Pfizer and BioNTech are developing a vaccine that targets the Delta variant of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is expected to treat the disease in a more comprehensive manner than previous therapies. The vaccine was successfully tested in laboratory mice on an experimental basis. The research team of the two companies did not promise the vaccine will be ready for clinical application in the near future but the studies show the potential of the new product.
Covid Live Updates: Pfizer and BioNTech Are Developing a Vaccine That Targets Delta Variant
Here’s what you need to know:
Medical personnel prepare a dose of vaccine from Pfizer BioNTech in San Vicens de Casteller, north of Barcelona, this month.Credit…Albert Gea/Reuters
Pfizer and BioNTech announced Thursday the development of a version of the vaccine against the highly contagious Delta coronavirus, which has spread to 98 countries. The companies plan to begin clinical trials of the vaccine in August.
The delta variant, first identified in India, is said to be about 60% more infectious than the alpha variant, the version of the virus that swept Britain and much of Europe earlier this year, and possibly twice as infectious as the original coronavirus. The delta variant is currently causing outbreaks in unvaccinated populations in countries such as Malaysia, Portugal, Indonesia and Australia.
Delta is also the predominant option in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week. Until recently, infection rates in the United States were at their lowest level since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations and deaths related to the virus continue to decline, but the number of new cases may increase, although the extent to which this is due to this variant is not yet known. Delaying vaccinations and returning to work quickly also play a role.
In their press release, Pfizer and BioNTech also reported promising results from studies in people who received a third dose of the original vaccine, but the companies did not make these data available. The booster, given six months after the second dose of the vaccine, increases the effectiveness of antibodies against the original virus and the beta variant by a factor of five to 10, the companies said.
Vaccine manufacturers plan to submit this data to the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks, a step toward approving repeat vaccinations. Blood antibody levels may drop six months after vaccination and repeated doses may be needed to provide protection against the variants, the companies said.
But antibodies are only part of the body’s immune response, and independent studies have shown that the immunity generated by a full vaccination is likely to last for years, even against variants. The study, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found that two doses of the vaccine were highly effective against the alpha, beta and delta variants.
Delta is in the spotlight now, but it is a harbinger of things to come and it underscores the need to vaccinate the world as soon as possible. The gamma variant, first identified in Brazil, has already spread in Washington state, while the newer lambda variant is on the rise in South America.
Patients await the results of coronavirus tests at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Referral Hospital in Kisumu County, Kenya, last month.Credit…Brian Otieno for The New York Times
Africa has just experienced the worst week of a pandemic in its history, the World Health Organization said Thursday. There is a shortage of vaccines on the continent and the virus mainly affects young people, undermining already fragile health care systems.
In the week ending on the 4th. By the end of July, more than 251,000 new cases had been reported in Africa, a 20% increase from the previous week, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
For weeks, the continent has had to deal with a sudden wave of infection caused by the more contagious Delta variant. Hospital admissions and deaths are rising, intensive care beds are filling up, oxygen supplies are depleting and governments are being forced to adopt new control measures.
Sixteen African countries report a new rise in infections, with Malawi and Senegal joining the list this week. The number of new cases doubles every 18 days, Dr. Moeti said, and has been increasing for seven consecutive weeks.
We predicted a few weeks ago that this step would be taken soon, and I am very happy to have been proven right, Dr. Moeti said at a press conference Thursday. The worst is yet to come for Africa, she warned, adding: The end of this meteoric rise is still a few weeks away.
The third wave of the pandemic engulfed countries mainly in southern and eastern Africa, and one North African country, Tunisia, experienced the fourth wave.
In Namibia, a country of just over 2.5 million people, more than 1,000 new cases are reported every day, and several senior officials have died from the virus. An outbreak of the disease in Zambia has forced the government to restrict visits to public places and close schools.
In Uganda, which has been praised for its first response to the coronavirus, hospitals are overcrowded and some patients have to pay high bills for treatment. Late last month, Rwanda restricted traffic in its capital, while Kenya imposed partial roadblocks and extended curfews in more than a dozen districts where the Delta option contributed to the floods.
According to Dr. Moeti, many African countries are still struggling with the identification and sequencing of variants of the virus. Testing and monitoring also remain limited: On a continent of 1.3 billion people, only 54 million Covid-19 tests have been performed, according to Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the C.D.C. Africa Center.
But the biggest problem was the vaccination. With just over 53 million doses of vaccine administered, only about 1% of the African population has been fully vaccinated.
