25 March 2021

• The UN releases the Financing for Sustainable Development Report, which says that COVID-19 has triggered the largest recession in 90 years; globally, 120 million people have fallen back into extreme poverty and 114 million jobs have been lost. The report warns of  “ … a grave danger of a sharply diverging world—with one group of countries recovering on the back of strong stimulus measures and digital acceleration, and many others sinking deeper into a cycle of poverty, hunger, unsustainable debt and austerity.” Source
• In Germany, Lothar Weiler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, warns that the third wave of coronavirus could be the worst yet, due to the highly transmissible- and more lethal – B.1.1.7 variant, which has taken hold in the country. Source
• Lebanon’s Ministry of Health announced that the country received around 50,000 doses of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which was  imported by the private sector. It will be sold via an online platform, where companies, foundations, NGOs, associations and institutions can register to purchase the vaccine * for $19 per dose, plus hospital fees); they are being encouraged to cover these costs for their employees and their families. Lebanon has already received two million  doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, (funded by the World Bank) and over 33,000 doses of AstraZeneca from COVAX. Source
• GSK and VIR submit VIR-7831, the mAB they are co-developing for EUA in people over age 12 with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at risk for hospitalization or death. Source
• Pfizer launches a clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine in children under age 12 years, with results expected in Q3/Q4 of 2021. Source
• The South African Medical Journal publishes an editorial about the decision to sell the country’s supply of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines. It was written by six of the country’s medical leaders, who believe that the nation “ … has squandered the opportunity to protect at least half a million of its most vulnerable citizens before the next resurgence, with massive healthcare and economic cost.”  They note ample evidence suggesting that the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent severe COVID-19 in people who become infected with B.1.351, even though it does not prevent mild-to-moderate cases –The authors also question the government’s  “…muddled procurement strategy.” South Africa has purchased vaccines from Pfizer although there is no clinical evidence of efficacy against the B.1.351 variant, yet it did it not purchase vaccines from Novavax (the only vaccine with reported clinical efficacy against mild-to-moderate and severe COVID-19 from the B.1.351 variant.) The authors also raised “deep ethical concerns” about selling the vaccine to other African countries where B.1.351 is also circulating and called for transparency around the reasons for the government’s decision. Source
• AstraZeneca issues a press release with an updated efficacy analysis from its US-based clinical trial after its independent monitoring board reported that it was using outdated information (the original analysis was based on 190 cases of COVID-19; an additional 14 possible or probable cases  need to be adjudicated). It reports that overall, the vaccine was 76 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100 percent effective against severe/critical cases of COVID-19 and hospitalization. It was 85 percent effective in people over age 65 years. Source
• Papua New Guinea avoided coronavirus for months. But now it is  battling a severe epidemic. Currently, more than 4,100 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19 although the actual total is likely to be far higher; hospitals and healthcare workers are overwhelmed. Australia has sent ventilators, PPE, a small medical team and 8,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to the island, and COVAX will deliver over 585,000 doses by June. Source
• Mexico becomes the third country (after the US and Brazil) to exceed 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, although health officials suspect that the actual death rate is far higher. Source
• Brazil surpasses 100,000  daily coronavirus cases, just after a record-breaking 3,000 deaths occurred in a single day. Source
• The EU releases new figures on its coronavirus vaccine exports – it has sent 77 million doses (including 20 million to the UK, and less than 16 million to Germany) since December 2020 – more than the 62 million doses that have been given within the bloc. Although European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that AstraZeneca would have to “catch up” before it could export vaccines outside the bloc, leaders from Belgium and the Netherlands are reluctant to invoke new curbs on vaccine exports that consider reciprocity, the country’s epidemiology and vaccination rate. Source

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