13 May 2021

• For the second day in a row, India’s coronavirus death toll exceeds 4,000. Source

• The US CDC issues new advice for fully vaccinated people: masks and social distancing are no longer necessary outdoors and in most indoor settings, although people would still need to abide by state, local or tribal laws and regulations and local rules for businesses and workplaces. CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the recommendations were guided by a steep drop in coronavirus cases, increased vaccine availability and a “coalescence” of new research demonstrating  the  effectiveness of vaccines against virus variants and in preventing transmission. Source

• Although nearly all members of the New York Yankees baseball organization were fully vaccinated against coronavirus, one player, three coaches and four members of the support staff tested positive; six of them were asymptomatic. Source

Nature publishes a study of outcomes among 12,306 children in the US who were diagnosed with COVID-19. Most of them had non-specific symptoms (such as malaise, lethargy, sore throat, sneezing and gastrointestinal symptoms). Overall, 5.3 percent required hospitalization (with 17.6 percent of them requiring critical care and 4.1 percent requiring mechanical ventilation); less than ten of them died. Black and Hispanic children were more likely to be hospitalized than White children, reflecting racial disparities in the US. Source

• Last September, the Modi government adopted new restrictions on donations that are hampering foreign aid; a group of 13 NGOs describes them as forcing them “…divert scarce time, bandwidth and human resources” toward compliance instead of delivering pandemic relief. Charities must now get affidavits, notary stamps and open bank accounts with the government-owned State Bank of India, while encouraging international donors to contribute to official charities, including one controlled by Mr. Modi and other government leaders. Source

• In Thailand, where nearly 20 percent of people in prison are awaiting trial, outbreaks in prisons across the country have led to 3,000 cases among incarcerated people. Weerakit Harnpariphan, deputy director general of Thailand’s Department of Corrections, said that last year’s preventive measures were now ineffective due to more transmissible variants, while Human Rights Watch called on Thailand to provide adequate protection and healthcare in its prisons.  Source

• Pfizer describes the proposed suspension of intellectual property on coronavirus vaccines as “… a distraction from the real solutions to improve vaccine access…” in a response to an Australian parliamentary inquiry on vaccine-related fraud and security risks. Source

• Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announces that the country has purchased 25 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine (pending approval by Australia’s regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration [TGA]), and that the government is talking with Moderna about establishing a domestic manufacturing facility for mRNA vaccines. Source

• A group of infectious disease and vaccine experts counter assertions from pharmaceutical companies that coronavirus booster shots will be needed, although they believe preparation is prudent, should the need arise. Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO, stated that “We don’t see the data yet that would inform a decision about whether or not booster doses are needed,” while  former CDC director Dr Tom Frieden said “There is zero, and I mean zero, evidence to suggest that that is the case.”  Source

• The Thai FDA grants emergency use authorization for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, which will be available through private hospitals for a standard price of not more than 3,000 baht ($97) for both doses, including insurance and valued-added tax. Source

Science publishes a letter from eighteen prominent scientists asking for a proper investigation of the origins of COVID-19, that is “…transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest.” Source

• Following acknowledgement of airborne transmission of COVID-19 by WHO and CDC, Science publishes a policy piece on addressing airborne infections, saying “…the rapid growth in our understanding of the mechanisms behind respiratory infection transmission should drive a paradigm shift in how we view and address the transmission of respiratory infections to protect against unnecessary suffering and economic losses. It starts with a recognition that preventing respiratory infection, like reducing waterborne or foodborne disease, is a tractable problem.” Source

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