8 March 2021

• Although US coronavirus cases have dramatically decreased since the end of January, they have now surpassed 29 million. Source
• China introduces a digital vaccine passport, featuring an encrypted scannable code that could also be used by other countries to track traveler’s data. Source
• Pfizer-supported laboratory research reports that its coronavirus vaccine  was effective against the P.1 variant (first identified in Brazil) and the B.1.1.7 variant; the vaccine also had “robust but lower” activity against the B.1.351 variant (first identified in South Africa), although the authors cautioned that real-life data are needed to confirm their results. Source
• The EU announces that it will propose vaccine travel certificates. Source
• Thailand’s Deputy Premier and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced that the country will issue documents to fully vaccinated residents enabling them to travel out of the country. The country will reduce its mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days for vaccinated visitors. Source
• Vaccine hesitancy in the US – where nearly 18 percent of residents have gotten at least one dose – could thwart efforts to control COVID-19; a recent survey by the Census Bureau fond only 54 percent of  unvaccinated people are definitely willing to be vaccinated while  23 percent of people say they probably will be vaccinated and 23 percent say they  will probably not  or definitely not get vaccinated. The same survey reported different levels of vaccine acceptance  by race/ethnicity, with the highest levels among Asian people (68.7 percent), followed by White people (56.3 percent), Hispanic people (54.1 percent) and Black people (42.1 percent). Racial disparities  and well-founded distrust in the healthcare system in the US have led to far lower vaccination rates among people of color. (22 percent of White adults versus 13 percent of Black adults and 11 percent of Hispanic adults). Source
• The coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa,B.1.351, has been detected in a Colorado prison, which is concerning because prisoners are far more likely to become infected than the general population – and because a prior infection with an older version of the virus does not seem to provide immunity to this variant. Source
• Afghanistan has received nearly 470,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus from COVAX. Source
• New Zealand has secured enough of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for its entire population, although vaccination won’t begin until mid-2021. Source
• Viet Nam began its coronavirus vaccination campaign by inoculating healthcare workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Source
• Italy approves use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in persons over age 65. Source
• Merck and Ridgeback Pharmaceuticals report positive data from a phase IIa trial of their oral antiviral, molnupiravir – based on viral clearance among people with COVID-19 who were not hospitalized – although data on the drug’s  clinical benefits have not yet been reported. Source
• In Austria, a batch of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines has been pulled after one person died from a coagulation disorder and another suffered a pulmonary embolism, both after receiving a dose from the  batch. The government said  there is no evidence linking the vaccine, but it is conducting an investigation. Source
• Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and his wife have tested positive for coronavirus; both report mild symptoms. Source
Lancet publishes interim results from the 380-person phase II trial of COVAXIN, reporting on its safety and efficacy. SOURCE
• The CDC publishes an analysis of COVID-19 outcomes according to body mass index (BMI) , using data from 148,494 adults. Obesity affects more than 40 percent of adults in the US; this study reported that the risk for severe COVID-19, hospitalization and death increases with higher BM, especially in people under 65 years. In contrast, the lowest risk for severe illness and death was found in people with BMI at the threshold between a healthy weight and being overweight. SOURCE

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