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April 7 coronavirus news

UK variant now most dominant strain in US

What you need to know

  • The coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom is now the most common strain of Covid-19 in the US, CDC director says.
  • Both the UK and EU regulators found a “possible link” between AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and “very rare” blood clot cases, but said the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh the risks.
  • Brazil’s president shrugged off criticism he is “genocidal” as the nation reports a record 4,000 daily deaths — its deadliest 24 hours of the pandemic so far.

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All 50 states commit to Biden's April 19 deadline to make Covid-19 vaccines available to all US adults

Hawaii on Wednesday became the last state to commit to meeting President Biden’s expedited deadline to make Covid-19 vaccines available to all US adults by April 19 – nearly two weeks earlier than the President’s original target of May 1.

Janice Okubo, communications director for the Hawaii State Department of Health, confirmed to CNN that her state will open vaccine eligibility to all residents age 16 and older by April 19.

Of the three vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the United States by the US Food and Drug Administration, only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is authorized for use in people age 16 and older. The other two Covid-19 vaccines – manufactured by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are authorized for use in people age 18 and older.

Vaccines likely protect well against so-called California variant of coronavirus, study finds

Tests suggest that current coronavirus vaccines should protect people against one of the so-called California variants of the virus, researchers reported Wednesday. 

They tested blood taken from people vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine and also one being developed by Maryland biotech Novavax and found reassuring results. While the variant does evade the immune response a little, it’s not by much, the team at Novavax, Moderna, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.

The ability of Moderna’s and Novavax’s vaccines to generate antibodies against the B.1.429 variant is about the same as the efficacy against B.1.1.7 – the so-called UK variant, they wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.

“These results, and the high efficacy shown by these vaccines, suggest that vaccine-elicited neutralizing antibodies are likely to remain effective against the B.1.429 variant,” they wrote.

“The magnitude of resistance seen with the B.1.351 variant is of greater concern with respect to current vaccines.” The B.1.351 variant, first seen in South Africa, carries some different mutations that allow it to better evade the immune response elicited by vaccines.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated B.1.351, B.1.429 and B.1.1.7 as variants of concern, as well as P.1, which is the dominant variant in Brazil and a different variant seen in California called B.1.427.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that B.1.1.7 was now the dominant type of virus circulating in the US.

More than 171 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the US

Hundreds of people without appointments stand in line outside the mass coronavirus vaccination site at Hagerstown Premium Outlets on April 07, in Hagerstown, Maryland.

More than 171 million doses of Covid-19 have been administered in the United States, according to data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported that 171,476,655 total doses have been administered, about 76% of the 225,294,435 doses delivered.  

That’s about 2.9 million more doses reported administered since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 3 million doses per day. 

Just over 33% of the US population – more than 109 million people – have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 19.4% of the population – more than 64 million people – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

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

NHL team says Covid-19 variant was the source behind 21 players testing positive for virus

An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday, March 31.

The National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks have revealed 21 of its players have tested positive for Covid-19.

There are 25 people in total on the team who have tested positive for the virus including four staff members. The team says one additional player is considered a close contact.

A Wednesday update from Canucks physician Jim Bovard and infectious disease physician Josh Douglas states the “source infection is confirmed a variant — full genome sequencing by BCCDC will be required to determine which specific type.” 

The BCCDC is the BC Centre for Disease Control based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The team release continued, “An ongoing investigation by Vancouver Coastal Health and club contact tracing staff attributes the source infection to a single individual obtained in a community setting, which has since been identified by public health as a public exposure location. Rapid spread of infection throughout the team indicates a link between contacts and the primary case.”

The NHL announced last week that all Canucks games through April 6 have been postponed, but it is uncertain when the team will return to the ice. CNN has reached out to the NHL for comment.

“This is a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes,” Bovard and Douglas added.

The Canucks next scheduled game is on April 12 on the road against the Edmonton Oilers, according to the team’s website.

