COVID-19 Pandemic


Global

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic caused by a newly discovered virus, SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Coronavirus 2). It threatens public health by affecting people’s lungs and airways. The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. As of July 2021, it has spread to over 195 countries. India and the United States have now become the epicentres of the virus whilst China has recorded lower cases. As the virus continues to spread, global cases surpass 110 million worldwide, with over 2.5 million deaths. Considering the strong infectivity, the World Trade Organization (WTO) risk assessment indicates the severity of coronavirus is very high.

The transmission of coronavirus is human-to-human. The virus spreads in droplets of saliva and discharge from the nose, which can last on surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic for up to 72 hours. Based on present information, symptoms could appear as soon as three days after exposure to as long as 13 days later. Mild patients experience respiratory symptoms, including a persistent dry cough, fever, and tiredness. Sometimes, these symptoms can deteriorate into shortness of breath, sore throat, and aches, which are signals of pneumonia.

Currently, there are no specific treatments. Most infected people relying on individual immunity will recover without a special recipe. There can even be covert coronavirus infections, with testing positive but showing no symptoms; these “silent carriers” are just as likely to spread the virus. The elderly and those with underlying health problems are at the highest risk of death.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reawakened racism, especially towards people of Chinese descent. There has been an increase in reported violence against Asians more broadly, ranging from abusive words even to aggressive physical attacks on those wearing facial masks. Though there are controversial arguments among virologists about the effectiveness of surgical masks against airborne viruses, Asian governments encourage their citizens to wear a mask for self-protect. However, the cultural difference results in conflicts and violations. COVID-19 has also escalated the global gender violence crisis. Because of the stay-at-home policy, increasing cases of domestic violence are being reported. The lockdown has also significantly reduced social contact, with support services becoming less accessible.

The response to COVID-19 among different countries has been similar: to slowing down the spread of disease; relieving the burden on the medical system; and protecting vulnerable groups. Following this idea, scientists suggested social distancing and self-isolation . Countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, and India remain on lockdown while China is beginning to reverse domestic lockdown. The political and social impact of COVID-19 has left certain countries unable to respond, with a widespread lack of protective equipment for frontline staff, economic recessions due to citywide lockdowns, panic purchasing, and even incidents of crime based on racism. Tensions have also been heightened between states, such as the U.S-China diplomatic spat after then-President Donald Trump publicly referred to the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus”. The situation is particularly worse among developing countries which lack appropriate healthcare systems.

COVID-19 is taking so much from us. But it is also giving us something: the opportunity to come together as one against a common threat, and to build a common future.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
WHO Director General

Key Facts

4,202,593 million

Deaths

196,631,855 million

Infected

178,074,252 million

Recoveries

Epicenters for the Virus: Previously China; now the United States and India , accounting for over 33% of cases and deaths worldwide.

Countries with the Most Infected

  • United States of America: 35,479,829 million
  • India: 31,526,622 million
  • Brazil:19,797,516 million
  • Russia: 6,195,232 million
  • France: 6,054,049 million

(Worldometers, 28 July 2021)

Most Vaccinated Countries (cumulative doses administered per 100 people)

  • Israel: 128.32
  • Canada: 127.85
  • Italy: 109.94
  • Germany: 107.76
  • United Studies: 102.44                                             

   (Our World In Data, 27 July 2021) 

Vaccine Coverage (% share of population with at least one dose)

  • Canada: 71.11
  • United Kingdom: 68.72
  • Israel: 66.69
  • Spain: 66.29
  • Italy: 62.36                                             

   (Our World In Data, 27 July 2021) 

Countries Most at Risk: The United States is the world’s worst-hit nation with the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths, which continues to grow. Many blame the erstwhile Trump administration for prioritizing the economy instead of citizens’ health, but the devolved public-health authority and the fragmented federal system could be the deeper reason for the medical equipment shortage. Since assuming office in January, President Joe Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to help the frontline medical workers who are lacking ventilators, test kits, and personal protective equipment (PPE) and helped broker an agreement between pharmaceutical giants Merck and Johnson & Johnson, in which the former would aid the production of the latter’s single-dose vacci28

The Key Actors

The Situation

Classification: Pandemic 

Adviser’s suggestions:

  • Coming soon
  •  

Similar Humanitarian Crises

  • Coming soon

Worsening

As of July 2021, there have been over 185 million cases of, and 4
million deaths from, COVID-19 worldwide. While the approval and distribution of several vaccines has raised the prospects for long-term recovery, the emergence of newer, more pathogenic strains of SARS-CoV-2 poses an additional challenge in terms of disease prevention. Many countries have issued lockdown policies and travel remains restricted for non-essential purposes. Scientists warn that humans need to learn to live with this virus as a new normal.

