What You Need To Know About The Coronavirus Right Now

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(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

India overtakes Brazil as world’s second worst-hit country

India reported a record 168,912 COVID-19 infections overnight, data from the health ministry showed on Monday, overtaking Brazil to become the second-most affected country globally by the coronavirus.

India’s overall tally reached 13.53 million, surpassing Brazil’s 13.45 million cases, according to data compiled by Reuters. The United States led the global tally with 31.2 million cases.

South African variant may evade protection from Pfizer vaccine, Israeli study says

The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa may evade the protection provided by Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found, though its prevalence in the country is very low and the research has not been peer reviewed.

The study, released on Saturday, compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated patients with the disease.

Among patients who had received two doses of the vaccine, the variant’s prevalence rate was eight times higher than those unvaccinated – 5.4% versus 0.7%.

This suggests the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, compared with the original coronavirus and a variant first identified in Britain that has come to comprise nearly all COVID-19 cases in Israel, the researchers said.

Brazil records 1,803 COVID-19 deaths

Brazil on Sunday recorded 1,803 new COVID-19 deaths, as a large study found that a Chinese vaccine that has become the linchpin in the country’s vaccination campaign is 50.7% effective against the infectious new homegrown variant known as P1.

Sao Paulo’s Butantan biomedical institute, which tested and is now producing the CoronaVac vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, said on Sunday a study it conducted found the shot had an efficacy rate of 50.7% against the P1 variant, and a less widespread strain known as P2. Butantan said that if the second dose is delayed by more than two weeks, the efficacy rises to 62.3%. The vaccine has an efficacy of between 83.7% and 100% at preventing those infected from requiring medical assistance, it said.

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Australia abandons vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.

About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post, noting the speed of Australia’s vaccination programme was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.

China considers mixing vaccines to boost protection rate

China’s top disease control official has said the country is formally considering mixing COVID-19 vaccines as a way of further boosting vaccine efficacy. Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Saturday that taking steps to “optimise” the vaccine process including changing the number of doses and the length of time between doses was a “definite” solution to efficacy issues.

Two injections of a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, when given shorter than three weeks apart, was 49.1% effective based on data from a Phase III trial in Brazil, below the 50% threshold set by World Health Organization, according to a paper published by Brazilian researchers on Sunday ahead of peer review. But data from a small subgroup showed that the efficacy rate increased to 62.3% when the doses were given at intervals of three weeks and longer.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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