Belgium pauses AstraZeneca vaccine for people 55 and under

People rest after being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Brabanthal event center in Heverlee, Belgium, on Wednesday, March 17.

Belgium has paused use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for people aged 18 to 55 years old, national and regional health ministers announced in a statement.

They said their decision follows a review by the European Medicine Agency (EMA) earlier today, saying there was a “possible link” between the vaccine and rare blood clots.

In their statement, Belgium’s Ministers said that based on recent scientific advice, they “have decided to temporarily replace AstraZeneca with another vaccine for people aged 18 to 55 years.”

“All vaccines continue to be used for people aged 56 and over,” the statement reads, emphasizing that the EMA has said the benefits of AstraZeneca still outweigh any risks. 

“From the age of 56, the demonstrable benefits of vaccination in preventing hospitalization and mortality are undoubtedly much higher than the consequences of the rare side effects,” it adds. 

The Belgian Interministerial Conference on Health will re-evaluate the decision “within 4 weeks.

The statement also adds that Belgium, through the EU conference of health ministers, is requesting that EMA make a more detailed analysis of the benefit-risk analysis per age category and “urgently consider the question regarding the 2nd dose.”

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said Wednesday that a particular combination of unusual blood clots with low blood platelet counts should be listed as a side effect of the vaccine, but stopped short of recommending its use be limited.

The benefits of the shot outweigh the risks and Covid-19 is a “very serious disease,” the EMA added.

Italy to give people over 60 "preferential route" for AstraZeneca vaccine

Italy will give people over 60 a “preferential route” to getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since most of the rare adverse events took place in younger people, the president of the Higher Healthcare Council, Franco Locatelli, said on Wednesday.

Speaking during a news conference, Locatelli reiterated that the vaccine is safe and can be given to anyone over the age of 18. He said there was no reason why people under the age of 60 who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should not also take the second dose. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that a particular combination of unusual blood clots with low blood platelet counts should be listed as a side effect of the vaccine, but stopped short of recommending its use be limited. 

Canada's Ontario province issues stay-at-home order as hospitalizations spike 

The province of Ontario, which includes Canada’s largest city Toronto, will be under a stay-at-home order for at least four weeks beginning Thursday as a third wave of the pandemic threatens to overwhelm hospitals. 

“To boil it down as simple as possible, folks please, unless it’s for an essential reason, please stay home because the situation is extremely serious right now,“ Doug Ford, Ontario’s Premier, said during a news conference today. “What we do before we start achieving mass immunization will be the difference between life and death for thousands of people,” he added. 

Hospital admissions in Ontario increased by 20% in the last day alone and intensive care occupancy has already set a pandemic record this week, as the healthcare system relies on surge capacity and patient transfers to keep up with Covid-19 patients. 

“The hospitalizations happening as a result of these variants are taking over our hospitals,” Christine Elliott, Ontario’s health minister, said. 

Non-essential retail stores including malls will close to in-person shopping with only grocery stores, pharmacies and garden centers open to the public. Restaurant dining rooms, personal care services, and gyms were already closed across the province. 

Toronto and the adjacent region of Peel moved student to virtual learning earlier this week just ahead of a previously scheduled spring break. The Ford government says its priority is to keep schools open throughout the province.

Ford also imposed the province’s third state of emergency since the pandemic began, although healthcare experts, including the province’s hospital and medical associations have been calling for more restrictions for at least two weeks saying current measures were “not enough.”  

While vaccine doses have been scarce in Canada, the rollout is ramping up now with Ontario saying it had set a record for vaccinations Tuesday, administering more than 100,000 doses.

Ford said the province will begin deploying mobile vaccination teams throughout communities in hotspots like Toronto, including providing vaccines to teachers and other education workers beginning next week. 

Outside of Canada’s Atlantic provinces: the third wave of the pandemic is straining hospitals throughout most of the country. 

“While COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those aged 20 to 39 years of age. As well, we are seeing an increased number of adults, under the age of 60 years being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including in intensive care units,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a statement released Wednesday. 

