UK authorizes Moderna virus vaccine for use in adolescents

In this file photo dated April 12, 2021, customers drink outside the Gregorian Pub in London as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were further eased.
(TONY HICKS/AP)

PARIS / ADDIS ABABA / ACCRA / KAMPALA / RABAT / HAVANA / SANTIAGO / SAO PAULO / MEXICO CITY / BERLIN / WASHINGTON – The UK's health regulator has approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 17 years, it said on Tuesday, weeks after Pfizer's shot was given the green light for deployment ahead of schools reopening.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed the vaccine, known as Spikevax, is safe and effective in this age group, it said.

While most children develop mild or no symptoms with COVID-19, they are still able to spread the virus and some remain at risk of becoming seriously ill.

Moderna's vaccine was recommended for use in adolescents by European regulators in July and is awaiting US authorization. It is already approved for people over the age of 18 in the UK.

Africa

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 7,286,927 as of Monday afternoon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The Africa CDC, the specialized healthcare agency of the African Union, said the death toll from the pandemic stands at 183,763.

A health worker gives a resident a COVID-19 test on the first day of a three-day vaccination campaign for people over age 35 in the Complexo da Maré favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 29, 2021. (BRUNA PRADO / AP)

Brazil

Brazil registered 434 more COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising its national death toll to 569,492, the health ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said that the total caseload rose to 20,378,570 after 14,471 new cases were detected.

Chile

Chile reported on Monday 754 new COVID-19 infections and 40 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to 1,629,932 cases and 36,420 deaths

Cuba

Cuba registered on Monday 9,169 new COVID-19 infections and 65 more deaths in the last day, for an accumulated total of 526,837 cases and 4,088 deaths.

National director of hygiene and epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health Francisco Duran said, "All provinces reported a positivity rate above 10 percent, except Havana, which was 9 (percent)."

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 688 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 289,962 as of Monday evening, the country's Ministry of Health said.

The ministry reported 11 new COVID-19-induced deaths and 218 more recoveries during the same period, bringing the national death toll to 4,489 and total recoveries to 265,589.

Ethiopia, Africa's second-most populous nation, has so far reported the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the East Africa region.

A medical staff takes care of a COVID-19 patient at the intensive care unit of the hospital Les Abymes (Centre hospitalier universitaire) in Pointe-a-Pitre, on the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe, on Aug 6, 2021. (CEDRICK ISHAM CALVADOS / AFP)

France

Shopping malls in Paris and large parts of France had to ask customers to show a health pass on Monday, as the government increased pressure on people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

ALSO READ: Thousands protest against COVID-19 health pass in France

The requirement to show proof of vaccination or a negative test applies to all malls with a surface area of more than 20,000 square metres in regions where the COVID-19 incidence rate is higher than 200 cases per 100,000 citizens per week.

This will mainly affect retail centres in the south of the country – which has a higher incidence rate – but following a regional prefecture decision over the weekend, the measure will also apply to malls and department stores in Paris, including tourist magnets Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.

Separately, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital in France passed the 10,000 mark on Monday for the first time since June, as more restrictive measures were introduced in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

As of Monday, 10,151 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to French health authorities. The last time over 10,000 people were hospitalized with the virus in France was on June 22.

The number of patients in intensive care also increased to 1,908, compared with 1,852 on Sunday.

A pupil holds a coronavirus rapid test kit at the start of a lesson at an elementary school in Berlin on Aug 9, 2021. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP)

Germany

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 3,912 to 3,827,051, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The reported death toll rose by 28 to 91,899, the tally showed. 

Ghana

Ghana on Monday began a new round of COVID-19 vaccination with 177,700 single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines to be administered, said health authorities.

The vaccines that Ghana received under the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust initiative will target persons aged 18 years and above, excluding pregnant women, at selected health points, said the authorities.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 207.79 million while the global death toll topped 4.37 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

This combo photo shows the logos of GlaxoSmithKline and German biotech firm CureVac. (PHOTOS / AFP)

GSK and CureVac

GlaxoSmithKline and CureVac said a study on macaque monkeys showed their jointly-developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate to be "strongly improved" in protecting against the virus compared with CureVac's first attempt.

The encouraging news on its "second-generation" vaccine gave CureVac's German-listed shares an 8 percent lift, as the stock gradually recovers from a slump in June when the German biotech company's first vaccine candidate recorded a disappointing 48 percent efficacy in mass testing on humans.

The companies said on Monday that a blood analysis of the animals showed that the next-generation vaccine known as CV2CoV triggered virus-fighting antibodies as well as immune cells that target infected cells faster and in greater quantities than CureVac's first-generation vaccine candidate.

The surge in antibodies and immune cells was similar to that observed after a real infection with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, they said.

Higher antibody blood counts were observed across virus variants of concern, including the Beta, Delta and Lambda lineages, they added.

The results have yet to be peer-reviewed for publication in a medical journal.

Mexico

Mexico registered 7,172 new COVID-19 infections and 272 more deaths, health ministry data showed on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 3,108,438 and the death toll to 248,652.

ALSO READ: Vaccine hesitancy rises among Mexico's youth as Delta spreads

Few people walk in the Jemaa el-Fna square in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, on May 6, 2021, which has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis since its start due to the scarcity of tourism. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Morocco

Morocco reported on Monday 3,897 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 763,353.

The death toll rose to 11,119 with 102 new fatalities during the last 24 hours, according to a statement by the Ministry of Health.

Nigeria

Nigeria on Monday started the second phase of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program.

Over 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the United States through the COVAX facility will be rolled out in this second phase of vaccination, said Boss Mustapha, secretary of the government of the federation, at a launching ceremony in Abuja on Monday.

