A version of this story appeared in the March 5 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
The authors of the World Obesity Forum report have called for people living with obesity to be prioritized for coronavirus testing and vaccination. “Covid-19 is not the first respiratory viral infection exacerbated by overweight. Data from the last two decades on the impact of MERS, H1N1 influenza and other influenza-related infections show worse outcomes linked to excess bodyweight,” the study added. “An overweight population is an unhealthy population, and a pandemic waiting to happen.”
These are the latest salvos in the quarrel between the EU and the British-Swedish drugmaker after AstraZeneca slashed the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses it said it could deliver to the bloc in early 2021. The European Commission later adopted measures giving member states the ability to restrict the export of doses outside the EU, in certain situations, powers that Italy invoked on Thursday
Amid the disagreement, French President Emmanuel Macron questioned the efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for over-65-year-olds, to the consternation of health experts. Some European countries also set an upper limit on the age of recipients of the shot, citing a lack of clinical study information about its effects on older people.
Sweden, Germany and Belgium have since eliminated the upper age limits after UK data, released Monday, suggested a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective against severe infection and hospitalization among elderly populations.
The slow pace of vaccination in the EU has turned into a roiling political issue, and a number of member states have turned to nations outside the bloc to boost a faltering rollout, Zamira Rahim reports. Only 5.5% of the EU’s population of 447 million has received a first vaccine dose, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) as of Wednesday.
On Thursday, the leaders of Austria and Denmark announced plans to launch a joint research and development fund with Israel towards the possible future production of coronavirus vaccines.
Other EU nations have turned to Russia and China to plug the gaps in vaccine supply with unilateral procurements. On Monday, Slovakia granted emergency authorization for Moscow’s Sputnik V vaccine, following a delay in supply of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots.
Slovakia is the second EU country to independently grant Sputnik V authorization after Hungary, which began rolling out the vaccine in February. Hungary is also the first EU country to have rolled out China’s Sinopharm shot, which has not been approved by the bloc’s vaccine regulator, the European Medicines Agency.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: How many cases caused by Covid-19 variants are there in the US?
A: At least 2,581 cases of coronavirus variants first spotted in the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the US, according to data updated Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“While the public may view vaccination as a priority right now – and it is a priority – widespread testing still is essential for infection control,” Romney Humphries, medical director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said on Thursday. “This will help us track the real impact. Are we truly seeing a reduction in cases?” she said.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
In response to media reports about the vaccination, Princess Elena said in a statement they took the shot with the aim of a getting a health passport so that they could visit their father regularly. A royal household spokesman noted that while they are sisters of Spain’s King Felipe, the princesses have not had any official duties as members of the royal family since at least 2014.
The US shouldn’t ease its pandemic restrictions before the number of new coronavirus cases falls below 10,000 daily and a substantial proportion of Americans are vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN yesterday.
The last time the US saw fewer than 10,000 new daily cases was almost a year ago, on March 22, 2020. The number hasn’t fallen below 50,000 daily cases since mid-October, and the seven-day average on Wednesday was more than 64,000, Madeline Holcombe, Theresa Waldrop and Lauren Mascarenhas report.
This comes as more states move to vaccinate people under the retirement age. In Arizona’s Gila County, anyone above the age of 18 can get vaccinated. But even with the US vaccine rollout picking up speed, concerns remain over Covid-19 variants, some of which appear to be more transmissible.
The countries making dubious claims over Covid-19 – and what that means for the world
For the past year, countries around the world have shared data on Covid-19 cases and deaths with WHO – information that is crucial in informing the global fight against the disease. However, three countries – Tanzania, Turkmenistan and North Korea – are being either less than transparent or in denial about the scale of the problem by not updating or reporting any Covid-19 data, Laura Smith-Spark reports.
Dr. Peter Drobac, a global health expert at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, told CNN that the pandemic had made it clear “how critical leadership is and how dangerous it is to have leaders who aren’t willing to admit the problem and pull people together to respond.” Mixed messaging or denialism around basic interventions such as mask-wearing helped fuel the rapid spread of the virus in the US and Brazil, leading to many avoidable deaths, he said.
China approves sale of traditional medicine products to treat Covid-19
China has approved three traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) products for sale to help treat Covid-19, the country’s National Medical Products Administration announced on Wednesday. The herbal products come in granular form and trace their origins to “ancient Chinese prescriptions,” it said in a statement. They were developed from TCM remedies that had been used early in the pandemic, and that were “screened by many academics and experts on the front line.”
The safety and effectiveness of TCM is still debated in China, where it has both adherents and skeptics. In recent years, ancient remedies have been repeatedly hailed as a source of national pride by Chinese President Xi Jinping, himself a well-known TCM advocate, Nectar Gan and Jessie Yeung report.
ON OUR RADAR
- Inside Europe’s biggest Hindu temple, which is debunking Covid-19 misinformation and administering vaccine.
- ‘It’s too soon for it.’ Small business owners react to Texas dropping its mask mandate and other pandemic restrictions.
- The global vaccine-sharing initiative, COVAX, offers hope of vaccine equality with rollout across Africa.
- Lisa Racine has been unable to visit her dad at the nursing home where he lives because of the pandemic. So, she decided to get a part-time job there to see him more often.
- It’s hard for homebound seniors to get vaccinated. One city found a novel solution by partnering with the fire department and the local Meals on Wheels service.
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