Current Strategies and Responses

Timeline of Events

The first suspected case is a 55-year-old man living in Wuhan, China. Before that, no scientific paper has yet discussed such matters.

Li Wenliang, a Chinese ophthalmologist, warns his colleagues about a possible epidemic resembling SARS, later acknowledged as COVID-19.  After four days, Wuhan police admonishes him for “making false comments on the Internet.” When his warnings are finally confirmed, the Chinese government formally offers a solemn apology to him and calls him a whistleblower. Unfortunately, Li contracted the coronavirus and died on 7 February 2020. This incident triggers a crisis of public trust of the government.

China contacts the World Health Organisation about the outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan after diagnosing 27 people. The etiology was unknown, but most patients suffering from similar symptoms are vendors or buyers of the Hunan Seafood Wholesale Market. Later investigations find it is an underground market trading live animal. 

The entire Hubei province goes under a city lockdown policy. Despite a massive quarantine, the death rate is soaring.

9826 cases are confirmed globally, and most of them happen in the epicentral region: China. The epidemic has affected the other 19 countries outside China. To avoid further transmission, countries like Russia and Singapore announce border closure with China. Plentiful airlines suspend flights to China.

The Chinese government responds to the scandals of Wuhan Red Cross. This charity organisation is revealed for its incompetence, extreme delays in allocating donation resources, and unexplained apparent misallocation of crucial medical supplies.

The emergency specialty field hospital Huoshenshan completes installation to receive mild-symptom patients. However, a few media distort it as an internment camp. Asymmetric information creates some misunderstandings among states, foreshadowing later diplomatic spats during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Seoul authorities prosecute leaders of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus for obstructing efforts to control the coronavirus. During the COVID-19, the sect remains gatherings in Daegu, causing large-scale infections among members. Leaders of this group refuse to get tested for coronavirus, threatening the public health severely.

Italy escalates its measure to a country-wide quarantine, restricting travel except for necessity, work, and health circumstances. After banning family visits to jails, relatives clash with local police. Under the fear of coronavirus, prisoners in 23 jails protest and riot, resulting in deaths.

A diplomatic dispute erupts between Germany and Switzerland after German Chancellor Angela Merkel bans the exports of protective medical equipment. On 9 March, the German customs authority is reported to block a truck filled with 240,000 protective masks to Switzerland. The incident reflects estrangements among European countries, which may discourage deeper collaborations to fight against the epidemic.

UK’s chief scientific adviser raises the idea of “herd immunity” for coronavirus, claiming about 40 million people in the UK need to catch the virus. The controversial strategy triggers an outrage of citizens, especially to vulnerable groups, including the old and those with immunity diseases. Scientists also warn the approach is unethical by putting citizens under the risks.

US President Donald J. Trump refers to the COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” escalating a deepening US-China diplomatic spat. Later, the WHO claims such a term linking the virus to a specific area is impertinent. Trump’s words then intensify the ongoing racism against Asians. 

With more than 53,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,800 death, Italy becomes the new epicenter of COVID-19. To suppress the northern outbreak, the government introduces strict measures by placing almost 50,000 people in lockdown. Police patrol 11 towns and those caught entering or leaving outbreak areas face penalties. Italy also cancels big gatherings like carnivals.

India announces a 21-day lockdown of the entire country. However, conflicts break out between the government and civilians. Vendors complain about the police’s abuse. Travelers are stuck at railway stations because of the public transportation suspension. Closure of supply chains reduces daily-waged workers’ income. Despite promises by relief centres to offer meals, homeless people and migrants still suffer from hunger. Hundreds of stranded people queue at these centres, thereby increasing the risk of infection.

Since Wuhan eases its two-month lockdown on residents, China enters the “suppression phase” of the COVID-19.

