WHO estimates COVID-19 boosters needed yearly for most vulnerable

WHO estimates COVID-19 boosters needed yearly for most vulnerable
World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts that people most vulnerable to COVID-19 will need to get an annual vaccine booster to be protected against variants, as per an internal document seen by Reuters. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 24 June 2021

WHO estimates COVID-19 boosters needed yearly for most vulnerable

WHO estimates COVID-19 boosters needed yearly for most vulnerable
  • WHO considers annual boosters for high-risk individuals as its "indicative" baseline scenario
  • Spokesperson for Gavi said COVAX was planning to take a wide range of scenarios into consideration

BRUSSELS: The World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts that people most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly, will need to get an annual vaccine booster to be protected against variants, an internal document seen by Reuters shows.
The estimate is included in a report, which is to be discussed on Thursday at a board meeting of Gavi, a vaccine alliance that co-leads the WHO’s COVID-19 vaccine program COVAX. The forecast is subject to changes and is also paired with two other less likely scenarios.
Vaccine makers Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc, with its German partner BioNTech, have been vocal in their view that the world will soon need booster shots to maintain high levels of immunity, but the evidence for this is still unclear.
The document shows that the WHO considers annual boosters for high-risk individuals as its “indicative” baseline scenario, and boosters every two years for the general population.
It does not say how these conclusions were reached, but shows that under the base scenario new variants would continue to emerge and vaccines would be regularly updated to meet these threats.
The UN agency declined to comment on the content of the internal document.
A spokesperson for Gavi said COVAX was planning to take a wide range of scenarios into consideration.
The document, which is dated June 8 and is still a “work in progress,” also predicts under the base case that 12 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses will be produced globally next year.
That would be slightly higher than the forecast of 11 billion doses for this year cited by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), signalling that the UN agency does not expect a significant ramp-up of vaccine production in 2022.
The document predicts manufacturing problems, regulatory approval issues and “transition away from some technology platforms” as potential drags on supplies next year.
It does not signal which technologies could be phased out, but the European Union, which has reserved the world’s largest volume of COVID-19 vaccines, has bet heavily on shots using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, such as those by Pfizer and Moderna, and has forgone some purchases of viral vector vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson.
The scenarios will be used to define the WHO’s global vaccination strategy and the forecasts may change as new data emerges on the role of boosters and the duration of vaccine protection, Gavi says in another document, also seen by Reuters.
So far about 2.5 billion doses have been administered worldwide, mostly in rich countries where over half of the population has received at least one dose, whereas in many poorer countries less than 1 percent has been vaccinated, according to Gavi’s estimates.
See graphic: COVID-19 global vaccination tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/vaccinat...
This gap could widen next year under the WHO’s most pessimistic forecast, as the need for annual boosters could once again push poorer nations to the back of the queue.
In its worst-case scenario, the UN agency says production would be 6 billion doses next year, due to stringent regulation for new shots and manufacturing issues with existing ones.
That could be compounded by the need for annual boosters for the entire world, and not just the most vulnerable, to combat variants and limited duration of protection.
In the more optimistic situation, all vaccines in the pipeline would get authorized and production capacity would ramp up to about 16 billion doses to meet demand. Vaccines would also be shared equitably across the world.
There would be no need for boosters as vaccines would show strong efficacy against variants and long protection.


Hard-won gains at risk as Delta variant spreads- WHO

Hard-won gains at risk as Delta variant spreads- WHO
Updated 41 min 48 sec ago

Hard-won gains at risk as Delta variant spreads- WHO

Hard-won gains at risk as Delta variant spreads- WHO
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has described coronavirus’s Delta variant as being as transmissible as chickenpox
  • COVID-19 infections have increased by 80% over the past four weeks

GENEVA: The world is at risk of losing hard-won gains in fighting COVID-19 as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads, but WHO-approved vaccines remain effective, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has described the Delta variant of the coronavirus as being as transmissible as chickenpox and cautioned it could cause severe disease, the Washington Post said, citing an internal CDC document.
COVID-19 infections have increased by 80 percent over the past four weeks in most regions of the world, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. Deaths in Africa — where only 1.5 percent of the population is vaccinated — rose by 80 percent over the same period.
“Hard-won gains are in jeopardy or being lost, and health systems in many countries are being overwhelmed,” Tedros told a news conference.
The Delta variant has been detected in 132 countries, becoming the dominant global strain, according to the WHO.
“The vaccines that are currently approved by the WHO all provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalization from all the variants, including the Delta variant,” said WHO’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan.
“We are fighting the same virus but a virus that has become faster and better adapted to transmitting among us humans, that’s the change,” he said.
Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, said the Delta variant was the most easily spread so far, about 50 percent more transmissible than ancestral strains of SARS-CoV-2 that first emerged in China in late 2019.
A few countries had reported increased hospitalization rates, but higher rates of mortality had not been recorded from the Delta variant, she said.
Japan said on Friday it would expand states of emergency to three prefectures near Olympic host city Tokyo and the western prefecture of Osaka, as COVID-19 cases spike in the capital and around the country, overshadowing the Summer Games.
Ryan noted that Tokyo had recorded more than 3,000 cases in the past 24 hours, among some 10,000 new infections in Japan.
“The Olympics is a part of that overall context and the risk management that is place around the Olympics is extremely comprehensive,” he said.


