Posts tagged with "WHO"

Biden to deliver six-step plan on COVID

September 10, 2021

On Thursday, September 9, President Joe Biden was expected to outline new approaches to control the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, which rages on despite the wide availability of vaccines, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation News.

In his speech, Biden planned to focus on six areas—among them, new plans to get more people vaccinated, enhancing protection for those who already have had shots, and keeping schools open, according to a White House official.

In addition, the official said, the president would discuss increasing testing and mask-wearing, protecting an economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, and improving healthcare for people infected with the disease.

“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “We have more work to do, and we are still at war with the virus.”

Increasing infections have raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors and upending company return-to-office plans.

Just over 53% of Americans are fully vaccinated, including almost two-thirds of the adult population, according to CDC data. The disease has killed more than 649,000 Americans.

With many Americans still skeptical of the shots, the White House already has announced plans to give those who are fully vaccinated booster shots for more additional protection.

In doing so, they have rejected arguments from the World Health Organization and other advocates that rich countries should hold off on booster shots before more people worldwide have been inoculated.

Research contact: @thomsonreuters

Biden to donate 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine worldwide over a year

June 11, 2021

In a speech set to be delivered on Thursday, June 10, on the eve G7 Cornwall Summit in the United Kingdom, President Joe Biden plans to  outline plans for the United States to donate 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to about 100 nations worldwide over the next year—in addition to the 80 million doses he already has pledged will be delivered by the end of this month.

According to a report by The New York Times, in making the announcement, the president will challenge his fellow G-7 leaders— from the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan—to step up vaccine distribution in their own nations and in others in order to beat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The White House reached the deal just in time for Biden’s eight-day European trip, which offers his first opportunity to reassert the United States as a world leader and restore relations that were badly frayed by former President Donald Trump.

“We have to end COVID-19, not just at home, which we’re doing, but everywhere,” Biden told American troops after landing at R.A.F. Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, on June 9. “There’s no wall high enough to keep us safe from this pandemic or the next biological threat we face, and there will be others. It requires coordinated multilateral action.”

People familiar with the Pfizer deal said the United States would pay for the doses at a “not-for-profit” price. The first 200 million doses will be distributed by the end of this year, followed by 300 million by next June, they said. The doses will be distributed through COVAX, the international vaccine-sharing initiative.

Biden is in Europe for a week to attend the NATO and Group of 7 summits and to meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Geneva. In a statement on Wednesday, Jeffrey Zients, the White House official in charge of devising a global vaccination strategy, said Biden would “rally the world’s democracies around solving this crisis globally, with America leading the way to create the arsenal of vaccines that will be critical in our global fight against Covid-19.”

According to the Times, the White House is trying to spotlight its success in fighting the pandemic — particularly its vaccination campaign — and use that success as a diplomatic tool, especially as China and Russia seek to do the same. Mr. Biden has been insistent that, unlike China and Russia, which have been sharing their vaccines with dozens of countries, the United States will not seek to extract promises from countries receiving American-made vaccines.

The 500 million doses still fall far short of the 11 billion the World Health Organization estimates are needed to vaccinate the world, but significantly exceed what the United States has committed to share so far. Other nations have been pleading with the United States to give up some of its abundant vaccine supplies. Less than 1% of people are fully vaccinated in a number of African countries, compared with 42% in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Advocates for global health welcomed the news, but reiterated their stance that it is not enough for the United States to simply give vaccine away. They say the Biden Administration must create the conditions for other countries to manufacture vaccines on their own, including transferring technology to make the doses.

“The world needs urgent new manufacturing to produce billions more doses within a year, not just commitments to buy the planned inadequate supply,” Peter Maybarduk, the director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, said in a statement. He added, “We have yet to see a plan from the U.S. government or the G7 of the needed ambition or urgency to make billions more doses and end the pandemic.”

The deal with Pfizer has the potential to open the door to similar agreements with other vaccine manufacturers, including Moderna, whose vaccine was developed with American tax dollars—unlike Pfizer’s. In addition, the Biden administration has brokered a deal in which Merck will help produce Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, and those doses might be available for overseas use.

The United States has already contracted to buy 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires two shots, for distribution in the United States; the 500 million doses are in addition to that, according to people familiar with the deal.

Research contact: @nytimes

Taking ‘extraordinary measures,’ White House backs suspending patents on vaccines

May 7, 2021

The Biden Administration came out on Wednesday, May5, in support of waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines—thereby, siding with international efforts to bolster production amid concerns about vaccine access in developing nations, The New York Times reports.

Under former President Trump, the United States had been a major holdout at the World Trade Organization over a proposal to suspend some of the world economic body’s intellectual property protections—enabling drugmakers worldwide to gain access to the closely guarded trade secrets of how the vaccines have been made.

However, the Times notes, President Biden had come under increasing pressure to throw his support behind the proposal, drafted by India and South Africa and backed by many congressional Democrats.

Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative, announced the Administration’s position on Wednesday afternoon, as the pandemic continued to spiral in India and South America.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” Tai said in a statement. “The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Support from the White House is not a guarantee that a waiver will be adopted. The European Union has also been standing in the way, and changes to international intellectual property rules require unanimous agreement. Tai said the United States would participate in negotiations at the World Trade Organization over the matter, but that they would “take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”

Standing against her will be the pharmaceutical industry, which responded angrily to the extraordinary decision. Stephen J. Ubl, the president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), called the announcement “an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety.”

“This decision will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines,” he said in a statement, adding that the move would have the effect of “handing over American innovations to countries looking to undermine our leadership in biomedical discovery.”

The pharmaceutical industry has argued that a suspension of patent protections would undermine risk-taking and innovation.

“Who will make the vaccine next time?” Brent Saunders, the former chief executive of Allergan, which is now part of AbbVie, wrote on Twitter.

However, the Times reports, global health activists, who have been pressing for the waiver, praised the Administration’s decision. It is “a truly historic step, which shows that President Biden is committed to being not just an American leader, but a global one,” said Priti Krishtel, an executive director of the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK).

But the activists said a waiver alone would not increase the world’s vaccine supply. It must be accompanied by a process known as “tech transfer,” in which patent holders supply technical know-how and personnel. Activists also are demanding that Biden use his leverage to ensure that manufacturing is scaled up around the globe, and not just by the pharmaceutical companies that now hold the patents.

“Handing needy countries a recipe book without the ingredients, safeguards and sizable work force needed will not help people waiting for the vaccine,” Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, the president and chief executive of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), said in a statement. “Handing them the blueprint to construct a kitchen that — in optimal conditions — can take a year to build will not help us stop the emergence of dangerous new Covid variants.”

Shares of the pharmaceutical companies BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax dropped on Wednesday afternoon as news broke of the Biden administration’s decision.

Research contact: @nytimes

Latest buzz: Mosquitoes don’t carry coronavirus

May 29, 2020

Mosquito season is upon us and—considering that these bloodsuckers are known to transmit diseases—people are concerned: Even with the lockdowns lifting, is it safe to go outside? Do mosquitoes carry the novel coronavirus? And if so, can they transmit it to humans and infect a person with COVID-19?

The short answer, according to a report by Health: It’s unlikely. Official guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that there is no information or evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted through mosquito bites. 

For starters, the coronavirus is a respiratory virus, and the main mode of transmission is by viral droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. For a mosquito to become infected with a virus, it must be present in the blood the mosquito feeds on.

“SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is a respiratory virus that is almost exclusively contained within the lungs and respiratory tract of infected people, and rarely gets into the blood,” Emily Gallichotte, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology,Iimmunology, and Pathology at Colorado State University, told Health during a recent interview.

Plus, for a virus to pass to a person through a mosquito or other kind of insect bite—such as a tick bite—the virus must be able to replicate inside the mosquito or tick. Neither the new coronavirus nor any other type of coronavirus has been shown to do that.

“It’s quite a complex process,” former US Navy entomologist Joseph M. Conlon, who has extensive worldwide experience in mosquito control and is technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), said during an interview with the news outlet“First of all, the mosquito would have to pick up the requisite amount of virus during its bite. The virus must then not only survive the digestive process, but replicate within the mosquito and pass through the gut wall to the coelom (main body cavity) of the mosquito. From there it must make its way to the salivary glands and be expressed by the mosquito as part of its salivary secretions.”

Furthermore, mosquitoes are very genetically different from humans. “This makes it challenging for viruses to have the ability to infect both of us,” says Gallichotte. “We have different receptors on the surface of cells and different replication machinery inside our cells.”

Relatively few human viruses have the ability to infect both humans and mosquitoes. “The vast majority of human viruses (such as influenza, HIV, and herpes) have been infecting humans for a very very long time, and even though many of these end up in our blood, they are still unable to infect mosquitoes,” says Gallichotte. “Conversely, there are many mosquito viruses that are unable to infect humans, or any mammals. There are no known coronaviruses that can infect mosquitoes.”

Viruses that can be spread to humans by mosquitoes include West Nile virus, the virus that causes dengue fever, and chikungunya virus, all of which circulate in the blood of infected people. “West Nile virus is able to infect a mosquito to the point where the virus load is abundant in the salivary glands,” Melissa Doyle, scientific program manager at the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District (SGVMVCD), tells Health. “When the mosquito bites a person, the virus is able to travel from the salivary glands into the human body.”

So it’s pretty clear that COVID-19 is the last thing you should be worrying about if a mosquito has been feasting on your leg. Keep swatting them away, though. “Due to the heavy focus on COVID-19, many people may forget that disease threats may already be buzzing right outside their window.” SGVMVCD Public Information Officer Levy Sun told Health.

Conlon points out that mosquitoes can factor into the severity of COVID-19, meaning it’s crucial to maintain robust measures to reduce their numbers. “Studies have shown that factors contributing to potentially serious or fatal outcomes attendant to COVID-19 infection involve underlying medical issues, such as neurologic conditions that weaken the ability to cough or an already stressed immune system due to concurrent infection by mosquito-borne viruses,” he says.

Mosquitoes or no mosquitoes, it’s still crucial to keep following healthy coronavirus protocol to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Clean your hands frequently, practice social distancing, stay home if you’re sick, and avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.

Research contact: @health