With less than two weeks remaining to fulfill President Biden’s pledge to share 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccine with countries in need, production problems at an Emergent BioSolutions manufacturing plant are forcing the administration to revise its plan to send AstraZeneca doses overseas.
Officials are now working to replace tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that it had initially planned to include in the donation with others made by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, according to people familiar with the discussions. Those three vaccines are authorized for emergency use in the United States; AstraZeneca’s is not.
A pattern of serious lapses at the plant, in Baltimore, has thrown into question the fate of more than 100 million doses of both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines made there. The Food and Drug Administration is poring over records of virtually every batch that Emergent produced to determine if the doses are safe. The F.D.A. has so far ruled that about 25 million Johnson & Johnson doses made at the factory can be released but has made no decision on the AstraZeneca doses.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is significantly cheaper than the other three vaccines: The federal government paid less than $4 per dose, compared to as much as $19.50 for Pfizer. An administration official said that if the AstraZeneca doses made by Emergent are declared safe, the supply will ultimately be shared with other nations.
The doses the administration is now working to send overseas this month will be a part of existing orders from the other manufacturers that have not been delivered to states, one person familiar with the planning said. Tens of millions of doses of the three U.S.-authorized vaccines that have already been delivered to states are sitting unused. Over 175 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose — more than 62 percent of the total population over 12 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 148 million, or 52 percent, are fully vaccinated.
Until the White House announced last week that it would share 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine with the rest of the world, the AstraZeneca doses made up the bulk of the administration’s vaccine diplomacy commitments.
Mr. Biden committed in late April to sharing as many as 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine with other nations, pending the F.D.A.’s ongoing review of Emergent. In May the White House said it would send at least another 20 million doses of other vaccines overseas, bringing the total to 80 million by the end of June.
Earlier this month, the White House explained how it would distribute an initial 25 million doses out of the 80 million across a “wide range of countries.” Millions of those have already been sent and more will be sent imminently, a White House spokesman said.
Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said on Thursday that 80 million doses would be allocated by the end of the month, but did not specify what kind. He said the administration was working with other countries on complicated logistical issues, including securing needles, syringes and alcohol pads that would go with the doses.
“We’ll allocate all the initial 80 million doses in the coming days, with shipments going out as soon as countries are ready to receive the doses,” Mr. Zients said at a news conference. “There’ll be an increasing number of shipments each and every week as we ramp up these efforts.”
In order to share vaccines other than AstraZeneca’s, one person familiar with the plan said, the administration will likely need permission from the manufacturers. Those discussions are still ongoing, the person said.
A federal judge ruled on Friday that, beginning on July 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would no longer be allowed to enforce its rules intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on cruise ships that dock in Florida.
The judge, Steven D. Merryday of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, granted Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking the C.D.C. from enforcing the rules in Florida’s ports, finding that they were based on “stale data” and failed to take into account the prevalence of effective vaccines.
The judge said that, from July 18, the rules “will persist as only a nonbinding ‘consideration,’ ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline,’ the same tools used by C.D.C. when addressing the practices in other similarly situated industries, such as airlines, railroads, hotels, casinos, sports venues, buses, subways, and others.”
The ruling was a victory for Florida, a cruise industry hub, which had challenged the rules in April, arguing that they were crippling the industry and causing the state to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. Florida also argued that the C.D.C. had exceeded its authority and had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it issued the rules last year.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the hardworking Floridians whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry,” the state’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, said in a statement. “The federal government does not, nor should it ever, have the authority to single out and lock down an entire industry indefinitely.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida called the ruling a “victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry, and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented federal overreach.”
“The C.D.C. has been wrong all along, and they knew it,” he said in a statement.
The C.D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday night. In his ruling, Judge Merryday gave the agency until July 2 to propose a “narrower injunction” that would allow cruise ships to sail in a timely fashion.
Russia is again in the grips of a virus surge, despite months of assurances from President Vladimir V. Putin’s government that the worst of the pandemic had passed. The spiraling outbreak has come as a surprise, even in the words of the senior officials behind those assurances.
Russian virologists say that the Delta variant, first found in India, is now the most prevalent version in Moscow. Quickly rising case numbers put Russia at risk of following in the path of other countries such as India that seemed to have squelched infections only to see a resurgence.
The outbreak is most pronounced in Moscow, the capital, where case numbers have tripled over the past two weeks, according to city officials, who have added 5,000 beds to coronavirus wards. Moscow health authorities reported 9,056 positive tests on Friday, the highest daily figure for the city since the pandemic began.
Russia has reported 125,853 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic started, but statistics showing excess mortality over the past year suggest the real number is far higher.
Across Russia, only 9.9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, though Russia last summer claimed to be the first country in the world to have approved a vaccine. For comparison, 44 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.
Cases crept up slowly throughout the spring, then spiked this month. And over the winter, little was done to encourage Russians to get vaccinated.
In fact, to avoid stimulating demand late last year when vaccines were scarce, Mr. Putin delayed his own inoculation until March, though age-wise he qualified months earlier, the Kremlin press office said. He did not receive it on camera.
Today, skepticism persists even though vaccines are widely available. The Levada Center, a polling agency, surveyed Russian attitudes about vaccination in April and found that 62 percent did not intend to get a Russian-made vaccine, all that is available in Russia.
Months after becoming infected with the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of patients across the U.S. needed medical care for health issues they had not previously received diagnoses for before contracting the virus, according to a new study.
The study, which is the largest to date of its kind, examined the medical records of nearly two million people in the U.S. who became ill with Covid-19 between February and December 2020, and tracked those patients until February 2021. A month or more after contracting the virus, nearly 23 percent sought medical treatment for new conditions, most commonly citing issues of pain, including in nerves and muscles; breathing difficulties; high cholesterol; malaise and fatigue; and high blood pressure.
Those affected included people of all ages as well as those who showed no signs of being sick with Covid. While nearly half of patients who were hospitalized with Covid-19 experienced subsequent medical issues, so did 27 percent of people who had mild or moderate symptoms and 19 percent of people who said they were asymptomatic.
Experts not involved in the study said that it further illuminated the ways in which even an asymptomatic case of coronavirus can affect almost any organ in the body, and lead to a lifetime of chronic health issues. The information is important for both doctors and patients, said Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, a nonprofit organization that conducted the study based on what it says is the nation’s largest database of private health insurance claims. FAIR Health said the analysis was evaluated by an independent academic reviewer but was not formally peer-reviewed.
“There are some people who may not have even known they had Covid,” Ms. Gelburd said, “but if they continue to present with some of these conditions that are unusual for their health history, it may be worth some further investigation by the medical professional that they’re working with.”
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The United States surpassed 600,000 known coronavirus deaths, although the pace at which the country’s death toll is accumulating has slowed considerably since the start of the pandemic. The milestone came as the highly contagious Delta variant has emerged in the United States and less than half the population is fully vaccinated.
California and New York lifted nearly all of their remaining restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, a key sign of the United States’ turn toward recovery from the pandemic. With both states having administered at least one vaccine dose to at least 70 percent of their people, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York treated the reopenings like political rallies, although businesses in the states will still have the option of requiring health precautions on their premises.
China is close to administering its billionth Covid shot, a vaccination drive that is leading the world despite a sluggish start. Officials have ramped up inoculations by offering modest incentives like free eggs and water bottles. But a bigger driver in southern China is a new outbreak centered in the city of Guangzhou.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a four-week delay to a full reopening in England after a spike in cases of the Delta variant. Restaurants and pubs in England, while open, will still have to limit capacity and observe social distancing rules indoors, and nightclubs and theaters will remain closed.