The head of the United Nations threw his weight behind the World Health Organization’s effort to ensure vaccine access for poorer nations, describing the inequitable distribution of vaccines as not just immoral but also “stupid.”
“There is a risk that one day, and that day can be very soon, there will be not the delta, but another variant that will be able to resist vaccines, and all the vaccination effort made by developed countries to vaccinate all of their population one, two or three times will fall apart and their people will not be protected,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters at a WHO press briefing.
The WHO has argued for a moratorium on booster shots, which several countries are offering to immunocompromised or elderly people, until most of the world has had initial shots. The agency has also warned that new variants could emerge that would prove resistant to vaccines and send scientists back to the drawing board.
The WHO briefing was held to present its strategy to achieve global COVID-19 vaccination by mid-2022.
“In the face of an evolving and increasingly transmissible virus, high population immunity is essential to achieve this goal, which means vaccinating broadly,” the WHO said in a 16-page presentation. “Based on current knowledge, this requires fully vaccinating at least 70% of the world’s population, accounting for most adults and adolescents and for the vast majority of those at risk of serious disease.”
The U.S. has started to offer booster shots to its 65-and-older population, those with weakened immune systems and frontline workers who are exposed to the virus in the course of their daily work, including healthcare workers and supermarket staff.
The U.S. one-day new case tally fell below 100,000 on Thursday for the first time since early August, according to a New York Times tracker. Cases and hospitalizations have been steadily falling, although daily deaths remain undesirably high at close to 1,800. As most of those are in unvaccinated people, the government’s vaccine drive remains at the front of its strategy to contain the spread, and President Joe Biden hammered that point home at an event in suburban Chicago on Thursday.
“We’ve made real progress across the board,” he said, citing declining cases. But he added that the unvaccinated “put our economy at risk” and urged more employers to require vaccines for workers.
The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that about 56% of the overall U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID, a number that has not moved significantly in weeks. Some 6.76 million people in the U.S. have received a booster shot.
With the winter months approaching, experts are cautioning that more vaccinations are needed to prevent another surge of cases, the Times reported. There are high hopes that children aged 5 to 11 will soon be eligible to join the program, after Pfizer
submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday seeking an emergency-use authorization for that patient group. A decision could come as early as later this month or in November.
Elsewhere, San Francisco is planning to lift indoor face-mask requirements in limited settings, the Wall Street Journal reported. City officials said that if new cases and hospitalizations remain table, some requirements will be eased on Oct. 15 in areas including offices, gyms and fitness centers and college classes — as long as everyone is vaccinated and no more than 100 people are gathered.
Russia suffered yet another daily record death toll of 936, the Associated Press reported. It was a third straight day for record fatalities as Russians remain one of the least vaccinated populations in Europe.
In the U.K., people who participated in trials of the Novavax
vaccine, which has not yet been authorized for use, will be offered approved vaccines to allow them to travel abroad, the Guardian reported. More than 15,000 people took part in the Phase 3 Novavax trial at various hospital sites across the U.K., but the company has not yet submitted data to regulators to get the jab approved.
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China saw a major dip in travel over the past week’s National Day vacation, the AP reported. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that over the seven-day holiday beginning Oct. 1, China saw 515 million trips taken, just over 70% of the number that traveled, often to visit family, in the same period before the coronavirus outbreak spurred travel restrictions and demands for testing, vaccinations and quarantines.
CEO Elon Musk said Thursday the electric-car maker is officially moving its headquarters to Austin, Texas, from Silicon Valley in California, where he has railed against some of the restrictions on movement introduced during the pandemic. Musk and San Francisco Bay Area health authorities were at a standoff in May 2020 when the Fremont, Calif., factory was shut down as part of shelter-in-place orders designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 236.9 million on Friday, while the death toll rose above 4.83 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 44.2 million cases and 710,319 deaths, after passing 710,000 overnight.
India is second by cases after the U.S. at 33.9 million and has suffered 450,127 deaths. Brazil has the second highest death toll at 599,810 and 21.5 million cases.
In Europe, Russia has reported the most fatalities at 210,673, followed by the U.K. at 137,818.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 108,685 confirmed cases and 4,809 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.