Dr. Tam also underscored the threat of new variants spreading and leading to more infections and severe illness.

“Although B.1.1.7 continues to account for the majority of variants of concern in Canada and has likely replaced the original virus in some areas, there has been a concerning rise in P.1 cases in recent weeks. Early evidence suggests that the P.1 variant may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making it even more important to control its spread,” her statement said. 

Turkey hits record number of Covid-19 deaths in one day

Turkey reported at least 276 new deaths over the last 24 hours, the highest number of deaths in one day since the start of the pandemic, according to Turkish health ministry data released on Wednesday.  

The health ministry reported at least 54,740 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours— also a record high in daily cases since the start of the pandemic.

The total number fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic is at least 32,943.

Turkey has reimposed weekend curfews in most cities and announced plans for further restrictions such as a ban on indoor dining during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan set to begin on April 13. 

The country has recorded at least 3,633,925 Covid-19 cases since the health ministry reported the first case on March 11.

Here's how many fourth- and eighth-graders are attending full in-person school

Mirna Sanchez walks down the halls stocked with a sanitizing station and social distancing markers during the first day of partial in-person instruction at Garfield Elementary School in Oakland, California, on Tuesday, March 30. Garfield Elementary School partially re-opened for students in grades kindergarten through second grade on Tuesday, March 30.

The nation’s school districts are making strides in their efforts to reopen, but new data shows that many more students are still learning fully remotely than fully in-person. 

Just 39% of fourth-graders are attending full-time in-person school and just 29% of eighth-graders, according to data released on Wednesday from the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The data comes from a nationwide survey of school districts, looking at Grade 4 and Grade 8, assessing mode of instruction available, what proportion of students are using each method, a breakdown of instruction method by race, attendance rates, as well as what percentage of teachers have received a Covid-19 vaccine.

About three-quarters of US public schools are open for full time in-person or hybrid learning, but this new data shows that the percentage of students actually attending in-person is still the minority.

Here are some more key findings of the study:

  • For the mode of instruction available to fourth-graders, 51% of schools were open for full-time in-person, and 32% were open for hybrid. 82% of all schools surveyed offered a remote learning program. 
  • The survey said for the month of February 2021, 39% of fourth-graders were attending full in-person, 18% attended hybrid, and 42% were fully remote.
  • For the mode of instruction available to eighth-graders, 46% of schools were open for full-time in-person and 38% were open for hybrid. 78% of schools offered fully remote for those students who chose it.
  • Among eighth-graders, just 29% were attending full in-person, 24% attended hybrid, and 45% were fully remote.

“This is encouraging early data, covering the month of February, and shows progress toward the President’s goal to have K through 8th grade schools open five days a week,” said Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response at Wednesday’s Covid-19 Response Team briefing.

Regionally, the NAEP’s data shows that more districts in the South and Midwest are open for full in-person instruction than those in the Northeast and West.

“These survey results show we are moving in the right direction,” Mark Schneider, the director of IES, the research, statistics, and evaluation arm of the US Department of Education. “There was a decrease in enrollment in remote-only learning and an increase in hybrid instruction at grade 8, providing evidence that more students are walking through school doors again.”

The data also shows the racial divide in students who are attending in-person. “More than half of Black, Hispanic, and Asian fourth-graders learn fully remotely, while nearly half of White fourth-graders learned full-time in-person, in school,” according to the study.

“Although White students continue to enroll in full-time in-person instruction at higher rates, we are beginning to see shifts toward full-time in-person learning for other groups,” said Peggy G. Carr, associate commissioner of the assessment division at NCES. “The percentages of Black students at both grades four and eight enrolled in full-time in-person instruction increased between January and February, and more children with disabilities at grade eight also enrolled for in-person full-time learning.”

The data was collected between March 17 and March 30 with 2,200 schools reporting on fourth-grade, and 2,100 schools reporting on eighth-grade. The next update will be in May.

