Over 12.5m children in US infected with COVID-19

In this file photo taken on Nov 2, 2021, a ten year old child high fives Pharmacist Colleen Teevan after he received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for kids at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP)

BRUSSELS / DUBLIN / HAVANA / LONDON / COPENHAGEN / SANTIAGO / ADDIS ABABA / WASHINGTON – Over 12.5 million children in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, according to a new report published Tuesday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

A total of 12,515,391 child COVID-19 cases had been reported across the country as of Feb 17, and children represented 19 percent of all confirmed cases, according to the report

A total of 12,515,391 child COVID-19 cases had been reported across the country as of Feb 17, and children represented 19 percent of all confirmed cases, according to the report.

COVID-19 cases among children have spiked dramatically across the United States during the Omicron variant surge.

Over 4.6 million child cases were reported since the beginning of January. For the week ending Feb 17, nearly 175,000 additional child COVID-19 cases were reported, according to the report.

Though the weekly increase was down substantially from the peak level of 1,150,000 cases reported the week ending Jan 20, child cases this week "remained very high," said the report.

Over 1.9 million of child COVID-19 cases have been added across the country in the past 4 weeks.

ALSO READ: Report: US CDC didn't make most COVID-19 data public

This marks the 28th week in a row child COVID-19 cases in the United States are above 100,000. Since the first week of September, there have been nearly 7.5 million additional child cases, according to the AAP.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded Palantir Technologies Inc a $5.3 million contract to manage distribution of COVID-19 drugs in the United States, the software maker said on Tuesday.

The contract for supporting distribution of therapeutics is for a duration of six months, Palantir said.

The new partnership is an extension of an existing use of Palantir's Tiberius platform for vaccine distribution, for which the company was selected in 2020.

Africa

A total of 11,135,316 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Africa as of Tuesday evening, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The specialized healthcare agency of the African Union said the COVID-19 death toll across the continent stands at 247,553, while 10,296,875 patients have recovered from the disease so far.

South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Ethiopia are among the countries with the most cases on the continent, said the Africa CDC.

South Africa recorded the most COVID-19 cases in Africa with 3,659,698 cases, followed by Morocco with 1,159,157 cases.

In terms of caseload, southern Africa is the most affected region in Africa, followed by the northern and eastern parts of the continent, while central Africa is the least affected region.

This file illustration photo taken on Nov 17, 2020 shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. (PHOTO / AFP)

AstraZeneca

A large study into rare blood clots linked with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine found between just one and three cases per million, and only after the first dose, shedding fresh light on the side-effects from the shot.

Researchers have sought to analyze any link between COVID-19 vaccines and rare blood clots in the brain, arteries or veins – sometimes accompanied by low platelets, reports of which led many nations last year to pause use of the AstraZeneca shot, which was developed with Oxford University.

A study published in the PLOS Medicine journal on Tuesday looked at health records of 46 million adults in England between December 2020 and March 2021 to assess the risk of clots in the month after vaccination with either the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or AstraZeneca-Oxford shot, compared with the unvaccinated.

It was carried out by William Whiteley of the University of Edinburgh and Britain's BHF Data Science Centre.

It found no risk of major arterial and venous thrombotic events in those aged 70 or over with either of the vaccines.

And while the risk of intracranial venous thrombosis following the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was nearly double in those under 70, that was equal to between just one and three cases per million.

The risks of ICVT and hospitalization with thrombocytopenia "are likely to be outweighed by the vaccines' effect in reducing COVID-19 mortality and morbidity," the study's authors said.

Chile

Chile on Tuesday said it registered 18,380 new COVID-19 infections and 35 deaths in the last 24 hours, for a cumulative total of 2,895,931 cases and 41,526 deaths.

According to the Health Ministry's daily report, the latest figures placed the COVID-19 positivity rate at 23.33 percent nationwide and 15.08 percent in the Santiago Metropolitan Region.

It also reported 114,795 active cases of COVID-19 in the South American country.

In this file photo taken on May 8, 2021, workers load boxes of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, part of the the COVAX program, into a truck after they arrived by plane at the Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo, Madagascar. (MAMYRAEL / AFP)

COVAX

The global project to share COVID-19 vaccines is struggling to place more than 300 million doses in the latest sign the problem with vaccinating the world is now more about demand than supply.

Last year, wealthy nations snapped most of the available shots to inoculate their own citizens first, meaning less than a third of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated so far compared with more than 70 percent in richer nations.

As supply and donations have ramped up, however, poorer nations are facing hurdles such as gaps in cold-chain shortage, vaccine hesitancy and a lack of money to support distribution networks, public health officials told Reuters.

In January, COVAX, the global vaccine program run by Gavi and the World Health Organization, had 436 million vaccines to allocate to countries, according to a document published in mid-February.

But low-income nations only asked for 100 million doses for distribution by the end of May – the first time in 14 allocation rounds that supply has outstripped demand, the document from the COVAX Independent Allocation of Vaccines Group said.

Asked to comment, a Gavi spokesperson said COVAX was now in a situation where there was enough current supply to meet demand, but acknowledged that the roll-out of vaccines was an issue in several less developed nations.

