Coronavirus Breaking News

The coronavirus disease COVID-19 is currently reaching pandemic levels in various countries.

Jun 12, 2021 • 10:07 am CDT

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia confirmed it has restricted the Hajj 2021 pilgrimage to citizens and residents and set a maximum of 60,000 pilgrims in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, reported Aljazeera on June 12, 2021.

“Those wishing to perform the hajj must be free of chronic diseases and be vaccinated,” and between the ages of 18 and 65, the Hajj ministry said in a statement.

And the Council of Senior Scholars has voiced support for the decision, citing the move's contributions to saving lives.

In a statement issued on June 12th, the Council noted that the decision to limit the Hajj for this year (1442 H/ 2021 AD) is part of the coronavirus-containment measures and is aimed at ensuring that Hajj is performed in a safe manner, adding that the decision is in line in line with the teachings of Islam in preserving the lives of human beings.

The statement cited the Holy Quran verses: "Do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction" and a Hadith warning: “If there is a plague in a town, no one should leave it or go into it.”

Citing experts' warning that large gatherings increase the risk of coronavirus infections, the Council described the Saudi government's decision to limit this year's Hajj as reasonable, responsible, and highly needed to protect human lives and ensure safe Hajj.

Hajj and Umrah are religious pilgrimages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Islamic religious doctrine dictates that every non-disabled adult Muslim who can afford to do so is obligated to make Hajj at least once in his or her lifetime.

Jun 11, 2021 • 12:08 pm CDT

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed it is taking action to increase the supply of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine in the USA and globally.

On June 11, 2021, the FDA announced that it is authorizing for use under the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, two drug substance batches previously manufactured at the Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore, MD.

The FDA’s decision to include these batches in the EUA for the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine means that vaccines made with this drug substance can be used in the USA or exported to other countries. 

“These actions followed an extensive review of records. This review has been taking place while Emergent BioSolutions prepares to resume manufacturing operations with corrective actions to ensure compliance with the FDA’s current good manufacturing practice requirements,” said Peter Marks, M.D. Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in an FDA-issued press statement issued on June 11, 2021.

Furthermore, the FDA has determined several other batches are not suitable for use. However, additional batches are still under review, and the agency will keep the public informed as those reviews are completed.

The Maryland-based FDA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Jun 11, 2021 • 8:54 am CDT

Prof Ashok Rattan is a veteran medical microbiologist in India, wrote an article published by BioVoice on June 11, 2021, discussing how the 'Sputnik V vaccine could accelerate the vaccination drive in India.'

This article is excerpted below:

'India has acted as the hub for testing samples of the Sputnik V vaccine, also produced in the country. The country has taken the onus of producing millions of doses of the vaccine- both for local use and export.

This is to say that with India’s image as the world’s biggest vaccine maker and world-class production and export capabilities, it is the ideal partner to Russia’s long-standing track record as medical pioneers.

India’s vaccine policy has a sole purpose- to strengthen the whole vaccine program in the country.

As we know, vaccines have been one of the great public health tools in India, and the Indian vaccine industry has also made great inroads in the national and global vaccine scenario.

The focus should be now on continued evaluation of the policies to keep up with the volatile nature of the pandemic and to ultimately ensure that we come out of this stronger,' concluded Rattan's edited comments.

Prof Ashok Rattan was conferred APJ Abdul Kalam Award for Lifetime Contribution to Medical Sciences in 2018 and Shriniwas Oration in 2021 by the Indian Association of Microbiologists for his contribution to the laboratory diagnosis of Tuberculosis. Currently, he is an Advisor at Pathkind Laboratories.

Jun 11, 2021 • 7:57 am CDT

Massachusetts-based Moderna, Inc. and Tabuk Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company, a Saudi pharmaceuticals company, announced an agreement to commercialize the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and future variant-specific booster candidates in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“We are proud and excited at Tabuk to be partnering with Moderna to commercialize crucial vaccines to Saudi Arabia, building on our strategy to expand our specialty and innovative business and reinforces our leading position in the region. Our aspiration is to be the partner of choice to Moderna in the region and consider further strategic collaboration including local manufacturing in Saudi,” said Wisam Alkhatib Pharm., MBA., VP of Strategy and Business Development of Tabuk Pharmaceuticals, in a related press statement issued on June 11, 2021.

