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CORONA VIRUS

Israel Agrees To Give Seniors 60+ third Covid Jab

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Israel’s four major health funds said they are preparing to welcome individuals over the age of 60 for a coronavirus booster shot, as Israelis were banned from traveling to four more countries and the Green Pass went back into effect.

The Health Ministry’s coronavirus vaccination committee voted by an almost unanimous majority of 56-1 to administer the third shot of the Pfizer vaccine to elderly people who were jabbed more than five months ago at a meeting that ran from 9 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday, despite a third shot still not being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

President Isaac Herzog will receive the country’s first booster shot on Friday.

Maccabi Health Services said it would start vaccinating on Friday. The other health funds said they would begin taking appointments and offering shots on Sunday.

“Our strategy is clear: To safeguard life, and to safeguard daily routine in the State of Israel,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

He explained that the decision was based on considerable research and analysis, as well as the “rise and risk of the Delta variant wave. Israel has already vaccinated 2,000 immunosuppressed people with a third dose with no severe adverse events. Now, we are rolling out a national third-dose campaign. We will share all the information we have with the rest of the global community as we make progress.”

On Thursday morning, Prof. Nimrod Maimon, head of the Magen Avot V’Imahot program, met with representatives of the country’s assisted living facilities and said that the shots would be immediately administered at their homes.

The Israel Gerontological Society also said it was preparing to administer the tests to its residents. The society represents some 100 nursing and geriatric hospitals.

The move comes one day after Pfizer told its investors in a presentation that their research shows that a third dose of the vaccine increased antibodies by five to 11 times. The company said it hopes to apply for emergency use approval of the extra shot sometime in August.

The Delta variant has been quickly spreading across Israel.

Some 2,177 people were diagnosed on Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported on Thursday evening, with 2.36% of those who were screened tested positive. There were 151 people in serious condition, including 26 who were intubated.

A 38-year-old unvaccinated coronavirus patient being treated at Soroka Medical Center died on Thursday evening. He had no underlying medical conditions, the hospital said. On admission, his situation deteriorated rapidly until he was ultimately ventilated and placed on an ECMO machine.

“Without further action and widespread immunization by the public, the number of new and serious cases is expected to rise to such an extent that it could lead to congestion in the community health clinics and hospitals,” a report by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center said.

While the majority of new cases are younger people – among them unvaccinated children – the country is starting to see more and more elderly who were vaccinated five and six months ago get infected. Preliminary research by the Health Ministry showed that the Pfizer vaccine was only 16% effective against the Delta variant in people vaccinated so long ago.

Moreover, it is estimated that for people 60 and older, the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious illness has dropped from 97% to 81%.

“Eighty-one percent is still effective, but the gap is dramatic,” tweeted Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science on Thursday morning. “Because if previously the chance of a vaccinated person aged 60+ getting seriously ill was 3%, now it is 19%, which means six times more.”

To help stop the spread of infection, the Knesset approved a request by the Health Ministry on Thursday to add the United Kingdom, Turkey, Cyprus and Georgia to the list of countries to which Israelis are banned from traveling.

During a meeting of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Head of Public Health Services Prof. Sharon Alroy-Preis said the ministry intends to declare Greece, Bulgaria and the United Arab Emirates banned countries next week – some of the most popular summer tourist destinations.

The list of banned countries already included Uzbekistan, Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico, Spain, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

She also said that Italy and France would enter the list of orange countries, those countries from which all people whether vaccinated or not must enter isolation on return to Israel.

Alroy-Preis said that she does not believe the current restrictions at Ben-Gurion Airport are effective enough to stop the spread of the virus, describing a situation of “exponential growth” in imported disease.

According to her, some 800 sick people have entered through the country’s border crossings – mostly through the airport – and currently Israel is averaging 100 to 250 new cases coming in from abroad a day.

She said that some of the people test positive from their first screening at the airport and others when they test on their seventh day after arrival with the aim of leaving isolation.

Though she also said that only around 10% of people returning from abroad perform the second coronavirus test on the seventh day.

In addition, the Green Pass program was reinstated on Thursday.

The program requires an individual over the age of 12 to present a vaccination or recovery certificate or a negative coronavirus test taken within the last 72 hours to enter an event or location with more than 100 people.

The pass applies to cultural and sporting events, hotels and tourist attractions, gyms and workout studios, restaurants, bars, cafes, cafeterias, conferences and synagogues.

The government requested that the new Green Pass rules stay in effect through August 25, but the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee only approved the plan through August 7, the day before Israel is expected to roll out its rapid antigen testing system.

The committee said it wanted the government to come up with a plan for funding these rapid tests first.

To help enforce the wearing of masks on public transportation, Bennett and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli announced that some 400 inspectors would be hired for the next three months, with an option to renew their contracts as needed after that.

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CORONA VIRUS

‘Most People Don’t Need Covid Vaccine Booster’, Scientists Say

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Covid-19 vaccines work so well that most people don’t yet need a booster, an all-star panel of scientists from around the world said in a review that’s likely to fuel debate over whether to use them.

Governments would be better served to focus on immunizing the unvaccinated and to wait for more data on which boosters would be most effective and at what doses, the authors, who included two prominent U.S. Food and Drug Administration experts, argued in the medical journal The Lancet.

They based their assessment on a wide range of real-world observational studies as well as data from clinical trials.

“None of the studies has provided credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease,” the authors wrote. There could also be additional side-effect risks if boosters are introduced too soon or too broadly, they said.

Most countries with ample vaccine supplies are debating whether to allocate doses for booster shots to prop up immunity and potentially help stop the spread of the more infectious delta variant.

The U.S. plans to roll out booster shots starting Sept. 20, though the proposal still needs sign-off from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scientists are by no means unanimous on the topic of boosters. Even a small reduction in efficacy against the spread of Covid can strain a health-care system, and “there is therefore no ‘one size fits all’ approach,” said Azra Ghani, chair in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, who wasn’t involved with the review.

Shares of vaccine makers fell after the review was published. BioNTech SE’s American depositary receipts fell as much as 7.7%, the biggest intraday decline in almost a month, while partner Pfizer Inc. dropped as much as 2.5%. Moderna Inc. also lost as much as 7.7% as of 11:12 a.m. in New York, and AstraZeneca Plc. slipped as much as 1.2% in London.

The analysis is a blow to President Joe Biden, who announced his booster program in August after an extraordinary joint statement from his top medical advisers, including CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

Biden’s advisers said then that the data supported the need for boosters and that they would begin preparing for them, noting that regulators would still need to sign off on the plan.

Some experts have questioned the need for the extra shots, while the World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on them until more people outside of rich countries can get protection.

A U.K. government advisory panel is set to soon recommend whether to move forward with broad use of a third vaccine dose.

Britain is already offering boosters to those with severely weakened immune systems, as are many European Union countries. The European Medicines Agency is also reviewing booster data from Pfizer and BioNTech, and from Moderna Inc.

Among the scientists behind the Lancet article were Marion Gruber, who leads the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, and her deputy Philip Krause. Both have said they would step down later this year.

Gruber and Krause were two of a group of FDA staff who last year pushed back against pressure by the Trump administration to speed up the authorization of the Covid vaccines, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The WHO’s Soumya Swaminathan, Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo and Mike Ryan also worked on the review.

The WHO said it would make better public-health sense to focus on immunizing those who haven’t gotten any shots yet — whether because of anti-vaccine sentiment in countries with ample reserves, or because they live in places with little access to shots.

“Even if boosting were eventually shown to decrease the medium-term risk of serious disease, current vaccine supplies could save more lives if used in previously unvaccinated populations,” the authors wrote.

Across the observational studies done so far, vaccination has shown an average of 95% effectiveness against severe disease, including against more infectious variants such as delta, and more than 80% effective at preventing any infection, the review found.

Even in countries with high vaccination rates, it’s unvaccinated people who are driving transmission of the virus — and who are at highest risk of becoming very ill, the study found.

 

Bloomberg

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CORONA VIRUS

President Tshisekedi Finally Takes Covid-19 Vaccine Jab

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Until DRC lost 1,068 citizens and 56,096 recorded cases to the deadly Covid-19 since its emergence in the country last year, President Félix Tshisekedi had not taken a vaccine jab.

On Sunday, Tshisekedi rolled up his sleeve on his left hand to allow a physician sink into his flesh a syringe containing the covid-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, on the same occassion on Sunday, the DRC First Lady Denise Nyakeru also took her first Covid-19 vaccine before cameras.

However, the name of the vaccine was not released, but the Presidential Press noted that immediately after being vaccinated, Tshisekedi reiterated his support for the vaccination.

“The vaccine remains the best-indicated solution for the time being in the face of COVID-19,” President Tshisekedi said after taking his first dose at the UA city presidential clinic in Kinshasa.

The presidential couple thus launched the second phase of the national anti-Covid19 vaccination campaign.

Dr Roger Kamba, Special Advisor of the PR in charge of universal health coverage, confirmed the presence in the DRC of more than 250,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine as well as the imminent arrival of several thousand doses of the Johnson & Johnson, Astra vaccines. zeneca and Pfizer.

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CORONA VIRUS

Study Shows Moderna Creates Twice as Many Antibodies as Pfizer

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Moderna Inc.’s Covid vaccine generated more than double the antibodies of a similar shot made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE in research directly comparing immune responses to the inoculations.

A study of almost 2,500 workers at a major Belgium hospital system found antibody levels among individuals who hadn’t been infected with the coronavirus before getting two doses of the Moderna vaccine averaged 2,881 units per milliliter, compared with 1,108 units/mL in an equivalent group who got two jabs of the Pfizer shot.

The results, published Monday in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested the differences might be explained by the:

higher amount of active ingredient in the Moderna vaccine — 100 micrograms, versus 30 micrograms in Pfizer-BioNTech

longer interval between doses of the Moderna vaccine — four weeks, versus three weeks for Pfizer-BioNTech

Moderna’s vaccine was associated with a two-fold risk reduction against breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections compared to Pfizer’s in a review of people in the Mayo Clinic Health System in the U.S. from January to July.

The results were reported in a separate study released ahead of publication and peer review on Aug. 9.

 

Bloomberg

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