Live Updates

March 23 coronavirus news

'We are trying to live': Black community calls for vaccine equity

What you need to know

  • The Biden administration will loan about 4 million of its AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Canada and Mexico as the company awaits official usage approval in the US.
  • US safety board expresses concern AstraZeneca may have included outdated information in its latest vaccine trial announcement.
  • Germany will go into hard lockdown over Easter as Covid-19 infections soar.

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30 Posts

Brazil records its highest number of daily Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic started

Brazil on Tuesday recorded 3,251 new deaths due to Covid-19 – its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began and the first time it has posted more than 3,000 coronavirus-related deaths in a day, according to the country’s health ministry.  

Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll now stands at 298,676, with the previous record of highest daily deaths coming only last week.  

Additionally, 82,493 new cases of coronavirus were also reported across the country, bringing the total country cases registered so far to 12,130,019.  

Concerns about AstraZeneca vaccine data don't seem to be related to safety, WHO says 

The concerns raised about AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine efficacy data don’t seem to be related to safety, the World Health Organization (WHO) told CNN in a statement Tuesday. 

AstraZeneca announced Monday that US trial data on its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization. It was a news release and not the official release of data to be used by the US Food and Drug Administration in determining whether to grant emergency use authorization for the vaccine.

In a statement released Tuesday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) highlighted concerns raised by the trial’s Data and Safety Monitoring Board that AstraZeneca used outdated information from the trial. 

“As we understand it, the NIAID concerns seem related to efficacy data, not safety,” WHO said. “WHO has neither seen the data from the AZ clinical trials in the US, nor specifics about NIAID concerns.”  

WHO said its emergency use listings and advisory group recommendations for AstraZeneca vaccines from SKBio and Serum Institute of India stand. 

“We will look forward to the scientific review of the clinical trials in the US, Chile, and Peru,” WHO added. 

All Georgia residents 16 and older can receive a vaccine starting Thursday

A woman gets a COVID-19 shot at the mass vaccination site located at the Delta Flight Museum, Monday, February 22, in Atlanta.

All Georgians age 16 and older can receive the Covid-19 vaccine starting Thursday, the state announced ahead of a scheduled news conference this afternoon. 

Gov. Brian Kemp will receive his vaccination on Friday, his press secretary Mallory Blount told CNN. 

Vaccinations were previously open in Georgia to people 55 and older, those with certain medical conditions, caregivers or with specific essential jobs.  

Georgia has administered over two million first doses of vaccine, according to the state Department of Health. 

Georgia is home to the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. The state has a population of more than 10.5 million people, according to the US Census Bureau. 

Here's a timeline for when some US states will begin expanding Covid-19 vaccine eligibility

Three states have expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to anyone over 16, and at least 19 more plan to open up to people 16 and older by the end of April.

Alaska opened up vaccinations to anyone 16 and older on March 9, Mississippi on March 16, and West Virginia expanded on March 22. Oklahomans 16 and older can get vaccinated through the Chickasaw Nation’s vaccination program, but not yet through the state’s program. 

Below is the timeline for when some other states have said they will open vaccination eligibility to all people over the age of 16:

  • March 24: Utah and state-run sites in certain Arizona counties
  • March 29: Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, North Dakota
  • April 1: Montana
  • April 5: Connecticut, Michigan
  • April 9: Missouri
  • April 12: Illinois
  • April 19: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island
  • April 26: Idaho
  • April 27: Maryland
  • April, no set date: New Mexico, Virginia, Iowa
  • May 1: Wisconsin, Oregon, South Dakota
  • May 3: South Carolina
  • May or later: Nebraska, Kansas, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Delaware

For all states currently vaccinating anyone over 16, people ages 16 or 17 can only receive a Pfizer vaccine, as it is the only option authorized for use in that population so far. Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines are authorized for use in adults 18 and older.

CDC hopes to study 13,000 pregnant women for each authorized coronavirus vaccine

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it hopes to enroll about 13,000 pregnant people for each of the three authorized coronavirus vaccines to see how pregnancy might affect vaccine safety. 

The agency will use existing and new safety monitoring systems, including its V-safe pregnancy registry, a CDC spokesperson told CNN Tuesday.

“We are leveraging existing systems to assess safety, as well as rapidly established new systems, to capture this information and we’re committed to doing it, and CDC is committed, to getting pregnant women the information that they need,” a CDC spokesperson told CNN.