Moderna designs its mRNA vaccines using the virus's sequence, not on the virus itself. 

Cambridge, MA-based Moderna’s mRNA platform builds on continuous advances in basic and applied mRNA science, delivery technology, and manufacturing, and has allowed the development of therapeutics and vaccines for infectious diseases, immuno-oncology, rare diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and auto-immune diseases.

Jun 10, 2021 • 9:48 pm CDT

The latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England (PHE) shows that COVID-19 infection rates in north-west England increased over the last seven days to June 6, 2021.

This is the highest total for the region since late February 2021 and is also the highest of any region in England.

Furthermore, the latest figures show 906 COVID-19 patients in hospitals in England as of June 10th, up from 779 a week earlier.

PHE also said that case rates have risen among almost all age groups in England, with a spike in rates amongst 20 to 29-year-olds, going from 54.0 in the week ending May 30th to 121.0 in the seven days to June 6th.

Additionally, PHE estimates to May 30, 2021, based on the direct effect of vaccination and vaccine coverage rates, are that around 42,000 hospitalizations have been prevented in those aged 65 years and over in England due to the vaccination program. And, there is increasing evidence that vaccines prevent infection and transmission.

Three COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer/BioNTech, COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, and COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna, are currently being used in the UK. All have been authorized for supply by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) following a thorough review of safety, quality, and efficacy information from clinical trials.

As of June 2, 2021, for the UK, 67,998 Yellow Cards have been reported for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, 195,641 have been reported for the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, 3,278 for the COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna, and 754 have been reported where the brand of the vaccine was not specified.

The MHRA has received 406 Yellow Card reports of suspected adverse reaction to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in which the patient died shortly after vaccination, 863 reports for the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, 4 for the COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna, and 22 where the brand of the vaccine was unspecified. The majority of these reports were in older adults or people with underlying illnesses.

It is important to note that Yellow Card data cannot derive side effect rates or compare the safety profile of COVID-19 vaccinations, says PHE.

Jun 10, 2021 • 5:19 pm CDT

A new study published by the European Heart Journal - Quality of Care & Clinical Outcomes on June 9, 2021, consolidate evidence to determine the association between cardiovascular risk factors and health outcomes with COVID-19. The study authors identified a total of 32 reviews published in 2020, including studies of up to 45,000 patients with COVID-19. 

Heart disease was linked with nearly four-fold odds of severe COVID-19, while the odds were more than doubled for hypertension and diabetes and 80% higher in smokers than non-smokers.

Study author Stephanie Harrison, Ph.D., of the University of Liverpool stated in a related press release, “One possible explanation may be that cardiovascular disease, or its risk factors, may cause changes to pathways which impact the body’s ability to respond to the virus effectively.”

“Many of the cardiovascular risk factors associated with more severe consequences from COVID-19 are potentially modifiable."

“Clinicians and policymakers should consider that strategies which improve cardiovascular health may also improve outcomes for people following COVID-19.”

"Our study indicates that COVID-19 patients with heart disease or its risk factors are at greater risk of hospitalization, ventilation, or death due to COVID-19 and might need more intense treatment and monitoring," concluded Dr. Harrison.

Public Health England funded this work.

Jun 10, 2021 • 12:45 pm CDT

Reuters reported that Germany’s vaccine advisory committee recommended on June 10, 2021, only adolescents with pre-existing conditions should be given the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Furthermore, Germany's doctors and patients should make informed decisions regarding vaccination exceptions to this new recommendation.

A meta-analysis published on April 27, 2021, by researchers at the German Diabetes Center found obese men with diabetes were 28% more likely to die from COVID-19.

The Munich-based Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) is an independent advisory group that develops national recommendations for the use of licensed vaccines. STIKO recommendations are not legally binding, but by German law, they form the basis for the federal states’ vaccination guidance and the Federal Joint Committee’s vaccination directive.

BioNTech SE was the initial developer of the COVID-19 vaccine and is based in Mainz, Germany.

In the USA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization to include people 12 years and older in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination program without limitation on May 10, 2021. And the European Medicines Agency issued authorization for this age group on May 28, 2021.

Jun 10, 2021 • 6:50 am CDT

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) announced on June 10, 2021, the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Bahrain collected data between February and early May 2021 following World Health Organization guidelines involving more than 5,000 subjects.

