Virus outpaces vaccines, a sobering milestone, a new variant: What to know about Covid-19 this week

WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the spread of coronavirus is moving faster than the global vaccine rollout, adding that a Group of Seven (G7) pledge to donate hundreds of millions of shots falls short of what is needed now. “I welcome the announcement that G7 countries will donate 870 million vaccine doses … This is a big help, but we need more, and we need them faster,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. A global decline in cases has masked a rise in infections and deaths in regions such as Africa, which has the “least access to vaccines, diagnostics and oxygen,” he added. Vaccines are also vital to counter new coronavirus variants, such as the recently designated Lambda, or C.37, first detected in Peru and now associated with “substantive rates of community transmission in multiple” countries in the region, the WHO said.  
  • The United States reached the sobering milestone of 600,000 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, meaning one in every 550 people in the nation has died from the virus. This coincided with the two states that have recorded the most deaths, California and New York, reopening and dropping most of their Covid-19 restrictions. Amid the grief, cases and deaths have fallen in the country, while vaccination rates are holding steady as many shed their masks and return to their pre-pandemic lives. 
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now calls the Delta coronavirus strain, also known as B.1.617.2, a “variant of concern,” a designation given to strains that scientists believe are more transmissible or can cause more severe disease. The variant, which was first identified in India, shows increased transmissibility and a potential reduction in neutralization by some monoclonal antibody treatments. Experts worry that it could pose a risk to people who have not received the vaccine.  
  • At Sunday’s summit G7 leaders issued a call for a new study into the origins of Covid-19, including in China, after an initial report was deemed lacking because Beijing had refused to cooperate. They also outlined steps to end the pandemic, and collectively pledged hundreds of millions of vaccine doses. But critics say this is not enough. “At least 11bn vaccine doses are needed to guarantee all countries the same levels of anti-Covid protection as the west. Without that worldwide coverage, the disease will continue to spread, mutate and return to threaten even the vaccinated,” former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote in the Guardian. 
  • England kicked back its June 21 lifting of Covid-19 restrictions by four weeks due to the growth of the Delta variant. Cases of the strain are rising in the UK at 7% week on week and the government fears that if restrictions were to be fully lifted next Monday, then hospitalizations could increase to the levels seen in the country’s first wave. Meanwhile, new studies have found that the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are protective against the variant. However, another study found that the Delta variant doubles the risk of hospitalization compared to the B.1.1.7 or Alpha variant. This means the UK is in a race against time to get jabs in arms over the next four weeks. 
  • As Covid-19 cases reach new highs in Russia, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin asked residents in the Russian capital to stay home in the coming week to help curb the spread. “The number of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases has jumped to last year’s peak values,” Sobyanin wrote in his official blog as he declared a non-working week, which does not apply to key workers and the military.  

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: Can I get the Covid-19 vaccine at the pediatrician in the US?

A: Pediatricians are stepping up to not only vaccinate newly eligible children and teens against Covid-19, but some are vaccinating adults as well.

With CDC data showing that 64.6% of the adult population is vaccinated with at least one dose and with shots available to Americans 12 and older, pediatricians are now working to fill in some of the gaps in vaccine coverage.

One month after Sandhills Pediatrics in Southern Pines, North Carolina started offering the Covid-19 vaccine, the practice administered 940 doses of the Pfizer vaccine — 268 went not to patients, but adults over the age of 23.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

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Olympic volunteers wanted to help at the Games. They didn’t sign up for Covid

When the Tokyo Olympics put out a call for volunteers, Nima Esnaashari signed up along with thousands of others in Japan eager to soak up the atmosphere of the world’s biggest sporting event. But the closer the Games get, the more anxious he’s becoming about the risk of catching Covid-19. Like the majority of Japan’s population, he hasn’t been vaccinated and doesn’t know if he’ll receive a dose before the pandemic-delayed Games begin on July 23.

This comes as Japan’s ruling coalition and other lawmakers on Tuesday voted down a no-confidence motion, which was called over opposition to the Tokyo Olympics going ahead.

Watchdog announces review of NIH grants that likely includes money connected to Wuhan lab

Federal government investigators said Tuesday that they are launching a review into how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) manages and monitors its grant program, which likely includes money connected to a Wuhan lab that GOP lawmakers have been scrutinizing. Republicans have zeroed in on NIH’s relationship with EcoHealth Alliance, the global nonprofit that helped fund some research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, to attack Dr. Anthony Fauci and score political points.

One NIH official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the review openly, called it “political” in nature but believed that ultimately it would be a good thing and would clear NIH of any wrongdoing. The comprehensive review also coincides with renewed questions over the origin of the Covid-19 virus and the potential role that China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology may have played.

Covid orphans are a tragic legacy of India’s pandemic

At least 577 Indian children lost both parents to Covid between April 1 and May 25, when India was battling its second wave of the outbreak, according to government figures. But non-government organizations fear that many other orphans — potentially thousands — have been missed in the official count due to the difficulty in tracing these children.

Social workers are scrambling to track them down, worried they may be vulnerable to traffickers or end up on the streets if left to fend for themselves.

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Many kids’ sports are getting back to full speed in the summer months, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued updated guidelines for children returning to sports and other activities in the US.

Unvaccinated athletes should wear a mask for all indoor activity except situations in which a mask may pose a hazard. For outdoor activities, AAP recommends that unvaccinated athletes wear a mask while on the sidelines and in all activities involving sustained contact of 3 feet or less.

All eligible athletes should get a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible, the AAP said. Currently, only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for use in people 12 and older. Once people are vaccinated, they are advised to follow CDC guidance for vaccinated individuals, which says they do not need to wear a mask in most situations.

Read the rest of the guidelines here.

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