In Nicaragua, many citizens begin to express anger and disappointment at their government for not doing enough to control the infection.

Frontline health workers in the US struggle with a critical lack of personal protective equipment. Thus, they need to beg for them online with the hashtag # GetMePPE. Most of them complain about the ineffective reactions of the government.

Domestic violence rises amid coronavirus-related quarantine globally. Longer stay-at-home time exposes more abusive cases in an intimate relationship. From Brazil to Germany, Italy to China, helpless women express their fear through the media.

 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline in the US receives up to 2,000 calls per day between 10 and 24 March. The COVID-19 becomes an excuse for women’s partners to further control and abuse. In some cases, husbands even threaten to throw their wives on the street if they cough. Lockdown policy also creates obstacles for institutions to offer assistance. Victims face more difficulties in picking up the phone for help since the abusive partner is just in the room.

Despite the world facing a common enemy, the US still ignores appeals to suspend Iran and Venezuela sanctions. Ivan Briscoe, Latin American and Caribbean director at the International Crisis Group, warned if the virus takes off in Venezuela, and the country can not receive a massive injection of international support, there would be an absolute disaster.

US Navy removes the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Brett Crozier. Since infections aboard his ship were accelerating, he tries to raise the alarm of the outbreak by writing a letter to urge the action of curbing the virus. Democratic leaders of the House Armed Services Committee take the dismissal decision as a destabilising move, which may result in a chilling effect.

Philippine authorities have subjected children to abusive treatment for breaking curfew and quarantine rules. Although these regulations are imposed to control the COVID-19 outbreak, the outrage violates the health rights of vulnerable children.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, calls for a global ceasefire to fight against the pandemic. The EU declares they would first consider the humanitarian and ensure not to break worldwide efforts to the COVID-19. Later, Eleven countries locked in long-term conflicts such as Ukraine, the Philippines, and Sudan respond to the call. Since most of these war zones have a fragile health system, the warfare would make them impossible to overcome the coronavirus.

Mexico’s homicide rate is 2,585 in March, grows to a new record. Since military power is distracted by the pandemic control, convicts among criminal groups on the territory, petrol theft, and robs reach to the peak.

The US government asks 3M, a major domestic mask manufacturer, to stop exporting the N95 mask to Canada and Latin America. Subsequently, Canada’s PM calls the decision as a “mistake”. The choice of the US has negative implications and could prompt other countries to make a similar response.

Sri Lanka police arrest individuals “criticising” the officials, or sharing “fake” messages about the pandemic. Human rights institutions criticise the practice as a violation of the free expression rights, weakening public supervision to the government’s shortcomings.

Healthcare workers in the UK reach out to the media regarding the government’s inefficiency in dealing with the crisis. Because of distribution problems, healthcare workers wear bin bags rather than professional equipment for protection. The medical capacity faces a heavy burden. Since intensive care is full of COVID-19 patients, other non-urgent operations, even the cancer clinics are to be cancelled. Medical staff are warned against using the media to talk about the frontline urgency.

The oil price war among the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia increases. The US and Canada are considering to increment tariffs on Saudi Arabian and Russian oil imports. However, the tension is adverse to global collaboration amid the COVID-19. 

Facing criticisms of the US’ approach to coronavirus, Donald Trump accuses the WHO publicly of being “wrong” and “China-centric.” Rather than providing funds to the WHO as he said previously, Trump claims the idea was only under consideration. This expression shifting blame of the pandemic could harm international anti-epidemic activities.

The police detain volunteers dispatching food, clothes, and personal hygiene to homeless people in Moscow. The deeper reason behind this is the government’s inefficiency in providing social assistance during the lockdown. Although following the self-isolation regime is crucial to prevent a further epidemic, there is no consideration on how to protect vulnerable groups.

East African school closures amid the COVID-19 result in girls’ tough circumstances. Since schools create a protective space and keep girls away from risks like child marriage, the pandemic escalates their suffering. Currently, there are no remote educational programmes that could help alleviate the crisis.

The US ends funding to WHO after Trump publicly accusing it of “failed in its basic duty.” However, this decision would be “dangerous and short-sighted” and destroy the unity of global disease resistance. UN Secretary-General António Guterres says it is “not the time” to cut funds since “is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19” at this time.

