Covid-19 Vaccine Approval Process
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday it is “absolutely” too soon to lift mask mandates, citing daily COVID-19 case numbers that despite recent declines remain more than double the levels seen last summer.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s warning that face-covering requirements are still critical came just days after governors in Iowa and Montana lifted long-standing mask mandates in their states.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Walensky said preventing further surges of infection is key to safely reopening schools and regaining some level of social normalcy until collective COVID-19 immunity can be achieved through mass vaccinations.
Whether Americans can look forward to walking down the street without wearing a mask by the end of the year “very much depends on how we behave right now,” she said.
Asked if it was still too early for states to eliminate rules requiring the use of face masks in public, Walensky replied, “Absolutely.”
While COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations appear to be waning, the United States has a long way to go before it can safely return to a mask-less normal, she said.
“The cases are more than two-and-a-half-fold times what we saw over the summer,” said Walensky, who was sworn in as CDC director last month after President Joe Biden took office. “It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place.”
Health experts say population-wide mask wearing is one of the most effective ways of pushing COVID-19 transmission down to controllable levels.
Continued adherence to social distancing and face coverings remains especially urgent given the risks posed by new coronavirus variants found to be more transmissible, and possibly more resistant to antibodies, than the original strain.
COVID-19’s grip on the United States remained strong on Sunday, with 27.6 million cases confirmed and more than 484,600 lives lost to the highly contagious respiratory virus to date, according to a Reuters tally.
The U.S. inoculation campaign has gained considerable momentum since a sluggish start in December, with 52.9 million total vaccines administered so far, according to the CDC.
As the United States continues wrestling to ramp up vaccine supplies and distribution, an unusually broad swath of wintry weather in recent days caused the latest setback, forcing mass vaccination centers from Texas to Virginia to suspend operations.
Newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. fell sharply from a day earlier, as the White House said President Biden would participate in a virtual summit this week with the Group of Seven leading nations so leaders can discuss the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. reported more than 64,000 new infections for Sunday, down from more than 83,000 a day earlier, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Sunday’s number may update.
Deaths for Sunday in the U.S. fell to 1,084 from 3,361 a day earlier, according to Johns Hopkins.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. has reported more than 27.6 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 485,000 deaths.
World-wide, more than 108.8 million people have been confirmed as infected with Covid-19, and nearly 2.4 million people have died, according to Johns Hopkins.
More than 67,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized for Covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project’s report for Sunday. That included more than 14,000 people who were being treated in intensive-care units.
LIMA, Peru—More high-ranking Peruvian officials have resigned after it was revealed that they received coronavirus vaccines well-before shots were rolled out for frontline medical workers.
Foreign Relations Minister Elizabeth Astete stepped down after saying she got China’s Sinopharm vaccine last month. Deputy Health Minister Luis Suarez also resigned after saying he was inoculated last year.
Peru began its immunization campaign last week with health workers after the arrival of 300,000 Sinopharm vaccines.
The revelations have caused a political scandal in Peru, where top government officials are accused of getting preferential treatment while the country was battered by a pandemic that has killed more than 43,000 people. More than 300 doctors and about 100 nurses in Peru have died from the virus.
“I feel really angry and furious with this situation,” said President Francisco Sagasti, who received his vaccine last week after the first doses arrived on a commercial flight.
Ms. Astete said she decided to take the early shot after several ministry officials and foreign diplomats she was in contact with tested positive for the virus. At 68 years old, she noted that she was at high risk because of her age if infected, which could affect her work overseeing negotiations to secure vaccines for the rest of Peru.
“I couldn’t have the luxury of becoming ill,” Ms. Astete wrote in her resignation letter.
Her departure follows the resignation of Peru’s health minister on Saturday after former President Martin Vizcarra said that he and his wife got shots in October. The health minister, Pilar Mazzetti, was also minister under Mr. Vizcarra.
Mr. Vizcarra said he received the vaccine because he took part in Sinopharm's clinical trial at Lima’s Cayetano Heredia University. The university said Mr. Vizcarra wasn't a volunteer in the 12,000-person, phase 3 trial.
Mr. Vizcarra received the vaccine a month before he was ousted by Congress following accusations of corruption years earlier while he was a state governor, which he denies. He is now running for congress in this year's general election.
The vaccines given to the officials seem to have come from an extra batch of doses that Sinopharm sent for the clinical trial.
Mr. Suárez, the deputy health minister, said Sinopharm offered him and his team those vaccines as part of an effort to provide protection to officials overseeing the response to the pandemic. He said this came with a risk as the efficacy and safety of the vaccine had yet to be determined.
Peru has a deal with Sinopharm to receive 38 million vaccines. It has also struck deals with AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
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