15 July 2021

• Haiti, the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean that has not begun vaccinating its residents, gets its first shipment of 500,000 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine from the US (which plans to send more) distributed by COVAX. Haiti is struggling with political unrest following the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, while facing an outbreak of COVID-19. Hospitals have added beds, but doctors warn that the country’s oxygen supply will not be sufficient. Source

• UNICEF and WHO warn that the pandemic has led to  23 million children missing basic immunizations for measles, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio and yellow fever in all global regions, especially Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean. Source

• After WHO’s Chief Scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, spoke about mixing doses of coronavirus vaccines, saying that the world is “… in a bit of a data-free, evidence-free zone as far as ‘mix-and-match,” health authorities from Canada and Thailand defended their plans to mix doses (in Canada, a second dose of an mRNA vaccine to people who received a first dose of AstraZeneca; in Thailand, a second dose of AstraZeneca to people who received a first dose of Sinovac’s CoronaVac). Some countries in Europe – and Viet Nam – are offering a second dose of an mRNA vaccine to people who received a first shot AstraZeneca, due to concerns about blood clots with low platelets. Thailand’s rationale for mixing doses is to rapidly boost immune responses, coming after 600 healthcare workers who were fully vaccinated with CoronaVac fell ill with COVID-19. “We can’t wait 12 weeks [for a booster effect] in this outbreak where the disease is spreading fast,” said  Yong Poovorawan, Thailand’s chief virologist. Dose-mixing trials are ongoing in Britain, Russia and the US. Source 

• In South Africa, where only 2.5 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, violent protests are disrupting the vaccination program. Source 

• China reports a case of the H5N6 strain of avian flu in a man who is currently hospitalized in Bazhong, a city in the southwestern province of Sichuan. To date, 32 confirmed cases of human infection with the H5N6 virus – and 19 deaths –  have been reported to WHO since 2014. Source

• As the coronavirus vaccination stalls in the US, the Delta variant is driving up coronavirus cases in places with low vaccination rates – and hospital beds are beginning to fill. Source

• AstraZeneca has asked Thailand to extend its timeline for delivering 61 million doses of coronavirus vaccine by five months. AstraZeneca’s request came the day after Thailand announced that it was considering limiting exports of the domestically produced vaccine to deal with its own surge of coronavirus. Source

• Chinese regulators have completed their review of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine – produced by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech. If approved, it would be the first vaccine from overseas to be used in the country. Fosun Pharma’s Chairman, Wu Yifang, announced that production of the vaccine- which will be used as a booster for people who received China’s inactivated viral vaccines- is  expected to begin in August. Source 

WHO publishes a report on clinical features and prognostic factors of COVID-19 in people hospitalized with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, including data from 24 countries on people living with HIV. Overall,  9.2 percent (15,522/168,649) of hospitalized patients were HIV-positive, with 96.1 percent  (14 914/15 522) from the WHO African Region – and  94.6 percent  (14 682/15 522) of these  cases were from South Africa. Nearly 92 percent of HIV-positive COVID-19 patients were receiving antiretroviral therapy. Over half had at least one coexisting condition; hypertension (33.2 percent), diabetes (22.7 percent), obesity (16.9 percent), tuberculosis (13 percent) and chronic kidney or liver disease (12.1 percent for both) were most common. Of the 36.2 percent (5613/15,522) who were severely or critically ill upon hospital admission, 34 percent (1,952) died and 16.8 percent (1,588) of those admitted with mild-to-moderate illness, reaching a total of 23.1 percent (3578/15 463). HIV-positive people were at higher risk for severe or critical illness from COVID-19 than those without HIV, especially males over age 65 and people with diabetes or hypertension. Notably, HIV increased risk of death among people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the WHO African region, but not in the WHO European Region or in the WHO Region of the Americas. Source 

• The Academy of Medical Sciences issues a report warning that deaths from flu and respiratory syncytial virus in the UK could double if they occur alongside a third wave of COVID-19, creating a triple whammy. The UK’s population is vulnerable to these infections, since it has had less exposure to common respiratory viruses during lockdowns. The authors suggest deploying a single test to diagnose all three infections at once, noting that “Fast test results would allow doctors to distinguish quickly between illnesses, treat where appropriate with antivirals against flu, and spot trends.” Source 

Bloomberg publishes a comprehensive account of Mexico’s dishonesty about, and flawed response to COVID-19, which was worsened by delayed vaccine deliveries from Pfizer (which was responsible for 3,500 deaths). AstraZeneca, which has delivered only 28 percent of the promised supply and Gamaleya, which sent only 4.1 million of 24 million doses it pledged to Mexico. Source

• US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy accuses technology and social media companies of spreading dangerous, false information about COVID-19, saying that it creates “an urgent threat to public health.” Facebook, Twitter and YouTube stated that they have been working to crack down on health misinformation, in keeping with their coronavirus misinformation policies. Source

• As vaccines remain scarce, Africa reports one million new coronavirus cases within the last month, reaching a continent-wide total of six million cases. “Africa’s third wave continues its destructive pathway, pushing past yet another grim milestone,” said  WHO Regional Director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. Source

• Myanmar’s military has prohibited private clinics from obtaining oxygen and families of COVID-19 patients are not allowed to purchase it; soldiers in Yangoon have fired into a crowd waiting to buy oxygen tanks. Instead, doctors say that the country’s supply of oxygen is going to military hospitals, and coronavirus vaccines are reserved for coup loyalists. Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, warned that “An explosion of Covid cases, including the Delta variant, the collapse of Myanmar’s health care system, and the deep mistrust of the people of Myanmar of anything connected to the military junta are a perfect storm of factors that could cause a significant loss of life in Myanmar without emergency assistance by the international community.” Source

• WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it was too soon to rule out a potential link between the COVID-19 pandemic and a laboratory leak; he is asking China “…to be transparent, open and cooperate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for at the early days of the pandemic.” Source

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