulty in tracing these children.
What the Delta variant could mean for Covid-19 in the US
Think about if you are risk-tolerant or risk-averse: People differ in what they worry about, and as such, individuals should take in information and evaluate how trustworthy they consider it and how relevant it is to their own situation.
Unvaccinated athletes should wear a mask for all indoor activity except situations in which a mask may pose a hazard. For outdoor activities, AAP recommends that unvaccinated athletes wear a mask while on the sidelines and in all activities involving sustained contact of 3 feet or less.
If you, or someone you know, is holding off getting the vaccine out of fear it might affect fertility, take heart – there’s nothing to worry about.
Read the rest of the guidelines here.
WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK
- Brazil’s Supreme Court will meet Thursday to consider the possible suspension of next week’s Copa America soccer tournament after some law makers and labor groups argued the tournament should be stopped due to the possibility it could spark a fresh wave of Covid-19 cases. Brazilian national team players and staff criticized the tournament’s organizers in an open letter on Wednesday, but said that they would still participate should it go ahead.