Pfizer to Seek Nod for Booster; Texas Cases Surge: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc. plans to request U.S. emergency authorization in August for a third booster dose of its vaccine, based on early data showing that it can sharply increase immune protection against the coronavirus. Meantime, growing concern that vaccines deployed across much of the developing world aren’t capable of thwarting the delta variant is prompting some countries to look at offering third doses.
Texas posted its highest daily new-case count in almost two months, and hospitalizations also spiked. New York City will reduce classroom sizes and embark on curriculum changes when the U.S.’s largest public school system reopens -- fully in-person -- in September.
The Tokyo Olympics will ban domestic spectators in events held in Japan’s capital, as the resurgence of the virus pushed the government to declare a state of emergency in the city.
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Boosters Eyed for Chinese, Astra Shots (5:39 p.m. NY)
Growing concern that vaccines being deployed across much of the developing world aren’t capable of thwarting the delta variant is prompting some countries to look at offering third doses to bolster immunity against more-infectious virus strains.
Though definitive evidence is yet to emerge backing the need for so-called “booster” shots, health officials from Thailand to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already decided to offer the extra doses to some people already inoculated with vaccines from Chinese makers Sinovac Biotech Ltd., Sinopharm and from AstraZeneca Plc.
Myanmar Vaccine Drive Stalls (5:29 p.m. NY)
Myanmar’s inoculation drive has ground to a near halt due to a vaccine shortage, forcing the military government that seized power in February to hunt for new supplies to stem a spike in cases and deaths.
With the Southeast Asian country receiving no vaccine supplies since early May, just 1.75 million of a population of about 55 million have been fully vaccinated, according to Health Minister Thet Khine Win. The administration is now in talks with Russia and China to urgently secure more shots, officials said.
Texas Cases Surge (5:13 p.m. NY)
Texas posted its highest daily new-case count in almost two months, and hospitalizations also spiked.
The Lone Star state had 2,583 new cases in the past 24 hours, the most since May 11 and more than double the daily tallies of the past four weeks, according to state health department data.
Meanwhile, virus hospitalizations across the second-largest U.S. state jumped to 1,851, the highest since late May, the data showed. In the past 10 days, hospitalizations have climbed 30%. The new-case and hospitalization figures remain far below the peaks reached in December and January, respectively.
Pfizer to Seek Booster Approval (5:05 p.m. NY)
Pfizer Inc. plans to request U.S. emergency authorization in August for a third booster dose of its vaccine, based on early data showing that it can sharply increase immune protection against the coronavirus.
The company has received initial data from an early human study showing that a third dose of its existing vaccine is safe and can raise neutralizing antibody levels by 5 to 10 fold compared with the original vaccine, Pfizer research head Mikael Dolsten said in an interview.
Once more data is in hand, Pfizer plans to ask the FDA to authorize a booster shot that could be given six to eight months after the original two doses, Dolsten said.
White House Defends Door-to-Door Vaccine Push (4:18 p.m. NY)
The White House defended a push to support groups with door-to-door efforts to encourage vaccinations -- a day after Missouri Governor Mike Parson said it would “not be an effective or a welcome strategy.”
Missouri has the U.S.’s highest percentage of cases caused by the delta variant, and vaccinations lag behind the national average. A team was dispatched earlier this week to southwestern Missouri, where the outbreak is straining medical capacity.
On Thursday, Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic response coordinator, pushed back against the Republican governor’s tweeted comment, saying that “trusted messengers” like doctors or faith leaders were effective in helping boost vaccinations.
“I would say for those individuals or organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, the community leaders and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives and help end this pandemic,” Zients said at a White House briefing.
Quebec Backs Vaccine Proof Over Shutdowns (3:50 p.m. NY)
Quebec, which had some of the toughest restrictions in North America during the pandemic, says it won’t close its economy again if there’s another outbreak.
Instead, Canada’s second-most populated province will only allow fully vaccinated people to access non-essential places like bars and gyms. The passport-based approach, which is still rare in Canada, will take effect on Sept. 1, leaving Quebeckers enough time to get a second shot, Health Minister Christian Dube said.
Chile Eases Curbs (3:20 p.m. NY)
Chile will loosen restrictions against for residents who are fully vaccinated as new cases plunge and the government expands one of the world’s fastest inoculation programs.
Starting July 15, capacity rules for establishments like gyms and restaurants in districts that aren’t under quarantine will be relaxed for people with two doses, according to a government statement on Thursday. The nightly curfew will be shortened depending on virus and vaccination metrics, and schools will be able to open for on-site classes even in neighborhoods under strict lockdown.
Portugal Expands Curfew (1:13 p.m. NY)
Portugal said a nighttime curfew will apply to more municipalities as the government tries to contain an increase in infections.
The limit to movement in public spaces between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. in regions including Lisbon will now be imposed in 60 municipalities, up from 45 municipalities previously, Presidency Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said. Existing limits on weekend opening hours of restaurants and non-food stores will also apply to more municipalities, and remote working remains mandatory in those locations.
