Coronavirus has killed more than 2.43 million people and infected over 110 million globally.
One-third of US military refusing to receive vaccine
Pentagon officials have said that about one-third of the US military are declining to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, despite significant coronavirus infection levels in the forces.
Major General Jeff Taliaferro revealed the high refusal rate in Congressional hearing, as the US Defense Department continues to classify covid vaccines as optional because they have yet to receive full approval from the Federal Drug Administration.
“Acceptance rates are somewhere in the two-thirds territory,” said Taliaferro, stressing that the figure is based on “very early data.”
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said that there was no detailed military-wide data on vaccinations, but said more than 916,500 had been administered so far.
Mexico reports nearly 1,100 new deaths
Mexico has reported 1,075 new confirmed deaths from coronavirus in the country, bringing the overall toll to 177,061.
English lockdown reducing infections but prevalence still high
England’s third national Covid-19 lockdown is helping to reduce infections, a study has found, but the prevalence of cases remains high as Prime Minister Boris Johnson eyes a cautious route to re-opening the economy.
Johnson is due to set out a roadmap out of the lockdown, which began on January 5, on Monday, and has said that it will be a cautious and prudent approach.
The study, known as REACT-1 and led by researchers at Imperial College London, found that national prevalence was two thirds lower between February 4 and 1 3 than it had been in the previous survey that covered January 6-22.
“It’s really encouraging news. We do think that lockdown is having an effect. We’ve seen this quite rapid decline now between January and this month,” Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, told reporters.
UN chief urges global plan to reverse unfair vaccine access
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible.
The UN chief told a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council that 130 countries have not received a single dose of vaccine and declared that “at this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.”
Guterres called for an urgent Global Vaccination Plan to bring together those with the power to ensure equitable vaccine distribution — scientists, vaccine producers, and those who can fund the effort.
And he called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency task force to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the task force should have the capacity “to mobilise the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors.”
Mentally ill ‘ignored’ in most European vaccine plans
Most European countries are ignoring mentally ill patients in their Covid-19 vaccine strategies despite such patients being highly vulnerable to contracting and dying from the disease, the leading mental health organisations have warned.
Out of 20 European countries surveyed for a study, only the Netherlands, Britain, Germany and Denmark were found to recognise severe mental illness as a high-risk medical condition and to have made specific provisions for vaccinating patients.
“These patients are completely disregarded in most vaccination plans, and this needs to change,” said Livia De Picker, a professor at the University Psychiatric Hospital Campus Duffel in Belgium who co-led the research.
“Recent work shows that if you have a psychiatric disorder your risk of Covid infection rises by 65%, and severely mentally ill patients are between 1.5 and 2 times more likely to die.”
Pfizer says South African variant could significantly reduce vaccine protection
A laboratory study has suggested the South African variant of the coronavirus may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE vaccine by two-thirds, and it is not clear if the shot will be effective against the mutation, the companies have said.
The study found the vaccine was still able to neutralise the virus and there is not yet evidence from trials in people that the variant reduces vaccine protection, the companies said.
Still, they are making investments and talking to regulators about developing an updated version of their mRNA vaccine or a booster shot, if needed.
For the study, scientists from the companies and the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) developed an engineered virus that contained the same mutations carried on the spike portion of the highly contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa, known as B.1.351.
The spike, used by the virus to enter human cells, is the primary target of many Covid-19 vaccines.