April 22 coronavirus news

By Nicholas Pearce, Ivana Kottasová and Sophie Jeong, CNN

Updated 0703 GMT (1503 HKT) April 26, 2021
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8:25 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

EU declines option to buy 100 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses

From CNN's Pierre Bairin and Arnaud Siad

Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are seen at a doctor's office in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31.
Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are seen at a doctor's office in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31. Lennart Preiss/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union is declining an option to order an additional 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine from AstraZeneca, a spokesman said Thursday.

The move follows months of public criticism of the drug maker by European officials.

The European Commission did not exercise the option to buy the doses and the deadline for it has now passed, Commission spokesperson for health Stefan de Keersmaecker said.

The Commission is focusing on getting delivery of the 300 million doses it initially ordered, he said.

"In the first quarter, 30 million doses were delivered, which is less than what was contractually expected. For the second quarter, the contract provided for 180 million doses. The company said it was able to deliver 70 million doses," he said.

European officials have been publicly furious that AstraZeneca has delivered fewer doses than the EU says it ordered, prompting the bloc to impose export restrictions on doses manufactured in the EU. The company has cited delays in production. 

The news comes a day after Norway announced that it will send 16,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Iceland, according to a statement from the Icelandic Directorate of Health.

7:31 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not appear to pose serious risk during pregnancy, new study suggests

From CNN Health’s Jessica Firger

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines don’t appear to pose any serious risks during pregnancy, an early analysis of real-world data from the United States shows.

The analysis only looked at Pfizer and Moderna shots, which are both based on newer mRNA technology, so the findings are not relevant to vaccines such as those made by like AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. 

The new data, along with existing research showing mRNA vaccines are effective in pregnant and breastfeeding people, suggest that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks.

The analysis, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the data of more than 35,000 pregnant people who had reported their health status through CDC reporting systems, including a smartphone app, and followed up with a group of 3,958 pregnant participants who had received an mRNA vaccine. 

It found that adverse outcomes, including pregnancy loss and preterm births, were not significantly higher in people who had been given a vaccine.

Read the full story here.

7:07 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

The pandemic forced us to create habits that benefit the Earth and ourselves

From CNN's Megan Marples

As the world marks Earth Day, it's a good time to look at the newly acquired habits are worth retaining when the pandemic ends.

Some of our behaviors have benefited the environment, like buying locally, reducing our commutes and flying less. Other habits have reduced our odds of catching other illnesses. But retaining those habits is easier said than done.

6:28 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Mexico warns that selling fake Covid-19 vaccines jeopardizes public health

From CNNE's Fidel Gutierrez and Karol Suarez in Mexico City

Mexico's Federal Commission for the Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) has warned that selling counterfeit Pfizer vaccines poses a "health risk" to the population.

Earlier this week, Pfizer said it had identified counterfeit Covid-19 shots in Mexico and Poland.

Responding to the reports, COFEPRIS said:

"Any alleged vaccine against Covid-19 that is for sale through internet pages, social media, by telephone, pharmacies, hospitals, and points of sale, constitutes fraud and a health risk because it's of doubtful origin."

The commission has warned of fake Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon in February.

Vaccination against Covid-19 is free and universal in Mexico, COFEPRIS said in the statement, adding that it hasn't issued a license to any company for the sale or import of the vaccines.

"Any unauthorized vaccination report is alarming since it's illegal, irregular, and puts the health of those who receive it at risk," it said.

"People can trust that all the vaccines from the National Vaccination Program against Covid-19 are of quality, safe and effective since they were approved by this commission." 

6:08 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Spain will donate some of its vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean

From CNN’s Tatiana Arias and Jennifer Hauser in Atlanta

A medic prepares a vaccine at a vaccination site in Madrid, Spain, on April 16.
A medic prepares a vaccine at a vaccination site in Madrid, Spain, on April 16. Jesus Hellin/Europa Press/Getty Images

Spain will donate between 5% and 10% of its Covid-19 shots to the global vaccine sharing scheme once 50% of its population is inoculated, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Wednesday.

"Spain will set aside 7.5 million doses through the multilateral mechanism, COVAX, for Latin America and the Caribbean and this translates into a donation of 5 to 10% of the total vaccines Spain will receive in 2021," Sanchez said during a press briefing in Andorra, Spain. He said the country will activate the scheme once 50% of the population is vaccinated, which he said would be "very soon."

As of Wednesday, Spain has fully vaccinated 7.6% of its population. About 21% have received at least one dose of a the vaccine, according to health ministry data.

Sanchez also encouraged nations to have conversations over Covid-19 vaccine patents, saying that “rights to intellectual property cannot halt, but rather be [one of the] solutions to guarantee soonest vaccination to the world's population."

Spain has secured over 93 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines though the European Union and has so far received a total of 14,924,175 doses.

5:12 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Black market traders are cashing in on remdesivir shortage in Indian hospitals and pharmacies

From CNN's Aditi Sangal in New Delhi

An employee of the Egyptian pharmaceutical company Eva Pharma holds a pack of the antiviral medication remdesivir at the company's factory in Giza, Egypt, in June 2020.
An employee of the Egyptian pharmaceutical company Eva Pharma holds a pack of the antiviral medication remdesivir at the company's factory in Giza, Egypt, in June 2020. Fadel Dawood/picture alliance/Getty Images

Black market traders in India are charging up to 10 times the recommended retail price for remdesivir, according to police, as hospitals and pharmacies report a shortage of the antiviral drug amid a second wave of coronavirus in the country.

The official price of the drug is set at 899-3,490 rupees (about $12-47), according to a government memorandum on April 17.