African officials accuse rich countries of stockpiling vaccines while millions of Africans remain at risk. Most African countries rely on Covax’s vaccine-sharing initiative, which has been greatly complicated by the Indian government’s decision in April to withhold domestically produced vaccine doses for domestic use and restrict exports.
In response to the rise of the disease in Africa, some wealthy countries have begun donating vaccine doses to countries on the continent. As the new supplies arrive, health officials are urging African countries to prepare to receive and administer the doses quickly.
Governments and partners can do this, Dr. Moeti said, by planning for the expansion of vaccination sites, improving cold chain capacity outside metropolitan areas, educating the population to increase confidence in and demand for the vaccine, and providing rapid financing where necessary.
The C.D.C. warns that the delta variant is most common in the United States
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that the most communicable and deadly variant spreads rapidly in communities with low vaccination coverage.
The delta variant was most prevalent in the US this week, accounting for more than 50% of all sequence samples taken nationwide, up from 26% in the week ending 19. June. And in some parts of the country the percentage is even higher. In parts of the Midwest and higher mountain states, for example, the Delta variant accounts for about 80% of cases, according to initial C.D.C. sequencing data. While we expect Delta to become the dominant tribe in the U.S., such rapid growth raises concerns. We know that the Delta variant has increased transmissibility and is currently spreading in areas of the country where vaccination coverage is low. We also know that our approved vaccines prevent serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths from the Delta variant, and these results are being seen not only here in the United States, but in other countries as well. Of course, it is widespread vaccination that will turn the tide of this pandemic. Be aware that if you are not vaccinated, you are still susceptible, especially to the communicable variant of Delta, and are at particular risk of becoming seriously ill. If you are elderly or have an underlying illness, you should further protect yourself by wearing a mask if you are in an area with high community infection rates and low vaccination coverage.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the most infectious and deadly variant is spreading rapidly in communities with low vaccination coverage.CreditCredit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
A delta variant of the coronavirus can evade antibodies that target specific parts of the virus, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Nature. These results help explain the lower efficacy of delta vaccines compared to the other variants.
This variant, first identified in India, is thought to be about 60% more contagious than Alpha, the version of the virus that hit Britain and much of Europe earlier this year, and possibly twice as contagious as the original coronavirus. The delta variant is currently causing outbreaks in unvaccinated populations in countries such as Malaysia, Portugal, Indonesia and Australia.
Delta is also currently the dominant option in the United States. The number of infections in the country has reached the lowest level since the start of the pandemic, although the number could rise. Nevertheless, the number of hospitalizations and deaths related to the virus continues to decline rapidly. This is due in part to relatively high vaccination coverage, with 48% of Americans fully vaccinated and 55% receiving at least one dose.
However, the new study found that the delta variant was barely susceptible to a single dose of the vaccine, confirming previous studies indicating that this variant can partially evade the immune system – albeit to a lesser extent than the beta variant, which was first identified in South Africa.
The French researchers tested the ability of antibodies produced by natural infections and vaccines against the coronavirus to neutralize the alpha, beta and delta variants, as well as a reference variant similar to the original version of the virus.
The researchers examined blood samples from 103 people infected with the coronavirus. According to the study, Delta was much less sensitive than alpha to samples from unvaccinated individuals in this group.
A single dose of the vaccine significantly increased susceptibility, suggesting that people who have recovered from Covid-19 should still be vaccinated to protect against some variants.
The team also analyzed samples from 59 people after they received their first and second doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech.
Blood samples from only 10% of people who had received a single dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were able to neutralize the delta and beta variants in laboratory experiments. But the second dose increased this figure to 95%. There was no significant difference in antibody levels induced by the two vaccines.
A single dose of drugs from Pfizer or AstraZeneca had little or no effect against the beta and delta variants, the researchers concluded. Data from Israel and the UK generally support this conclusion, although these studies show that a single dose of vaccine is still sufficient to prevent hospitalization or death due to the virus.
According to the new study, the delta variant also did not respond to bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody manufactured by Eli Lilly. Fortunately, the other three monoclonal antibodies tested in the study remained effective against this variant.
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdrew approval for use as the sole treatment for patients with Covid-19 due to an increase in bamlainivimab-resistant variants.
In addition, Pfizer announced Thursday that it is developing a version of its vaccine against the delta variant and plans to begin clinical trials in August.