V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after people receive a Covid-19 vaccine. The V-safe COVID-19 pregnancy registry is for V-safe users who are willing to provide additional data and information to participate in further study through telephone interviews. 

As of March 22, 60,448 pregnant women have registered with the V-safe health database and 3,612 of them have additionally joined the V-safe pregnancy registry. The CDC is building the infrastructure to follow these women and add more participants to study, and noted that most women who have been contacted to participate agree to join, the spokesperson told CNN. 

Registry staff will call participants multiple times during their pregnancies and when the baby is about 3 months old. During these check-ins, mothers will be asked questions about medical and obstetric history, pregnancy complications, birth outcomes, and obstetric and they will be asked for access to their medical records to get a bigger picture and more detailed and technical information that participants may not recall, a CDC spokesperson told CNN.

Virginia will loosen statewide Covid-19 restrictions starting April 1, governor says

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced he is rolling back restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings starting next week. 

“Starting on April 1, we will make some limited and targeted changes to our Forward Virginia guidelines,” Gov. Northam said at a briefing Tuesday. 

“Social gatherings may have up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors,” said Northam.

“Entertainment venues will be able to operate at 30% of capacity [with] up to 500 people indoors, outdoor venues can have up to 30%,” Gov. Northam said.

The number of spectators allowed for outdoor recreational sports will increase to 500, while indoor recreation will be capped at 100 people, said Northam.

“Recreational sporting events indoors and outside will be limited to 30% of capacity,” added Northam. 

“You need to wear a mask and follow other guidelines and safety protocols,” said the governor. 

“To be very clear, we are not simply throwing the doors open,” stressed Northam.

“If we continue to be careful, wearing our mask in public, washing our hands, keeping our distance and getting vaccinated, I expect our case counts will keep going down,” said Northam.

FDA will allow plant to ship Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which should boost supply of the single-dose shot

Catalent, the fill and finish plant in Bloomington, Indiana, that is helping to produce Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, said Tuesday it received an OK from the US Food and Drug Administration to ship the vaccine.

Catalent has been producing doses for the past couple months as Johnson & Johnson promised to deliver 20 million of its single-dose vaccine to the US government by the end of the March. 

Catalent had dedicated a line specifically to fill vials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and hired 300 additional staff to work 24/7 to produce it — but it needed FDA authorization to ship the product. 

“Today, Catalent is proud to announce the FDA has provided Emergency Use Authorization for our biologics site in Bloomington, Indiana, to produce and ship millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine,” a statement emailed to CNN said. “The site recently completed a major expansion and scale-up activities on a dedicated, high-speed vial-filling line to support the production of this important vaccine, and Catalent remains on track to meet the supply commitments of our agreement with Johnson & Johnson.”

Catalent would not say how many millions of Johnson & Johnson vaccines it would be able to ship immediately. A spokesperson for the company told CNN it would be up to J&J to disclose that number. Asked by CNN how many doses would be available, Johnson & Johnson did not provide specifics.

Biden administration officials, meanwhile, told CNN this week they were not confident that Johnson & Johnson would be able to meet its self-imposed deadline to deliver 20 million coronavirus vaccines by the end of March. Johnson & Johnson has said it is on target to meet that goal.

Johnson & Johnson only had 4 million doses ready to ship when it was authorized by the FDA at the end of February. An additional 1.2 million doses have gone out since, meaning the company must have another 14.8 million ready in the next week to meet its goal. 

White House officials said Tuesday 4 million more J&J doses would be allocated this week.

White House told US governors there will be 27 million vaccine doses "across all channels" this week

White House press secretary Jen Psaki gave the latest update on vaccine doses available, saying there will be 27 million doses allocated across all channels this week.

Psaki said White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients made the announcement on the weekly call with governors on Tuesday. 

“Today in our weekly governors call, he (Zients) announced that we will have 27 million doses allocated across all channels this week. Of those 27 million doses, four million will be Johnson & Johnson. Two thirds of the 27 million doses will be going to states and jurisdictions and the rest will go to other channels such primarily the pharmacy program which has been very successful and we’ve been increasing supply to,” Psaki said.

Last week, the White House said there were more than 22 million doses being sent to all channels.

“This means that in 63 days since taking office we’ve more than tripled vaccine output,” Psaki added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gets his coronavirus vaccine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been vaccinated against coronavirus, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Tuesday. 