WHO: Link between AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clot risk is "plausible" but rare

The World Health Organization said it was “plausible” there was a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare cases of blood clots.

Having reviewed the latest information from the EU and UK regulators among others, the WHO said “a causal relationship between the vaccine and the occurrence of blood clots with low platelets is considered plausible but is not confirmed.”

In a statement Wednesday, the WHO reiterated that:

“whilst concerning, the events under assessment are very rare, with low numbers reported among the almost 200 million individuals” who have received the vaccine worldwide.

Earlier Wednesday, the European and British medicines regulators announced a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare cases of blood clots, with the UK announcing it would offer under 30s an alternative vaccine.

Brazil records deadliest day of pandemic as president continues to refuse nationwide safety measures

Cemetery workers wearing protective gear lower the coffin of a person who died from complications related to COVID-19 into a gravesite at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, April 7.

Brazil continues to mark grim milestones in its fight against coronavirus, as the country saw its deadliest day on Tuesday since the start of the pandemic, with a record 4,195 new deaths. 

The month of March was also the deadliest month for the country since the start of pandemic, with at least 66,573 recorded deaths.

With nearly 337,000 total deaths, and total cases surpassing 13 million, Brazil is second only to the US in terms of cases.

It also accounted for approximately one third, about 28%, of the total global deaths since March 21, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

Intensive care unit occupancy rates in almost all states are at or above 80%, according to local authorities. Yet, only 2.42% of the total population in Brazil has been fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, a coronavirus skeptic since the start of the pandemic, continues to refuse to implement nationwide safety measures. On Wednesday, the day after Brazil reported the record death toll, Bolsonaro again criticized the adoption of restrictive measures to halt the spread of Covid-19 in Brazil and said there won’t be a national lockdown. 

“We will look for alternatives, we will not accept the ‘stay at home’ policy to close everything, to lockdown. The virus will not go away. This virus, like others, is here to stay, and will stay for a lifetime. It is practically impossible to eradicate it,” he said.

Bolsonaro on Tuesday dismissed accusations of being “genocidal” for not taking proper measures to address the crisis. “What am I not blamed for here in Brazil?” he said.

A new report by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) released on Tuesday says that only a national lockdown with a minimum duration of two weeks could curb the rapid spread of coronavirus cases across the country. 

“Lockdown measures are a bitter remedy, but they are absolutely necessary in times of crisis and collapse of the health system like the one the country is experiencing now. Only this will prevent more deaths and effectively save lives,” says the Fiocruz report.

UK government says AstraZeneca vaccine is "safe" and encourages people to get their second dose

The UK government said Wednesday that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine “is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives” and people who have received a first dose of the vaccine should receive a second dose from the same brand.

Earlier Wednesday, the European and British medicines regulators announced a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare cases of blood clots, with the UK announcing it would offer people under 30 an alternative vaccine.

“As the MHRA – the UK’s independent regulator – and the JCVI have said, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.

“Everybody who has already had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should receive a second dose of the same brand, irrespective of age, except for the very small number of people who experienced blood clots with low platelet counts from their first vaccination,” the spokesperson added.

“The government will follow today’s updated advice, which sets out that, as a precaution, it is preferable for people under the age of 30 with no underlying health conditions to be offered an alternative vaccine where possible once they are eligible.”

CDC director believes decreasing number of daily US Covid-19 deaths is "an impact of vaccination"

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky speaks during a White House coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, April 7.

In response to a question about when the United States can reopen more broadly, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outlined the conditions she believes are needed to reach that point alongside the vaccination of the population.

“In the context of vaccination, we still need to have our case counts be really low to stop circulating virus, to stop the emergence of variants, to stop hospitalizations, and ultimately to stop deaths,” she said.

“I’m really encouraged about these decreased numbers of deaths that I believe to be an impact of vaccination, especially the vaccination of our elderly communities,” Walensky said at a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing. But, she added, current case counts are “way too high to be thinking that we’ve won this race.”