The company also reported promising results from studies in people who received a third dose of the original vaccine. Revaccination six months after the second dose improves the effectiveness of antibodies against the original virus and the beta variant by a factor of 5 to 10, the company said in a press release.
According to Pfizer, antibody levels can drop six months after vaccination, and repeated doses may be needed to protect against variants. But antibodies are not the only part of the body’s immune response, and other studies show that the immunity generated by a full vaccination is likely to persist for years, even against variants.
Volunteers went door-to-door last week during a campaign to inform residents about the upcoming vaccination against the coronavirus in Birmingham, Alatau.Credit…Elijah Nouvelage/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
According to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highly contagious variant of coronavirus delta is now the dominant variant in the United States, responsible for 51.7 percent of infections.
As health officials expected, the Delta variant quickly outstripped the Alpha variant, which spread in the United States in the spring. Alpha, which was discovered in the U.K., now accounts for only 28.7 percent of infections, according to C.D.C. data.
Nevertheless, the average number of new cases and deaths in the country, as well as the number of hospitalizations, is significantly lower than during the devastating peaks of previous national waves.
The delta was first discovered in India. Studies show that most vaccines still provide good protection against the disease and remain highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
In England, for example, where this variant now causes almost all infections, the number of cases has risen sharply in recent weeks, but the number of hospital admissions has risen more slowly and remains low. A final decision on the removal of most remaining restrictions in England on the 19th. The July repeal, including masking rules, will take place next week.
However, studies show that a two-dose vaccination provides little protection against Delta, and public health experts are urging Americans to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.
By Wednesday, 67.2 percent of American adults had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 58.4 percent had been fully vaccinated.
Yet vaccination rates remain very uneven, both in the United States and around the world, and public health experts say Delta poses a serious threat to the unvaccinated population. On Tuesday, President Biden again urged Americans to get vaccinated, citing concerns about Delta. It sounds trivial, but it’s a patriotic act, he said.
Health experts say the Biden administration may need to take more aggressive steps to promote vaccinations, including encouraging employers and schools to implement vaccination requirements. Through Wednesday, an average of about 0.73 million doses were administered per day, down 78% from a peak of 3.38 million doses on April 13, according to federal data.
As for the virus itself, the country has detected an average of less than 15,000 new cases of the coronavirus per day for nearly a month, the lowest figure since testing became widely available and only slightly lower than in January, when the country regularly detected more than 200,000 cases per day.
However, in recent days, the average number of new cases across the country has increased slightly, largely due to localized outbreaks in places with low vaccination coverage, including parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Nevada.
As the delta option spreads around the world, the World Health Organization recently reiterated its long-standing recommendation that everyone, vaccinated or not, wear a mask as a precaution. In the US, however, the CDC has not changed its mind that fully vaccinated people can avoid masks in most situations.
U.S. health officials said WHO’s global proposal was due to its global expertise, since many countries have far less access to vaccines than the United States.
In New York City, surveillance of the spread of the virus has been scaled back, reflecting a continued low number of cases and the perception by many that the virus is less dangerous. According to the city, more than 51 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, although the percentage is even lower in large parts of the city. In addition to concerns about Delta, some health experts and elected officials are concerned that the city is ending its monitoring efforts too soon.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday that the Biden administration is unlikely to introduce new domestic containment measures even if the number of cases increases.
States will have to assess what is in their interest, and local communities will have to assess what is in their interest, she said.
Mitch Smith and Sharon Otterman contributed.
Gravediggers carry the coffin of a Covid 19 victim during a funeral in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in May.
According to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the number of deaths caused by the coronavirus exceeded four million worldwide on Thursday, roughly equivalent to the population of Los Angeles.
It took nine months for the virus to claim a million victims, and since then the rate of spread has accelerated. The second million was lost in three and a half months, the third in three months and the fourth in about two and a half months. Recently, the number of daily recorded deaths has been declining.
These are official figures widely believed to underestimate the number of deaths associated with the pandemic.
The numbers may not be entirely representative, but on a global scale they are truly staggering, said Jennifer B. Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Nuzzo said the number of deaths reported worldwide suggested that low-income countries had been hit much harder than official data suggested.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, on Wednesday called the death toll of four million a tragic milestone and said the number of deaths continues to rise, largely due to dangerous versions of the virus and inequities in vaccine distribution.
With rapidly evolving options and shocking disparities in vaccination, too many countries in all regions of the world are experiencing spikes in the number of cases and hospitalizations, Dr. Tedros told a news conference.
