Flu Vaccination, Ending Lockdown, Vaccine Production in Latin America: COVID-19 Global Weekly Highlights

Flu Vaccination, Ending Lockdown, Vaccine Production in Latin America: COVID-19 Global Weekly Highlights

These are the global coronavirus stories you need to know about this week.

UK positive COVID-19 tests rose by 12.2% over 7 days as of Monday, at a rate of 350.9 per 100,000 population. However, deaths were down 8.8%, and hospitalisations down 14.7%. So far, 82.4% of over-16s are fully vaccinated, and 89.7% have received a first dose. A study published in EClinicalMedicine found that 50.1% of 9 to 18-year-olds would opt-in to take a vaccination, 37.0% were undecided, and 12.9% would opt-out. Younger children were more vaccine hesitant than older ones.

In France, 6765 new cases were reported as of Tuesday, and more than 78 deaths occurred in 24 hours. The incidence rate is now approaching 60 / 100 000. On Thursday, the country’s health pass was extended to children aged 12 and 2 months.

So far, 85% of the adult population is fully vaccinated and 37% of the population eligible for a booster dose has already received it. HAS (High Authority for Health) recommends giving the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine together from October 26. So far, six cases of Parsonage-Turner syndrome (violent pain of sudden onset of the shoulder followed by paralysis of the arm) have been observed after vaccination with Pfizer/BioNTech and two with the Moderna vaccines. The majority of cases are in the process of recovery. The French Medicines Agency Committee (ANSM) considers this to be a potential signal common to RNA vaccines.

In Italy the incidence is dropping below the threshold of five cases per 100,000. The R number dropped further to 0.82.

The pace of the vaccination campaign is slowing down, but 83.07% of eligible people 12 and over have received at least one dose, and 77.72% are fully vaccinated. Around 45,000 people at risk have received an additional third dose this week. 

The Ministry of Health said mandatory vaccination of health workers is an essential requirement for carrying out professional activities. It’s needed for new listings on the professional register and must be kept up over time to avoid penalties or suspension.

The Italian government extended the Green pass to all public and private workers, vaccinations carried out abroad with products with an EU marketing authorisation are accepted but not vaccines without European Medicines Agency (EMA) authorisation, including Sputnik V, Sinovac, and Sinopharm.

In Portugal, 83% of the population is fully vaccinated and the country no longer requires COVID-19 testing when checking-in to hotels or indoor areas of restaurants at weekends. On Thursday, the Prime Minister announced that Portugal will move into the third and final phase of ending restrictions that began in July. He also said that the country has enough vaccine doses to administer a third dose to people over 65 and is awaiting authorisation from the EMA.

COVID-19 infections are falling, with 693 new infections reported on average each day. The national incidence on Tuesday was 111.6 cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection per 100,000 population.

In Germany nearly three-quarters of adults and one-third of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have now been fully vaccinated. According to data released on Tuesday by the Robert Koch Institute, 74.7% of all people 18 and older have now received the second dose, and 33.2% of those 12 to 17-years-old.

At least one first dose has been given to 78.6% of adults and 41% of 12 to 17-year-olds, which Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn called a “good rate”.

The infection situation is currently stable after a slight decline. The 7-day incidence was 61 on Wednesday, compared with 65 the previous week and 74 the previous month.

Virologist Christian Drosten believes the current calming of the nationwide COVID-19 infection figures is a temporary phenomenon. He says it is already apparent that incidence is picking up in eastern German states. “I think there are now signs of the autumn and winter wave, which we will probably see again in October,” he said.

In Austria, 64% of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, and 60% have full vaccination protection. The rate is stagnant compared with the previous week. The 7-day incidence was 133 on September 28, lower than the previous week and for the second week in a row.

As of September 29, the 7-day incidence in Switzerland was 108.1 per 100,000 population, and the vaccination rate is currently 63% for first vaccination and 57% for second vaccination. The fourth wave is currently subsiding. New infections exceeded the peak of the third wave. However, infection reports are now declining faster than in the spring.

The epicenter of the Delta surge in the US has shifted away from the southern part of the country to hotspots in the mid-Atlantic, Mountain West, and Alaska.  Average numbers of daily cases have fallen from a high of 175,000 to about 115,000.  Hospitalisations are also dropping, easing pressure on exhausted healthcare workers.  Deaths are continuing to rise, however, with more than 2000 Americans dying from COVID-19 each day.  President Biden’s push for more vaccine mandates for most US workers appears to be having the intended effect of increasing coverage, which had plateaued this month. A minority of workers say they will leave their jobs rather than be vaccinated, and employers in certain industries, including healthcare, are concerned these departures could exacerbate staffing shortages.  Children continue to be hit harder during the Delta wave than in any previous surge, with cases in children remaining above 200,000 per week as schools have fully reopened.  To help avoid an anticipated winter COVID-19 wave, the US has begun administering booster doses of Pfizer vaccine to people over the age of 65 and others at high risk. President Biden has his booster on Monday and has urged more Americans to do the same.

The director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, said that last week in the Americas almost 1.5 million new infections by COVID-19 and more than 26,000 related deaths were registered, more than in any other region of the world.

The PAHO director also announced that the organisation has reached an agreement with Sinovac and is in advanced talks with other producers to purchase additional COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the countries of the region. So far, PAHO has helped COVAX deliver 50 million doses of vaccines, including nearly 14 million donated doses.

Last week (September 21), PAHO announced the selection of two centers in Argentina and Brazil to develop vaccines against COVID-19 using the same technology used by Pfizer and Moderna.

More than one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the Americas region, but only 35% of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated. Countries like Canada, Chile, Uruguay, and Puerto Rico have vaccinated more than 70% of their population. While Haiti, Bahamas, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Venezuela have vaccinated less than 20% of their population.

More vaccines are available in Brazil. On Monday, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) produced the first batches of active pharmaceutical ingredients (IFA) for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The lots were entirely produced by the Brazilian factory and will undergo quality control tests.

To date, almost 41% of the Brazilian population has been fully vaccinated. A third dose has already been administered to 669,515 people (0.31% of the population). In the state of São Paulo, 52.7% of the population is fully vaccinated, while in the state of Roraima only 15.6% have had two doses or a single dose.

On Monday, the country registered 218 deaths by COVID-19, the lowest number in one day since November 22, 2020. However, notifications usually fall after weekends and the moving 7 day average stood at 524 deaths.

On September 27, authorities in Australia announced plans for gradually unlocking Sydney. Lockdown restrictions in Sydney will start easing from October 11. A two-tier system will be implemented, giving COVID-19 vaccinated individuals more freedoms than their unvaccinated peers.

Japan is set to end the state of emergency across the country by the end of the week as COVID-19 cases continue to decline. On Monday, the number of daily COVID-19 cases in Tokyo fell below 200 for the first time since March 2021. 

India reported 18,795 new daily COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the lowest number in over 200 days. Also, 179 daily deaths were reported on the same day, the lowest in 193 days.

Pakistan has announced plans to vaccinate children aged 12 years and above against COVID-19. The vaccination drives would be launched in schools, but it’s not clear when they’ll begin.

South Korea reported a record high of 3273 daily COVID-19 cases on September 25, likely to have been fueled by the 3-day Chuseok holiday.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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