Coronavirus Breaking News

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

Apr 15, 2021 • 6:15 pm CDT

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a new study on April 12, 2021, 'Childhood Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) Vaccination and Its Association With Less Severe COVID-19 Pneumonia.'

These researchers concluded by saying 'BCG vaccination received in childhood is associated with less severe COVID-19 pneumonia (p=0.028) and milder liver function deficiency, in addition to a lower death rate in BCG-vaccinated patients versus non-vaccinated individuals.'

'Overall, the death rate was significantly lower in the BCG-vaccinated group (4.2%, 5/118) than in the unvaccinated group (19.0%, 55/290.'

'Another unexpected finding is less liver dysfunction in COVID-19 patients with BCG immunization history, which is likely associated with metabolic reprogramming that alters certain metabolites that can function as cofactors in some liver enzymes.'

'However, definitive proof of the BCG vaccine's benefit is required to validate this broad approach, which remains lacking.'

To quantify the BCG vaccines potential use, researchers at Texas A&M University, in collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College Medicine, and Cedars Sinai Medical Center, are looking for health care workers, first responders, front line workers, seniors, and those with preexisting health conditions to participate in a study evaluating the BCG vaccine as a booster of the immune response, and to study if this vaccine reduces illness severity from coronavirus.

Previously, the Journal of Clinical Investigation published a related study on November 19, 2020. Investigators tested the blood of more than 6,000 healthcare workers in the Cedars-Sinai Health System in California for evidence of antibodies SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers found that workers who had received BCG vaccinations in the past, nearly 30% of those studied, were significantly less likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in their blood or to report having had infections with coronavirus or coronavirus-associated symptoms over the prior six months than those who had not received BCG.

These effects were not related to whether workers had received meningococcal, pneumococcal, or influenza vaccinations.

According to Moshe Arditi, M.D., director of Pediatric and Infectious Diseases, Immunology Division at Cedars-Sinai and co-senior author of the study, the reasons for the lower SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels in the BCG group were not clear.

"It appears that BCG-vaccinated individuals either may have been less sick and therefore produced fewer anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, or they may have mounted a more efficient cellular immune response against the virus," commented Dr. Arditi, professor of Pediatrics and Biomedical Sciences, in a press statement.

“It would it be wonderful if one of the oldest vaccines that we have could help defeat the world's newest pandemic," Dr. Arditi added.

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Apr 14, 2021 • 4:02 pm CDT

Health Canada announced on April 14, 2021, Canadians and healthcare professionals about its ongoing safety review of very rare events of blood clots associated with low levels of blood platelets following immunization with the AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccines.

After a thorough, independent assessment of the currently available scientific data, Health Canada has concluded that these very rare events may be linked to the vaccine. This is in line with the findings of other regulators. As a result, the Department has updated warnings in the product information to inform Canadians of the possible side effects and provide information about the signs and symptoms and when to seek prompt medical attention following vaccination.

Based on the review of available data from Europe and the United Kingdom, and AstraZeneca, no specific risk factors have been identified. Therefore, Health Canada is not restricting the use of the vaccine in any specific populations at this time.  

Health Canada’s position that the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine meets its strict safety standards remains valid, and the Department is adjusting the product's labeling to reflect the available scientific evidence. The results of the ongoing safety assessments have been consistent. The potential risk of these events is very rare, and the benefits of the vaccine in protecting against COVID-19 outweigh its potential risks. Health Canada’s findings are based on a sound and thorough review of all evidence available.

In the very rare event that someone experiences unusual blood clots with low platelets, there are treatments available.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is also reviewing the available information to determine whether to maintain or modify its current recommendation not to use the vaccine in people under 55. 

Health Canada reassures Canadians that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continues to be safe and effective at protecting them against COVID-19 and encourages people to get immunized with any of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in Canada.

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Apr 14, 2021 • 7:31 am CDT

The President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regional council, Renaud Muselier, announced on April 14, 2021, 'I made a pre-order of 500,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine, according to local media reporting on Twitter.

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region is located in southeastern France, bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, home to about 5 million residents.

Currently, the EU has not approved the Sputnik V Vaccine for use.