The official death toll tells only part of the dark story of the pandemic. In many places, people have died without family members to comfort them as regulations are in place to stop the spread of the virus. And many countries have been completely invaded.
In May, the dead flooded cremation sites in India, with at least 400,000 confirmed deaths, and the actual number is likely higher. The same goes for funeral homes in the United States, where the number of known deaths exceeded 600,000 last month.
Latin America destroyed
Since the pandemic began, the virus has reached Latin America, and some of these countries are facing their deadliest epidemics yet.
According to Johns Hopkins, seven of the 10 countries with the highest number of deaths per capita last week were in South America, and the virus has become a destabilizing force in many countries in the region.
Health data from the Colombian state shows that more than 500 people died from the virus every day in June. The country has also seen several weeks of violent demonstrations against poverty exacerbated by the pandemic, sometimes accompanied by a violent police response.
Peru’s disease wave has cost many their livelihoods, and thousands of impoverished people have occupied empty plots of land south of Lima. In Paraguay, which on Tuesday recorded the highest number of Covid 19 deaths per capita in the past week, social media often resembles obituary pages.
Brazil, which recently passed the 500,000 mark in official deaths, recorded the highest number of new cases and deaths of any country last week. A recent study shows that Covid-19 significantly reduces life expectancy in Brazil.
Vaccines improve human lives
Several vaccines have proven effective against coronavirus, including the highly contagious delta variant, and mortality is low in many parts of the world where large numbers of people have been vaccinated, including for example the United States and much of Europe.
However, in regions with lower vaccination coverage, such as Asia, Africa and South America, the virus is still widespread. In some places where vaccination coverage is relatively high, such as. B. in England, there has also been an increase in the number of cases, although fewer cases have resulted in hospitalizations and deaths.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s head of coronavirus control, said more than two dozen countries have a near-vertical epidemic curve.
Today the virus shows us that it is on the rise, she said.
Wealthy countries and international organizations have pledged billions of dollars to Covax, a global vaccine-sharing initiative, and countries like the United States have pledged hundreds of millions of doses. But these numbers pale in comparison to the 11 billion doses of vaccine that experts say will be needed to suppress the virus worldwide.
To date, nearly 3.3 billion doses of vaccine have been administered worldwide. That’s according to immunization data collected by local governments as part of Oxford University’s Our World project. These were almost always vaccines that required more than one dose for full effect.
The differences in progress between countries are striking: Some countries have already vaccinated the majority of their adult citizens, while others have not yet registered a single dose.
Officials said the statement was related to the spread of the Delta tribe. Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics, to be held on July 23, have announced that they will exclude spectators from most events of the Games. Kazuhiro Nogi/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
Olympic organizers said Thursday that they would ban spectators from most events at the games, which are scheduled to begin in two weeks. The decision follows the declaration of a new state of emergency in Tokyo in response to a sudden increase in the number of coronavirus cases.
Officials have long maintained that they could hold the Tokyo Games under pandemic conditions. Last month, they announced they would allow local spectators to attend the games, despite public fears that the games would become a petri dish for new variants of the virus.
Now the virus has again disrupted the plans of Olympic organizers, who gathered Thursday night for an emergency meeting to decide how to respond to the latest challenge from a pandemic that has already delayed the Games by a year.
The announcement was made just hours before the Olympic flame was to begin the final – and long-delayed – leg of its journey through Japan. Officials decided this week that there would be virtually no races during the two-week run through Tokyo and its suburbs, and that the marathon would be replaced by a series of ceremonies closed to the public.
Speaking to reporters Thursday night, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga acknowledged that the country faces a problem as an infectious variant of Delta begins to spread. He warned that the virus could also spread outside Tokyo as people return home for the summer holidays.
But at the same time, Mr. Suga promised an Olympics that would go down in history not as yet another victim of the pandemic, but as an example of resilience in the face of adversity.
He said that viewers from all over the world would be watching the show and that I wanted to give them a message from Tokyo about how to overcome adversity with effort and wisdom.
Juan Cruz Jr. and his mother, Delphine Cruz, with a portrait of his father, who died of Covid-19 while awaiting trial at a New York prison.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times
Richard Williamson, 86, was admitted to a Florida prison last July. Within two weeks, he died of covid-19.
Hours after his release from a Virginia prison in October, Cameron Melius, 26, was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died. The coronavirus, authorities say, was a contributing factor.
