The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, April 15, 2021
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12:02 p.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Global health agency calls on Brazilian authorities to acknowledge severity of pandemic

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Employees of the Vila Formosa cemetery carry a coffin to bury a person who died of Covid-19 in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 2.
Employees of the Vila Formosa cemetery carry a coffin to bury a person who died of Covid-19 in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 2. Lincon Zarbietti/picture alliance/Getty Images

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called on Brazilian authorities to urgently acknowledge the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and put in place a central Covid-19 response and coordination system. 

“More than 12 months into Brazil’s Covid-19 emergency, there is still no effective, centralized and coordinated public health response to the outbreak,” the agency said in a news release Thursday.

“The lack of political will to adequately respond to the pandemic is killing Brazilians in their thousands. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is urgently calling on Brazilian authorities to acknowledge the severity of the crisis and to put in place a central COVID-19 response and coordination system to prevent further avoidable deaths.”

Brazilians accounted for 11% of global infections and 26.2% of global deaths last week, according to the release, adding on April 8, more than 4,000 deaths and more than 86,000 new cases were reported in a 24 hour period. MSF say that these “staggering figures” are evidence of failure of authorities to manage the crisis and protect Brazilians. 

“More than a year into this Covid pandemic, the failed response in Brazil has caused a humanitarian catastrophe,” said Dr. Christos Christou, international president of MSF during a news briefing, also on Thursday. 

Christou said that even with new record of deaths and infections each week and overflowing hospitals, there is still no coordinated, centralized response.

Health workers are exhausted, he said, and have been left alone to pick up the pieces of a failed government response and improvise solutions. He added that medical facilities are running low on essential medical supplies, and material needed to save lives. 

“I have to be very clear on this, the Brazilian authorities negligence is costing lives,” he said. “Public health messages have become associated with political messages, and as a doctor I cannot accept it.” 

He also said that science and evidence based medicine have been undermined, which is not just a problem of fake news and disinformation, but also a seeming lack of political will to control the pandemic. 

9:46 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

A second Covid-19 wave sweeps India as cases surge to record numbers

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Relatives of a person who died of Covid-19 are at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 14.
Relatives of a person who died of Covid-19 are at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 14. Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

India is currently experiencing its second wave of the pandemic as the number of Covid-19 cases in the country surpassed 14 million on Thursday. More than 200,000 new cases of coronavirus were reported — the highest single-day rise in cases since the start of the pandemic, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health.

The health ministry also reported 1,038 new deaths from the virus, bring the death toll to 173,123.

India's previous peak was in September when cases rose by more than 97,000.

Several regions have imposed strict curfews. India's capital, Delhi, imposed a weekend curfew along with a night curfew that will remain in place until April 30.

This comes despite the world's second most populous country — with nearly 1.4 billion people — rolling out a massive vaccination campaign. More than 114 million doses have been administered. The health ministry also announced it will fast-track emergency use authorization for vaccines approved in other countries to expand the vaccine availability.

8:47 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Michigan's largest health care provider sounds alarm that hospitals have hit critical capacity levels

From CNN's Miguel Marquez 

Michigan’s largest health care provider is sounding the alarm that hospitals and staff have hit critical capacity levels, and are pleading for residents to take immediate steps to help stop Covid-19 spread, according to a release. 

Within the Beaumont Health system, Covid-19 patients have jumped from 129 in late February to more than 800 patients, exceeding the volume from fall of the previous year, officials said in a release. Just two weeks ago there were about 500 patients in the system.

“Our COVID-19 numbers are climbing higher and faster and it’s very troubling and alarming to see this,” Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said in a release. 

To flatten the curve, he urges the same methodology used to fight the first two surges, and stresses the need for vaccination

“We cannot do this alone. We need everyone’s help immediately,” he said.

Metro Detroit area hospitals are at or nearing capacity, with most units 75% to 100% full, the release said, citing the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The patients are younger, and some are sicker “and in need of intense medical attention,” Dr. Nick Gilpin, Beaumont’s medical director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology, said

“Some younger patients also seem to be waiting longer to get care, thinking they can beat the virus. By the time they come to the hospital, we’re seeing intense illness with pneumonia, blood clots and severe lung injury. This trend does not seem to be slowing down.”

Beaumont Health reinstituted visitor restrictions, but it is also allowing non-Covid-19 patients one fully vaccinated visitor per day. Officials remind that the hospitals are safe to receive routine or emergency care outside of Covid-19 treatment. 

7:48 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to surge in Iran

From CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is pictured on April 13, during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Tehran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is pictured on April 13, during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Tehran. Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/AP

Iran's Ministry of Health reported 25,078 new Covid-19 cases Thursday, bringing the country's total case tally to 2,168,872.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said the country is experiencing a fourth wave of infection.

At least 4,601 patients remain hospitalized in ICUs across the country, a Ministry of Health spokeswoman, Sima Sadaat Lari, said in a press conference on state TV.

Iran has the most severe Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East, with the highest number of cases and deaths in the region.

Cases have surged following New Year festivities in late March.

The country has categorized 295 cities and towns with high case tallies as "red zones". These areas are in semi-lockdown and non-essential businesses are closed.

8:18 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

WHO: Europe surpasses one million Covid-19 deaths

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

A person takes a photo at the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, on March 22, where thousands of crosses have been drawn on the pavement to commemorate the first anniversary since the death of the first Czech coronavirus patient.
A person takes a photo at the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, on March 22, where thousands of crosses have been drawn on the pavement to commemorate the first anniversary since the death of the first Czech coronavirus patient. Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images

Europe has surpassed one million Covid-19 related deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. 

