The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, April 15, 2021
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2:58 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Brazil is heading toward "unimaginable loss of lives," researchers warn

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The remains of a woman who died from complications related to Covid-19 are placed into a niche by cemetery workers and relatives at the Inahuma cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 13.
The remains of a woman who died from complications related to Covid-19 are placed into a niche by cemetery workers and relatives at the Inahuma cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 13. Silvia Izquierdo/AP

Brazil is reporting some of the world's highest new cases per day -- and the country may be headed for even worse times thanks to a combination of political chaos and inaction, a team of public health experts said on Wednesday.

“In Brazil, the federal response has been a dangerous combination of inaction and wrongdoing, including the promotion of chloroquine as treatment despite a lack of evidence,” wrote the team in their report, published in the journal Science.

The report was led by Marcia Castro of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, experts at the University of São Paulo and elsewhere.

“In Rio de Janeiro, political chaos compromised a prompt and effective response. Leaders were immersed in corruption accusations, the governor was removed from office and faced an impeachment trial, and the Secretary of Health was changed three times between May and September, one of whom was arrested,” they added.

Brazil is second only to the US in terms of Covid-19 deaths, with 361,884 fatalities and nearly 13.7 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Inequity and poor management: The researchers argued that "prompt and equitable" responses from the federal government could have helped contain the outbreak and protect the most vulnerable -- but leaders have failed, and are still failing, to do so.

In the city of Manaus, a spike in severe cases led to hospital systems collapsing, with a shortage of oxygen for patients.

“Without immediate action, this could be a preview of what is yet to happen in other localities in Brazil," the team warned. Unless the government took immediate action, conducted epidemiological and genomic surveillance measures, and stepped up vaccinations, the spread of variants will likely lead to "unimaginable loss of lives.”

 

2:33 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Indian capital to convert banquet halls and hotels into Covid treatment facilities

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

Health workers take care of Covid-19 patients at Shehnai banquet hall, which has been converted into a Covid care center in New Delhi, India on April 13.
Health workers take care of Covid-19 patients at Shehnai banquet hall, which has been converted into a Covid care center in New Delhi, India on April 13. Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Banquet halls and hotels in the Indian capital region of Delhi are being converted into “extended Covid hospitals” as cases continue to surge during the country's second wave.

A total of 23 hotels and banquets halls will be linked to private hospitals to add more than 2,000 additional beds, according to an order by Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Wednesday. Patients will be sent to the hotels and linked private hospitals depending on their condition.

“The hotel shall provide regular hotel services, including rooms, housekeeping, disinfection and food for the patients for a price not greater than Rs5,000 ($66) for five-star hotels and not more than Rs4,000 ($53) for three/four-star hotels per day per person,” read the order, tweeted by Jain.

For oxygen support, Rs2,000 ($26) can be charged per day, the order stated.

Government hospitals have also increased their number of beds and oxygen support, Jain said.

On Wednesday, Delhi recorded 17,282 new cases, its highest single-day figure since the start of the pandemic. Since April 11, Delhi has recorded more than 10,000 cases per day -- the positivity rate has jumped from 9.43% to 15.92%.

Nationwide second wave: India surpassed 14 million total cases on Thursday, with numbers rising every day as the second wave sweeps the country.

India recorded 200,739 new cases on Wednesday -- the first time it has surpassed the 200,000 mark.

The country has reported more than 173,000 total coronavirus deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

2:41 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

NIH director on J&J Covid-19 vaccine pause: "We need to figure this out"

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

A healthcare worker loads a syringe with the Covid-19 Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine on March 26 in Buffalo, West Virginia.
A healthcare worker loads a syringe with the Covid-19 Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine on March 26 in Buffalo, West Virginia. Stephen Zenner/Getty Images

The pause on the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine will allow researchers to investigate a potential link to severe blood clotting events, particularly whether certain populations are more susceptible, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Wednesday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration recommended a pause on use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine, following six reported US cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot.

“Many people have heard about blood clots as something that you get in your legs, maybe if nothing is done, they have the risk of spreading to your lungs,” Collins said at a virtual event hosted by the American Association for Cancer Research. “This is a different kind of blood clotting scenario, where there is an activation of the platelets in the body, so that they begin to clot in various places. Most dangerously, this happens in the cerebral venous sinuses inside the skull.”

Collins said individuals who experience this kind of event have extremely low platelet counts, “because they've essentially been consumed.”

Collins noted the concerns are similar to those raised with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, which also uses an adenovirus vector platform.

“Some possibility here that it's something about the vector that in a very rare individual sets off this cascade,” he said. “We need to figure this out.”

More context: The cases of severe blood clots after vaccination with the J&J vaccine in the US were all among women. Collins noted the pause will allow researchers to investigate whether particular populations are more susceptible and should perhaps not take the vaccine.

He assured people the pause will not set back the vaccination effort in the US.

“In fact, the J&J vaccine supply was the smallest of the three and was not going to be particularly critical to get us to the point where everybody would have vaccine access by the end of May, or certainly by June,” Collins said.