And in New York, Juan Cruz, 57, who had become infected in prison, was transferred from the prison wing of a hospital to a regular ward before his death.
None of these deaths are included in the official records of deaths in the prisons where they were held. And these cases are not unique. The New York Times identified dozens of people across the country who died under similar circumstances but were not included in the official count.
In some cases, the deaths were added to the institutional list after The Times alerted officials to the missing names. In other cases, people who contracted the coronavirus while in prison were legally released because of the severity of the disease, without being recorded as dead in the prisons where they became ill. The deaths of other inmates were inexplicably not included in the list of viral deaths in the institutions.
It is believed that more than 2,700 people have died from Covid-19 in connection with prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers in the U.S., but other cases indicate that the known number of victims among inmates is far from complete.
During the pandemic, concerns arose about the way coronavirus deaths were documented. In particular, it was discovered that the number of deaths in nursing homes in New York State was much higher than previously known, because thousands of deaths in hospitals were not counted.
Public health officials say the prospect of dying from the virus poses a particular risk in the context of the country’s prisons and detention centers for immigrants. Experts say it is difficult to prepare prisons for future epidemics without knowing the exact number of victims. Currently, the publicly available data on the number of deaths in custody comes mainly from the institutions themselves.
You can’t make good public policy if you don’t know what’s happening in the field, says Sharon Dolovich, director of the Covid Behind Bars data project at the University of California, Los Angeles, which tracks coronavirus-related deaths in U.S. prisons.
– Maura Turcotte, Rachel Sherman, Rebecca Griesbach, Anne Hinga Klein, Brandon Derr and Timothy Williams.
A street market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last month. Credit…Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press
The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on Wednesday could complicate efforts to contain the Covid 19 pandemic in the Caribbean country, which has not yet begun vaccinating its citizens, World Health Organization officials warned.
Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of WHO, said her organization has made Haiti a priority in recent weeks because of the increase in reported cases.
I hope that the vaccines coming into the country can reverse the course of the pandemic and bring some relief to the Haitian people during this very difficult time, Dr. Etienne said. We are now supporting them and we will redouble our efforts.
When the pandemic began, Haiti was not experiencing the kind of epidemic wave that many experts feared would devastate the country, which is among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. However, the pandemic situation has worsened in recent weeks. The number of reported cases has increased, but experts say this is almost certainly an underestimate, given the country’s limited investigative capacity.
Last month, Covid-19 claimed the life of Renée Silvestre, the president of Haiti’s Supreme Court, a leader who could help bring order after the killing plunged the country into even greater political uncertainty.
Dr. Etienne’s organization said in an email that while it is too early to assess the impact of the killing, a further deterioration in the security situation in Haiti could negatively impact the work done to date to reduce the number of Covid-19 infections, as well as immunization plans.
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was killed in an attack on his private residence on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince…Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters
According to the organization, Haiti also faces challenges related to the start of the hurricane season and the recent discovery of alpha and gamma virus variants on the island. Although the vaccines are expected to arrive in Haiti soon, the organization has not yet announced an exact delivery date.
In June, Dr. Etienne called on the international community to do more to help Haiti address the growing number of cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus. The situation in Haiti is an instructive example of how quickly this virus can change, she said.
According to Dr Etienne, Haiti is an extreme example of the glaring inequality in access to vaccines. For every success, there are a few countries that have failed to reach even the most vulnerable segments of their population.
Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, millions of people still do not know when they will have the opportunity to be vaccinated, she added.
She says the unequal distribution of vaccines creates practical and moral problems.
If we do not ensure that countries in the South have the same opportunities to be vaccinated as countries in the North, the virus will continue to circulate in the poorest countries for years to come, Dr Etienne said. Hundreds of millions of people will remain at risk while the richer countries return to normal. Clearly, this should not be the case.
A health worker cares for patients infected with the coronavirus at Marlinka Hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday.Credit…Olga Maltseva/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
While highly effective covid-19 vaccines have been developed at an unprecedented rate, the search for drugs to treat people infected with the coronavirus has lagged behind. Researchers hope that drugs already on the market to treat other diseases can also help covidia patients, but the challenge is finding the best candidates.
In a new paper published Thursday in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers led by Andrea Gunn of the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Helsinki reports that after studying the genomes of nearly 50,000 people from 19 countries with Covid-19, they found 13 interesting genetic regions that could play a central role in finding useful drugs.
The study authors cautioned that inherited genetic variations alone cannot be used to predict who might get covid or, if infected with the coronavirus, who might become seriously ill.
