North America Update: March 2
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TOPLINE PERSPECTIVE: march 2, 2021
- Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, says she is “really worried” about states rolling back COVID-19 restrictions as U.S. cases appear to be leveling off at a “very high number.” The declines in cases seen since early January now appear to be stalling at around 70,000 new cases per day. Top U.S. health officials have warned in recent weeks that the rise of more contagious variants could reverse the downward trajectory in infections in the U.S. and delay the nation’s recovery from the pandemic. They are also pushing Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible before potentially new and even more dangerous variants continue to take hold.
- The United States Senate will take up President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package this week, after a party-line House vote this past weekend. Democrats are using a budget process to avoid Republicans blocking the bill in the Senate that leaves them no room for error in the divided 50-50 chamber. Democratic leaders need to keep their caucus unified and will count on Vice President Harris to break a tie. No Republican lawmakers in the House voted for the bill, and none are expected to back it in the Senate. Republicans believe the $1.9 trillion cost is not necessary and much of the spending would not be targeted to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Last week, Health Canada approved Oxford University’s AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and a comparable one made in India; purchasing 20-million doses directly from AstraZeneca, as well as an additional two million from the Serum Institute of India. However, this week, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) announced it is not recommending the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in individuals aged 65 years and older due to insufficient evidence of its efficacy in the age group.
- The European Commission plans to present legislation later this month for a digital certificate, which will be aimed at facilitating cross-border travel in the age of the coronavirus. President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Monday said that the tool will aim to provide proof that a person has been vaccinated and the certificate will also display the results of tests for those who have yet to receive a vaccine along with information on “COVID-19 recovery.”
- More than 20 million people across the United Kingdom have now received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot, data showed on Sunday as the country has made more progress with Europe’s fastest vaccination program.
- European Union police and anti-fraud officials are investigating billions of euros of scam COVID-19 vaccine offers that have targeted governments across the continent. To date, the offers amount to more than 900 million doses with a total price of about 12.7 billion euros ($15.3 billion).
- At the start of the pandemic, the Asia Pacific region’s healthcare systems were overwhelmed and destabilized, with resources being pivoted towards combating the virus. Clinics postponed elective surgeries, while hospitals turned non-urgent patients away. Hospitals faced shortages of vital resources such as PPE and oxygen. This was quickly resolved in Asia Pacific, however, with other sectors coming together to address challenges and support frontline workers.
- As the case numbers across the region lessened, the spotlight shifted to chronic illnesses and other surgery backlogs. Even today, many patients with chronic illnesses are experiencing interruptions in treatments and there is concern that there will be a surge in case numbers for other medical conditions. Clinics continue to implement a split team approach for treatment continuity, with social distancing measures in place.
- As vaccines become approved and distributed across Asian markets, governments are cautiously deploying their inoculation plan to help their populations achieve immunity.
- In his call with President Joe Biden, President Lopez Obrador revealed that he asked if the U.S. could share some its COVID-19 vaccines with Mexico; however, the White House responded that they don’t intend do so. This response generated criticism about Obrador’s foreign policy.
- The Mexican state of Quintana Roo is softening its coronavirus restrictions following a decrease in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area, officials announced Thursday on Twitter. The entire state, which includes the major tourist destinations of Cancún, Tulum and Playa del Carmen, will begin to permit hotels, restaurants, shops, theaters and theme parks to operate at 60% capacity next week ahead of spring break for many college students in the U.S.
- Mexico’s coronavirus czar has been hospitalized over the past five days for COVID-19 treatment but is recovering well, a health official said on Sunday, as the country marked its one-year anniversary of its first confirmed infection.
- On Friday, the governor of Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia, called for a 24-hour lockdown for all but essential services to curb a worsening COVID-19 outbreak that has filled its intensive care wards to the brim.
- Hospital ICUs are reaching their limits across Brazil, as health experts and state officials beg the government to impose stricter lockdown measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19. The country’s ICU occupancy rates are the worst since the start of the pandemic, according to a recent report by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.
INSIGHTS & INTEL
- Johnson & Johnson has begun shipping nearly 4 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine after the drug was granted emergency use authorization by the Food & Drug Administration over the weekend. CEO Alex Gorsky said the company’s COVID-19 vaccine will be an important tool in the fight against the coronavirus because it prevents hospitalizations and deaths. However, some people have questioned whether they should get J&J’s vaccine due to its lower efficacy rate. Clinical trial data show J&J’s vaccine is 66% effective overall at protecting against COVID-19, compared with about 95% for Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine. But Gorsky said the most important finding of the J&J vaccine is that it prevented 100% of virus-related hospitalizations and deaths.
- The new vaccine differs markedly from the two already in use in the United States. The J&J vaccine is administered in a single shot, while the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are given in two shots several weeks apart. It uses a different method to prime the body to fight off COVID-19: a viral vector called Ad26. Viral vectors are common viruses that have been genetically altered so that they do not cause illness but can still cause the immune system to build up its defenses. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA to do that.
- Other differences are in storage, handling and side effects. The J&J vaccine does not have to be stored at extremely low temperatures like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It can safely be kept in an ordinary refrigerator for three months, much longer than the Moderna vaccine, which spoils after a month if not kept frozen. The vaccine appears to be less prone to trigger side effects that require monitoring after the injection, which may make it more suitable for use at drive-through vaccination sites. There have been reports that side effects tend to be felt more strongly after second doses, which the J&J vaccine does not require.
Below are summaries of interesting business responses to COVID-19 in recent days.
- After receiving $10 million from Apple’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund, COPAN Diagnostics announced they’ve shipped more than 15 million COVID-19 sample collection kits for communities across the country. Teams at Apple, COPAN, and more than a dozen other US companies created innovative processes and developed new machinery for COPAN’s Southern California facilities, increasing test-kit production by close to 4,000 percent since April.
- White House officials unveiled a new partnership between the administration and top business groups to help with the national coronavirus response and vaccine rollout, announced White House senior advisor for COVID-19 response Andy Slavitt. The purpose of the partnership is to call on businesses of all sizes “to promote public health measures to help reduce barriers to vaccinations for employees, and to help amplify public health messaging around masking and vaccinations to their customers and communities.”
- Virtual Programming: New virtual events from FORTUNE, Bloomberg and Washington Post continue to cover COVID-19-related issues, such as vaccine development, digital transformation of the global health care industry and the future of work.
- National Restaurant Association: The 2021 National Restaurant Association Show, slated to take place May 22-25 in Chicago, is cancelled due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and current gathering restrictions in the state of Illinois. The next show will be held May 21-24, 2022.
- Kentucky Derby: The May 1 race will allow a limited number of spectators in the stands amid COVID-19. Churchill Downs is only selling tickets to guests with contractual seating, which includes people with personal seat licenses, memberships and annual tickets, and people who received refunds in 2020.
- PGA Championship:The 2021 PGA Championship, scheduled for May 20-23 in South Carolina, will allow approximately 10,000 spectators per day. In 2020, the PGA Championship was played without fans in attendance due to the pandemic.
For more information about how we are helping clients solve in this uncertain time, please contact:
- Micho Spring, Chair, Global Corporate Practice, email@example.com
- Pam Jenkins, President, Global Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org