The head of the World Health Organization slammed countries and regions that are ordering millions of booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines before many others have had the supplies to vaccinate even their most vulnerable and again called on world leaders to ensure more equitable access to jabs.
“The current collective strategy reminds me of a fire fighting team taking on a forest blaze,” Tedros said at a Monday briefing. “Hosing down part of it might reduce the flames in one area, but, while it’s smoldering anywhere, sparks will eventually travel and grow again into a roaring furnace.”
Last week marked a fourth straight week of increasing cases of COVID-19 globally, with cases climbing in all but one of the agency’s six regions, he said. And after 10 weeks of falling numbers, deaths are starting to rise. The main culprit for the change in the trend is the delta variant, which is fast becoming the dominant strain around the world, and is already dominant in the U.S., as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed last week.
“Not everywhere is taking the same hit, though — we’re in the midst of a growing two-track pandemic where the haves and have-nots within and between countries are increasingly divergent,” said Tedros.
So far, about 3.5 billion doses have been administered worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, well below the roughly 11 billion that researchers at Duke University estimate is needed to get 70% of the global population inoculated, a level often cited as a prerequisite for achieving herd immunity.
His comments came as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration met with Pfizer
representatives to discuss booster shots and concluded that more data are needed before a decision can be made. Those talks came the same day that Israel started to offer booster shots to the immunocompromised, as it battles a fresh surge of cases despite high levels of vaccination.
U.S. regulators have taken a cautious stance on boosters for now and are gathering data on breakthrough infections, or those that occur in people who are fully vaccinated. Pfizer said it would gather data on antibody responses in people who receive a third dose, and intends to ask the FDA to broaden the emergency-use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, the New York Times reported.
Separately, the CDC said Monday that Johnson & Johnson’s
one-dose vaccine may pose a “small possible risk” of a rare but potentially dangerous neurological reaction, the Associated Press reported.
It has received reports of 100 people who got the shot developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune-system disorder that can cause muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis.
That number represents a tiny fraction of the nearly 13 million Americans who have received the one-dose vaccine. Most cases of the side effect were reported in men — many of them 50 or older — and usually about two weeks after vaccination.
The government said the vaccines most used in the U.S., made by Pfizer and Moderna
show no risk of the disorder after more than 320 million doses have been administered.
The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that more than 159 million Americans are fully vaccinated, equal to 48% of the overall population. Among adults 18 and over, 58.9% are fully vaccinated, while 67.7% have received at least one shot.
But vaccination rates continue to vary widely from state to state, and some have still inoculated less than 40% of their populations, as the map below illustrates.
Outside of the U.S., Russia set yet another record for fatalities in a single day at 780 and counted 24,702 new cases, Reuters reported, and Malaysia counted a record of 11,079 new cases in a day, the most since the start of the pandemic.
In France, more than 1 million people made vaccine appointments in less than a day, after the president cranked up pressure on everyone to get vaccinated to save summer vacation and the French economy, the AP reported. Emmanuel Macron mandated vaccines for healthcare workers by Sept. 15 and said French people would require COVID passes to go to restaurants and shopping malls or get on trains and planes. Around 41% of the French population has been fully vaccinated, though the pace of vaccination waned as summer vacations approached.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country would not follow France’s example but would continue to encourage Germans to get their shots, the Guardian reported. Germany has fully vaccinated 42.6% of adults, and 58.5% have received at least one dose.
A growing chorus of voices is calling on the U.K. government not to fully reopen on July 19 as the government plans to do, noting that the delta variant is still racing across the country. Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College, said the decision would push the U.K. into “uncharged territory” and greatly risk a spike in the number of Britons suffering from long COVID, where debilitating symptoms last for months, according to the Guardian.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 187.4 million on Tuesday, while the death toll moved further above 4.03 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with a total of 33.88 million cases and in deaths with 607,445.
India is closing in on the U.S. in cases at 30.87 million but is third in deaths at 408,764, while Brazil is second in deaths at 534,344 but is third in cases at 19.1 million.
Mexico has fourth highest death toll at 235,058 but is 15th in cases with 2.6 million.
In Europe, Russia leads in deaths with 142,102 fatalities, while the U.K. has 128,697, making Russia the country with the fifth highest death toll in the world and highest in Europe.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 104,102 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.