Widespread COVID-19 vaccinations not expected until mid-2021, WHO says

Widespread COVID-19 vaccinations not expected until mid-2021, WHO says

The latest:

  • WHO does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until middle of next year.
  • Members named to panel probing WHO’s pandemic response.
  • Canada added 246,000 jobs in August, but employment still 1 million short of pre-pandemic level.
  • Australian PM pitches travel bubble with New Zealand to help revive economy.
  • South Korean doctors split over strike deal amid new wave of coronavirus infections.
  • Ontario judge rules mother can send son back to school over father’s objections about COVID-19.
  • Indiana University sees ‘alarming’ spike in COVID-19 at frat, sorority houses.
  • Ex-Italian premier Berlusconi in hospital with early-stage lung infection after positive coronavirus test, doctor says.

The World Health Organization does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until the middle of next year, a spokesperson said on Friday, stressing the importance of rigorous checks on their effectiveness and safety.

None of the candidate vaccines in advanced clinical trials so far has demonstrated a “clear signal” of efficacy at the level of at least 50 per cent sought by WHO, spokesperson Margaret Harris said.

Russia granted regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine in August after less than two months of human testing, prompting some Western experts to question its safety and efficacy.

A scientist works last month at the mAbxience biosimilar monoclonal antibody laboratory plant in Garin, Buenos Aires province, Argentina, where an experimental coronavirus vaccine will be produced for Latin America. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. public health officials and Pfizer Inc. said on Thursday a vaccine could be ready for distribution as soon as late October. That would be just ahead of the U.S. election on Nov. 3 in which the pandemic is likely to be a major factor among voters deciding whether President Donald Trump wins a second term.

“We are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” Harris told a UN briefing in Geneva.

“This Phase 3 must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is, and we also need to see how safe it is.”

This referred to the phase in vaccine research where large clinical trials among people are conducted. Harris did not refer to any specific vaccine candidate.

All data from trials must be shared and compared, Harris said.

WATCH | Infectious diseases specialist cautions against rushing vaccine development:

A coronavirus vaccine could be in circulation by mid-2021, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam, but he cautions against rushing the testing process. 1:29

WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance are leading a global vaccine allocation plan known as COVAX, which aims to help buy and distribute shots fairly. The focus is on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country such as health-care workers.

COVAX aims to procure and deliver two billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021, but some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, have said they will not join.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that “vaccine nationalism” would only slow the effort to quash the pandemic and called for vaccines to be used fairly and effectively.

A total of 170 countries have now joined COVAX. Ghebreyesus urged others to join by the Sept. 18 deadline for binding commitments.

Meanwhile, an independent panel appointed by WHO to review its co-ordination of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will have full access to any internal UN agency documents, materials and emails necessary, the panel said Thursday as it began the probe.

The panel’s co-chairs are former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.

The 11 others, announced during a media briefing, include Dr. Joanne Liu, who was an outspoken WHO critic during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese doctor who was the first to publicly confirm human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 4 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 130,839 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 115,718 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,180.

Canada’s economy added 246,000 jobs in August, a figure that pushed the jobless rate down 0.7 percentage points to 10.2 per cent.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that most of the new jobs recorded in the month were full-time work. The figure was in line with what economists had been expecting.

August’s number brings the four-month total of new jobs to almost two million since May. But because of the plunge in March and April, Canada still has 1.1 million fewer paid workers than it did in February, before COVID-19 hit.

Meanwhile, in a precedent-setting ruling, an Ontario Superior Court judge has sided with a parent who wants her son to return to school over the objections of the child’s father, who insisted the child take his classes online during the pandemic.

Justice Andrea Himel heard motions related to the case dubbed Chase vs. Chase in the Newmarket Courthouse north of Toronto in mid-August and ruled in favour of the mother last week.

The ruling, the first of its kind in Ontario since the pandemic began, comes as family lawyers tell CBC News that many estranged couples are bringing up the question of who decides whether their kids go back to school or distance learn. They say that threatens to tax a family court system already under strain due to delays caused by COVID-19.

WATCH | Doctors answer your back-to-school questions:

Doctors answer viewer questions about staying safe when returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, including how often masks should be changed during the day and how to improve classroom ventilation. 10:40

In this case, the nine-year-old boy’s mom argued that a return to in-class learning will be more successful and productive for him as isolation at home has been difficult for him socially.