Each of the genetic variants was found to be associated with a negligible additional risk of infection or serious disease. Nevertheless, a treatment for another disease that targets the genetic variation found in some covids could also help covids, the expert concluded.
The cases studied by the researchers included people who had been hospitalized with severe covidia, people whose electronic medical records mentioned that they had tested positive for covidia, and people who simply reported having a covidia infection.
Each genetic region discovered by the researchers represents a small difference in a segment of DNA.
Genetic variations in a gene already shown to be a risk factor for lung cancer are the most promising, researchers say. These variations result in increased expression of the gene in the lungs and are associated with more severe Covid disease. Patients most severely affected by Covid have breathing difficulties and some require a respirator as the virus attacks their lungs.
The second genetic variation, also associated with severe disease, reduces the risk of autoimmune disease but increases the risk of developing tuberculosis.
The third genetic variant increases the risk of contracting the virus. This gene binds to a cell surface protein, ACE2, which the coronavirus uses to bind to and invade cells.
The potential significance of the other variants is less clear. Not all of them are in the genes themselves, some are in parts of the DNA between the genes.
The authors of the study caution in their article that it remains to be seen how important this research will be in finding treatments for covid.
Further work is needed to better understand the biological and clinical value of these findings, the authors write.
Patients were treated last month in Arequipa, Peru, at a special facility for Covid 19 patients.Credit…Diego Ramos/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
Viruses continue to evolve. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is no exception. Thus, the appearance of variants is not a surprise, and each new genetic mutation does not pose a serious threat.
But in recent weeks, the lambda variant, which was first discovered in Peru late last year, has been increasingly in the news. This variant, originally known as C. 37, has spread rapidly to parts of South America. The 14th. In June, the World Health Organization designated it as a variant of interest, meaning experts suspect it is more dangerous than the original strain.
To date, few studies have examined lambda. Here’s what we know:
- It spread quickly. It has been found in at least 29 countries and is most common in Peru, Chile and other parts of South America.
- It has eight notable mutations, some of which are also found in other variants and make the virus more infectious or help it evade the body’s immune response.
- Preliminary laboratory research suggests that this variant may be more transmissible and that the body’s antibodies are less effective against it. But the antibodies generated by vaccination were still able to neutralize the virus, suggesting that vaccines should still offer protection against the virus.
While more real-world data is needed, so far there is no evidence that Lambda poses a greater risk than other options in circulation, such as. B. the delta option. I don’t think there’s any more reason to worry than before this option became known, says Nathaniel Landau, a microbiologist at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. There’s no reason to think it’s worse now than it was in Delta.
They wear masks in Suva, Fiji, earlier this month.
As Fiji battles one of the world’s fastest growing outbreaks of the coronavirus, the Pacific island’s Olympic team flew by cargo plane to Tokyo on Thursday.
Your traveling companions? A load of frozen fish.
An outbreak of the coronavirus has thrown into disarray plans to transport athletes to Japan on conventional aircraft, after almost all passenger flights from that country were suspended until the end of July. Only certain repatriation and cargo flights were allowed to depart.
The country has been hit by the Delta variant of the virus, with an average of 57 new cases per 100,000 people per day in the past two weeks, according to the New York Times database. Only just over 6% of the population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
So organizing the trip was a logistical challenge, Lorraine Mar, executive director of the Fiji Sports Association and National Olympic Committee, told The Associated Press. The solution: a cargo plane carrying mostly frozen seafood, with enough passenger seats for athletes and other officials.
This is in stark contrast to the lighter vehicles of the other Olympians: U.S. basketball players Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Chris Middleton may be flying to Tokyo on private planes due to scheduling conflicts, while members of the British Olympic team left London’s Heathrow Airport on Tuesday wearing tracksuits that match their team colors.
Around midnight local time, about 50 Fijian athletes and officials, including the country’s rugby sevens teams, flew from Nadi, the main international airport, to Tokyo for the Summer Games.
Prior to departure, team members spent 96 hours in isolation and underwent 72 hours of pre-departure testing, in accordance with rules set by the authorities in Tokyo. A Fijian Olympic team official who tested positive for Covid-19 has been suspended from competition.
Before the team’s departure, the National Olympic Committee released a video showing masked supporters waving Fiji’s sky-blue flag as a farewell.
