The Delta variant of the coronavirus is estimated to be 40 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant that caused the previous wave of infections in the United Kingdom, Britain’s health minister has said. People who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine should be equally protected against either variant, he added. The Delta variant, which was first detected in India, is now the dominant strain in the UK, according to Public Health England figures.
After weeks of internal deliberations, the Biden administration finally announced Thursday which countries will share in the first Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by the U.S. to help end the pandemic. The U.S. will route a total of 25 million doses to countries overseas. About 19 million doses through the global vaccine aid program COVAX. The Biden administration will send the remaining 25 percent of the doses directly to specific countries.
Coronavirus variants have been renamed with letters of the Greek alphabet following criticism of the way they have been labeled up until now. Under a new system revealed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UK variant will now be known as Alpha, the Indian variant as Delta, and the South African variant as Beta. Their scientific names – B.1.1.7, B.1.617.2 and B.1.351 – had been considered too complicated to remember.
US President Joe Biden has ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” efforts to investigate the origins of Covid-19, including the theory that it came from a laboratory in China. He said the US intelligence community was split on whether it came from a lab accident or emerged from human contact with an infected animal. China has rejected the laboratory theory.
The US state of Ohio will award cash prizes of $1m (£710,000) to five recipients of Covid-19 vaccines as part of a lottery launched to boost flagging up-take of jabs. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said only adult residents who had had a vaccine would be eligible for the draw. A world leader in Covid-19 vaccinations, the US has given 58.7% of its adult population jabs against the disease.
The U.S. government signaled on Wednesday that it would support a temporary waiver for intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, as advocated by the World Health Organization, despite the strong objections of the global pharmaceutical industry. The proposal, originally presented by India and South Africa within the World Trade Organization, aims at boosting vaccine production in developing countries, as the pandemic keeps spreading in large parts of the world.
The Food and Drug Administration is likely to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents within the next week, according to the New York Times and CNN. So far, the vaccines have been approved only for use in adults and older teens. The FDA authorization would allow the Pfizer-BioNTech shots to be given to 12- to 15-year-olds for the first time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled updated guidelines on Tuesday detailing activities that vaccinated people can safely resume, including attending small outdoor gatherings without the need to wear a mask. The new “interim public health recommendations” detail a variety of situations in which individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can forgo wearing a mask.
The European Commission said on Monday it had launched legal action against AstraZeneca (AZN.L) for not respecting its contract for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries. AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said in response that the legal action by the EU was without merit and pledged to defend itself strongly in court.
The United States will resume use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced Friday, following an 11-day pause. The joint announcement came after a CDC advisory committee voted to recommend lifting the pause, but advised adding a warning about the increased risk of very rare but severe blood clots.