According to the latest CDC data, 19% of the total US population is now fully vaccinated, with 56% of people age 65 and older are fully vaccinated.

The US is currently averaging 785 daily deaths over the last seven days – down 21% since last week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The country is now averaging 64,766 daily cases over the last seven days – down 3% since last week.

“What we will almost certainly see, as we get more and more proportion of the population vaccinated, is that those case count numbers will come down,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the White House briefing. “But we would not recommend doing anything different until we get well below the level where we are right now.”

Study: Pandemic stay-at-home orders caused increased well-being risk to US Black and Hispanic communities

The decrease in personal mobility caused by Covid-19 stay-at-home orders was connected to increased well-being risks, particularly in Black and Hispanic communities, new data published Tuesday show. 

For every 10% reduction in mobility through implemented Covid-19 measure, the odds of an individual experiencing unemployment, food insufficiency, mental health problems, and class cancellations increased, according to the research published in the JAMA Network Open. 

Researchers collected data using the Household Pulse Survey, and participants self-reported their experience of different well-being factors in relation to the pandemic. Over one million respondents participated in the study. 

When compared to the risk experienced by high-income White men, low-income Black people faced the greatest risk of these adverse outcomes. Hispanic people and low-income women across all ethnicities also had a higher risk. 

Low-income people overall were at the greatest risk of experiencing all well-being risks, while low-income Black people were at the greatest risk of experiencing almost any of the adverse outcomes. 

Researchers also looked at the risk of defaulting on rent or mortgage, and of inaccessible medical care.

Overall risk of these outcomes did not show the sharp increase observed in other outcomes, but low-income, non-Hispanic White women did experience the largest risk of inaccessible medical care when compared to other groups.

Go There: CNN reports from Los Angeles as California plans to fully reopen in June

California, the first state to implement a mandatory lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic, said it plans to fully reopen activities and businesses beginning June 15.

Falling infection rates, low hospitalizations and rising vaccinations are reasons this can be done, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said.

California’s mask mandate, however, would remain in place, at least “in the short run,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam is in Los Angeles with the latest.



UK regulator says under-30s should be offered alternative to AstraZeneca vaccine where available

Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that adults below 30 years of age should be offered an alternative Covid-19 vaccine in preference to an AstraZeneca one.

“Adults aged 18-29 who do not have an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk from serious Covid-19 disease, should be offered an alternative Covid-19 vaccine in preference to an AstraZeneca vaccine where such an alternative vaccine is available,” the Chair of the JCVI said at a briefing on Wednesday.

Here’s why: This comes after a review by Britain’s drug regulator Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed there is a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and “very rare cases of blood clots,” maintaining the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.

“The evidence is firming up and our review has concluded that, while it’s a strong possibility, more work is needed to establish beyond all doubt that the vaccine has caused these side effects,” Chief Executive of the MHRA, Dr June Raine, said at a briefing Wednesday.

“Based on the current evidence, the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca, against Covid-19 and its associated risks, hospitalization and death, continues to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.” 

Raine explained that the MHRA had detected 79 cases out of more than 20 million doses administered in the UK up until March 30. 

Of those 79 cases, 19 people died and among those, three were under 30s.

“The balance of benefits and risks is very favourable for older people but it is more finely balanced for the younger people,” Raine said. “We at the MHRA are advising that this evolving evidence should be taken into account, when considering how the vaccine is used.”

For the under 30s: Despite advising that an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine be offered to adults aged 18-29, Britain’s JCVI did say that those who have already received the first jab, should receive the second one. 

JCVI Chair Wei Shen Lim said people on the limit of the age recommendation should make “their own decision” about vaccination. 

“For somebody who’s 31 and 32, I think they have to make their own decision as to what they want to do about vaccination,” he said. “We would still say that the balance is in favour of being vaccinated because of the risks from Covid-19 and the protection that the vaccine offers.”