This new Sputnik V vaccine effectiveness analysis found an overall efficacy beyond 14 days after administering the second vaccine dose was estimated at 94.3%. 

Bahrain data also demonstrates that 98.6% of all COVID-19 cases 14 days after receiving the second dose were mild among those vaccinated with Sputnik V.

From a safety perspective, the data indicates Sputnik V vaccination generated no serious adverse events associated with vaccination, no deaths related to the vaccination, no cerebral vein thrombosis cases after vaccination.

HE Faeqa Saeed Al-Saleh, Bahrain’s Minister of Health, stated in an RDIF press release, “Our data has confirmed the high efficacy and safety of Sputnik V during its use in Bahrain."

"This vaccine is one of several Approved vaccines made available free of charge to citizens and residents in the Kingdom. Sputnik V continues to play an important role in the Kingdom’s ongoing and successful vaccination campaign, with 81% of the eligible population vaccinated so far.”

The Russian Direct Investment Fund is a sovereign wealth fund established in 2011 to make equity co-investments.

Jun 8, 2021 • 7:59 am CDT

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on June 7, 2021, the central government would soon offer free COVID-19 vaccines to all adults.

“Whether it is the poor, the lower middle class, the middle class, or the upper-middle class, under the federal government program, everyone will get free vaccines (beginning June 21st),” Modi said on national television.

Under earlier policies, the federal government gave free vaccines to the elderly and front-line workers. Reports indicate India has administered over 223 million vaccinations, representing about 5% of the country’s population.

India has been inoculating its people with the CoviShield and Covaxin vaccines and intends to offer the Sputnik V vaccine in late June'21.

India’s revised National COVID Vaccination Program guidelines are found at this link.

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Jun 7, 2021 • 11:29 am CDT

Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported on June 4, 2021, about 4.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered. However, there are about 32,000 individuals who are not able to take the mRNA vaccines due to severe allergies.

There are also approximately 2,000 individuals who had developed anaphylaxis or allergic reactions (hives, face/ eyelid/ lip/ throat swelling, generalized rash) within 7 days after vaccination due to the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

The MOH says, 'This group should not receive an mRNA-based vaccine again.'

To protect them against COVID-19, the MOH is evaluating and will bring into Singapore non-mRNA vaccines that are more suitable for them.

Since the MOH has 200,000 doses of the CoronaVac vaccine in stock, the MOH will invite private healthcare institutions licensed under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act to apply to be providers for the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine.

The CoronaVac COVID-19 Vaccine is based on an inactivated pathogen made by growing the whole virus in a lab and then killing it. Furthermore, CoronaVac is a 2-dose β-propiolactone-inactivated, aluminum hydroxide-adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine administered on a 0/14-28-day schedule to prevent COVID-19 disease. 

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Jun 7, 2021 • 11:12 am CDT

Massachusetts-based Moderna, Inc. and Medison Pharma announced a new agreement to commercialize the experimental Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine across Central Eastern Europe and Israel.

"We are excited to partner with Moderna in 20 markets, covering over 175 million lives across the entire Central Eastern Europe region and in Israel,” commented Meir Jakobsohn, Founder and CEO of Switzerland-based Medison Pharma.

“Moderna’s breakthrough vaccine and Medison’s international commercialization platform for highly innovative treatments makes our partnership a natural fit.”

This agreement covers the following countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Israel.

The U.S. FDA issued Authorization for the Moderna vaccine in December 2020 but has not Authorized it as of June 7, 2021.

Jun 5, 2021 • 12:34 pm CDT

On June 5, 2021, WalesOnline reported that First Minister Mark Drakeford described how he believed people in Wales are very happy to continue following social distancing guidelines of 2m.

And social distancing will likely remain in Wales for the rest of 2021

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Mr. Drakeford described social distancing as the "strongest defense" against the virus, adding that he does not believe people in Wales want to see it gone.

The government of Wales published the updated rules that are effective on June 7, 2021. These rules include:

  • Regulated events allowed outdoors with up to 10,000 people seated or up to 4,000 people standing (subject to risk assessment)
  • Extended households can be formed between 3 households
  • Up to 30 people can meet in any outdoor area, including private gardens, public spaces, and outdoor regulated premises such as cafes, restaurants, and bars.