“Putin was vaccinated against the coronavirus. (He) feels good. Tomorrow he has a full working day,” Peskov told CNN. 

No video or images of the vaccination process were immediately made available. Earlier, the Kremlin said it would not be a public event.

No information was provided on which coronavirus vaccine Putin had, but earlier the Kremlin said it would be one of the three approved Russian vaccines. 

Two states have fully vaccinated 1 in 5 residents, CDC data shows

Registered Nurse Morgan James loads a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 19.

More than one in five residents have been fully vaccinated in two states – New Mexico and Alaska – according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In New Mexico, more than one third of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Nationally, nearly one in seven people – about 45.5 million people – have been fully vaccinated, and more than a quarter of the population – nearly 84 million people – have received at least one dose of vaccine, CDC data shows.

The CDC reported that 128,217,029 total doses have been administered – about 78% of the 164,300,795 doses delivered.

That’s about 1.7 million more doses reported administered since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 2.5 million doses per day.

Note: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported.

Texas to extend vaccine eligibility to all adults March 29

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a drive-thru clinic in Robstown, Texas, on January 26. 

Starting March 29, Texas will open access to the Covid-19 vaccine to all adults, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said Tuesday.

“We are closing in on 10 million doses administered in Texas, and we want to keep up the momentum as the vaccine supply increases,” Imelda Garcia, Texas DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and the chair of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, said in a press release. “As eligibility opens up, we are asking providers to continue to prioritize people who are the most at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death – such as older adults.”

While eligibility is now open, DSHS has directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years old and older, the press release said.

Next week, according to the release, DSHS will launch a website to allow people to register for vaccinations through some public health providers and also launch a toll-free number for people who cannot use the website.

Sao Paulo state registers record-breaking death toll over 24 hours

Workers carry out the burial of a Covid-19 victim at the Vila Formosa Cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 11.

The State of Sao Paulo registered a total of 1,021 deaths in 24 hours, according to the state health secretary on Tuesday. The figure is the highest registered since the beginning of the pandemic.

The deadliest day for the state in terms of the pandemic was seven days ago, on March 16, when 679 people died in 24 hours. In total, 68,623 people in São Paulo have lost their lives to Covid-19.

The health system is also close to collapse, with 91.9% of the intensive care unit beds in the state occupied. On Monday, there were 29,039 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in Sao Paulo, 12,168 of them in intensive care unit beds. On March 1, the number of hospitalized patients was 15,977, almost half the current number.

On Monday, the Council of Municipal Health Secretariats of Sao Paulo warned that 54 cities only have enough oxygen for the rest of the week.

In a news conference on the same day, governor João Doria announced a partnership with a private beverage company to build an oxygen plant in Ribeirao Preto, one of Sao Paulo state’s biggest cities.

In an interview with CNN’s Julia Chatterley on Monday, Brazil’s Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria called Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro a “psychopathic leader” and criticized the president’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are in one of those tragic moments in history when millions of people pay a high price for having an unprepared and psychopathic leader in charge of a nation,” he said on CNN’s First Move.

Doria said much of the deaths from the virus in Brazil could have been avoided if Bolsonaro had “acted with the responsibility that the position gives him.” He added that Bolsonaro made “unbelievable mistakes, the biggest one was having a political dispute with the governors who are trying to protect the population.”

Some more background: Bolsonaro has repeatedly opposed lockdowns and restrictive measures and has criticized governors and mayors for implementing them. He has also been seen greeting crowds of his supporters during the pandemic, without wearing a mask, and has advocated for drugs like hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus — a drug which has no proven effectiveness in combatting Covid-19.

Brazil now has over 12 million cases of coronavirus in the country, according to data from the health ministry.

CNN’s Julia Chatterley and Hira Humayun contributed reporting to this post.

New York City’s office workers will return to work on May 3, mayor says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference on Tuesday.

New York City’s work force will return to work on May 3 the city’s mayor announced Tuesday.

This applies to those who don’t already work in front line positions and work in offices.

“We’re going to make it safe,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said, adding their return “sends a positive message about this city moving forward.”

New York City has vaccinated over 3.4 million the Mayor said, as the state opens up eligibility to those 50 years and older.

NYC is expecting a “major boost” in vaccine supply starting in the first week of April which will be “crucial” in “pumping up the vaccinations,” the Mayor said.

As more people are vaccinated against Covid-19, Americans are going out more, poll finds 

People gather in Washington Square Park on Sunday, March 21, in New York City. 

