20 August 2021

• U.S. weekly infections surpass one million for the first time since last winter’s surge. Source

• The damage from Haiti’s recent earthquake includes the only medical oxygen plant in the southern part of the country, leaving just two factories in Port-au-Prince. Source 

• Israeli researchers publish a paper, which was used to support the rationale for boosting doses, noting waning immunity after full vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. After the country experienced a resurgent outbreak of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant, data were collected on all new infections that occurred among 4,785,245 fully vaccinated people during the period between 11 July and 31 July. They found that 12,927 became infected with SARS-CoV-2, and that 348 of them developed severe COVID-19, noting an increase in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and a decrease in protection among people vaccinated in January versus March of 2021, concluding that protection among people ages 60 and above decreased to 73 percent among those vaccinated in the second half of March, versus 57 percent for those vaccinated at the beginning of the year. Similar decreases in protection over time were observed across age groups, although the vaccine provided high levels of protection among younger people. The researchers noted that the increased transmissibility of Delta versus Alpha variants was not considered, as they considered it beyond the scope of their work. Source

• New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, extends the nationwide lockdown by four days after an outbreak of the delta strain of coronavirus spread outside largest city Auckland. The Ministry of Health reported 11 new community infections, three in Wellington, bringing the total to 31. Source 

• The UK Secretary of Health, Sajid Javid. Said that coronavirus vaccine boosters will be rolled out in September, with the most vulnerable people at the top of the list. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation released interim advice in July, suggesting that over 30 million of the most vulnerable people – including people over age 50 – should receive a third dose. Source

• As hospital ICUs have reached or are nearing their capacity in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, – mainly with unvaccinated patientsthe US seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths has reached 1,016, its highest point in since February. Source                   

• The Washington Post reports that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for adolescents has yet to be authorized by federal health officials.  They are investigating reports from Canada about a higher than previously known risk of myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle) associated with Moderna’s vaccine. It has occurred among young adults (usually males, under age 30) who received mRNA vaccines, although rarely and is usually mild. The Canadian data indicates that the incidence of myocarditis may be 2.5 times higher among those who got Moderna’s vaccine versus the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. So far, CDC and FDA safety monitoring have identified 762 confirmed cases of myocarditis or pericarditis (swelling and irritation of the tissue surrounding the heart), most after the second dose. Overall, 202 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 142 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in the US. Source

• The Philippines reported record-breaking daily totals of 17,23 new infections and 317 deaths. Source

• Israeli Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz announces that teachers and people ages 40 and over are now eligible for booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Source 

• New Zealand’s lockdown is extended as 31 people in several cities tested positive for the Delta variant. The country used genomic sequencing to reveal the outbreak’s source – a traveler from New South Wales who entered the country earlier in the month. Source

• In Australia, where 29 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, coronavirus cases hit an all-time daily high of 754. The Delta variant continue to spread in Sydney, where coronavirus cases have surpassed 10,000 and 65 people have died of COVID-19. The lockdown has been extended to 30 September.  Additional measures, such as mandatory outdoor masking and a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be imposed on 2 million people in 12 high-risk areas around Sydney, which are home to some of its poorest residents. Source 

• After coronavirus cases dramatically decreased in the US, Abbott Laboratories told staff – many from African countries – to destroy millions of rapid test kits for COVID-19 instead of donating them.  Then, Abbott laid off thousands of workers, cancelled contracts with their suppliers and closed one of the only two plants producing COVID-19 test kits. 

Now that the Delta variant has pushed daily cases over 100,000, Abbott’s actions have hindered efforts to expand screening with its 15-minute antigen test. As it tries to staff up, Abbott has told thousands of companies that it will be unable to equip corporate testing programs in the near future, while at-home test kits are selling out at CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Source 

• AstraZeneca issues a press release with results from its 5,197-person phase III PROVENT trial of AZD7442 (a combination of two long-acting antibodies) for COVID-19 pre-exposure prophylaxis.  Trial participants were unvaccinated, and over 75 percent of them had co-existing conditions, including some that reduce immune responses to vaccines. At the time of primary analysis, 25 cases of COVID-19 occurred (although the press release did not specify how many were among people in the placebo arm vs. the AZD 7442 arm). AZD7442 reduced the risk for symptomatic COVID-19 by 77 percent. There were no cases of severe COVID-19 or COVID-19-related deaths among those who received AZD7442; there were three cases of severe COVID-19, including two deaths, among people who received placebo. Source

• Regulators in India grant emergency use authorization to a DNA-based, three-dose coronavirus vaccine developed by Cadila Healthcare, which was 67 percent effective for preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Cadila said the vaccine is effective against newer variants of the coronavirus, including Delta. The company plans to seek approval for a two-dose regimen and announced that it can produce 100- 200 million doses per year. Source

• Philadelphia’s Archdiocese announces that it will not sanction religious exemptions to coronavirus vaccine mandates, joining those in Honolulu, New York City and San Diego. Source

• Monderna mandates coronavirus vaccines for all US employees as of October 2021. Source

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