The country will participate in six sports, including archery, judo and table tennis. In 2016, 60 years after the country’s first Olympic appearance, Fiji won its first medal when the men’s rugby team won the inaugural Olympic rugby sevens tournament in Rio de Janeiro.
At other events around the world:
- South Korea will increase restrictions on the spread of the coronavirus in the capital Seoul and some adjacent areas to the highest level from Monday, Prime Minister Kim Bu Gyum said Friday. The announcement came after South Korea reported Thursday the largest daily increase in new cases, with a senior health official warning that the number of cases could nearly double by the end of July. Under the new restrictions, people are advised to stay at home as much as possible, schools are closed, no more than two people are allowed to congregate in public after 6pm and rallies are banned. Nightclubs and bars will be closed and restaurants and cafes will have limited seating and takeaways after 10pm.
- Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who had been in hospital for about two weeks after attending an EU summit with Covid-19, left hospital on Thursday morning due to his improved health, his spokesman said. Mr. Bettel, 48, was hospitalized Sunday for low blood oxygen levels, a serious problem for patients receiving Covid-19. He received the first dose of the vaccine from AstraZeneca in May and fell ill shortly before Jan. 1. July, when he was to receive the second dose. Bettel will resume his duties Friday and work in isolation from his home, his spokesman said. None of the other European heads of state or government meeting in Brussels on 24 and 25 March were present. The June summit showed symptoms of Covid-19, the EU said Monday.
- On Thursday, the French government advised its citizens not to travel to Spain and Portugal to rest, as the number of cases of the coronavirus has increased recently. This week, Spain averaged more new cases per day than at any time since February. Portugal has recently reintroduced curfews in several cities, including the capital Lisbon. The residents of those cities are also not allowed to travel to other parts of the country on weekends. Portugal and Spain had hoped to boost tourism by reopening their borders to European travellers in time for the summer high season, but this has been prevented by countries such as Britain and now France issuing new travel warnings. Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santo Silva on Thursday called on European Union countries to cooperate on travel restrictions rather than apply them unilaterally.
- The United States will send 500,000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech to Uruguay and 1.4 million doses of vaccine from Johnson & Johnson to Afghanistan as part of its commitment to distribute vaccines to countries in need – the first of three million doses destined for that country, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday.
A health worker in Munich fills a syringe with AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in May. Germany plans to donate its stocks of vaccines for use in low-income countries. linked to credit Andreas Gebert/Reuters
Germany plans to confiscate at least 30 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which many people in the country disapprove of, and donate them to developing countries, according to a statement from the federal health ministry.
It is in our interest to vaccinate the whole world, said German Health Minister Jens Spahn.
For the first time since the slow start of the national vaccination campaign early this year, Germany now has enough vaccine doses to meet all national orders, experts say. The country no longer prioritizes who can be vaccinated; every adult must be vaccinated.
The German authorities and the public clearly prefer the two approved mRNA-based vaccines – developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – to the viral vector-based vaccines of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
More than 70% of the doses administered in Germany were made with a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine developed in Germany and the United States, compared to only 17% of doses with an AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the United Kingdom and Sweden.
Germany’s distrust of the Anglo-Swedish vaccine stems from reports of a rare but potentially fatal blood clotting disorder in several recipients, mostly young adults. The government briefly suspended use of AstraZeneca’s injection and then recommended it be reserved for people aged 60 and over, for whom Covid’s risk is much greater than that of a rare blood clotting disorder.
Concerns have also been raised about the efficacy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine against the delta variant. Last week, German health authorities officially recommended that people who received the first dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine switch to a second dose of one of its mRNA vaccines.
Doctors and nurses administered at least one dose of the vaccine to nearly 58% of the German population, and 41% were fully vaccinated. Since relatively few people in the country are now infected, many are skipping the second vaccination. To combat this, German state governments are considering imposing fines on people who show up for vaccination but don’t show up.
According to a memorandum from the Ministry of Health submitted to the Federal Cabinet on Wednesday, at least 80 percent of vaccine doses will be donated to Covax, a global vaccine distribution initiative, for use in low- and middle-income countries. The rest is destined for use in the Western Balkans, where at least 3 million doses will be sent, and in Namibia, which was a German colony before World War I.
More than 4,400 volunteers took part in an experimental concert in Paris in May to assess the health risks of large indoor gatherings. linked to credit Christian Hartmann/Reuters
If all participants wear masks, clean their hands and have recently tested negative for the coronavirus, large concerts can be held safely indoors without the need for social distancing, researchers in Paris said Thursday based on an experiment they conducted in May.
