24 June 2021

• A Senate panel is investigating the Bolsonaro administration’s handling of coronavirus. Luís Ricardo Miranda, an official at the logistics department, said Alex Lial Marinho, an aide Bolsonaro’s close ally, former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, to buy higher-priced Bharat Biotech vaccines after ignoring offers from Pfizer. Miranda went to Bolsonaro in March to discuss his concerns – with documentation, who said he would speak to the head of Brazil’s federal police.  Bolsonaro’s Secretary of the Presidency, Onyx Lorenzoni, denied influence peddling, suggesting that Miranda’s allegations were based on forged documents. Bolsonaro faces questions about his response to Miranda’s allegations, and Pazuello faces criminal and civil probes into how he handled the pandemic while he was minister of health. Source

• A new cluster of COVID-19 cases in Sydney, originating with an unvaccinated airport limousine driver who tested positive for the Delta variant, has grown to 49 cases, triggering a travel ban, mandatory masking and contact tracing. Some cases have been linked with contacts lasting just a few seconds inside stores and cafes, with officials expecting additional cases in the coming days. Source

• The WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, reports that the continent’s weekly coronavirus cases – driven by the Delta variant –  outpaced vaccinations as eighteen countries have used 80 percent of their vaccine stocks. Source

• The International Monetary Fund is finishing a proposal for issuing $650 billion in reserve funds to poor countries, which they could use to pay for health care and vaccines – and pay down their debt. Achim Steiner, the administrator of the United Nations Development Program, described it as “potentially the largest capital allocation since the end of World War II.” Source

• Latin America’s Inter-American Development Bank is in negotiations with Argentina, Panama and vaccine makers, seeking to give each country $50 to $100 million in credit for purchasing vaccines – and to help resolve indemnity obligations imposed by pharmaceutical companies. Source

Associated Press reported on COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among fully vaccinated versus unvaccinated people in the US. During May 2021, 18,000 people died; 150 of them were fully vaccinated, translating to 0.08 percent. CDC Director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, said “nearly every death, especially among adults, due to COVID-19, is, at this point, entirely preventable,” calling these deaths “…particularly tragic.” Source

Current Biology publishes findings on a coronavirus epidemic that occurred 20,000 to 25,000 years ago in East Asia. The virus left an evolutionary imprint on the DNA of people who are alive today – 42 genes evolved in response to the ancient epidemic; these may be promising targets for new drugs. Source

• Researchers from Imperial College publishes findings on Long COVID, a community-based survey drawn from data on half a million people in England’s Real-Time Assessment of Community Transmission-2 (REACT-2) between September 20202 and February 2021. They assessed prevalence and co-occurrence of symptoms among 92,116 people reporting at least one symptom of COVID-19. Overall, 28,713 – or 37.7 percent – had at least one symptom for three months or more, and 11,241 – 14.8% – had at least three symptoms. For many people, symptoms that persisted for 12 weeks did not improve for up to 22 weeks.

The risk for persistent COVID-19 symptoms increased with age, and was higher for women, people hospitalized with COVID-19, obese or overweight people, smokers, vapers, low-income people, and healthcare and care home workers. The authors estimated that up to two million people in England may have Long COVID, noting that managing Long COVID “…will remain a major challenge for health services in the next stage of the pandemic.” Source

• The Washington Post  reports that the pandemic has left one in five Brazilians without income, 19 percent enduring hunger and 7,000 removed from informal settlements in São Paulo and Manaus – a practice that the country’s Supreme Court has suspended until the end of the year, which President Bolsonaro described as “…the end of private property …a terrible decision.” Source

• The US FDA grants emergency use authorization for tocilizumab, an anti-IL-6 monoclonal antibody, for adults and children age 2 and above, who are hospitalized with COVID-19, receiving systemic corticosteroids and require supplemental oxygen, non-invasive or invasive mechanical ventilation, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). The EUA was based on results from four clinical trials, two of which showed that it reduced progression to mechanical ventilation and/or death within 28 days. Source

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