In Nigeria, the security force has killed 18 people breaking the lockdown policy so far. Even though Nigeria’s police have a long-term reputation for brutality, extortion, and harassment, this chaos adds people’s misery amid the COVID-19.

Singapore has reported 1016 new cases of COVID-19, and the number increases dramatically. The vast majority of new patients are Work Permit holders living in foreign worker dormitories. These small dorms lack sanitary conditions, such as clean water and soaps, and migrant workers need to share the room with others. In addition to being under the high risk of infections, most of them also feel panic and fear. Although Singapore used to be a model of fighting against the virus, its current response is ineffective in controlling the outbreak and is at the expense of suffering workers.

At the end of February, Turkey opened the country’s borders with Greece to refugees. However, the abrupt pandemic restrains refugees from living a decent life. Since they are expelled back to Turkey, the new potential epicentre with cases rising from 16,000 to over 90,000 in April, the situation becomes tougher. The vast majority of refugees work informally, and they are ineligible for compensation or unemployment benefits. Hence, it is hard for refugees to prepare for the approaching storm.

Coronavirus severely attacks an orphanage for children with developmental disabilities in Belarus. At least 23 people (including 13 children) have been infected. Limitations make these orphans’ chances of survival more inferior. Although the staff is trying their best to take care of the children, the scarce medications like painkillers and the dense dormitories escalate the present dilemma.

Since a massive annual mobilisation to defend indigenous lands and rights were suspended because of the pandemic, indigenous people have to remain in their villages. The illegal logging and mining quicken the pace to invade Amazon’s territory. However, COVID-19 left the officials unable to prioritise the rights of indigenous people timely. The human-made deforestation is threatening the fragile ecology and the routine of indigenous people.

In Los Lianos, a Venezuela prison, the quarantine measures cut off the food supply from inmates’ families. The unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions escalate inmates’ anger and dissatisfaction. Then a bloody riot erupted, leaving at least 40 people dead and 50 more injured.

In Egypt, 60% of the population was already weak and vulnerable before the coronavirus pandemic. However, the lockdown destroyed the informal economy like tourism, further limiting their livelihoods. People crowd the entrances to charities and food banks. Because of the halted public transport, a large number of people could only rely on walking. Compared to the fear of the virus, the unemployed are more worried about making a living. “Staying home is for the rich.” Social distancing and quarantine become luxuries that Egypt’s poor could not afford.

In early May, the government began to relax the lockdown after the decline of new cases. In several days followed, dozens of new infections happened in nightclubs. Media publicly claimed these clubs as gay clubs, triggering online harassment towards LGBT groups. Since the officials failed to keep the private information of infected individuals, some of them experienced physical violence.

When the globe is fighting against COVID-19, the balance between the economy and public health is always a challenge, especially in countries like South Africa. As the state with the strictest lockdown, it has already closed most industries. The government is stuck in a dilemma of saving lives and reducing poverty. However, many commentators have warned of a growing number of casualties from rising unemployment in the long term. They are afraid that the living conditions of citizens will become worse. 

Hospitals in the main cities of Tanzania are overwhelmed, increasing people’s chances of contracting the virus. President John Magufuli urged them to attend church gatherings and mosques, claiming prayers could vanquish the virus instead of raising people’s awareness of the pandemic. The government accused health officials of exaggerating the crisis. Then, the public criticized the Tanzania government for downplaying the epidemic and ignoring citizens’ right to health.

European countries such as Italy, Spain and France begin the process of reopening schools and other public spaces amid low reported rates of COVID-19. The EU Coronovirus Chief, however, warns that Europe could soon face a second wave of the virus and warns it “is not the time now to completely relax”.

The World Health Organisation declares a record number of daily cases of COVID-19 so far. Over 105,000 cases were recorded on Wednesday in predominantly poor countries whilst wealthier countries are emerging from their lockdowns.

Water shortage in hospitals, overcrowding in low-income areas, unsafe working conditions for health personnel, and limited transparency of tests heighten the risk of COVID-19 in Venezuela. The Police force is reported for arbitrary arrests and harassment as well. The Venezuelan authorities severely underestimated the epidemic and persecuted journalists, health professionals, and others who raise awareness about deteriorating conditions of the health system’s breakdown. Venezuela, in addition to current internal instability, now faces a severe humanitarian crisis.