Separately, Germany-based BioNTech SE and Pfizer confirmed they intend to produce 250 million COVID-19 vaccine doses during the 2Q'21, announced the European Commission's President, Ursula von der Leyen.

'These doses will be distributed pro-rata to the population, among all the Member States.'

'Based on all this, we are now entering into a negotiation with BioNTech-Pfizer for a third contract. This contract will foresee the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of vaccine over the period of 2021 to 2023,' confirmed the European Commission on April 14, 2021.

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Apr 13, 2021 • 8:07 pm CDT

New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson (J&J) issued a statement on April 13, 2021, saying, 'The health authorities advise people who have received our experimental (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine and develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.'

Additional excerpts from the J&J statement are below:

'The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority. We are aware of an extremely rare disorder involving people with blood clots combined with low platelets in a small number of individuals who have received our COVID-19 vaccine. 

The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases out of more than 6.8 million doses administered. Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in the use of our vaccine.

In addition, we have been reviewing these cases with European health authorities. We have decided to proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe and pause vaccinations in all Janssen COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. At the same time, we update guidance for investigators and participants.

We have been working closely with medical experts and health authorities, and we strongly support the open communication of this information to healthcare professionals and the public. The CDC and FDA have made information about proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.

The Janssen COVID-19 was Authorized for emergency use and has not been Approved by the U.S. FDA. For more information on the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, click here.

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Apr 13, 2021 • 3:18 pm CDT
young family holding infant

The JAMA Network published results from a prospective cohort study on April 12, 2021, conducted with breastfeeding women who chose to be vaccinated in Israel between December 23, 2020, and January 15, 2021.

This study found robust secretion of SARS-CoV-2 specific IgA and IgG antibodies in breast milk for 6 weeks after vaccination.

And no mother or infant experienced any serious adverse event during the study period.

All 84 study participants received 2 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 21 days apart.

Mean levels of anti–SARS-CoV-2-specific IgA antibodies in the breast milk increased rapidly and were significantly elevated at 2 weeks after the first vaccine (2.05 ratio; P < .001), when 61.8% of samples tested positive, increasing to 86.1% at week 4 (1 week after the second vaccine).

Mean levels remained elevated for the duration of follow-up, and at week six, 65.7% of samples tested positive. Anti–SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies remained low for the first 3 weeks, with an increase at week 4 (20.5 U/mL; P = .004), when 91.7% of samples tested positive, increasing to 97% at weeks 5 and 6.

Corresponding Author: Ilan Youngster, MD, MMSc, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Unit and the Center for Microbiome Research, Shamir Medical Center, Zerifin 70300, Israel (youngsteri@shamir.gov.il).

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Apr 13, 2021 • 12:45 pm CDT

Philippines-based My Med Rx Plus Corporation announced on April 12, 2021, it had placed orders for 1 million tablets of Favipiravir (Avigan) and 3 million tablets of Umifenovir (Arbidol) to secure supplies for hospitals and patients.

Avigan (Favipiravir) Tablet was approved for manufacture and sale in Japan in 2014 as an influenza antiviral medication.

Both influenza medications are approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Authority for use under a compassionate permit. These medicines are already being prescribed by doctors in hospitals in Metro Manila and provincial hospitals.

“This volume of medications can help at least 100,000 to 200,000 patients,” stated Jomerito Soliman, CEO of My Med RX, in a local media article.

My Med RX is a pharmaceutical company under the PureGroup of Companies.

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Apr 13, 2021 • 7:15 am CDT

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention jointly announced on Twitter their recommendation 'pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson - Janssen COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution .' 13, 2021.

These agencies stated they are reviewing data involving rare and severe blood clot cases in individuals after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

'Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,' stated the FDA's Tweet. 'Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered.'

The European Medicines Agency previously announced it had started a review of a safety signal to assess reports of thromboembolic events in people who received COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen on April 9, 2021.

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Apr 12, 2021 • 3:54 pm CDT

A large, multicenter study published in The Lancet on April 9, 2021, found people in the United Kingdom who had previously had COVID-19 were found to have an 84% lower risk of becoming reinfected and a 93% lower risk of symptomatic infection during 7 months of follow-up.