UK variant is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the US, CDC director says

A healthcare worker places a vial containing a Covid-19 test swab into a box at a testing site in San Francisco, California, on January 9.

The coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom is now the most common strain of coronavirus in the United States, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.

“Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States,” Walensky said at the White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing.

Asked for clarity by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Walensky said, “It is the most common lineage, period. So there are many different lineages. Of the many different potential variants, there are several different kinds – of sort of wild type variants – and this is, in fact, the most common lineage right now.”

Studies have suggested that the UK variant is more contagious than the original strain, and is possibly more dangerous associated with a higher risk of death.

There are currently 16,275 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in the United States, identified in 52 states/jurisdictions, according to the CDC.

White House expanding US community health center vaccinations to "advance equitable distribution" of shots

The White House announced that it is expanding vaccinations at community health centers across the country, a move aimed at advancing the distribution of vaccines more equitably.

“To help meet our goal of ensuring Americans have a vaccine site within five miles of where they live and to advance equitable distribution of the vaccine, we’re announcing today that we’re expanding our Community Health Center vaccine program, so that the nearly 1,400 community health Centers can sign up to receive and administer doses to their patients,” White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said at Wednesday’s briefing.

This is an increase from the 950 community health centers currently distributing vaccines, which the administration announced during the March 26 Covid briefing.

Slavitt added, “Many community health centers are located in underserved communities, and serve patients that are predominantly either uninsured or underinsured.”

The administration has been directly sending vaccines to community health centers to get vaccines to hard-to-reach communities since earlier this year.

EU regulator: AstraZeneca vaccine benefits outweigh risks and specific risk factors have not confirmed

A medical worker prepares to administer a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Belgrade, Serbia, on March 23.

The European Medicines Agency’s safety committee – known as PRAC – “has confirmed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 overall outweigh the risk of side effects,” EMA’s Executive Director Emer Cooke said Wednesday at a news conference in Amsterdam.  

“Based on the current available evidence, specific risk factors – such as age, gender or previous medical history” – have not been confirmed as cases are seen in all ages, including men and women, Cooke added.

EU regulator finds "possible link" between AstraZeneca vaccine and "very rare" blood clot cases

A nurse prepares a vial of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine at a doctor's office in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said Wednesday that there was a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and “very rare cases of blood clots” but said the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.

“EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) has concluded today that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria (formerly COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca),” the statement said.

“In reaching its conclusion, the committee took into consideration all currently available evidence, including the advice from an ad hoc expert group,” it added.

It continued:

“EMA is reminding healthcare professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within 2 weeks of vaccination. So far, most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within 2 weeks of vaccination. Based on the currently available evidence, specific risk factors have not been confirmed.”
“People who have received the vaccine should seek medical assistance immediately if they develop symptoms of this combination of blood clots and low blood platelets.”
“The PRAC noted that the blood clots occurred in veins in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, CVST) and the abdomen (splanchnic vein thrombosis) and in arteries, together with low levels of blood platelets and sometimes bleeding.”
“The Committee carried out an in-depth review of 62 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and 24 cases of splanchnic vein thrombosis reported in the EU drug safety database (EudraVigilance) as of 22 March 2021, 18 of which were fatal.1 The cases came mainly from spontaneous reporting systems of the EEA and the UK, where around 25 million people had received the vaccine.”

Experts warn the pandemic is not over despite ramp up of vaccinations. Here's the latest US Covid-19 news.

A White House official said on Wednesday that the US will be approaching having nearly half of all adults with their first shot of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of this weekend.

This comes after White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response Andy Slavitt gave an ambitious timeline to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday night.

“We’re on track that by the weekend, half the adults in the country will have had their first shot,” Slavitt said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 41.7% of the population over 18 has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Slavitt warned that “100 million-plus adults still haven’t been vaccinated.” 

“They’re not there yet, and you don’t win the war until you bring everybody over with you,” he added.