The grim milestone was passed last week, WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a press conference. 

Kluge warned that despite the progress of the European vaccine rollout the situation in the region remained "serious."

"1.6 million new cases are reported every week. That's 9500 every hour, 160 people every minute," he said.

The WHO Europe region is composed of 53 countries and includes non-EU states such as Turkey and Russia. 

Early signs of decline in some countries do not necessarily equate to "lower rates of transmission," Kluge cautioned.

The decline in incidence rates has been observed "only amongst the oldest" of people so far with hospitalization remaining "nonetheless at high levels" he added.

The WHO has continuously received reports of "intensive care capacity having been exceeded from all parts of the region" with Kluge pointing towards France where ICU admissions in April "reached the highest levels since last year."

Social measures in countries should be adjusted "based not on vaccination targets, but on the basis of epidemiology, and the ability of our health services and workforce to cope with Covid-19," Kluge said.

Correction: A previous version of this post attributed an incorrect quotation to Kluge. This has been corrected.

7:25 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Many Evangelicals say they won't be vaccinated. Some experts blame distrust and misinformation.

From CNN's Elle Reeve, Samantha Guff, Theresa Waldrop and Deborah Brunswick

At Pastor Tony Spell's Sunday sermon this week, he preached a different kind of message than usual to his congregants: Don't trust Covid-19 vaccines.

"I'll just tell you today, if being anti-mask and anti-vaccine is anti-government, then I'm proud to be anti-government," Spell, who has made a national name for himself protesting Covid-19 rules in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told Life Tabernacle Church congregants.

He goes on to falsely state: "If you have a 99.6% survival rate, why do you want somebody to contaminate your bloodstream with something that may or may not hurt you?"

Health experts in the US and beyond agree that Covid-19 vaccines continue to be safe and highly effective at preventing Covid-19 infection, which has killed more than 560,000 Americans and infected more than 31 million.

While 95% of Evangelical leaders who responded to a January survey from the National Association of Evangelicals said they would be open to getting a vaccine, Spell is adamantly against it. He's among the significant number of Evangelical Christians who have remained opposed to getting vaccinated for Covid-19.

The anti-Covid vaccine sentiment among Evangelicals is fed by a mixture of distrust in government, ignorance about how vaccines work, misinformation and political identity, some experts say.

Read more here:

 

6:58 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Beijing says more than 12 million residents have been vaccinated

From CNN’s Beijing bureau

People line up to be vaccinated against Covid-19 outside a residential compound in Beijing, on April 8.
People line up to be vaccinated against Covid-19 outside a residential compound in Beijing, on April 8. Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images

Beijing’s Health Commission said in a statement on Thursday that the city has vaccinated some 12.5 million people, more than half of its population.

The state-run Beijing Daily reported that among the 12.5 million who have been vaccinated, 7.54 million people have received the second dose of the vaccine and 4.96 million people have received their first dose.

“There are now more than 400 vaccination sites across Beijing and the city can administer more than 400,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines each day,” reported Beijing Daily.

To encourage vaccination the city has started using strategies such as vaccination trucks and free shuttle buses to increase the inoculation rate.

As well as encouraging domestic vaccination, China has positioned itself as a leader in Covid-19 vaccine development and distribution.

The country has promoted and supplied shots to countries all over the globe, including Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Turkey and Brazil. The relatively low efficacy rate of Chinese vaccines, however, could hamper credibility and dent Beijing's so-called vaccine diplomacy.

 

9:34 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Fauci: US is facing a pause, not a cancellation, of the J&J vaccine

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US's top infectious disease expert, says the recommended pause on the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is just that: a pause -- and not a cancellation -- and will likely last days to weeks.

I doubt very seriously if we're talking about weeks to months," he told CNN on Wednesday.

And that pause, he added, should help underscore and confirm "how seriously we take safety even though it's a rare event."

"If anybody's got a doubt that 'Oh, they may not be taking safety very seriously,' I think this is an affirmation that safety is a primary consideration when it comes to the (Food and Drug Administration) and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That's why it was done," Fauci added.

The two agencies recommended Tuesday that the country pause the use of the J&J vaccine over six reported US cases of a "rare and severe" type of blood clot, among more than 6.8 million Americans who got the shot.

A day later, advisers to the CDC put off making any decision about recommendations for the vaccine, with members of the group saying they need more information.

Read more here:

Hear from Dr. Fauci on CNN:

 

6:15 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

Hong Kong expands Covid-19 vaccinations to under 30s

From CNN’s Sophie Jeong in Hong Kong

People queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Center in Hong Kong, on April 5.
People queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Center in Hong Kong, on April 5. Zhang Wei/China News Service/Getty Images

Hong Kong is expanding its Covid-19 vaccination program to include residents aged 16 to 30, with bookings starting from April 23, the government announced on Thursday, according to public broadcaster RTHK.

Residents aged 16 and above will be able to receive the BioNTech vaccine, while the Sinovac jab will only be available for people aged 18 and above, RTHK reported. Those under 18 will be required to show a parental consent form.

The lowering of the age requirements means another 1.08 million people will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine, and the program will cover 88% of the city's population, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said, according to RTHK.

Nip also announced that vaccination centers offering BioNTech jabs will cease operating at the end of September, RTHK reported.

People who wish to receive the BioNTech vaccine must get their first dose by the end of August.

About 318,700 people have been fully vaccinated in Hong Kong as of Wednesday evening, according to government statistics.