25 June 2021

• WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns that the Delta variant is “the most transmissible,” spreading across at least 85 countries, and worsened by lack of coronavirus vaccines in poor countries. Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO senior advisor, says that COVAX has “…zero doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, zero doses of Pfizer vaccine, zero doses of (J &J) vaccine. Every single one of our suppliers is unable to supply us during this period because others are making demands …who are vaccinating very young populations that are not at risk.” Source

• Russia’s coronavirus vaccination mandate for public-facing workers is now extended from Moscow to 17 additional regions as the Delta variant spreads through the country. Currently, approximately 11 percent of Russia’s 144 million residents are fully vaccinated, and 14 percent have gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. An independent pollster, the Levada Center, said that 60 percent of the population is not willing to be vaccinated. Source

• Japan has dramatically accelerated its coronavirus campaign, reaching a million daily vaccines, but a supply shortage may endanger it. Elderly people have been prioritized, as cases are creeping upward among Tokyo’s young, unvaccinated people. Source

• Pieris Pharmaceuticals announces that it has received a $17 million grant from the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy to develop PRS-220, an inhalable anticalin protein targeting connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) for post-COVID-19 syndrome pulmonary fibrosis or “Long COVID”; a phase I trial will begin in 2022. Source

• Feng Zijian, researcher and former deputy director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a TV interview that antibodies triggered by two Chinese COVID-19 vaccines made with inactivated virus are less effective against the Delta variant than other versions of SARS-CoV-2, but he noted that they still offer protection, without additional details. Source

• South Africa’s third wave of coronavirus has hit Johannesburg and Gauteng province hard; the military has sent in medical personnel to help overwhelmed hospitals, some so full that they are sending patients to medical facilities that  are hours away in Mpumalanga and North West provinces. Source

• A parliamentary hearing in Brazil on the government’s pandemic response features testimony from bullet-proof vest-clad Congressman Luis Miranda and his brother, Health Ministry staffer Luis Ricardo Miranda. They disclosed pressure by close allies of President Jair Bolsonaro to make a 1.6 billion reais ($323 million) deal with India’s Bharat Biotech for expensive coronavirus vaccines – while the government ignored Pfizer’s repeated lower-priced offers. Although the brothers met with Bolsonaro to warn him about the suspicious contract, nothing was done. Bolsonaro said, “There is nothing wrong with the Covaxin contract, there is no overpricing,” adding “I am incorruptible.” Source

• Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron strongly criticized Greece and other nations for allowing entry to travelers who received Chinese and Russian vaccines, since they are not EMA-approved, and may not be effective against the Delta variant. Source

• U.S. health officials paused distribution of bamlanivimab and etesevimab, Lilly’s combination antibody therapy for COVID-19, due to concerns that the Beta and Gamma variants are resistant to it. Source

• Virologists in India warn that another variant, known as Delta Plus, which has the same mutation in the spike protein as the Beta variant, is likely to be highly contagious. Indian scientists have declared Delta Plus as a “variant of concern.” Delta Plus has already been detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, as well as eleven other countries.  Source

• Indonesia reaches 20,000 cases of coronavirus, its highest-ever daily total as hospitals face oxygen shortages – and doctors are dying from COVID-19. At least 20 of the 401 doctors who died were fully vaccinated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac, raising concerns about its effectiveness.  Source

• Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh, is planning have a locally produced coronavirus vaccine by June 2022. The health ministry is assisting in negotiations between Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology and local companies for a technology transfer, and WHO has promised to send experts to the country to help with vaccine production. Source

• Africa’s CDC reports that the Delta variant has been detected in 13 countries, and some, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zambia, are facing lack of oxygen, overwhelmed hospitals, and exhausted healthcare workers. John Nkengasong, the Director of Africa’s CDC said, “It’s frightening to see what’s happening across the continent. “This third wave is extremely brutal.” Only 1 percent of Africa’s 1.3 billon residents have been vaccinated. He added, “We have to vaccinate at speed and at scale. We are racing against time.” Source

• Israel, which has tamed its epidemic through high vaccination rates, is seeing a spate of new cases at schools, some in people who had been vaccinated (although it is not clear whether they were fully vaccinated). The government reinstated an indoor mask mandate less than two weeks after lifting it. Source

• The US is sending three million doses of the J & J coronavirus vaccine to Afghanistan in the coming weeks. Source

• The US is sending 15 million doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine to Honduras as part of the COVAX delivery. Source

• Coronavirus cases at Brazil’s Copa América soccer tournament reach 166. Source

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