Pop Star Olivia Rodrigo Pushes Biden’s Youth Vaccination Drive

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 14: Pop music star and Disney actress Olivia Rodrigo is partnering with the White House to promote COVID-19 vaccination outreach to her young fans.  (Photo by CHIP SOMODEVILLA /  AFP)

 

 

Teen pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo said Wednesday she is “in awe” of White House efforts to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 and said getting the shot was “easy.”

Rodrigo, who has some 28 million social media followers, is adding star power to the Biden administration attempt to lure young people to vaccination centers.

The singer and Disney actress was meeting President Joe Biden and his top coronavirus advisor Anthony Fauci and will record videos to encourage youth vaccinations.

“I’m in awe of the work President Biden and Dr Fauci have done,” Rodrigo, 18, said alongside Press Secretary Jen Psaki at the start of the daily White House media briefing.

“It’s important to have conversations with friends and family members, encouraging all communities to get vaccinated,” she said. This can be done “more easily than ever before, given how many sites we have and how easy it is to find them.”

Rodrigo “offered to come” to the White House, Psaki said, to deliver a message to fans that “getting vaccinated is a way to keep yourself safe, a way to ensure you can see your friends, a way you can go to concerts.”

After a strong period of vaccination drives across the United States the pace has slacked off, with young people among the main groups failing to get their shots.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 percent of the US population has been fully vaccinated and 55.5 percent have received at least one dose.

US Announces $3.2bn Plan To Develop COVID-19 Antiviral Treatments

US President Joe Biden holds a press conference after the US-Russia summit in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (Photo by PETER KLAUNZER / POOL / AFP)

 

The administration of US President Joe Biden announced plans on Thursday to spend $3.2 billion to accelerate the development and discovery of antiviral treatments against Covid-19 and future threats.

The plan is called the Antiviral Program for Pandemics and its funding comes from the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion package passed by Congress in March.

“Antivirals are an important complement to existing vaccines, especially for individuals with certain conditions that might put them at a greater risk, for those whom vaccines may not be as protective,” Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor on the pandemic, told reporters.

Antiviral medication can also act as an important line of defense against emerging variants of concern that evade the protective action of current generation vaccines, he added.

The plan will help accelerate clinical testing for oral antiviral pills currently under various stages of development, such as Merck’s molnupiravir as well as efforts by Pfizer and Atea-Roche.

The plan is for these to be taken very early after an infection is confirmed, in order to stop the disease from progressing to the severe stage — mimicking what Tamiflu does for influenza.

The other pillar of the program is seeding the discovery of new antivirals — not just against this coronavirus and its wider family, but other families of viruses that are believed to have pandemic potential.

AFP

‘No Doubt’ US Has Undercounted COVID-19 Deaths – Fauci

Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine COVID-19, "focusing on lessons learned to prepare for the next pandemic", on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 23, 2020. KEVIN DIETSCH / POOL / AFP
Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci. KEVIN DIETSCH / POOL / AFP

 

The United States, which has reported the world’s worst overall Covid-19 death toll, has “no doubt” been undercounting fatal cases, top pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

The country has officially lost over 581,000 people to the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus — but a University of Washington study released Thursday estimated deaths at more than 900,000.

“That’s a bit more than I would have thought the undercounting was,” Fauci told NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“But I think there’s no doubt… that we are and have been undercounting.”

The United States has reported over 32.6 million cases since the virus was first identified at the end of 2019 in China.

America was battered by a spike in cases and deaths after the end-of-year holidays, but since January new infections have come down as vaccination rates have jumped.

“We are turning the corner. We have 58 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot, over 110 million Americans fully vaccinated,” White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients told CNN’s State of the Union.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Claims Two India Olympic Gold Medalists On Same Day

President Joe Biden wants 70 percent of adults in the US to have received at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine by the July 4 Independence Day holiday.

But the rate peaked around April 10 and has been declining since then, with vaccine hold-outs slowing the race to population immunity.