As more Americans get vaccinated against Covid-19, the number of people who are going out is increasing, according to new poll results from Axios-Ipsos published Tuesday.    

Compared to a month ago, the number of people who have gone out to eat or visit friends and family are up 12 and 9 percentage points respectively, according to the poll which was conducted March 19 to 22 and made up of 995 American adults age 18 and over.  

The number of Americans who have dined out at a restaurant — 45% — is the highest since the first wave of the Axios-Ipsos poll. At the same time, the number of people who believe that dining out poses a large risk to health and well-being has gone down to 23% compared to 33% a month ago. 

Those who have visited friends or relatives — 48% — is the highest since October. 

The highest number of Americans since last May have visited a non-grocery retail store —54%.  

The number of Americans who said they were staying home and avoiding others as much as possible is at 67% — down 7 points from one month ago and at the lowest point in 11 months. Forty-four percent are saying they’re maintaining 6 feet of distance whenever they do leave the house, down from 54% a month ago. 

Also going down is the number of Americans who believe that returning to their normal pre-coronavirus life poses a large or moderate risk — 59%. This is down seven points from a month ago and 11 points from the end of 2020. 

In some cases, the unvaccinated are driving the shift in behavior. For example, 52% of unvaccinated respondents say they’ve visited with friends or relatives in the last week, compared with 41% of people who have gotten the vaccine. 

Safety measures aren’t being completely abandoned, more than 7 in 10 still wear a mask whenever they leave the house and 80% said that they will continue to do so even after being vaccinated. Sixty-three percent will also continue to social distance after vaccination.

This is happening as more Americans are being vaccinated. Thirty-six percent of respondents now say they’ve had the vaccine, up 11 percentage points from two weeks ago. Nine out of 10 respondents said that they knew someone who had been vaccinated.  

The number of Americans saying that they are “not at all likely” to get a first generation Covid-19 vaccine — around 1 in 5 — remains steady. When asked why, most of the responses were centered around wanting more research or information, a lack of trust in the vaccine and the government and/or feeling that they were healthy, and it isn’t needed.

AstraZeneca stands by its US trial results following expert group's concern

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca stood by the results of its US-based clinical trial on Tuesday, a day after the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) expressed concern that the data from the trial may have been “outdated” and “incomplete.”

“The numbers published yesterday were based on a pre-specified interim analysis with a data cut-off of 17 February,” the company said in a statement.

“We have reviewed the preliminary assessment of the primary analysis and the results were consistent with the interim analysis. We are now completing the validation of the statistical analysis,” it added.

“We will immediately engage with the independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) to share our primary analysis with the most up to date efficacy data. We intend to issue results of the primary analysis within 48 hours,” the statement concluded.

The DSMB is an independent expert group that sees trial data before the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors running the trials, or even the US Food and Drug Administration. They have the power to advise a company of positive interim findings or to halt a trial over safety concerns. That’s what happened to the AstraZeneca trial in September after a study participant developed neurological symptoms, for example.

More context: The DSMB had expressed concern over AstraZeneca’s announcements on its latest findings, according to a statement posted early Tuesday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Late Monday, the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) notified NIAID, BARDA, and AstraZeneca that it was concerned by information released by AstraZeneca on initial data from its COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial,” the statement said. 

“The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.
“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible.”

Early Monday, AstraZeneca issued a press release saying its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, citing long-awaited US trial data. The latter figure was based on five events in the placebo arm, NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a coronavirus briefing Monday.

Last year, the National Institutes of Health appointed a common DSMB to monitor Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials that were being funded by the federal government — including AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. This DSMB has 10 to 15 members with specialties, including vaccine development, statistics and ethics.

Fauci says “unforced error” on AstraZeneca data could create doubt about Covid-19 vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on March 18, in Washington, DC.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said an AstraZeneca news release may have contained misleading information about its Covid-19 vaccine efficacy — “an unforced error” that may create doubt about what is likely a good vaccine.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases posted a statement early Tuesday saying that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) for the trial expressed concern over AstraZeneca’s announcements on its latest findings for its Covid-19 vaccine. 

Early Monday, AstraZeneca had issued a news release saying its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, citing long-awaited US trial data. 