NYC Plans Smaller Classes in Fall (11:40 a.m. NY)
New York City will reduce classroom sizes and embark on curriculum changes when the U.S.’s largest public school system reopens -- fully in-person -- in September.
The city will use billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid to retrofit school buildings, increase special education support, and bring a system-wide expansion of counseling and mental health resources for students traumatized after a year of the pandemic. Many of those students spent much of last year in remote learning. The city plans to add 140 teachers in 72 schools with the highest class sizes and permit two teachers in many classrooms for younger students.
Olympics Bars Fans in Tokyo (10:07 a.m. NY)
The Tokyo Olympics will ban domestic spectators in events held in Japan’s capital, revising an earlier decision to allow some fans, as the resurgence of virus cases pushed the government to declare a state of emergency in the city.
The decision, announced by Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa, comes after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a fourth state of emergency for Tokyo, running from July 12 through Aug. 22. Officials are still discussing the status of events to be held outside Tokyo.
U.S. Keeps Foreign Travel Curbs (9:36 a.m. NY)
The U.S. isn’t yet ready to lift restrictions on incoming international travel and ultimately the decision will be based on data, not arbitrary dates, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with Bloomberg.
He added that the U.S. has working groups with the U.K., the European Union, Canada and Mexico to determine when it will be appropriate to lift the bans.
“A lot of this is based on what’s going on with progress in the vaccines,” Buttigieg said. “We see good news and bad news in terms of the variants. One moment, you are reading about a variant across the world, next thing you know, it’s becoming the dominant strain in the U.S.”
Luxembourg’s Bettel Released From Hospital (7:16 a.m. NY)
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who tested positive for Covid-19 over a week ago, was released from the hospital after being treated for four days. “The prime minister will take up his functions again” starting Friday, and will work from home for the rest of the week, the statement said.
Shell Pulls North Sea Workers (7:01 a.m. NY)
Shell has flown 85 workers to shore from the Shearwater oil and gas field after detecting 15 cases of coronavirus. The first case was identified in June 30 on a flotel, which is connected to the main platform. Shearwater was undergoing maintenance works and production will not be affected.
Africa Had Worst Week of Pandemic (6:48 a.m. NY)
Africa had its worst week of the coronavirus pandemic, with cases jumping 20% over the last 7 days, and the situation is expected to worsen, Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Africa director, said on a conference call.
There are “signs of hope” that the vaccine rollout on the continent is improving, she said. Still, the highly-transmissible delta variant has spread across the continent and is now dominating in many regions.
EU Accepts Swiss Covid Certificate (6:15 a.m. NY)
Switzerland became the first country outside the European Economic Area to obtain equivalence for its Covid-19 certificates handed out to vaccinated or tested citizens. As of Friday, holders of a Swiss certificate will be able to travel inside the EU under the same conditions as holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate. At the same time, Switzerland has agreed to accept the EU Digital Covid Certificate for travel to Switzerland.
Israel Has First Virus Death in Two Weeks (3:28 p.m. HK)
An Israeli hospital reported the first death of a coronavirus patient in the country in two weeks, Army Radio said. The 86-year old man had been fully vaccinated, the radio station said.
Israel has recorded more than 6,400 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic. More than 57% of the country has been fully vaccinated with Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine. The Health Ministry said earlier this week that the vaccine was less effective in recent weeks at keeping people from getting coronavirus, but it continues to provide a strong shield against severe Covid-19.
South Africa Excess Deaths Rise (2:29 p.m. HK)
Excess deaths, seen as a more precise way of measuring total fatalities from the coronavirus, rose to their highest level since January in South Africa as the delta variant spread to all of the country’s nine provinces.
In the week ended June 27, the country recorded 5,228 deaths compared with 1,729 official deaths from the virus, the South African Medical Research Council said in a report Wednesday. The number of deaths, which is measured against a historical average, was the highest since the week ending Jan. 24 and compared with 4,145 the week earlier.
French to Avoid Holidays in Spain, Portugal (2:19 p.m. HK)
French tourists who haven’t yet booked holidays should refrain from going to Spain and Portugal amid a rapid progression of the delta variant virus, Clement Beaune, the nation’s European affairs minister, said on Thursday. “The situation is particularly worrying” in Spain and Portugal, Beaune said in a France 2 TV interview.
Freedom for Vaccinated U.K. Returnees (12:05 p.m. HK)
British travelers who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will no longer need to isolate when they return home from moderate risk countries, under a plan officials expect to come into force this month.
Ministers have been working on an overhaul of pandemic rules for foreign trips to give more freedom to fully vaccinated passengers returning to England from destinations on the government’s “amber list.”
Instead of isolating at home for 10 days, travelers will be told to take Covid tests after arrival under the new rules, which are due to be finalized on Thursday and could take effect as soon as July 19, people familiar with the matter said.
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