• In the US, COVID-19 cases surpass 45 million. Source
• In Brazil, an 11-person congressional panel concluded an investigation of the government’s pandemic response, issuing a nearly 1,200-page report blaming President Jair Bolsonaro for the deaths of over 300,000 Brazilians, and urging Brazilian authorities to charge him with crimes against humanity, and eight other crimes, including forgery.
The panel had recommended that Mr. Bolsonaro be charged with mass homicide and genocide against Indigenous groups in the Amazon, but those charges were removed on the eve of its release. Renan Calheiros, a centrist Brazilian senator and the report’s lead author said, “Many of these deaths were preventable. I am personally convinced that he is responsible for escalating the slaughter.”
The report noted that that the president had pushed unproven drugs such as hydroxychloroquine well after they had been shown to be ineffective against COVID-19; that his administration delayed the coronavirus vaccine rollout by ignoring more than 100 emails from Pfizer over several months. Instead, the government overpaid for an unapproved vaccine from India – a deal that was later canceled over accusations of graft.
If the report is approved, the country’s attorney general – who is a Bolsonaro appointee and supporter – has 30 days to decide whether to bring charges against Mr. Bolsonaro (and 69 other people, including three of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons and several current and former government officials). Brazil’s lower house in Congress (which is controlled by Bolsonaro supporters) would also have to approve the charges.
Mr. Calheiros said that if the charges are not brought against Mr. Bolsonaro, the senate committee would seek justice from Brazil’s Supreme Court and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
If Mr. Bolsonaro is charged – and convicted – he would be prohibited from the presidency for eight years and face years of incarceration. Source
• Politico reports that Novavax is struggling to meet regulatory quality standards for its experimental coronavirus vaccine, a problem which could leave COVAX without hundreds of millions of doses.
• Public Citizen releases a report, Pfizer’s Power, which describes how the company has used its power “…to throttle supply, shift risk and maximize profits in the worst public health crisis in a century.” Brazil’s contract prohibits it from accepting donations of Pfizer’s vaccine or purchasing the vaccine from other countries without Pfizer’s permission, on pain of immediate contract termination (and the obligation to pay Pfizer in full for all doses). Pfizer also required Brazil to waive sovereign immunity, to agree that disputes would be resolved by secret private arbitration under the laws of New York; to broadly indemnify Pfizer for civil claims; to accept late deliveries without penalty; and not to disclose anything about the existence or content of the contract without Pfizer’s permission. Source
• Ukraine, which is home to Europe’s lowest coronavirus vaccine rate, reports 538 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours – its highest-ever daily death toll. Only 15 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated and hospitals in some parts of the country are running out of beds for COVID-19 patients. Ukraine’s pandemic response is being undermined by mistrust of the vaccine and widespread use of fake vaccination certificates; at least 15 hospitals are suspected of selling them. Source
• The US CDC publishes ‘real-world’ data on effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine among 464 hospitalized patients ages 12-18 years, based on medical records during the period between 1 June and 30 September 2021 – when the Delta variant became dominant in the US. Of the 179 participants with COVID-19, six (3 percent) were vaccinated and 173 (97 percent) were unvaccinated. In this group, all of the 77 patients who were admitted to intensive care – and both of the patients who died – were unvaccinated. The median length of stay in the hospital was the was five days among unvaccinated patients, versus three days for vaccinated patients. Overall, the vaccine was 93 percent effective against hospitalization for COVID-19. The authors noted that “…as in-person school attendance increases, multicomponent preventive measures to reduce the incidence of severe COVID-19 among adolescents, including vaccination, are imperative.” Source
• China’s most recent outbreak of COVID-19 has spread to Beijing – and possibly beyond. Beijing’s first case since the summer was confirmed on Monday, leading local health officials to seal off apartment buildings and related venues. Source
• Roche and Atea, announced that AT-527, an experimental COVID-19 antiviral they are co-developing failed a key interim test (reducing the viral load in patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19) and that their phase III trial “is being rapidly assessed for potential modifications.” The joint press release noted that “…topline data suggest that AT-527 has antiviral activity in high-risk patients with underlying health conditions as we previously reported in the Phase 2 hospitalized study.” Source
• As coronavirus cases in New Zealand reach a record high, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden continues the effort to vaccinate people, which includes a televised “Vaxathon” festival, during which 130,000 people – over two percent of the country’s population of five million – got shots. Source
• Science publishes research on immune response to COVID-19 and to vaccination among pregnant and nursing women. which found that distinct immune responses to both vaccination and SARS-CoV-2 infection. Their immune responses also differed, based on fetal sex. Mothers carrying males had lower antibody titers and lower rates of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody transfer across the placenta. The authors noted that “It is essential that we continue to study these dichotomous fetal sex responses to infection in pregnancy across gestation. Furthermore, these studies echo the call to action to incorporate women at different stages of gestation into clinical trials, thereby increasing their representation in the development of vaccines.” Source