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Coronavirus Update: Global tally of COVID-19 cases nears 230 million, as Biden convenes virtual pandemic summit and doubles U.S. purchase of Pfizer vaccine

The global tally of confirmed cases of the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 was closing in on 230 million on Wednesday, as President Joe Biden prepared to host a virtual summit on the pandemic with world leaders gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Biden is set to announce that the U.S. is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world to 1 billion doses as he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year, as the Associated Press reported.

The president is planning to urge wealthier nations to step up and do more to ensure vaccines reach all corners of the world and avoid allowing new variants to emerge that may prove vaccine-resistant.

See: Biden says U.S. will lead on the era’s great challenges but will not ‘go it alone’

Separately, a team of advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to meet later Wednesday to decide on booster shots of the COVID vaccine developed by Pfizer with German partner BioNTech.

Also:I decided I’d jump the gun’: What to consider before getting a third shot if you’re not eligible yet

 The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices sets out the guidelines for how vaccines should be used in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved or authorized an extra dose of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine except in people who are immunocompromised, and an influential FDA committee last week recommended that boosters be limited to older people and those who are at higher risk of severe disease.

Some experts have suggested that the FDA decision is coming this week.

Against that backdrop, the U.S. is averaging 2,046 COVID deaths a day, according to a New York Times tracker, even as hospitalizations and new cases are beginning to slowly ease off after a surge in July caused by the highly transmissible delta variant.

West Virginia continues to lead the nation by new cases on a per capita basis, after early success in its vaccine program tapered off. West Virginia has fully vaccinated just 40% of its population, the tracker shows, and is recording about 2,000 cases a day, the most since the start of the outbreak.

Read also: Scientists continue to say there isn’t enough evidence to make COVID-19 boosters available to all Americans

As cases, hospitalizations and deaths are almost entirely of unvaccinated people, Biden still faces the challenge of persuading unvaccinated Americans to get their shots. The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that 182 million people living in the U.S., or 54.8% of the overall population, is fully vaccinated, meaning they have had two shots of the vaccines developed by Pfizer
PFE,
+0.74%

with BioNTech
BNTX,
-0.22%

or Moderna
MRNA,
+1.12%
,
or one of Johnson & Johnson’s
JNJ,
-0.06%

one-jab regimen.

Some 212 million people have had at least one shot, equal to 63.9% of the total U.S. population. But those numbers have been rising by tiny increments on a day-to-day basis, despite messages from healthcare experts urging people to avoid dying of a preventable disease. The vaccines have proved highly effective in preventing serious disease and death.

See now: WHO warns lack of COVID-19 vaccine supply in Africa could make it breeding ground for new variants and ‘send the whole world back to Square 1’

The World Health Organization said the delta variant is now in 185 countries, or five more than a week ago. In its weekly epidemiological update, the agency said it has reclassified three variants as “former variants of interest,” after delta’s spread has effectively replaced them, leading to reduced detection at global, regional and country level.

The eta, iota and kappa variants will now become “variants under monitoring,” said the update.

Elsewhere, Brazil’s health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, has tested positive for COVID in New York, where he has been attending the U.N. meeting alongside President Jair Bolsonaro, who is not vaccinated. Queiroga may have exposed U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the virus, as an unmasked Johnson shook his hand on the sidelines of the meeting, according to media reports.

Bolsonaro, like Johnson, was treated for the disease earlier in the pandemic.

In Australia, a no-fly zone has been declared over Melbourne, the country’s second largest city, after a third day of anti-lockdown protests, Reuters reported. More than 200 people were arrested after projectiles thrown by protesters injured two officers.

A report from UNICEF that was published Wednesday found that in 91 countries, most children under the age of 2 are not getting enough food to develop and thrive and that the pandemic has made the situation worse. “The report’s findings are clear: When the stakes are highest, millions of young children are being fed to fail,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of the U.N. agency for children.

The U.K. is planning a vaccine swap with South Korea, the Washington Post reported. The U.K. will send 1 million vaccine doses to South Korea, and Seoul will return the same number by year-end.

Recent studies have shown that the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines is decreasing, though experts say the shots still work well. WSJ explains what the numbers mean and why they don’t tell the full story. Photo illustration: Jacob Reynolds/WSJ

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 229.6 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose to 4.71 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 42.4 million cases and 678,522 deaths. 

India is second by cases after the U.S. at 33.5 million and has suffered 445,768 deaths. Brazil has the second highest death toll at 591,440 and 21.2 million cases.

In Europe, Russia has reported the most fatalities at 196,235, followed by the U.K. at 135,793.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 108,080 confirmed cases and 4,849 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.

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