18 January 2021

• The world exceeds 95 million coronavirus cases. Source
• Public health experts have concerns about unequal distribution and efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, given the emergence and rapid spread of new variants. To date, high-income countries have purchased all of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine doses, 85 percent of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses (leaving 14 percent for upper-middle-income countries and 1 percent for lower-middle income countries), and 35 percent of AstraZeneca vaccine doses (leaving 24 percent for upper-middle-income countries, 17% for lower-middle-income countries and 24 percent for the COVAX initiative. Source
• A pre-print paper reports that the 501Y.V2 variant of the coronavirus will render most of the monoclonal antibodies currently in development ineffective. Source
• WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says pharmaceutical companies have prioritized regulatory approval for their coronavirus vaccines in high-income countries to maximize their profits, putting the world “… on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.” Sources 1,2,3
• Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, reverses his decision on using WHO-approved coronavirus vaccines, accepting one million doses from China, saying, “ For the need to defend our nation and protect our people from this deadly epidemic, we can no longer wait.” Source
• In Norway, additional deaths are reported among elderly (age 75 years and over) and frail people, many of whom were terminally ill, after they received the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, bringing the total to 29. The Norwegian Medicines Agency has not identified a link between the vaccines and these deaths, but it is asking “… doctors to continue with the vaccination, but to carry out extra evaluation of very sick people whose underlying condition might be aggravated by it.” Sources 1,2
• Russia’s Gamaleya Center announces that it is convening an International Scientific Advisory Board on the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine “…where vaccine developers could exchange information, opinions and expertise with their leading foreign colleagues.” It includes members from Argentina, Croatia, France, Germany, India, Russia, Sweden, the UK and the US (one of whom is a urologist). Source
• After widely varying efficacy rates from trials of its coronavirus vaccine, Sinovac says it was nearly 20 percent more effective when given three weeks apart versus two weeks apart, and that poor results in a trial of Brazilian health care workers were due in part to their frequent exposure to the coronavirus. Source
• Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says that a U.S. State Department fact sheet claiming that coronavirus emerged from a lab in Wuhan, was “full of fallacies,” dismissing it as the “last madness” of outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Sources 1,2
• In Hong Kong, an expert group recommends the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine and seeks additional information about post-vaccine deaths among elderly, frail people in Norway. Source
• Italy extends its state of emergency until April. Source
• Malawi announces new restrictions to stop a steep rise in coronavirus infections and an increasing death rate. Source
• While in the midst of its third lockdown, UK announces that it is considering gradually loosening restrictions two or three weeks after it has vaccinated the four highest-risk groups. Source
• As of Monday, 25 January, France will require all incoming travelers to be tested before boarding flights, to isolate for a week after arrival and then get another test. Source

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