When the DSMB saw the press release, “they got concerned and wrote a rather harsh note to them – and with a copy to me – saying that in fact they felt that the data that was in the press release were somewhat outdated and might in fact be misleading a bit, and wanted them to straighten it out,” Fauci told ABC’s Robin Roberts on Tuesday. “On the basis of that, we put out the release that you just showed that essentially told the company, they better get back with the DSMB and make sure the correct data get put into a press release.” 

The fact is, he said, the AstraZeneca vaccine “is very likely a very good vaccine,” and this situation does nothing but cast doubt about the vaccines and maybe contribute to vaccine hesitancy.

Fauci said this was not necessary and that the data are “really quite good, but when they put it into the press release, it wasn’t completely accurate.” 

The fact that the DSMB picked up on this discrepancy was an example of a safeguard around vaccines, Fauci said.

AstraZeneca said in a statement Tuesday it will “immediately engage with the independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) to share our primary analysis with the most up to date efficacy data. We intend to issue results of the primary analysis within 48 hours.”

Watch Dr. Fauci respond to AstraZeneca’s news release:


It's been a year since the UK's first Covid-19 lockdown. Here's how the country is remembering the victims.

Tuesday marks one year since UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the country’s first lockdown.

Johnson took to Twitter to reflect on the anniversary, expressing his condolences to the pandemic’s victims and conveying how the year has “taken a huge toll on us all.”

He added that everyone in the country had played a part in battling the virus as the nation looks to the easing of restriction in the coming months.

Many across the UK observed a minute of silence at midday (8 a.m. ET) as part of a day of reflection. People are also being encourage to light their doorsteps at 8 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) to mark the anniversary.

Prince Charles said the country has been “inspired,” “humbled” and “moved beyond words by the sacrifices” of the last 12 months.

“Ladies and gentleman, over the past year our country has been through a trial which has tested our resolve and our resilience in countless ways,” the heir to the throne said in a video message posted on his official Clarence House twitter feed on Tuesday. “We have all been inspired by the resourcefulness we have witnessed, humbled by the dedication shown by so many, and moved beyond words by the sacrifices we have seen.”

“We are emerging from this time with a renewed confidence in one another and with a strengthened faith in our society richly diverse in its many communities and cultures but united in its commitment to the common good and the welfare of others, particularly those most vulnerable. As we do as, it is right that we pause to remember those whose lives have been so tragically cut short,” he added.

Biden administration not confident Johnson & Johnson will meet 20 million vaccine goal by end of month

A nurse administers a Johnson & Jonson Covid-19 vaccine on March 15, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Officials in President Biden’s administration are not confident that Johnson & Johnson will meet its self-imposed deadline to deliver 20 million coronavirus vaccines by the end of March, despite optimistic statements from the company.

Administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to comment on internal discussions, said they aren’t willing to guarantee those millions will be ready within the next week.

They’re hopeful, but not positive, because the delivery schedule has not accelerated in the way officials had hoped, one told CNN.

The US Food and Drug Administration granted Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine emergency use authorization nearly a month ago, but the company has struggled to ramp up production, been slow to submit paperwork and failed to meet production timelines laid out in the company’s contract with the federal government. 

Despite efforts by the federal government to compress production timelines, Johnson & Johnson only had four million doses ready to ship when it was authorized by the FDA at the end of February. An additional 1.2 million doses have gone out since, meaning the company must have another 14.8 million ready in the next week to meet its goal.

With only days left to deliver, administration officials are hedging their bets on whether Johnson & Johnson will deliver based on past behavior.

“At this point in time, I don’t want to commit to what’s going to happen over the course of the coming week. We’ll leave that to the company,” Andy Slavitt, the White House’s Covid-19 senior adviser, told reporters Monday.

Johnson & Johnson told CNN Monday that it is still on track to meet its March deadline. In February, the company promised at a congressional oversight subcommittee hearing to “deliver enough single-doses by the end of March to vaccinate more than 20 million Americans.”

After the federal government provided $450 million to support Research and Development, the government announced in August it would pay Johnson & Johnson another $1 billion for 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine.

Under that contract, Johnson & Johnson was scheduled to have 37 million doses ready by the end of March and 100 million by the end of June. 

India to open Covid-19 vaccinations for all individuals over age 45

A medic prepares a dose of the Covishield vaccine at Hindu Rao Hospital, on March 22, in New Delhi, India.

India announced it would once again widen the eligibility for Covid-19 vaccine recipients.

People above the age of 45 will be allowed to register and receive the vaccination from April 1, according to senior cabinet minister Prakash Javadekar.