But while the father agreed that attending school in person is preferable academically, socially, physically and psychologically, he argued that during the pandemic the health risks are significant.

He also told the court he worries about the impact of wearing a mask at school, as his son is in French immersion, and it would be harder for him to communicate clearly.

In her ruling, Himel said that no one in either household has any underlying medical conditions that make any of them particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of COVID-19 and that the province’s “decision to reopen the schools was made with the benefit of medical expert advisers and in consultation with Ontario school boards.”

WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam’s advice on indoor fall gatherings:

Canada’s chief public health officer spoke with reporters Friday on Parliament Hill. 1:56

For the first time, Transport Canada has fined two airline passengers for refusing to wear face masks on board.

The department says the travellers were fined $1,000 each after ignoring repeated directions from cabin crew to put on their face coverings.

The first incident occurred on a WestJet flight from Calgary to Waterloo, Ont., in June and the second, on a WestJet trip from Vancouver to Calgary in July.

Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on flights since April 20.

The announcement comes three days after WestJet announced a strict new policy to ensure passengers wear face coverings, with consequences for non-compliance that include a yearlong travel ban.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 26.4 million. More than 870,000 people have died while 17.5 million have recovered.

In the United States, Indiana University at Bloomington on Thursday urged students living in fraternity and sorority houses to move out, citing an “alarming” rate of positive COVID-19 tests that marked the latest outbreak in the U.S. Midwest and at a college campus.

The university said on Twitter that positive tests for coronavirus were exceeding 50 per cent in some Greek houses, higher than in dorms, and it told fraternity and sorority members to “re-evaluate their current living situation.”

New coronavirus infections have fallen nationwide for six weeks in a row, while in the Midwest, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting the highest percentage of positive tests, over 20 per cent in each state.

Italy’s former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who tested positive this week for the coronavirus, is in hospital in Milan with an early-stage lung infection, his personal doctor said.

Alberto Zangrillo, who is also on staff at San Raffaele hospital, said the 83-year-old is breathing on his own.

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, 83, was taken to Milan’s San Raffaele hospital on Thursday evening, two days after his Forza Italia party announced he had coronavirus. (Damir Sencar/AFP/Getty Images)

Zangrillo said test results “makes us optimistic” for his recovery over the next “hours and days.” He said that after examining Berlusconi at home a day earlier, he decided on hospitalization after detecting “bland pulmonary involvement.”

Berlusconi, who has a pacemaker, is expected to be hospitalized for a “few days,” according to Zangrillo.

COVID-19 has forced 12 schools in mainland France to close, but the rest of the almost 60,000 opened as planned at the start of the academic year, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Friday, as coronavirus cases across the country surge.

“It has been a rather good week even though there are always some glitches. Over 12 million pupils returned to school in spite of the difficulties and the worries,” he told Europe 1 radio. The French school year began on Tuesday.

WATCH | French parents anxious about work and school amid pandemic:

A French parent expresses frustration at trying to plan around work when COVID-19 might force some schools to close. 0:22

Blanquer said a further 10 schools were closed for the same reason on La Reunion, an island off Madagascar administered by France.

South Korea’s top medical body faced a rift on Friday after trainee doctors rejected a deal by its leader to end a two-week-old strike, although the government backed down from reform plans aimed at averting future epidemics.

Some of the trainees vowed to continue the walkout by about 16,000 interns and resident doctors to oppose the government measures, such as increasing the number of doctors and building public medical schools, among others.

The strike has hindered efforts to dampen a new wave of coronavirus infections, with 198 new cases on Thursday taking the nation’s tally to 20,842, with 331 deaths, while a surge in critical cases led to a dearth of hospital beds.

‘Palace guard’ members wearing face masks stand for tourists at the main gate of Deoksugung Palace in Seoul on Friday. South Korea has ordered another week of physical distancing curbs for the region around the capital. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

The government says its initiative could help tackle similar crises in future, but the doctors say it would merely swell their numbers in cities, without improving medical services and work conditions in rural provinces.

Also on Friday, South Korea ordered another week of physical distancing curbs for the region around the capital, Seoul, until Sept. 13. Though Thursday’s daily caseload fell below 200 for the first time in more than two weeks, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said tougher distancing rules imposed last week needed more time to show results.