Without a transparent alarming system, Russia missed its best opportunity to control the pandemic. Due to the limited funds available to care homes, full quarantine is not feasible to many in the country. At least 95 homes have reported cases so far, out of 1,280 in total. Many are old with large, shared rooms and bathrooms. An increasing infection results in a collapsed medical system. In addition to this, carers are still suffering from low payment and scarce medical equipment.

Lacking healthcare, protection, and living resources, Rohingyas can only live on international aid amid COVID-19. These people are a stateless Indo-Aryan ethnic group who predominantly follow Islam and reside in Burma. However, the pandemic has recently become a pretext for Burmese authorities to invade and harass these displaced people. For example, Rohingyas can only cross checkpoints with a mask. However, this kind of equipment is not enough or affordable to most Rohingyas.

Although the infection risk remains high, the Indian government has taken a step to reopen public areas such as shopping malls and restaurants. However, because of scarce protection equipment and collapsed health system, the gathering can trigger an outbreak among citizens. While the government is downplaying the pandemic, hospitals are running out of beds and turning patients away.

Increasing reports on indigenous people’s tough living conditions in Canadian society are exposed. Lacking access to clean water and safe shelters, defence including social distancing, and handwashing towards the virus is difficult to be achieved. Since the proportion of chronic illness among indigenous people is high, they become more vulnerable.

Inequities can also be found when accessing health care services. In remote Northern communities, nursing stations are understaffed. Travelling to these locations for help is also challenging and expensive to indigenous communities.

Legal remedies are less accessible to residents of nursing facilities in the US. One recent immunity provision approved by 19 states means nursing homes can evade any liability even for gross negligence amid COVID-19. Opponents argue this broad immunity will be abused easily as an excuse to avoid responsibility for nursing home operators, such as failures to isolate sick residents. Lacking supervision also hurts the health rights of the elderly. Although residents and their families have serious concerns about treatment in nursing facilities, they don’t have opportunities to appeal.

The Health Ministry of Nicaragua is reported to strictly control the information related to Covid-19. Lack of transparency makes the real magnitude of the pandemic unknown to the public. The inefficiency of officials can be concealed as well. At least 10 health workers who have raised concerns over COVID-19 have been fired by Nicaraguan authorities without justicial procedures. Human rights organisations highlight this concern as a violation of speech freedom and prevents effective domestic anti-epidemic measures.

According to official statistics, nearly two-thirds of confirmed cases in Wales are women. Since more women work in nursing homes, they are suffering from higher infection risks. The extent of this discrimination is evident by the fact that PPE does not effectively fit women correctly.

The pandemic also highlights structural inequalities in Wales. The fatality rate of the BAME community is disproportionately twice as high. Much of the BAME community face the problem of overcrowded housing and less accessibility to medical resources. Advisory groups are now established to provide support and suggestions.

The pandemic has had unprecedented effects on this vulnerable group in the UK. Since there are conflicts among LGBT people and their families, plentiful LGBT are at risk of homelessness. Domestic abuse is another threat and more than one in ten LGBT people are facing violence from a partner. Ongoing discrimination, isolation, and marginalisation result in higher mental health problems of LGBT groups, but social supports become less accessible during the lockdown.

The five-year war between a Saudi-led military coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels makes Yemen unable to respond to the outbreak. Food prices in Yemen have soared by 35 percent since the start of coronavirus. The collapsing supply chain of medical facilities and the fragile protection system causes a catastrophic death toll. According to the data of the UN, 2.4 children are at the risk of starvation and malnourishment. Vaccines against deadly diseases are also urgently needed to 5 million other children under the age of 5.

Rapidly increasing infection rate in Africa raises the public’s concern upon huge disparities in countries’ abilities to cope with the pandemic. South Africa and Egypt are the two most affected regions. Since medicine resources are only concentrated in capital cities, residents from remote villages are suffering from insufficient equipment and less-trained workers. The low test rates make the outbreak less trackable. WHO experts predict that Africa will be the next epicentre of the virus.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has vetoed a law that requires the federal government to provide living resources including drinking water, disinfectants, and hospital beds to indigenous communities amid the pandemic. This response denies the minimum supplies necessary for the survival of these communities and marginalises indigenous groups.

