17 June 2021

• Globally, more than 2.5 billion coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered. Source

• The US announces that it will spend three billion dollars to develop oral antivirals for COVID-19, which could fight the virus during early infection. The funding will accelerate clinical trials of promising candidates for COVID-19 and support research on other drugs that could potentially stop future viral pandemics. Source

• The UK government issues a press release with findings from the 12th report of the REACT-1 study, which found that coronavirus cases have increased by 50% since the last study in May, with 1 of 670 people infected. Nearly 109,000 people volunteered to be tested between 20 May and 7 June.  The highest prevalence was found among people ages 5-12 and 18 to 24, and prevalence among people ages 5 to 49 was 2.5 times higher than that among people ages 50 and over. The Delta variant accounted for 90 percent of cases. Source

• As the coronavirus surges in Moscow, the city government mandated vaccinations for many workers in education, entertainment, health care, and hospitality, hairdressers and taxi drivers – comprising two million people – and continuing until at least 60 percent of  employees have been vaccinated. Source

• The US Embassy in Kabul goes into lockdown as Afghanistan faces a third wave of coronavirus infections and military forces leave the country. The Embassy sent a notice saying “Military hospital I.C.U. resources are at full capacity, forcing our health units to create temporary on-compound Covid-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients.”  There has been one death, with several other people medically evacuated and 114 infected people isolating. Overall, 95 percent of cases were among unvaccinated people; notably, 90 percent of embassy staffers were vaccinated. Source

• With the Olympics just five weeks away, Japan’s government announced that it is relaxing emergency measures in Tokyo – although some restrictions remain there –  and other areas as coronavirus cases are in decline. Source

• A Belgian court has ruled on the European Commission’s suit against AstraZeneca (for failing to deliver 300 million doses of coronavirus vaccine it promised in a contract; Associated Press reports that it only delivered 30 million doses, while AstraZeneca says it delivered over 70 million doses). Astra’s CEO, Pascal Soriot said the contracts were not legally binding due to a “best effort” clause in the text.

• The court ruled that AstraZeneca must deliver 80.2 million doses of the vaccine to the EU by 27 September; if delivery deadlines are not met, the company will have to pay €10 for every delayed dose. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “This decision confirms the position of the Commission: AstraZeneca did not live up to the commitments it made in the contract. It is also a clear recognition that our Advance Purchase Agreements have a sound legal basis. It is good to see that an independent judge confirms this.”

AstraZeneca’s general counsel Jeff Pott said that  “AstraZeneca has fully complied with its agreement with the EC and we will continue to focus on the urgent task of supplying an effective vaccine, which we are delivering at no profit to help protect people in Europe and around the world from the deadliest pandemic in a generation.” Source

• Delays in an anticipated delivery of 835,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine from COVAX, intended as a second dose for 760,000 health and frontline workers, have led South Korea to offer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for a second dose. The country is a planning a clinical trial mixing the AstraZeneca vaccine with a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech in 500 military personnel, looking at immune responses. Source

• In Indonesia, over 350 doctors and other healthcare workers who were fully vaccinated with Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine have COVID-19, and dozens of them have been hospitalized. The outbreak is being driven by the Delta variant. Source

• Australia no longer recommends the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people ages 50-59, noting that the country has recorded a higher risk for rare blood clots with low platelets in this age group than what has been reported internationally. There have been 60 confirmed or probable cases of blood clots linked with the vaccine from early April to 16 June, including seven in the past week in people aged 50 to 59. Source

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