“As we have already achieved speedy and good vaccination campaign. Till today, we have provided vaccination to the tune of 48.5 million…Today after discussion and advice from the task force and scientists, it is decided that from April 1, the vaccine will open for everybody above 45 years of age,” Javadekar said during a news conference Tuesday.

Since January, the Indian government has provided Covid-19 vaccinations in phases to healthcare workers, frontline workers and individuals above 60 years of age. 

India has recorded a surge in Covid-19 cases in the past few weeks, forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to warn the public of an “emerging second wave” last week.

The health ministry on Tuesday recorded 40,715 new cases in the past 24-hours, bringing the country’s total caseload to 11.6 million cases since the start of the pandemic. 

France expands vaccination program to people over 70

French President Emmanuel Macron visits a pharmacy in Valenciennes, France, on March 23. 

Speeding up France’s vaccination campaign is the “national priority” in the fight against Covid-19, the country’s president said Tuesday.

“There are no weekends, there are no holidays in the vaccination campaign,” Emmanuel Macron told journalists while visiting a pharmacy in Valenciennes in Northern France. Many vaccination centers have been closed on Sundays.

“Starting this Saturday, we will open appointments for people over 70,” Macron said, explaining that “we’ve seen that many centers had difficulties finding people over 75” for vaccinations.

Until now, only people over 75 years of age without underlying health conditions were allowed to receive the vaccine, along with younger patients with underlying conditions. 

Some background: More than 8,836,000 people have so far received at least one dose of the vaccine in France. About 2,400,000 people have been fully vaccinated — which is 3.7% of the total population, according to the national health agency.

France reintroduced partial lockdowns over the weekend in 16 regions, including the greater Paris and Nice areas amid a spike in Covid-19 across the country.

The new measures went into effect Friday at midnight and will last at least four weeks but are less restrictive than measures imposed in March and November of last year.

New study probes Covid-19 long-haulers

A majority of Covid-19 “long haulers” – Covid-19 patients with persistent symptoms – experience four or more neurologic symptoms lasting for at least six weeks or more, according to a study published on Tuesday in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

The small study from researchers at Northwestern Medicine evaluated just 100 non-hospitalized “long hauler” patients across 21 states who had symptoms consistent with Covid-19 such as sore throat, cough, or mild fever and were being treated at the Northwestern Neuro-Covid-19 clinic. 

The most commonly reported neurologic symptom among the 100 patients was brain fog (81%), followed by headache (68%), numbness or tingling (60%), loss or altered taste (59%), loss of smell (55%). Dizziness, pain, and blurred vision were also reported symptoms. Among study participants, 85% reported having four or more neurologic symptoms. 

The most frequent non-neurologic symptoms reported by the group included fatigue (85%), depression/anxiety (47%); shortness of breath (46%); chest pain (37%); and insomnia (33%).

Putting the data into context: There are a number of limitations of the study. First, only half of the 100 patients had any positive PCR or coronavirus antibody tests to confirm their infection. The other half of the patients did not have any laboratory-confirmed results of coronavirus infection but had symptoms consistent with Covid. The researchers noted that the initial generations of antibody tests were developed based on a hospitalized patients and were not sensitive enough to detect antibodies in non-hospitalized long haulers.

The researchers were able to evaluate 48 of the patients in person, but the other 52 patients were evaluated via telehealth visits, which did not allow for complete neurologic exams. 

They also noted that 16 of the patients had a pre-existing autoimmune disorder including multiple sclerosis, lupus, and Hashimoto’s disease, and 42 of the patients evaluated had reported having a history of depression or anxiety. 

Aside from the limited sample size, the researchers noted that a majority of the patients were white, and therefore the results may not be generalized to minority populations.

Read more on what’s being called ‘long covid’:

Christine Jamieson, Janet Kilkenny, and Diana Berrent

Clinics are springing up around the country for what some call a potential second pandemic: Long Covid

Regeneron says its treatment for Covid-19 reduces hospitalizations by 70%

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc headquarters in Tarrytown, New York.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said Tuesday its dual antibody treatment for Covid-19 reduced symptomatic illness by four days at any level of dose tried in its clinical trial. 

The treatment also seemed to reduce hospitalizations and death by about 70% compared to placebo, the company said.

At any dose given, the treatment significantly reduced the patient’s viral load.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made immune system proteins that are infused to boost a patient’s immune response to fight disease. The Covid-19 treatments seem to work best early in the course of an infection. The treatments are also being tested to see if they can prevent infection.

