WHO suspends UN supply of Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 jab

Healthcare workers administer a dose of Bharat Biotech Ltd Covaxin vaccine for coronavirus at Sanjeevan Hospital in Daryaganj, New Delhi. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

SAO PAULO / NEW YORK / COPENHAGEN – The World Health Organization said on Saturday it has suspended supply through United Nations agencies of COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, produced by India's Bharat Biotech, to allow the manufacturer to upgrade facilities and address deficiencies found in an inspection.

The WHO asked countries that have received the vaccine to take appropriate actions, according to the statement, but did not specify what the appropriate actions would be.

The WHO said the vaccine is effective and no safety concerns exist, but the suspension of production for export will result in the interruption of Covaxin supply

The WHO said the vaccine is effective and no safety concerns exist, but the suspension of production for export will result in the interruption of Covaxin supply. It said the suspension is in response to the outcomes of WHO post emergency use listing (EUL) inspection conducted from March 14 to 22, and the vaccine maker has indicated its commitment to suspend production of Covaxin for export.

Bharat Biotech did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside business hours.

On Friday, the vaccine manufacturer said it was slowing production of Covaxin, as demand was dropping along with a fall in infections and wider immunization coverage in the country. read more

The WHO said that the company has "committed to comply by addressing the GMP deficiencies and is developing a corrective and preventive action plan, for submission to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI)and WHO".

In this file photo taken on April 13, 2021, travelers are assisted by an airport employee at the boarding area of Galeao International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP)

Brazil

 Brazilian health agency Anvisa on Saturday issued a new set of rules for incoming international travelers, easing restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic as the health crisis subsides in the South American nation.

Anvisa said vaccinated Brazilians and foreigners are now exempt from presenting proof of a COVID-19 test with a negative or non-detectable result. They are only required to present proof of vaccination, printed or electronically.

"In general, the new rules confirm vaccination as the basis for national border policy for all modes of transportation," Anvisa said in a statement. "Complete immunization is mandatory for all individuals eligible for vaccination and who intend to enter Brazil."

ALSO READ: Brazil reports nearly 30,000 new COVID-19 cases

Under the rules, a traveler is considered fully vaccinated after taking two doses or a single dose of a anti-COVID vaccine, depending on the type of immunizer. The vaccination scheme must be complete at least 14 days before the date of departure, Anvisa said.

Travelers not fully vaccinated — provided they are Brazilians and foreigners residing in the country — must present a COVID-19 test with a negative or non-detectable result, Anvisa added.

The agency also noted foreigners who live abroad and are not fully vaccinated remain barred from entering the country, with exceptions that it did not detail in the statement.

Denmark

The results of an ongoing study of blood donors confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic is on the decline in Denmark, the Statens Serum Institut (SSI), the country's leading infectious diseases agency, said in a press release on Friday.

The SSI has registered a "clear decrease" in the number of new infections in recent weeks, the institute's Director, Henrik Ullum, said. "This is gratifying and it shows that Denmark, due to its high levels of population immunity from both vaccines and infections, is in a good place right now against the threat of COVID-19."

According to the SSI, recent analyses of blood samples have shown that up to 70 percent of Denmark's adult population (aged between 17 and 72) may have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 since November 2021.

ALSO READ: Sweden, Denmark halt Moderna virus shot for younger people

The study's most recent (fifth) round, in which samples from 5,939 blood donors were analyzed, revealed that 56 percent of participants had antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their blood, 5 percent more than two weeks prior. In February, the figure stood at 17 percent.

"This is approximately the same result as in the previous round of the study, which shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is on the decline and that the decrease in the number of detected cases is not only due to fewer tests being performed," the press release said.

According to the SSI's updated statistics, Denmark has logged 3,061,773 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,723 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

To date, 80.8 percent of the country's population, or 4,754,182 people, have received two vaccine doses and 61.5 percent, or 3,616,885, a booster shot.

Seventh and eighth grades students attend a combined Advanced Engineering class at Olive Vista Middle School on the first day back following the winter break amid a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases across Los Angeles County on Jan 11, 2022 in Sylmar, California.  (FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP)

US

More than one-third of US high school students experienced "poor mental health," and nearly half felt "persistently" sad during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found.

According to the survey released on Thursday, 44 percent of high school students said they felt "persistently sad or hopeless" during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 37 percent of students said they experienced poor mental health over the last year.

The survey also found that 55 percent of students said they experienced emotional abuse, including being sworn at, insulted or put down, by a parent or adult within their home.

Of the students surveyed, 11 percent said they experienced physical abuse during the pandemic, and nearly one-third said that one or both of their parents lost jobs during the pandemic.

READ MORE: A third of US COVID-19 cases now caused by Omicron BA2

Conducted over a six-month period in early 2021, the study surveyed nearly 8,000 students across the country on their mental health.