From June 18, 2020, to Dec 31, 2020, over 30,000 participants were enrolled in the study. The median participant age in the baseline-positive cohort was about 45 years, 84.2% were women, and 87.3% were White.

The median follow-up was 275 days in the positive group and 195 days in the negative group. This time period is the minimum probable effect because seroconversions were not included, stated the researchers.

This study shows that previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 induces effective immunity to future infections in most individuals, concluded the study.

A related editorial published by The Lancet on April 9th stated, 'The authors' findings suggest that infection and the development of an antibody response provide protection similar to or even better than currently used SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.'

'Although antibodies induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection are more variable and often lower in titer than antibody responses induced after vaccination, this observation does make sense considering current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines induce systemic immune responses to spike proteins while natural infection also induces mucosal immune responses and immune responses against the many other open reading frames encoded by the approximately 29,900 nucleotides of SARS-CoV-2.

The SIREN study adds to a growing number of studies, which demonstrate that infection does protect against reinfection, and probably in an antibody-dependent manner.

The study was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care of the UK Government, Public Health England, The National Institute for Health Research, with contributions from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments.

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Apr 12, 2021 • 2:50 pm CDT

Eli Lilly and Company announced on April 12, 2021, the company and the U.S. government have agreed to modify the purchase agreement of bamlanivimab alone and focus on future supplies of bamlanivimab and etesevimab together.

This action terminates the purchase agreement for bamlanivimab alone and cancels the remaining 350,856 doses scheduled to be delivered to the US government by the end of March 2021, stated Lilly's press release.

Additionally, the bamlanivimab and etesevimab agreement has been modified to enable the supply of etesevimab to complement doses of bamlanivimab the U.S. government already purchased.

Lilly's bamlanivimab was the first neutralizing monoclonal antibody to receive emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Bamlanivimab is a recombinant, neutralizing human IgG1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. It is designed to block viral attachment and entry into human cells, thus neutralizing the virus, potentially treating COVID-19.

Lilly subsequently developed bamlanivimab and etesevimab for administration together to meet the potential challenge of SARS-CoV-2 variants likely to resist treatment with either monoclonal antibody used alone.

Bamlanivimab and etesevimab together and bamlanivimab alone are authorized under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization only for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of the emergency use under Section 564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C § 360bbb-3(b)(1) unless the authorization is terminated or revoked sooner.

Indiana-based Lilly is a global health care leader that unites caring with discovery to create medicines that make life better for people worldwide.

Apr 12, 2021 • 10:41 am CDT

Local media reported an expert committee of the Indian government had approved on April 12, 2021, the Sputnik V vaccine for an emergency, restricted use authorization in India. 

However, the New Delhi-based Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) will take a final decision on this COVID-19 vaccine recommendation. If approved, Sputnik V will be the third COVID-19 vaccine available in India.

As of April 1, 2021, fifty-nine countries had authorized the Sputnik V Vaccine.

The Sputnik V vaccine is an adenoviral-based vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. It uses a weakened virus to deliver small parts of a pathogen and stimulate an immune response. The active components are a modified replication-defective adenovirus of a different serotype (Serotype 26 for the first component; serotype 5 for the second), which has been modified to include the protein S-expressing gene of SARS-CoV-2.

Apr 9, 2021 • 5:20 pm CDT

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on April 9, 2021, 'The USA is in the fourth week of an upward trend in COVID-19 cases. This increase could be due to the presence of more contagious variants of the SARS-CoV-2 beta coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Overall, the 7-day moving average of daily new deaths has generally decreased for the past 12 weeks.

On April 7, 2021, the CDC confirmed the 7-day average of daily new deaths (711) decreased by 20.6% compared with the prior 7-day average. Moreover, COVID-19 related deaths have decreased 79.2% compared with the highest peak on January 13, 2021.

During the year-long pandemic, a total of 556,106 COVID-19 deaths have been reported to the CDC.

