The number of doses of vaccines against the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 that have been administered globally rose above 3 billion on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, although distribution remains highly unequal between the developed and developing worlds.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that 154.2 million people, equal to 46.4% of the population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had two shots of the vaccines developed by Pfizer
with German partner BioNTech
or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson
one-jab regimen. The AstraZeneca
vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.
Among adults 18 and older, 57.2% are fully inoculated, while 66.2% of that group has received at least one dose.
Many parts of the rest of the world are far behind, however. While 23.2% of the world’s overall population has received at least one dose, only 0.9% of people in low-income countries have reached that threshold, according to data company Our World in Data.
The World Health Organization said the global number of new cases was roughly flat at more than 2.6 million in the week ended June 27 compared with the previous week, while the weekly death toll declined 10% to its lowest level since early November 2020. The highly infectious delta variant that was first detected in India is now in 96 countries, said WHO.
“Globally, COVID-19 incidence remains very high with an average of over 370 000 cases reported each day over the past week,” the agency said in its weekly Epidemiological Update.
The Africa region recorded a 33% increase in cases in the latest week and a 42% rise in mortality. The Eastern Mediterranean and European regions also saw increases in cases. The highest numbers of new cases came from Brazil, India, Colombia and Russia, the latter of which has suffered several days of record death numbers.
“Virus evolution is expected, and the more SARS-CoV-2 circulates, the more opportunities it has to evolve,” said the update.
The head of the CDC took to the airwaves to explain her agency’s clashing approach to face masks with the WHO, which is pushing the idea that even vaccinated people should continue to wear face masks indoors. Dr. Rochelle Walensky told NBC’s “Today” show that the WHO is making guidelines for the entire world and bases its decisions on what’s best for everyone, including many unvaccinated people, as the delta variant surges.
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“So as the WHO makes those recommendations, they do so in that context,” she said. “Here in the United States, we’re fortunate. We have three vaccines that we know are safe and effective. We have two-thirds of the adult population that is fully vaccinated and really quite protected from the variants that we have circulating.”
She said those parts of the country with low vaccination rates should be careful and follow recommendations made at the local level. “But those masking policies are not to protect the vaccinated, they’re to protect the unvaccinated,” she said.
Elsewhere, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated top officials for failures in coronavirus prevention that caused a “great crisis,” using strong language that raised the specter of a mass outbreak in a country that would be scarcely able to handle it, as MarketWatch’s Mike Murphy reported.
The state media report Wednesday did not specify what “crucial” lapse had prompted Kim to call the Politburo meeting, but experts said North Korea could be wrestling with a significant setback in its pandemic fight. The news is a turnabout, as North Korea has said until now it has had zero COVID cases, despite sharing a porous border with China. Experts widely doubt the claim and are concerned about any potential outbreak, given the country’s poor health infrastructure.
In Australia, the town of Alice Springs, located in the middle of the Outback by the Unesco World Heritage–listed rock formation Uluru, joined four major cities in locking down to prevent the spread of the delta variant, Reuters reported.
Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin have already locked down as the country fights clusters of cases and works to accelerate a vaccine program that has inoculated less than 5% of the population of about 20 million adults.
In medical news, Sinovac Biotech Ltd. said a Phase 1/2 clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in children and adolescents between the ages of 3 and 17 demonstrated that the shot is safe and produced a strong antibody response, according to a study published Monday in the Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal.
The double-blind, randomized trial involved 552 participants and included a placebo, using two doses spaced 28 days apart. The study is the first involving children as young as 3 years old. China granted the vaccine emergency-use authorization for the 3-to-17 age group on June 3.
A United Nations report found that COVID’s impact on international tourism could cost the global economy more than $4 trillion for 2020 and 2021, MarketWatch’s Callum Keown reported.
The report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development warned that the uneven nature of vaccination rates across the world was hurting developing countries, particularly those highly dependent on international visitors.
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The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness headed above 181.9 million on Wednesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while deaths climbed above 3.94 million.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in total cases at 33.6 million, and by deaths that total 604,588.
India is second in total cases at 30.4 million and third by fatalities at 398,454, although those numbers are expected to be undercounted given a shortage of tests.
Brazil has the third highest caseload at 18.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins data, and is second in deaths at 515,985.
Mexico has fourth highest death toll at 232,803 and 2.5 million cases.
In Europe, Russia has overtaken the U.K. by deaths. Russia has had 132,973 fatalities, while the U.K. has 128,404, making Russia the country with the fifth highest death toll in the world and the highest in Europe.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 103,755 confirmed cases and 4,847 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.