"The third wave of COVID-19, with the Delta variant of the virus, is here with us," said Mustapha. "This has resulted in the upsurge of COVID-19 cases in the last few weeks."

The Nigerian government had set an ambitious goal of vaccinating at least 40 percent of its population by end of the year, and 70 percent by the end of 2022.

Nigeria received the first batch of nearly 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX facility in early March, and took delivery of the 4 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine On Aug. 2.

Pfizer and BioNTech

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE submitted early-stage data to US regulators showing that a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine led to higher levels of protective antibodies when given eight to nine months after the initial regimen.

The companies expect data from a larger final-stage trial evaluating the effects of the third booster dose shortly, according to a statement Monday, which will be submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency and other regulatory authorities.

Last month, Pfizer said it would approach US regulators for emergency-use authorization of a third booster dose of its vaccine, based on early data showing that it can sharply increase immune protection against the coronavirus and variants, including delta.

Now, the companies are pursuing a different path toward booster clearance, seeking formal approval rather than emergency authorization. 

Pfizer and BioNTech said they plan to seek licensure of the third dose through a supplemental Biologics License Application in people 16 years old and up, pending approval of their primary application submitted in May 2021.

In this file photo taken on March 4, 2021, vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 are seen as elderly people are inoculated amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, at the Belisario Porras school San Francisco neighbourhood in Panama City. (LUIS ACOSTA / AFP)

Debate is accelerating in the US and Europe over whether booster shots will be needed, and if so, when and in which subgroups of patients. US cases are rising sharply thanks both to the highly transmissible delta variant and large numbers of unvaccinated people. 

Pfizer has cited data suggesting the efficacy of its vaccine against mild cases may start to fade after around six months, even though protection against severe cases remains strong. 

Last week, US regulators authorized a third dose for immunocompromised people, such as organ transplant patients and people receiving cancer chemotherapy. The case for a third dose in this group is strong because unlike healthy people, many immunocompromised people never get a good response to the first two vaccine doses.

South Africa

Vaccine hesitancy is most pronounced among White adults in South Africa, which is struggling to keep immunization centers busy just three months into the rollout of its inoculation program, a survey showed.

Only 52 percent of White adults in the country are willing to get a COVID-19 shot, compared to three-quarters of their Black counterparts, researchers from the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Johannesburg said in the highlights of a report due to be released on Wednesday.

“Side effects and concerns that the vaccine will be ineffective are the most common self-reported explanations” for vaccine hesitancy, and those concerns were particularly pronounced among White adults, the researchers said.

South Africa, which lagged behind many of its African and emerging-market peers in rolling out vaccines, is encountering mounting reluctance to take them. While the government and private sector, with which it is working, have stipulated daily targets of between 300,000 and 420,000 inoculations, they reached a peak of 271,838 last month and fell to as low as 141,000 last week.

So far, 9.56 million shots have been administered in the country, meaning 19 percent of adults have received at least one dose. About 7.8 percent of the population is White.

The country may open registrations to allow people aged between 18 and 34 to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as this week, Eyewitness News reported, citing Health Minister Joe Phaahla.

If the decision is made it would bring forward an earlier plan to allow that age group to begin registering on Sept 1.

The matter has been raised with the nation’s cabinet, he said, according to the Johannesburg-based news service.

Switzerland

Switzerland recorded 3,150 new infections within the last 24 hours, the biggest daily increase in months. Since early July, the number of hospitalizations has risen 10-fold, Patrick Mathys of the Federal Office of Public Health said.

The government has redoubled efforts to get more people vaccinated with a publicity campaign this week. Just 56 percent of the public has received at least one dose. With demand for vaccinations weak, the government agreed take delivery of just half the 1 million doses it was due to receive from Moderna. 

“Vaccines globally are in very short supply and they should be located where they actually can be used,” Mathys said.

Uganda

Uganda on Monday resumed airing lessons on radio for upper primary and secondary school levels as schools in the country remain closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The lessons airing on different stations across the country are expected to run through September, according to a statement from the ministry of education.

A vocational nurse administers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine clinic hosted by Mothers in Action and operated by the Los Angeles County of Public Health on July 16, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Frederic J BROWN / AFP)

US

President Joe Biden’s administration is sending 488,370 Pfizer Inc COVID-19 vaccine doses to Rwanda, including the first shipments that are part of a pledge he made at a Group of Seven summit to donate 500 million doses worldwide.

The US will ship the doses this week to Rwanda through COVAX, the global vaccine sharing initiative, according to an official familiar with the plan. The shipment includes 188,730 doses that are the first installment under an agreement Biden struck at the G7 meeting, and another 300,000 from surplus US government supplies, which the US has been shipping off steadily.

Biden announced the 500 million pledge at the G7 alongside Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla. It made up the bulk of 613 million new doses pledged by those nations in a bid to start to narrow a wide gap between wealthy and developing nations on vaccine access.

The US will ship 200 million of the doses pledged at the summit by the end of this year, and the remaining 300 million by June of 2022, according to Jeff Zients, who serves as Biden’s COVID-19 response coordinator. “Everything is on schedule there,” Zients said at a briefing this month.

Separately, the US government is poised to offer coronavirus booster shots as soon as next month, with the country facing a renewed wave of infections fueled by the delta variant.

Biden administration officials are finalizing a plan expected to recommend booster shots eight months after people received their second dose, according to two people familiar with the deliberations who asked not to be identified. The plan is not yet finalized but an announcement could come as soon as this week, they said.

If adopted, the plan could mean booster shots would start as early as September. The proposal would be subject to authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration, the people said.

The administration would offer a third dose of the Pfizer Inc or Moderna Inc vaccine, depending on what the patient previously received, the people said. The plan was reported earlier by the New York Times. The vast majority of people in the US received Pfizer or Moderna shots.