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Apr 9, 2021 • 2:25 pm CDT

Following reports of cases of thromboembolic events in unusual locations, France's Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) recommended on April 9, 2021, that Vaxzevria, known as AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, be reserved for people over 55 years of age. 

Before this HAS restriction, just over 500,000 people under the age of 55 received the first dose of the Vaxzevria - AstraZeneca vaccine in France during 2021.

The HAS states 'as the administration of a single dose of this vaccine is insufficient to guarantee lasting effective protection.

Thus, given the existence of a scientific rationale and encouraging data, the HAS now 'recommends using a dose of one of the mRNA vaccines currently available, Comirnaty or COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna, to replace the administration of the second dose in persons under 55 years of age who have received the first dose of Vaxzevria vaccine.'

The Haute Autorité de Santé website is registered in France with the National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms under number: 615994.

Separately, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) safety committee concluded on April 9, 2021, that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as infrequent side effects of Vaxzevria (COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca).

The EMA reminds healthcare professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring very rarely within 2 weeks of vaccination.

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Apr 9, 2021 • 10:05 am CDT

The U.S. CDC reported about 385 million RT-PCR diagnostic tests had been performed to confirm SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections as of late on April 8, 2021.

Recent data published by Statista on April 6, 2021, indicates the USA leads all other counties in COVID-19 tests processed. The USA is followed by India (250m) and China (160m).

As of April 6, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it had authorized 355 coronavirus diagnostic tests, including 258 molecular tests, 75 antibody tests, and 22 antigen tests during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the FDA had authorized 43 molecular tests for home-collected samples.

The FDA recently published A Closer Look at COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing to offer those who might purchase COVID-19 tests more technical information and resources. The COVID-19 tests most people discuss are RT-PCR, the nasal-swab test that detects viral RNA, and various antibody tests that detect if you have an immune response due to past exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 beta coronavirus.

Apr 7, 2021 • 6:03 pm CDT

The Canadian Council of Chief Medical Officers stated on April 7, 2021, 'As we accelerate vaccination in Canada, we understand that everyone is looking forward to returning to a sense of normalcy.'

'We will be able to do this gradually based on local and regional COVID-19 activity, but we need to be careful.'

For example, Toronto Public Health issued a statement on April 6th confirming schools will be shut down as the city reported 955 new cases. The closure means more than 300,000 students, including those who attend private or independent schools, will return to learning from home exclusively.

And Ontario has declared its third province-wide state of emergency, issuing a stay-at-home order effective on April 8th. 

'COVID-19 variants of concern are causing a rapid resurgence in Canada and threatening the sacrifices we have made to prevent and control COVID-19. We cannot let our individual and collective guards down until there is sufficient population protection from vaccination.'

'This means that for now, everyone needs to continue with public health measures that we know are effective, regardless of whether you have received one or two doses of vaccine or are not yet vaccinated.'

'As vaccination rolls out across Canada, it provides us with the opportunity to consider how best we can adapt public health measures and gradually lift the most restrictive ones.'

'As Chief Medical Officers of Health, we are committed to reviewing the evidence to inform when and how it is safe to relax these measures. We will continue to work together to provide clear and evidence-informed advice as the science and situation evolve, to keep everyone in Canada safe and healthy.'

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Apr 7, 2021 • 12:01 pm CDT

The U.S. CDC reported on April 7, 2021, among 378,048 death certificates from 2020 listing COVID-19. Among 357,133 death certificates with at least one other medical condition listed, 97% had a co-occurring diagnosis of a plausible chain-of-event condition (e.g., pneumonia or respiratory failure) or a significant contributing condition (e.g., hypertension or diabetes), or both.

Only 5.5% of death certificates identified COVID-19 without other medical conditions listed.

This finding was more frequent for death certificates indicating that the death occurred not in a hospital but in the decedent’s home (38.3%), a nursing home or long-term care facility (38.5%), or a hospice facility (23.2%). 

The CDC says this finding was noted for adults aged 18–84 years, both genders, all races and ethnicities, those who died in inpatient and outpatient or emergency department settings, and those whose manner of death was listed as natural.

This study's corresponding author was Adi V. Gundlapalli, agundlapalli@cdc.gov.