However, a Mumbai police official told CNN three people were recently arrested trying to sell the drug for 20,000 rupees per vial ($266). In Vishakhapatnam, another police official said, four hospital employees were arrested as they tried to sell remdesivir vials for 9,000 rupees each ($200).

“It is an alarming situation,” said Harshita Chandra, the assistant police commissioner in east Vishakhapatnam. “I want to raise as much awareness about this issue so it becomes popular and people can be more alert and vigilant.”

Abhijeet Kumar from Raipur, a city in the state of Chhatisgarh, said he was trying to find six doses of the drug online for his Covid-19-positive uncle when he was offered them at more than four times the highest official price.

He said he declined the offer as his family could not afford it. “I have already admitted my uncle in a private hospital and it costs 20,000 rupees per day. I can’t afford more,” he said.

Some background: The benefits of remdesivir in the treatment of Covid-19 are unclear. The Indian government and the US Food and Drug Administration have approved the drug for emergency use within hospitals, though the World Health Organization says evidence does not suggest the drug lessens the risk of dying from Covid-19 or needing mechanical ventilation.

Government action so far: Several ministers across India have acknowledged the issue of black market profiteering of remdesivir. The Delhi chief minister promised the “strictest action” against the malpractice. The soaring demand for the drug has prompted the Indian government to temporarily ban the export of the medication to increase its supply in the domestic market. In addition, the finance ministry has waived import duties on it 

5:41 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

India reports highest worldwide rise in daily Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

Family members sit on benches next to a pyre of a Covid-19 victim at Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium in New Delhi, India in the early hours of Thursday, April 22.
Family members sit on benches next to a pyre of a Covid-19 victim at Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium in New Delhi, India in the early hours of Thursday, April 22. Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

India reported 314,835 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the highest daily increase in cases worldwide since the pandemic began.

The country also recorded its highest number of new Covid-19 deaths at 2,104 fatalities.

The stark figures come as health care and other essential services across India are close to collapse amid a second coronavirus wave that is tearing through the country with devastating speed.

The Union Territory of Delhi on Wednesday received less than half of required oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients, with 200-250 metric tons of oxygen against a requirement of 700 metric tons, the advocate for the Delhi government told the high court on Wednesday.

A petition by the Bajaj Medical and Research Centre, which runs a chain of private hospitals, said five of its hospitals in Delhi had between two to 18 hours of oxygen supply left.

While the court was hearing the petition, two of the five private hospitals referred to in the petition had received the supply of oxygen, the court noted.

As of Thursday afternoon, Delhi had 26 vacant ICU beds, according to government data.

Several Indian states have imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged states to use lockdown as a last resort.

India's second most populous state of Maharashtra has announced new restrictions on Wednesday. People will be allowed to travel only for essential services or for "unavoidable events" like funerals. All private passenger transport will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

The new rules will come into force 8 p.m. local time on Thursday and will remain in place until 7 a.m. on May 1.

India had now recorded a total 15,930,965 cases as of Thursday, according to the India Ministry of Health. The total death toll now stands at 184,657.

Some context: India’s population is nearly four times that of the United States, and its daily cases still falls behind the US when adjusted for population size (in cases per million people). But India’s outbreak is undoubtedly the world’s biggest in absolute numbers at the moment — nearly 28% of all new cases worldwide in the past week came from India, said the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

1:46 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

The CDC is putting together further guidance for vaccinated Americans, White House says

From CNN's DJ Judd 

A sheet of "I Got My Covid-19 Vaccine" stickers are seen at the St. Joseph's Community Campus in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania on April 21.
A sheet of "I Got My Covid-19 Vaccine" stickers are seen at the St. Joseph's Community Campus in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania on April 21. Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are “in the process of putting together further guidance” for vaccinated Americans, White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response Andy Slavitt told CNN.

The CDC is “not always going to be as fast as everybody wants them to be, because they like to study the data and make sure that they're, generally speaking, not putting things out that they will have to take back,” Slavitt said. 
“But I'm quite confident that over the next couple of weeks and months, those questions will be answered, those guidelines will absolutely loosen. And they're going to be science-based but also hopefully very practical.”

Slavitt also touted the White House’s newly announced efforts to counter plateauing vaccination rates by offering incentives for businesses to allow their employees to get vaccinated.

“One of the things that's changing most rapidly is we have vaccinated the lion's share of people over 65, and we're doing pretty well with people over 50 -- this week we have started to move in earnest to vaccinate working Americans," he said.

1:48 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Only 2 "breakthrough" infections among hundreds of fully vaccinated people, new study finds

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

For fully vaccinated people, the risk of still getting Covid-19 -- described as "breakthrough infections" -- remains extremely low, a new study out of New York suggests.

Among 417 employees at Rockefeller University who were fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna shots, two of them or about .5%, had breakthrough infections later, according to the study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"We have characterized bona fide examples of vaccine breakthrough manifesting as clinical symptoms," the researchers wrote in their study. "These observations in no way undermine the importance of the urgent efforts being taken at the federal and state levels to vaccinate the U.S. population. They also lend support to efforts to advance a new vaccine booster (as well as a pan-coronavirus vaccine) to provide increased protection against variants."

The researchers, from Rockefeller University, found that coronavirus variants with several differences from the original virus caused the breakthrough infections.

A variant that infected one of the patients had the mutation E484K, which was first found in the B.1.351 variant originally identified in South Africa. E484K has been called an "escape mutant" because it has shown it might be able to escape some of the antibodies produced by coronavirus vaccines. One of the mutations found in both study participants' infections included D614G, which emerged early in the pandemic.

Read the full story: