COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Chinese Covid-19 vaccine efficacy is 'not high,' top health official admits
China's top disease control official made a rare public admission about the relatively low efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines developed in the country, adding that authorities are weighing options to bolster protection, including mixing different shots and increasing the number of doses.

"The protection rates of existing vaccines are not high," Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Saturday. "It is time to formally consider whether we should use vaccines developed from different technologies to boost immunization," he said, adding that China must not overlook mRNA vaccines.


The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots used widely in the United States and several other countries use mRNA technology, a new type of vaccine that sends messages to cells in the body to produce a protein that provides protection against Covid-19. The two most commonly used Covid-19 vaccines in China -- the locally developed Sinovac and Sinopharm -- are based on inactivated viruses.

But Gao's remarks were controversial in China and, as his comments gained traction on social media and international news platforms, Chinese censors quickly scrubbed discussions online. State media swiftly put out an interview with Gao to walk back his comments.

Global Times, a state-run nationalist tabloid, quoted Gao as saying reports about his admission were "a complete misunderstanding," and published new, toned-down remarks from Gao.
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/12/china/china-vaccine-efficacy-intl-hnk/index.html

CDC director says Michigan should ‘shut things down’ amid rise in cases, not bet on vaccines
Cases are spiking in Michigan, placing the state among the worst of the nation's hot zones. Michigan needs to “shut things down" rather than try to lean more heavily on vaccines, said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a White House briefing Monday. Hard-hit regions should also rely on contact tracing and additional testing, she said.

“If we try to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan, we will be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work,” Walensky warned. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) had asked the White House at the end of last month to flood more vaccine to hotspots.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/12/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/

U.K. Coronavirus Strain Does Not Lead To More Severe Illness And Death, Study Finds
People infected with the U.K. variant of the coronavirus didn't experience more severe symptoms and weren't more likely to die from this particular strain, according to a new study of hospitalized patients published Monday.

The strain, called the B.1.1.7 variant, remains more contagious than original strains of the virus however, according to the study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.


The U.K. strain is believed to have first emerged in England in September 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now the most common strain in the U.S.

Researchers for The Lancet study collected samples from patients at the University College London Hospital and the North Middlesex University Hospital between Nov. 9 to Dec 20, 2020. The samples were collected just prior to a surge in hospitalizations in England and Ireland due to the rapid spread of this particular strain of the coronavirus.

Scientists sequenced samples from 341 patients and found 58 percent were positive for the B.1.1.7 variant. The other 42 percent were infected with a different strain, according to the study. Researchers compared the severity of symptoms between the two groups and found those with the B.1.1.7 strain were not particularly worse off than those with other virus variants.

Patients who tested positive for the the B.1.1.7 variant also reportedly had higher "viral loads," or greater amounts of the virus in their bodies.
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/2021/04/13/986647390/u-k-coronavirus-strain-does-not-lead-to-more-severe-illness-and-death-study-find

‘This Is Freedom’: London Reopens After Months of Lockdown

After months of lockdown due to the coronavirus, London began to reopen Monday. The most recent lockdown came after a particularly contagious strain of the virus spread through the region.

“This is freedom, and we can go to the pub again and it’s just so nice to be here —” “This is where we, like, see everyone, during the year.” “So we’re coming closer to being back to normal, here.” “It is great. We’re so happy, yeah.” “It’s nice to go out after shift together, and go out drinking — and do things.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/europe/100000007704485/london-reopening-coronavirus-lockdown.html

The Country That Vaccinated 93% Of Adults In Under 2 Weeks
It took less than two weeks for the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to vaccinate almost all of its eligible population.

The country's vaccination campaign kicked off on March 27. By April 8, according to the Ministry of Health, 93% of eligible adults had gotten their first dose. Officials said 472,139 people between ages 18 and 104 had been vaccinated as of that date, and they urged other eligible individuals to follow suit.

In a statement, Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo described the campaign as a "sense of purpose that each of us is embracing to protect our country and the people we love." She urged individuals to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities — as well as King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.


"His Majesty the King has shared thoughts about taking the vaccine only after every eligible person in the country received their shots safely," she said. "All of us must come forward, so that we make way for His Majesty to receive the vaccine as soon as possible."

... While noting it's premature to celebrate before people have had their second doses, it said that the country's size had certainly contributed to the vaccine's successful rollout — and that this has implications for tackling other issues related to the economy, unemployment and technology.

"As we realise the advantage of our smallness from the vaccination programme, it is a lesson too valuable to not replicate in our other endeavours," it concluded.

As of Monday, the country had recorded 921 cases and one death from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Health officials said there will be no changes to public health restrictions until at least two weeks after the country completes a rollout of second-dose vaccinations, in two to three months.
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/04/12/986450910/the-advantage-of-our-smallness-bhutan-vaccinates-93-of-adults-in-under-2-weeks

De Blasio Announces Return to School For New York City Students

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that over 50,000 New York City public school students would return to classrooms, including in middle and high school

We know from experience how safe our schools are. We set a gold standard of health and safety measures that would work, and they have — safest place to be in New York City is our schools. Friday was the last day for opt-in. The final numbers are now in. We have just over 50,000 students who have opted in for in-person learning. Again, across all grade levels. Our kids who have opted in will be welcomed back to school on Monday, April 26. Everything will be ready for them, regardless of grade level. Obviously there’s been changes in the C.D.C. guidance for elementary school that we are implementing. But even with the existing six-foot rule in the middle schools and high schools, we’ll be able to accommodate the kids who want to come back. So this will be all grades. Opt-ins will be honored starting on Monday, the 26th. And we’re really excited for the kids who have chosen to come back, for the families who have chosen to come back. We’re really excited to have the opportunity for them to have in-person learning, again, obviously the highest and best form of education. And this will help them to come back strong this year and preparing for next year when we’re going to welcome back all our kids.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000007705265/nyc-public-schools.html

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia