North America Update: April 6
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TOPLINE PERSPECTIVE: April 6, 2021
- The daily coronavirus death toll in the United States is at its lowest level in months as the country continues to ramp up the pace of vaccine delivery. At the same time, outbreaks in states across the Midwest and Northwest are creating fear of another COVID-19 surge. The average number of new reported cases has risen by 19 percent over the past two weeks. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and member of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 advisory board, has predicted that the next two weeks would bring the highest number of cases reported globally since the beginning of the pandemic. But Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food & Drug Administration and board member of Pfizer, says he does not foresee a fourth wave, but rather pockets of infection around the country in younger people and children who have not been yet been vaccinated.
- On Saturday, the United States administered 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the first time the country has hit that threshold. That brought up the 7-day average to 3 million doses, also a first. More than 165 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered in the U.S., according to the CDC. Nearly one-third of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine and 18.5 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.
- After a major production problem at a contract facility in Baltimore ruined 15 million doses of the J&J vaccine, the company will take full control of the facility and it will stop producing the AstraZeneca vaccine. Workers at the facility accidentally mixed-up ingredients from the two vaccines, contaminating the doses. The move comes as the Biden administration is aggressively pushing to produce enough vaccine doses to cover every American adult by the end of May.
- Canada passed a grim milestone Saturday, recording more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 since the virus hit the country last January. As of the past weekend, more than 23,000 Canadians have died from the disease. The country is currently battling a surge of infections fueled by new variants and is impacting much younger adults than hospitals have been accustomed to seeing.
- More than 2 million doses of vaccines are set to arrive in Canada this week as the country scrambles to contain the rapid spread of more contagious variants. The country is set to receive at least 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine every week until the end of May, ramping up to 2 million a week in June. The federal government is promising that every Canadian who wants to be inoculated against COVID-19 will be fully vaccinated by the end of September.
- This week, the European Medicines Agency, as well as the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, reported incidents of blood clotting related to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. However, both regulators also stressed that the benefits of immunity from vaccine still outweigh the potential risks.
- It was revealed this week that several European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, are interested in acquiring doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. This follows Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic, who have already purchased Sputnik doses.
- French company Valneva announced this week that, following positive results from initial testing of its vaccine, it would move to large-scale trials. The company also predicted that based on these results it would begin applying to regulators for approval in autumn of this year.
- In Germany, approximately 35.000 general practitioners (GP) can vaccinate against COVID-19, in addition to the vaccine centers. However, there are less than 1 million vaccine doses available for GPs at present, providing every GP with just 26 doses per week.
- Qatar’s education authorities have said that in-person attendance will be suspended at all the country’s universities, schools and kindergartens starting on April 4 due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
- Mexico faces protests from private hospital health care providers demanding to be prioritized by the government for vaccinations against COVID-19. Government officials have said that private hospital HCPs are not yet a priority.
- News outlets revealed two cases in which the federal government’s medical personnel simulated the vaccination in older adults with empty syringes. This was criticized by the international media and started a debate about whether officials could have committed similar frauds.
- The ten most influential business leaders in Mexico announced they would finance private scientific and research institutions to develop a Mexican vaccine against COVID-19. It will be designed based on nucleic acids.
- The National Health Surveillance (NHS) Agency has approved the emergency use of the vaccine produced by Janssen, of the Johnson & Johnson group. It is the fourth vaccine approved for use in Brazil, along with Coronavac, Pfizer and the Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccines. The Federal Government has purchased 38 million doses of the vaccine and deliveries will begin in the third quarter of this year.
- The NHS Agency denied the Ministry of Health’s request to import the Covaxin vaccine, developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech. The Ministry had signed an agreement to obtain 20 million doses of the group. The manufacturing facilities used by the pharmaceutical companies Janssen and Inovat Pharmaceutical Industry / Chemical Union, responsible for the production of the Sputnik V vaccine in Brazil, received the Agency’s good practice certificate.
- At the National Congress, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga declared that the Ministry halved the forecast of vaccine doses available in April. Congress is preparing a new law that will allocate an extraordinary loan of BRL 5.3 billion to the Ministry of Health to combat the pandemic.
- Maria Van Kerkehove of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the situation in Brazil is critical and, with the Brazilian variant P.1 more transmissible, the overburdened health system may be even more compromised.
- Virtual Programming: New virtual events from Washington Post, Atlantic, Bloomberg and Economist focus on leading and re-opening states during COVID-19, creating a more equitable America, innovative data management, and how to leverage scientific advances from COVID-19 vaccine development to tackle other urgent crises.
- California Live Sports & Entertainment: The Los Angeles Lakers announced that fans will be allowed back into Staples Center for an April 15 game against the Boston Celtics, after the state of California released plans to allow at least some indoor seating at live sports and entertainment performances based on the state’s four-tiered COVID-19 restriction plan.
- Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks have postponed their season after more than 20 players and coaches tested positive for the P.1 variant of COVID-19. As a result, the NHL will likely have to schedule games beyond the current season end-date of May 1.
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