Regeneron’s treatment has already been authorized for use at a higher dose by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) treatment. It was used to treat former President Donald Trump when he developed Covid-19 last year.

The pharmaceutical company said it would now seek FDA emergency use authorization for its antibody cocktail at a lower dose in light of the latest trial data. The move could essentially double manufacturing capacity.

“We will rapidly discuss the new data with regulatory authorities and request that the 1,200 mg dose be added to the US emergency use authorization, in order for the anticipated REGEN-COV supply to be available to treat even more patients,” said Dr. George Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s President and Chief Scientific Officer.

This late-stage trial involved nearly 5,000 non-hospitalized patients. Each had at least one underlying condition that would make them more vulnerable to severe Covid-19. The trial also had a diverse patient population. About 35% of the patients were Latino/Hispanic, and 5% were Black.

The results are not published in a journal, nor are they peer-reviewed, but the company said it plans to submit the results for peer review as soon as possible.

On Thursday, the FDA said that Regeneron’s antibody treatment seemed to work to protect people against all of the coronavirus variants most worrying to scientists.

Regeneron isn’t the only company working on an antibody treatment. Drugmaker Eli Lilly has two authorized treatments, but they may not work as well against some of the variants.

The FDA had reviewed research done on the mutations that characterize several of the new variants. None of the experiments involved live, infected patients, but the FDA said the finding were serious enough to warrant a change to the emergency use authorizations that were granted to the products. 

Putin is getting vaccinated today but we won't see it

The Kremlin on Tuesday said the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s coronavirus vaccination process won’t be filmed.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on a conference call that Putin has not yet been vaccinated but they expect he will be by the end of the day. 

Peskov continued Putin “doesn’t like” being vaccinated on camera, adding “you will have to take our word for it.”

The Kremlin spokesman added it’s not known yet whether Putin will go to an appointment or if a doctor will visit him but it will be done in such a way to minimize the President’s working schedule.  

When asked why the Russian leader is not planning to show his vaccination process for publicity, Peskov said Putin does a lot to promote getting vaccinated: 

“The President devotes a fairly significant part of his working time to events, talks, meetings related to vaccination, vaccine production, and so on and so forth. Therefore, the President does a lot to promote the vaccine. As for vaccination under the cameras, he has never been a supporter [of it], he doesn’t like it,” Peskov explained.

The Kremlin spokesman also said it will not be disclosed which vaccine will be used, but it will be one of the three Russian vaccines that have been approved: Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona or CoviVac. 

“We deliberately do not say what kind of vaccine the president will take, all the while noting that all three Russian vaccines are absolutely reliable and effective,” said Peskov.

Putin revealed he intended to get inoculated Tuesday during a live televised video conference. “Vaccination is voluntary. This is a personal decision of each person. By the way, I intend to do it myself tomorrow,” he said.

Fake vaccine cards are being sold on the dark web

Counterfeit vaccine cards and what are being billed as Covid-19 vaccines are now for sale on the dark web, a new report says.

Security researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point Software found listings for Covid-19 vaccines brands, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, for up to $1,000 a dose, as well as at least 20 vaccine certificates for $200 each.

The dark web is a part of the internet not detected by search engines where cybercriminals often sell and buy illicit materials, from credit card numbers and drugs to cyberweapons and now, apparently, coronavirus-related products.

A Check Point spokesperson told CNN Business it’s uncertain if the vaccines are real but said “they appear to be legitimate” from pictures of packaging and medical certificates. Advertisements for vaccines on the dark web are up 300% in the past three months, according to the report.

Meanwhile, vaccine certificates — or proof of vaccination cards — are created and printed to order; the buyer provides the name and dates they want on the certificate and the vendor replies with what Check Point said resembles an authentic card.

Read the full story here:

Covid vaccines dark web

Covid-19 vaccines and counterfeit vaccine cards are for sale on the dark web

From next week, overseas travel from England will be banned unless you have a good reason

Anyone trying to travel abroad from England next week will need a “reasonable excuse” or face being hit with a hefty fine, according to new legislation drafted by the British government.

Rule breakers face a penalty of nearly $7,000 (£5,000). 

The new Covid-19 travel rules are part of a set of restrictions the UK government published on Monday, as it sets its roadmap for leaving the current lockdown. Lawmakers are due to vote on the drafted legislation on Thursday, with the measures coming into force from Monday. 