The Paris public hospitals that conducted the experiment gathered 6,678 volunteers and randomly divided them into two groups: About two-thirds of the volunteers attended a concert at the Accor Arena specially organized for the experiment, the rest did not. Half of the subjects received at least one dose of the vaccine.
All subjects were tested after one week and the results showed no significant difference between the two groups. About 0.2% of spectators tested positive, which is about the same percentage as in the Île-de-France region, which includes Paris, in the two weeks leading up to the event.
According to the researchers, analysis of saliva samples taken during the concert showed that five of the eight concertgoers who were eventually found to be positive were already infected with the virus when they arrived at the arena.
The results suggest that attending a large indoor concert without physical distance is not associated with an increased risk of covid infection, Paris Public Hospital said in a statement.
The results are encouraging for the French people who, after three long closures during the pandemic and a curfew imposed in October, can again use the public meeting places in their country. Nightclubs, the last remaining restricted sector in France, are expected to reopen on Friday after being closed for 15 months.
However, the company adhered to strict sanitation rules and adopted other measures that are impossible to implement in commercial public spaces, such as. B. crowd control and closing of bars and smoking areas.
All subjects were between 18 and 45 years of age and reported no symptoms of covidia, no other serious illness, and no recent contact with an infected person. Compliance with the face mask requirement was monitored and evaluated by an artificial intelligence system with continuous video recording.
Previous experimental concerts in Barcelona, Spain, in March and Liverpool, England, in May came to similar conclusions, namely that indoor events with strict security measures do not lead to a significant increase in the number of infections.
The coronavirus situation in France remains alarming. Daily reports of new cases rose sharply last week in 11 regions of the country, including the Île-de-France region, with the more infectious delta variant accounting for more than 40% of new cases. Vaccination efforts have stalled, with only 37.6% of the total population fully protected, and the government fears a new wave of infection before the end of the summer and is making further efforts to speed up vaccination.
Last month, people were dining alone in a Manhattan square. Feelings of loneliness increased during the pandemic, even though conditions improved and people kept each other separate.
Many Americans felt socially isolated during the pandemic, cut off from friends and family as they kept a low profile and tried to protect themselves from infection.
But a new study released Thursday shows that feelings of isolation have increased for many people, even as the public health crisis in the United States begins to recede, communities have opened up and the economy has improved.
According to researchers at Harvard, Northeastern, Northwestern and Rutgers universities, exclusion rates fell in the spring after the initial shock of the crisis passed, but rose sharply in the summer months of last year and stabilized again in the fall.
Between December last year and April this year, people began to feel less isolated, but the level of social isolation measured by the researchers increased again in June this year.
The results suggest that recovery from a pandemic can take a long time and affect the way people think about their relationships. Social exclusion has a cumulative effect, said David Lazer, professor of political science and computer science at Northeastern University and one of the study’s authors.
To determine social isolation, the researchers asked each person how many people they could count on if they were sick, to lend money, to talk about a problem if they were depressed, or to help them find a job. The socially excluded include those who have reported that they can only turn to one person in this category.
The researchers surveyed a total of 185,223 people in 12 different surveys between April 2020 and June 2021.
Even today, when many more people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus and are much more involved in their communities, people may feel differently about it than they did when they needed help. This break in life may lead to a rethinking of our relationships, says Dr. Leiser, referring to the unusually high number of people who have decided to quit their jobs because of the end of the pandemic. It takes time to rebuild the social fabric.
The increase in feelings of isolation even after the strictest restrictions were lifted is striking, said Mario L. Small, a professor of sociology at Harvard who was not involved in the study. He said people may have felt they had fewer people to lean on because they remained physically removed from their wide network of acquaintances and friends, even though the lockdown had been eased.
Researchers found that people retreated more last summer, even though they saw more people. Our results show that breaking through social isolation is difficult and does not happen simply by increasing social contacts, the researchers concluded.
The researchers also found a strong association between social isolation, especially among those who reported having no one for emotional support, and moderate to severe depression.
Among those hardest hit by the pandemic, those with lower incomes and education levels, many appear to be recovering more slowly, Dr. Leiser said. We certainly see a distribution of wealth by socioeconomic status, he said, noting that some groups take longer and recover unequally.
Correction: 8. July 2021
An earlier version of this article contained an error in the name of a professor of political science and computer science at Northeastern University and one of the study’s authors. It’s Laser, not Lazarus.
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