Federal, state and local officials are partnering with pharmacies, restaurants, breweries, supermarkets and sports teams to come up with incentives to get people to get their shots.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy launched a “Shot and a Beer” program to encourage vaccination, while in West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced that the state will offer $100 savings bonds to residents aged 16 to 35 who get inoculated.

AFP

US Weighs 3-Foot Distancing Rule, A Major Change – Fauci

Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine COVID-19, "focusing on lessons learned to prepare for the next pandemic", on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 23, 2020. KEVIN DIETSCH / POOL / AFP
Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine COVID-19, “focusing on lessons learned to prepare for the next pandemic”, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 23, 2020. KEVIN DIETSCH / POOL / AFP

 

The United States’ top pandemic advisor said Sunday that authorities were considering cutting social distancing rules to three feet (one meter), a move that would change a key tenet of the global fight against Covid-19.

Anthony Fauci, a world-respected figure during the coronavirus crisis, said experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were examining a Massachusetts study that found “no substantial difference” in Covid cases in schools observing six-foot and three-foot rules.

Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” show whether that meant that a three-foot separation was sufficient, Fauci replied, “It does, indeed.”

While cautioning that the CDC was still poring over the new data and conducting tests of its own, he said its findings would come “soon.”

The six-foot social distancing rule has been a widely-adopted global measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, along with mask-wearing and hand-washing.

School officials across the world are under enormous pressure to fully reopen as soon as safely possible, but many say the six-foot requirement makes it extremely difficult without adding portable classrooms or shortening the school day.

Many teachers unions have also insisted on six-foot distancing.

Policies on reopening schools and businesses have varied sharply across the US and around the globe as government try to balance quelling infections with a return to normal life.

The study led by the Beth Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts, surveying 251 school districts, found “no substantial difference in the number of cases of Covid-19 among either students or staff” between those observing the three- and six-foot rules when all wore masks.

The findings, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, add to a growing body of evidence that Covid-19 transmission rates are low in schools.

In another potentially significant finding, researchers found the rates of Covid-19 were lower in schools practicing masking than they were in the surrounding cities and towns.

A three-foot rule would have an enormous impact on prospects for fully reopening schools, offices and even public areas such as sports venues.

As the top school officials from Penfield, New York wrote in the journal Education Week, “The single biggest obstacle to fully reopening schools is the 6-foot distancing requirement.”

AFP

Top US Scientist Anthony Fauci Receives COVID-19 Vaccine

BETHESDA, MARYLAND – DECEMBER 22: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks as he holds up his sleeve in preparation to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease specialist, received his Covid-19 vaccine on Monday along with other senior officials and six health workers at a live streamed event at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The widely-respected scientist said he took the shot “as a symbol to the rest of the country that I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine.

“I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we could have a veil of protection over this country, that would end this pandemic,” he added.

He then gave a thumbs-up sign and clapped for his colleagues as he left the stage of an auditorium at the NIH’s headquarters in Bethesda, a Washington suburb.

The 79-year-old, who continues to practice as a physician, was among the first Americans to receive injections developed by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which he has directed since 1984.

NIH director Francis Collins and health secretary Alex Azar also received their vaccinations at the ceremony.

READ ALSO: Pope Francis Adapts Christmas Plans As Cardinals Test Positive For COVID-19

“I want the American people to know that I have absolute and complete confidence in the integrity and the independence of the processes used by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to approve these vaccines,” said Azar, a political appointee of the Trump administration.

Before them, six health workers received their shots, many appearing emotional as they were asked to explain why they chose to be vaccinated.

“I work directly with a colon patient so I felt I have an opportunity, why not,” said nurse Naomi Richardson.

It comes as a new poll showed Americans’ willingness to take a coronavirus vaccine has jumped since the first two were authorized.

The USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, carried out Wednesday through Sunday, showed 46 percent said they were willing to take the vaccine as soon as they can — a significant jump on the 26 percent who answered similarly in late October.

A further 32 percent said they would wait for others to get the shots before they do so themselves.