"We will only close the vaccine equity gap once and for all if we are able to help countries roll out vaccines rapidly and at scale," the spokesperson said.

Vaccines that are not assigned by COVAX in this round can be allocated again later.

While wealthy countries are opening up their economies, the WHO and other public health experts warn that the slow roll-out of vaccines in poorer regions will give the coronavirus a chance to mutate again and potentially create new variants.

Laboratory graduate Addaimis Medina works at the Varadero International Clinic, where the cases of tourists suspected of COVID-19 are classified, in Varadero, Cuba on Sept 3, 2021. (YAMIL LAGE / AFP)

Cuba

Cuba on Tuesday registered the lowest number of new daily COVID-19 infections this year, detecting 467 cases and no deaths in the past 24 hours, for a total of 1,066,414 cases and 8,491 deaths, the Public Health Ministry said.

According to the ministry's daily pandemic report, there were 2,969 active cases of COVID-19 in the Caribbean nation, one of the lowest figures in 2022.
The province of Holguin had the highest number of new daily cases, registering 86, followed by Sancti Spiritus with 74, and Ciego de Avila with 52.
So far, 9.8 million people out of Cuba's total population of 11.2 million have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 5.8 million have received a booster shot, according to health authorities.
The country's immunization program is being carried out with three of five COVID-19 vaccines developed in Cuba, including Abdala, Soberana-02 and Soberana Plus.

Denmark

Getting infected twice with two different Omicron coronavirus subvariants is possible, but rarely happens, a Danish study has found.

A new study, led by researchers at Denmark's top infectious disease authority, Statens Serum Institut, shows that people infected with BA.1 can get infected with BA.2 shortly afterwards, but that it is a rare occurrence.

"We provide evidence that Omicron BA.2 reinfections are rare but can occur relatively shortly after a BA.1 infection," the study authors said.

BA.1 and BA.2 differ by up to 40 mutations. While BA.2 accounts for more than 88 percent of cases in Denmark, cases have started to increase in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Norway.

The reinfections mostly affected young, unvaccinated individuals and only caused mild disease, none of which led to hospitalizations or deaths, the researchers added.

The study, which is not yet peer-reviewed, found 1,739 cases registered between Nov 21, 2021, and Feb 11 this year, where people had tested positive twice between 20 and 60 days apart.

In that period more than 1.8 million infections were registered in Denmark.

From a smaller sample group, the study found 47 instances of BA.2 reinfections shortly after a BA.1 infection. The researchers also detected less virus material at the second infection, suggesting some immunity was developed from the first infections.

In this file photo taken on July 1, 2021, a man checks his EU Digital COVID-19 certificate on his mobile phone at El Prat airport in Barcelona. (PAU BARRENA / AFP)

EU

European Union countries agreed on Tuesday to open their borders to travelers from outside the bloc who have had shots against COVID-19 authorized by the World Health Organization, easing restrictions on those who received Indian and Chinese vaccines.

The EU has so far authorized vaccines produced by Pfizer-BionTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca (when produced in Europe), Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.

The EU has so far authorized vaccines produced by Pfizer-BionTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca (when produced in Europe), Johnson & Johnson and Novavax

In addition to these shots, the WHO has also approved the vaccines produced by Chinese makers Sinopharm and Sinovac and by Indian company Bharat Biotech. It has also authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India by the Serum Institute.

Until now, most EU countries have not admitted people from outside the bloc travelling for non-essential reasons if they have been vaccinated with shots not approved in the EU.

"Member states should lift the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for persons vaccinated with an EU- or WHO-approved vaccine," said a recommendation adopted on Tuesday by EU governments which would be applicable from March 1.

Restrictions will be lifted for travelers who received the final dose of the primary vaccination cycle at least 14 days and no more than 270 days before arrival. Boosted travelers will also be accepted.

EU states also agreed to lift a temporary restriction on non-essential travel for people who have recovered from COVID-19 within 180 days prior to travelling to the EU.

For people inoculated with a WHO-approved vaccine, EU states could also require a negative PCR test taken at the earliest 72 hours before departure and could apply additional measures such as quarantine or isolation.

In this file photo taken on Dec 21, 2021, members of the public receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination center set up in the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast. (PAUL FAITH / AFP)

Ireland

Ireland on Tuesday said it will drop most of its remaining pandemic-linked restrictions from Feb 28 as an Omicron-fueled wave of infections ebbs.

The country has been one of the most cautious in the European Union on the risks of COVID-19, putting in place some of the longest-running curbs on travel and hospitality.

People will no longer be legally required to wear masks, physical distancing measures in schools will end, and the national testing and tracing program will be scaled back.

Government advice that masks should be worn on public transport and in healthcare settings will remain.

As with most other European nations, Ireland experienced a surge in cases last month due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant. The number of daily infections detected remains high, but it is starting to decrease.

"The current epidemiological profile of COVID-19 in Ireland is broadly stable" the government said in a press release, and "while the burden on hospitals remains significant, it is relatively stable".

The process of scrapping COVID-19 restrictions began at the end of January when the government decided that bars and restaurants no longer needed to close at 8 pm, or to ask customers for proof of vaccination.

Indoor and outdoor venues also returned to full capacity.