President Biden, meanwhile, has moved the deadline for all US adults to be eligible for Covid vaccine to April 19. Speaking at the White House yesterday, Biden said that 150 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered within his first 75 days in office, in line with a stated goal of 200 million shots by his 100th day in office.

Despite those improvements and positive vaccine numbers, the US has a long way to go before reaching herd immunity. Dr. Anthony Fauci has estimated 70-85% of the population needs to become immune. And the pace for vaccinating all willing adults varies greatly among states, according to a CNN analysis of federal data.

And though health experts caution the battle against Covid-19 is not yet won, many states have already reopened and others are planning to soon as well.

California plans to fully reopen activities and businesses beginning June 15, as infection rates are failing, hospitalizations are low and vaccinations rising in the state. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott laid out a 90 day reopening plan leading up to July 4. Officials anticipate roughly 70% of Vermont residents will have received at least one vaccine dose by that time.

Meanwhile, the daily rate of new cases has been on the rise over the last four weeks as highly transmissible variants like B.1.1.7. have spread, according to the CDC. In the past week, five states have accounted for about 44% of new Covid-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

There were about 453,000 new cases in the country in the past seven days, New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey reported nearly 198,000 of those cases.

Director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota Michael Osterholm said that although the states are vaccinating quickly, enough people still haven’t been vaccinated to outpace the spread.

What will life looks life following vaccination? Experts and officials are debating how to monitor vaccinations once life in the US regains a sense of normalcy.

Read more:

Volunteers screen people at a COVID-19 testing clinic on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Port Huron.

Half of US adults could have a Covid-19 vaccine dose by the weekend, but experts say it's too soon to declare victory

CDC’s ensemble forecast predicts slight slowing of US Covid-19 death rate over next 3 and a half weeks

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 568,000 to 588,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by May 1.

This represents a slight slowing of the death rate over the next three and a half weeks.

The previous ensemble forecast, published March 31, projected up to 585,000 coronavirus deaths by April 24.

At least 556,548 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Fauci expects some local businesses and institutions will implement vaccine requirements

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

While vaccine requirements won’t come from federal government mandates, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he would be very surprised if there weren’t local level requirements. 

“I don’t think I could come out and officially say I support it because that’s going to be taken, I think, out of context in some cases,” Fauci said, asked by CBS’s Tony Dokoupil if, from a public health perspective, he supported vaccine requirements for businesses and organizations.

“I can tell you one thing, that there are almost certainly going to be what you just predicted, namely that there are going to be organizations – they could be universities, they could be commercial organizations – which are going to do just what you indicated. They’re going to say we’re not going to have you come in, unless you get vaccinated,” he added.

Fauci made clear that, “You’re not going to see that from a federal government mandate,” but said he would be “surprised if we did not see that at the local level.” 

White House clarifies official meant US will be "approaching" half adults vaccinated by this weekend

A pharmacy technician fills syringes of Covid-19 vaccines at Whitney M. Young Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 2.

A White House official says that by the end of this weekend, the US will be approaching having nearly half of all adults with their first shot of the coronavirus vaccine.

That clarification comes after President Biden’s coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt gave an ambitious timeline to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday night.

“We’re on track that by the weekend, half the adults in the country will have had their first shot,” Slavitt said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 41.7% of the population over 18 has received at least one dose of vaccine.

German state of Bavaria will buy Sputnik vaccine

The wealthy German state of Bavaria is set to buy 2.5 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, as soon as it is approved by the European Union’s drug regulator, the state’s prime minister said on Wednesday. 

“If Sputnik is approved in Europe, then the Free State of Bavaria will receive additional vaccine doses – I think it’s 2.5 million vaccine doses – probably in July through this company [Illertissen] to increase the vaccine supplement capacity in Bavaria,” Bavaria Prime Minister Markus Söder told journalists after a meeting of the state council of ministers.

Illertissen is a vaccine producer based in Bavaria. The decision is in anticipation of a predicted shortfall in vaccine supplies expected in the coming months.