According to US immigration authorities, VISAs of foreign students choosing to take fully online courses this autumn will probably be revoked, unless they switch to face-to-face learning. Considering the high risk of international travelling and gathering, this inhuman decision violates students’ safety and health right. Plentiful students stuck in the US are shocked and anxious about their future. As a response, universities including Harvard and MIT criticised this policy as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion”. Dozens of other universities signed a court brief to oppose this policy. Finally, this reform politicising high education failed on 14 July.

Regarding the widespread virus, Colombian armed groups are dispatched to impose strict measures, such as curfews and lockdown. These groups use violence to enforce compliance. Brutal punishment, including killings, happen frequently. The life of poor communities becomes tougher since the armed groups do not allow residents to open street selling.

A Bangladesh hospital was reported to carry out 6,300 fake reports, which detains the government’s efforts to contain the pandemic. These false documents also trigger people’s doubts about the accuracy of their certificates. This chaos reflects the weak management and supervision of Bangladesh officials.

According to the statistics of the World Food Programmme, at least 25 countries are suffering from hunger. For example, wheat prices have risen by 20% in Afghanistan. If effective life-saving assistance is not provided, people facing acute food insecurity will soar from 149 million to 270 million before the end of this year.

Public health officials in the United Kingdom report that the first notable variant for SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.7, is more easily and rapidly widespread than the wild-type or ‘normal’ strain.

The B.1.351 strain, as identified by health officials in South Africa, shares some mutations with the B.1.1.7 strain, but seems to have emerged independently of the latter.

The Medicines and Health care Products Regulatory Agency, invoking statutory powers granted it under the Medicines Act of 1968, authorizes the vaccine’s “rapid temporary regulatory approval to address significant public health issues such as a pandemic”. As a result, many countries around the world, as well as the WHO, begin issuing emergency use authorizations for the vaccine. 

Margaret ‘Maggie’ Keenan, a long-term care resident and native of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, becomes the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the newly-approved vaccine.

The United States Food and Drug Administration approves the Moderna vaccine for emergency use in the country, on the heels of a similar decision regarding the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine days earlier.

The P.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2 is first identified in travelers entering Brazil from Japan. All 3 major variants – B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1 – share a mutation that causes them to spread more quickly than the ‘normal’ strains.

Dr. Bette Korber, a scientist at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, discloses to the New York Academy of Sciences that based on her review of a database of U.S viral genomes, there is “pretty clear” evidence of a new strain that contains genetic material from two existing strains, the B.1.1.7 strain and the B.1.429 strain previously identified in California. Korber says it is unclear whether this new strain is more easily transmitted or causes more severe disease. 

The World Health Organization issues an emergency use approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which use messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) to induce an immune response, the AstraZeneca vaccine uses a viral vector that causes cold in chimpanzees to transport the inactivated SARS-CoV-2 strains, achieving the same effect. 

The third COVID-19 vaccine to be so authorized, this vaccine differs from those produced by Pfizer and Moderna as well as AstraZeneca in that it only requires a single dose.

The vaccine’s higher temperature storage requirements – it can be stored at refrigerator level temperatures, compared to its Pfizer and Moderna, which must be preserved at sub-zero degrees Celsius – as well as the long interval between doses (up to 12 weeks, versus 21 to 28 days for Pfizer and Moderna) make it suitable for this tropical country, which has not been as hard hit (just over 160,000 confirmed cases) as many others despite being the most-populated in Africa .

A rare collaboration between two of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies, this move is intended to help Johnson & Johnson reach its target of producing 94 million doses by the end of May.

With this decision, there are now four clinically safe and highly effective vaccines available for use in Canada, which borders the largest epicenter for COVID-19: the United States of America.

According to the Canadian province’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, there are 346 cases involving a variant and of the 136 confirmed, 130 are the B.1.1.7 strain.