In England, the social distancing rules were changed on May 17, 2021.

The new guidance from the UK government 'on meeting friends and family emphasizes personal responsibility rather than government rules. Instead of instructing you to stay 2m apart from anyone you don’t live with, you are encouraged to exercise caution and consider the guidance on risks associated with COVID-19 and actions you can take to help keep you and your loved ones safe.'

Jun 4, 2021 • 12:44 pm CDT

With more than 169 million people in the USA vaccinated against COVID-19 with one of three U.S. FDA Authorized vaccines, Breakthrough Cases confirmed by the U.S. CDC continue to increase. 

As of June 1, 2021, the CDC received reports from 47 U.S. states and territories of 3,016 patients with COVID-19 vaccine Breakthrough infections who were hospitalized or died.

And about 79% of the Breakthrough Cases were seniors (65 yr).

In total, there have been 2,854 hospitalized or 535 fatal cases confirmed. The CDC reported 16% of 535 fatal cases were reported as asymptomatic or not related to COVID-19.

As of May 1, 2021, the CDC transitioned from monitoring all reported vaccine Breakthrough Cases to identify and investigate only hospitalized or fatal cases due to any cause. This shift maximizes the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance.

Previous data on all vaccine Breakthrough Cases reported to CDC from January–April 2021 are available at this CDC link.

CDC developed a national COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough REDCap database where designated state health department investigators can enter, store, and manage data for cases in their jurisdiction. State health departments have full access to data for cases reported from their jurisdiction. Ultimately, CDC will use the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System to identify vaccine breakthrough cases. 

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Jun 4, 2021 • 8:05 am CDT

A research team from the University of Birmingham found Dental care professionals (DCPs) in England were at heightened occupational risk for SARS-CoV-2 virus infection early in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an observational study published in the Journal of Dental Research on June 2, 2021.

The baseline seroprevalence of DCPs was 16.3%, compared to estimates in the regional population of up to 7%.

The only virus-reinfected DCPs were those without a detectable anti-spike protein immunoglobulin G response, either because they had undetectable IgG concentrations at baseline or because their IgG response dwindled over time.

These researchers stated, 'Consistent with other studies, we demonstrate that natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 is generally associated with robust and durable serological responses' (Wajnberg et al. 2020; Dan et al. 2021).'

'Furthermore, in this community-based cohort of DCPs, we corroborate the hospital-based studies of Lumley et al. (2020) and Hanrath et al. (2020) in demonstrating that seropositivity arising from natural infection is associated with longitudinal protection from reinfection with SARS-CoV-2.'

In the USA, the American Dental Association (ADA) issued guidance on May 19, 2021, to help dentists answer questions about new recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding mask use for fully vaccinated people.

The CDC recommendations state, “Although screening for symptoms will not identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals with SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, symptom screening remains an important strategy to identify those who could have COVID-19 so that appropriate precautions can be implemented.”

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Jun 3, 2021 • 6:56 pm CDT

The JAMA launched an Orginal Investigation among residents and staff of skilled nursing and assisted living facilities with a high risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure to discover what is the effect of bamlanivimab on the incidence of COVID-19?

This JAMA investigation concluded on June 3, 2021, 'Among residents and staff in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, treatment during August-November 2020 with bamlanivimab monotherapy reduced the incidence of COVID-19 infection.' 

This randomized phase 3 clinical trial included 966 participants and staff at US skilled nursing and assisted living facilities with at least 1 confirmed SARS-CoV-2 index case and who were negative at baseline for SARS-CoV-2 infection and serology, enrolled from August to November 2020.

The incidence of COVID-19 infection among those treated with bamlanivimab vs. placebo was 8.5% vs. 15.2%, respectively, a statistically significant difference.

All COVID-19–related deaths reported during this trial occurred among participants in the placebo group.

This potential protective effect of bamlanivimab in reducing mortality could be due to fewer participants acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infections and lower viral loads among those infected since persistently high viral load has previously been identified as a risk factor for worse outcomes.

'The results presented herein primarily represent validation of the use of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies as protective passive immunotherapy against COVID-19, with potential clinical relevance for antibody therapies in continued distribution,' concluded these researchers.

Eli Lilly's Bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555) is an investigational neutralizing IgG1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) directed against the spike protein SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, designed to block viral attachment and entry into human cells.

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