 

Top Scientist Asks Americans To Brace For COVID ‘Surge Upon A Surge’

A vending machine containing personal protective equipment is seen at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on November 29, 2020 in SeaTac, Washington. DAVID RYDER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

 

America should prepare for a “surge upon a surge” in coronavirus cases as millions of travelers return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, top US scientist Anthony Fauci warned Sunday.

The United States is the world’s worst-affected country, with 266,831 Covid-19 deaths, and President Donald Trump’s administration has issued conflicting messages on mask-wearing, travel, and the danger posed by the virus.

“There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel,” Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Travel surrounding Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday made this the busiest week in US airports since the pandemic began.

“We may see a surge upon a surge” in two or three weeks, Fauci added. “We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s the reality.”

The trend is ominous, Fauci and other government scientists said, with the Christmas holidays sure to bring more travel and family gatherings.

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted a surge in Covid-19 after a holiday weekend in May.

“Now we’re entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four, and 10 times as much disease across the country,’ she told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

READ ALSO: Germany Hits One Million Cases As Russia Links Up With India For Vaccine

“We are deeply worried.”

The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, was equally blunt.

“I want to be straight with the American people,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s going to get worse over the next several weeks.”

In the 24 hours to 0130 GMT Monday, the country added 140,651 coronavirus cases, taking its total to 13,373,673, according to Johns Hopkins University. There had been 822 additional deaths.

 

Desperate wait for vaccine

Elsewhere, thousands of health workers marched in Madrid in support of Spain’s public health system, in one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

And guards opened fire to quell a prison riot in Sri Lanka, where four inmates were killed while protesting a surge in coronavirus infections.

In France, the highest administrative court ordered the government to loosen rules allowing no more than 30 people at religious services, in the face of angry objections from church leaders.

Around 9,000 runners — some wearing face masks — took part in the Shanghai International Marathon, according to Chinese media, a mass-participation sports event rare during the pandemic.

New York City again took a small step back toward normality, as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that elementary schools would reopen for in-person instruction on December 7.

Things were also returning to normal in Bolivia, where Health Minister Edgar Pozo said the country would soon allow the resumption of “cultural, sporting, religious and political activities,” with appropriate safety measures — a further easing of strict containment rules introduced in March.

The US news media meanwhile reported that first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 — one of the first to claim high effectiveness, along with a Moderna product — had arrived in the United States from a Pfizer lab in Belgium.

Pfizer was using charter flights to pre-position the vaccine for quick distribution once it receives US emergency authorization — expected as early as December 10 — the Wall Street Journal and other media reported.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both said to be safe and 95 percent effective, have introduced a glimmer of hope after months of gloomy news.

“This is the way we get out of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the US official overseeing coronavirus testing, told CNN.

But, like Fauci and the other scientists, he expressed grave concerns about the months ahead.

“About 20 percent of all people in the hospital have Covid, so this is a really dangerous time,” Giroir said.

 

 Europe struggles to reopen

Until large numbers of Americans have been vaccinated — Giroir said half the eligible population might be by March — much will still depend on people taking precautions, including mask-wearing and distancing, he and Fauci said.

Giroir said it might take until the second or third quarter of next year for most Americans to be vaccinated, but that substantial benefits would accrue much sooner.

By first vaccinating those at highest risk, he said, “we can absolutely get 80 percent of the benefit of the vaccine by only immunizing a few percent of the population.”

Adams, the US surgeon general, also expressed cautious optimism, saying: “We are mere weeks away from starting to vaccinate the vulnerable, and we can significantly protect people who are at risk for this virus.

“So hang on just a little bit longer.”

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,453,074 people worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.

Europe on Saturday crossed a grim milestone, as the death toll passed 400,000.

Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe’s coronavirus nightmare, reached on Friday the mark of more than one million cases.

AFP

Fauci Recovering From Surgery To Remove Throat Polyp

Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine COVID-19, "focusing on lessons learned to prepare for the next pandemic", on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 23, 2020. KEVIN DIETSCH / POOL / AFP
Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine COVID-19, “focusing on lessons learned to prepare for the next pandemic”, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 23, 2020. KEVIN DIETSCH / POOL / AFP.