European countries, most notably France and Germany, made the decision to discontinue the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over cases of blood clots in recipients. Investigations by the vaccine manufacturers themselves, as well as by the European Union, Health Canada and the U.S Food and Drug Administration have since confirmed the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, with a very important caveat: people who suffer from thrombocytopenia, or a deficiency of platelets – the part of the blood that prevents it from clotting, have an increased risk of developing blood clots if administered the vaccine. However, it is unclear what interactions with the various elements in the vaccine warrant this conclusion, as those with thrombocytopenia are already at a higher risk of developing blood clots than the general population due to the nature of the condition itself.

According to Vice-Chair Dr. Shelley Deeks, the National Advisory Council on Immunization reached this decision following reports of reduced platelet levels and increased blood clots post-administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, now referred to as Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), in younger women under the age of 55. Deeks also announced that the fatality rate among the women eho developed blood clots was 40%, and that the risk of blood clots associated with VIPIT could be as high as 1 in 100,000 cases, much more than the 1 in 1,000,000 previously thought.

In a joint statement, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration, said the decision was made out of an ‘abundance of caution’ in order to investigate reports of a rare blood clot known as a Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST) in women aged between 18 and 48 that occurred 6 to 13 days post-administration of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Marks, for his part, openly mused at a teleconference with journalists about the commonalities with the AstraZeneca vaccine: both use viral vectors – a human-based adenovirus for Johnson and Johnson, and a chimpanzee-based adenovirus for AstraZeneca – and incidents of rare blood clots have been associated with their use. Schuchat said the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization would meet to review the cases and that another announcement was to be expected within a week based on its intital findings.

“We have concluded that the known and potential benefits of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older,” read a statement by FDA acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, following the decision of CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to approve the recommendation of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization to that effect. The statement further expressed confidence that the vaccine “…continues to meet our standards for safety, effectiveness and quality. We recommend people with questions about which vaccine is right for them have those discussions with their health care provider.”

The United States announced that the materials would help India with the production of the COVISHIELD vaccine, which is the latter’s brand name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. India reported as many as a million new cases in the preceding 3 days as a new wave of the pandemic emerged alongside a variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.617. While not considered a ‘variant of concern’, B.1.617 is deemed a ‘variant of interest’ as it has already spread to neighboring Pakistan.

This decision, following an application on April 16th, 2021 by the manufacturers to expand the indication of the vaccine, makes the Pfizer vaccine the first in Canada to be approved for use in children. Canada also joins Algeria in this regard, with the latter having earlier made a similar authorization for Pfizer.

This extension of the existing Emergency Use Authorization, which previously covered children as young as 16, will help with efforts to re-open schools ahead of the next calendar year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergies and Immune Diseases, says that regulators hope to eventually extend the regulations to cover children aged 9 to 12, 6 to 9, 2 to 6, and 6 months to 2 years, in that order.

The company conducted a Phase 2/3 clinical trial involving 3,700 children half of whom received the vaccine (2 doses, 4 weeks apart) and the other half a placebo. No cases of COVID-19 were recorded among the experimental (vaccine) group, compared to 4 cases among the control (placebo) group. Moreover, the vaccine was 93% effective in protecting against illness – symptomatic or asymptomatic – after the 1st dose. Moderna says it hope to submit these findings to the U.S Food and Drug Administration in early June. If approved, this vaccine will be only the second authorized for use in children, following the approval of Pfizer-BioNTech earlier this month.

Based on safety and efficacy data from the Phase 1 clinical trial, 4,500 children from the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain between the ages of 5 and 11 will receive 10 mg of each vaccine dose, and children under age 5 will receive 3 mg of each vaccine dose. The study will also examine antibody response to ensure that sufficient immunity is being produced at lower doses, as children over age 12 had earlier received 30 mg of vaccine per dose. 

82-year old Khamenei, who has battled several health issues over the years, described Iran’s first locally-produced vaccine as a point of “national pride”. Human trials began in late December, and 24,000 volunteers have received the COVIran Barekat vaccine following Phase 3 trials. Sedat, an organization under Khamenei which produces the vaccine, says it hopes to ramp up production to 11 million doses monthly.

While both Moderna and Pfizer have begun clinical trials on children under the age of 12, the results are not expected to be shared with the U.S Food and Drug Administration until the fall of 2021; the FDA hopes to spend between 4 and 6 months reviewing these results. Moreover, the current FDA authorization for both vaccines, as well as Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), is for emergency use only, a major concern for some parents as the school year fast approaches.

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