Spain is close to reaching half a million coronavirus cases on Friday after authorities registered 4,503 new infections, bringing the total to 498,989.

With schools due to restart next week and many adults returning to work, the latest surge in coronavirus cases has sparked concern and some confusion.

“In Madrid everybody wears a face mask. We maintain social distance. There are no night clubs. So I don’t know what the problem is,” teacher Maribel Cimas told Reuters.

“What are we doing worse than the rest of Europe?”

The Madrid region, which accounts for just below a third of the 101,962 cases diagnosed in the past two weeks, announced it would impose tighter restrictions starting Monday, extending a national 10-person limit on public gatherings to cover private parties as well.

An employee stands next to paintings at the Prado museum, in Madrid on June 6. The Madrid region announced it would impose tighter restrictions starting Monday after a recent surge of coronavirus cases. (Juan Medina/Reuters)

At a national level, Health Minister Salvador Illa urged people to respect rules to curb transmission and announced Spain would launch a nationwide antibody study this fall to determine the prevalence of the virus among the population.

A previous study that concluded in July showed around five per cent of Spaniards had been exposed to the virus, and despite the recent peaks, total confirmed cases are still not far off that mark.

Cuba welcomed on Friday the first planeload of tourists in months, as the island begins to relax restrictions in certain areas.

The arrival was seen as a hopeful sign for tens of thousands of laid-off leisure industry employees, small businesses and hard-pressed residents in general.

An Air Canada plane arrived at midday at the Cayo-Coco airport on the northcentral coast. Air Canada Vacations, the airline’s tour business, said it would now fly weekly to Cuba and biweekly beginning next month.

Cuba closed its airports in March due to the pandemic. While some hotels are open under international sanitary regulations at resorts in isolated areas such as Cayo-Coco, there is no indication when Havana and other cities might allow foreign visitors to return.

The country has reported nearly 4,300 COVID-19 cases to date and 100 deaths.

Canada has long been Cuba’s most important tourist provider, accounting for 1.1 million of the 4.2 million arrivals in 2019, according to the government.

People ride in a vintage taxi amid the pandemic in downtown Havana on Aug. 8. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

In India, the number of people infected with the coronavirus rose by another 80,000 and is near Brazil’s total, the second-highest in the world.

The 83,341 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India’s total past 3.9 million, according to the Health Ministry. Brazil has confirmed more than four million infections while the U.S. has more 6.1 million people infected, according to Johns Hopkins University. India added nearly two million coronavirus cases in August alone.

India’s Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,096 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 68,472.

Residents stand in a queue to register their names as a health worker collects a swab sample from a woman to test for the coronavirus at a primary health centre in Hyderabad, India, on Friday. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

Justifying lifting of lockdown restrictions while infections are surging, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the testing capacity has been ramped up and safety procedures put in place.

“While lives are important, livelihoods are equally important,” Bhushan said.

Australia’s Victoria state reported a record 59 deaths on Friday, the highest ever daily total for the country, including previously unrecorded fatalities in aged care homes over the past several weeks.

An outbreak in the city of Melbourne has raced through dozens of aged-care homes, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Australia’s total number of virus deaths now stands at 737.

WATCH | Australia’s Morrison seeks travel bubble with New Zealand:

With the Australian economy now in recession, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is trying to negotiate a travel bubble with New Zealand as a way to boost tourism. 1:15

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country would look to bring more Australians home, raising the cap from 4,000 a week, and suggested an eventual travel bubble with New Zealand would boost tourism and help revive the economy, which has fallen into recession for the first time since 1991.

The strict lockdown has led to calls for protests this weekend, which police have aggressively tried to shut down. Video footage of police seeking to detain a woman and a man for inciting people to protest have gone viral on social media.

Neighbouring New Zealand reported its first death from the coronavirus in more than three months on Friday. Health authorities said a man in his 50s died at an Auckland hospital where he was being treated for the virus following a small outbreak in the city that began last month.

People wait for a bus in Auckland earlier this week. Face coverings are compulsory for all New Zealanders over the age of 12 on public transport or planes under current alert level restrictions in place across the country. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday current restrictions to beat the spread of the coronavirus would be in place until at least mid-September.

Auckland, the country’s largest city, will remain on alert level 2.5 that limits gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Published at Fri, 04 Sep 2020 12:35:22 +0000