The law says, “no person may, without a reasonable excuse- leave England to travel to a destination outside the United Kingdom, or travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of traveling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom.”

The restrictions do not apply to travel within the common area, which includes the rest of the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and the Republic of Ireland. Exceptions to the ban apply when it is “reasonably necessary” for a person to work, study, provide charitable services, fulfill a legal obligation, sell or rent a property, and for some childcare, medical or family reasons.  

Independent US board "concerned" by AstraZeneca's vaccine data announcements

A nurse handles an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine vial in Sydney, on March 23.

An independent board that reviews data from multiple Covid-19 vaccine candidates in the US has expressed concern over AstraZeneca’s announcements on its latest findings, according to a statement posted Tuesday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Late Monday, the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) notified NIAID, BARDA, and AstraZeneca that it was concerned by information released by AstraZeneca on initial data from its COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial,” the statement says.
“The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data. 
“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible.”

Early Monday, AstraZeneca issued a news release saying its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, citing long-awaited US trial data. The latter figure was based on five total cases of severe disease or hospitalization in people who received the placebo, and zero similar cases among those who received the vaccine, NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a coronavirus briefing Monday.

The DSMB is an independent expert group which sees trial data before the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors running the trials, or even the US Food and Drug Administration. It has the power to advise a company of positive interim findings, or to halt a trial over safety concerns. That’s what happened to the AstraZeneca trial in September after a study participant developed neurological symptoms, for example.

Last year, the US’s medical research agency, the National Institutes of Health, appointed a common DSMB to monitor Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials funded by the federal government – including AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

This DSMB has 10 to 15 members with specialties including vaccine development, statistics and ethics.

South Korean President receives AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

President Moon Jae-in receives a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Seoul, South Korea, on March 23.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the first lady, Kim Jung-sook, received AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, the Blue House announced.

Moon’s vaccination is in preparation for his visit to the United Kingdom for the G7 summit in June, his office said. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited South Korea, India and Australia to attend the summit as guests.

Another nine members of Moon’s delegation were also vaccinated Tuesday in the same public clinic in Seoul.

The bigger picture: Starting Tuesday, adults age 65 and over will receive AstraZeneca vaccines across the country, the Blue House added.

In February, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said senior citizens would be excluded from AstraZeneca vaccines amid efficacy concerns.

However, last week the KDCA announced the government had decided to expand the use of AstraZeneca vaccines based on research from the United Kingdom.

According to the KDCA, more than 680,000 people in the country have been vaccinated so far.

South Korea’s Covid cases: On Monday, South Korea reported 331 local and 15 imported cases of the coronavirus, the KDCA’s news release said. The Greater Seoul Area accounted for 229 of the cases found.

Overall, the country has recorded 99,421 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. The national coronavirus death toll stands at 1,704.

Germany to impose even stricter five-day lockdown over Easter holiday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a news conference in Berlin, on March 22.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday she will extend the country’s lockdown to April 18 due to its rise of Covid-19 cases. 

Merkel announced an even stricter five-day lockdown over the Easter holiday between April 1 to April 5.

Almost all shops will be closed over the five-day period, and she requested all religious services be moved online over Easter.

No more than five adults from two households can gather. Only grocers will be allowed to open on Saturday, April 3. 

Germany has reported more than 2.6 million cases and more than 74,000 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Fully vaccinated people can visit unvaccinated family and friends, but one household at a time, US CDC official says

Fully vaccinated people should feel free to visit their unvaccinated family and friends without restrictions – but visits should be limited to one unvaccinated household at a time, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Monday. 

And sorry, but even fully vaccinated grandparents should not be bringing their grandkids to church or otherwise exposing them to crowds, the officials said during a web briefing.

The CDC will update its guidance once it becomes clear how well vaccination prevents spread of the virus. But for the time being, there are still limits on what fully vaccinated people should do, they said.

“In the setting that the unvaccinated people are from a single household, and all the unvaccinated people are at low risk of severe Covid-19 illness, no prevention measures are needed, so these visits could happen indoors with no mask or physical distancing,” said Tami Skoff, CDC epidemiologist on the Clinical Guidelines Team of the Vaccine Task Force.
“And the example we like to give here is fully vaccinated grandparents can visit with their unvaccinated daughter and her unvaccinated children, assuming none of them are at high risk of severe disease. These visits can be done indoors with no masks or physical distancing.”