 

Top US government scientist Anthony Fauci was recovering after surgery on Thursday to remove a growth from his vocal cords that was giving him a gravelly voice.

Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was home and resting, but expected to “back online tomorrow” and at the office on Monday, the agency said in a statement to AFP.

The 79-year-old doctor has led the country’s response to every epidemic since the 1980s.

His public profile is currently bigger than ever thanks to his scientific straight-talk on the coronavirus pandemic, which puts him frequently at odds with President Donald Trump.

The surgery removed a polyp — a non-cancerous growth that often resembles a blister and can cause raspiness.

Fauci has previously said he got the polyp after experiencing winter flu and then not giving his vocal cords sufficient time to rest.

He has lately been giving interviews to the media, academia and think tanks almost every day.

A widely-respected member of the White House coronavirus taskforce, Fauci has amassed a large fan base, who buy T-shirts and bobbleheads in his likeness.

But he has also been assigned bodyguards following death threats from people who believe he is part of a wider conspiracy to exaggerate the health crisis for political and financial ends.

AFP

Kenya’s Athletes Threaten To Pull Out Of Rio Olympics

OlympicsKenya has threatened to pull its elite runners and other athletes out of the Rio Olympics unless it gets assurances they would not be exposed to the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil.

Sports authorities across the world are scrambling to find out more about the mosquito-borne virus as they make plans for the Games in August.

Kenya was expected to be one of the star performers at Rio, fielding some of the best middle and long-distance runners in the world.

The East African nation topped the medals table at the 2015 world championships.

Meanwhile, top health officials say they were sticking to existing guidelines regarding warning related to the Zika virus.

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci says athletes would need to make a personal decision about whether or not to skip the Olympics.

Vaccine Gives Monkeys Ebola Immunity

EbolaVaccinated monkeys have developed “long-term” immunity to the Ebola virus, raising a prospect of successful human trials, say scientists.

The experiments by the US National Institutes of Health showed immunity could last at least 10 months.

Human trials of the vaccine started this week in the US and will extend to the UK and Africa.

The World Health Organization says more than 2,000 people have now died in the outbreak in West Africa.

Several experimental treatments are now being considered to help contain the spread of Ebola. This includes a vaccine being developed by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline.

It uses a genetically modified chimp virus containing components of two species of Ebola – Zaire, which is currently circulating in West Africa, and the common Sudan species.

The viral vaccine does not replicate inside the body, but it is hoped the immune system will react to the Ebola component of the vaccine and develop immunity.

Poor durability

Animal research, on which the decision to begin human trials was based, has now been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

It shows four crab-eating macaques all survived what would have been a fatal dose of Ebola virus five weeks later.

However, only half survived an infection 10 months after immunisation.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the BBC: “The good part of this vaccine is that at five weeks or earlier you get full protection.

“The sobering news is the durability isn’t great, but if you give a boost, a second shot, you make it really durable.

“We knew this worked in the monkey months ago and based on this paper we started human trials.”

For now this is the best evidence available on how successful such a vaccine would be in people.

The first patient, a 39-year-old woman, was given the vaccine last week as human trials got under way.

There will also be separate trials of the vaccine against just the Zaire Ebola species. These will take place in the US, the University of Oxford in the UK as well as in Mali and Gambia.

The WHO said safety data would be ready by November 2014 and, if the vaccine proved safe, it would be used in West Africa immediately.

Healthcare workers and other frontline staff would be prioritised for vaccination.

‘Really encouraging’

The number of doses currently available is between 400 – if a lot of vaccine is needed for immunity – and 4,000 if smaller amounts are sufficient.

As with all experimental therapies, the WHO has warned hopes of a vaccine must not detract from the proven methods of infection control which have defeated all previous outbreaks.

Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is really encouraging data.

“The degree of protection seen with the chimpanzee adenovirus alone – which will be used in one of the human clinical trials planned for the UK, Mali and the Gambia – was still pretty impressive, especially when the animals received Ebola virus within a few weeks of vaccination.

“This is important as it would keep the dosing regimen simple and could still provide good protection in the sort of outbreak that we are seeing in Western Africa at the moment.”