Germany to require tests for all unvaccinated travelers

Germany to require tests for all unvaccinated travelers
Updated 30 July 2021

Germany to require tests for all unvaccinated travelers

Germany to require tests for all unvaccinated travelers
  • From August 1, all people entering Germany will be obliged to have proof of a negative test, vaccination or recovery
  • According to a draft seen by AFP, there will be exceptions for cross-border commuters and transit travellers

BERLIN: Anyone entering Germany from abroad will have to take a Covid-19 test unless they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the disease, according to new rules signed off by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet Friday.
“From August 1, all people entering Germany will be obliged to have proof of a negative test, vaccination or recovery,” Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in a statement.
“This rule is there to keep the number of new infections brought into Germany as low as possible,” said Demmer, adding that it would apply to all travelers over the age of 12.
According to a draft seen by AFP, there will be exceptions for cross-border commuters and those passing through in transit.
Both PCR tests taken within 72 hours of entry and rapid antigen tests taken within a maximum of 48 hours will be accepted, the draft said.
The rule will apply “regardless of where travelers have come from and the means of transport they use,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the Funke media group.
Under current German rules, any unvaccinated person entering the country by plane must get tested, but those entering by road or rail must not unless they are coming from an area deemed high risk.
Those entering from so-called virus variant countries, such as Brazil and South Africa, must get tested even if they are vaccinated — a rule that will still apply under the new system.
Police have said the rules will not be enforced through systematic border controls, but through random checks.
Regional leaders in Germany’s border regions, especially Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate, had been calling for tighter travel measures.
Germany has seen low infection numbers over the summer compared to many of its European neighbors, but cases have been creeping up over the past few weeks, largely fueled by the Delta variant.
The country recorded 2,454 new cases in the past 24 hours on Friday, according to the Robert Koch Institute health agency, and an incidence rate of 17 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days — up from a low of 4.9 in early July.
With the country’s vaccination campaign running out of steam, the debate has been heating up around possible restrictions for the unvaccinated, though compulsory vaccination for parts of the population has so far been ruled out.


UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed
Updated 30 July 2021

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

KABUL: The United Nations said on Friday that its main compound in western Afghanistan was attacked by "anti-government elements", killing at least one Afghan police guard and other officers injured.
"The area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting today between the Taliban and government forces," a statement by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said. It added the UN is urgently seeking to establish a full picture about the attack and is in contact with the relevant parties.
It was not immediately clear who attacked the compound. 


Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal
Updated 30 July 2021

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal
  • The last round of talks ended in Vienna on June 20 and no date has been set for a new meeting

BERLIN: Germany’s foreign minister is signaling growing impatience with Iran, saying that a revival of the country’s frayed nuclear accord with world powers won’t be possible “forever,” a German magazine reported Friday.
The countries that remain parties to the agreement — Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and Iran — have been trying during six rounds of talks in Vienna to resolve how the United States can rejoin and how Tehran can return to compliance. President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018, but successor Joe Biden has said the US wants to return.
The last round of talks ended in Vienna on June 20. No date has been set for a new meeting.
“I am seeing with growing unease that Iran is delaying the resumption of the Vienna nuclear talks on the one hand, and on the other hand it is simultaneously moving further and further away from core elements of the agreement,” news weekly Der Spiegel quoted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as saying.
Since the US pulled out, Iran has gradually been violating the deal’s restrictions to put pressures on the remaining parties to come up with economic incentives to offset crippling American sanctions.
The accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies it is seeking any.
“We want a return to the JCPOA and are firmly convinced that it is in all sides’ interest,” Maas said. “But it is also clear that this option will not be open to us forever.”


EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity
Updated 30 July 2021

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity
  • Puigdemont and two former ministers are wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition
  • The European Parliament voted to strip them of immunity, but the trio appealed to the court

LUXEMBOURG: The EU’s General Court on Friday upheld a decision by the European Parliament to lift the immunity of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and two fellow pro-independence allies.
The move overturned a ruling in June that had seen the separatist politicians provisionally regain the legal protections afforded to members of the parliament.
Puigdemont, along with that of former Catalan regional ministers Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati, are wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition following an attempt by the Catalan region to gain independence through a referendum that Madrid ruled was unconstitutional.
In March, the European Parliament voted to strip them of immunity, but the trio appealed to the court arguing that they ran the risk of jail which would prevent them from exercising their mandate as elected European lawmakers.
The latest ruling on Friday rejected the claim that Puigdemont — based in Brussels since fleeing Spain in 2017 — and his colleagues face imminent arrest.
“There is no reason to consider that the Belgian judicial authorities or that the authorities of another Member State could execute the European arrest warrants issued against the deputies and could hand them over to the Spanish authorities,” the court said.
But it added that the three lawmakers — elected to the European Parliament in 2019 — could still reintroduce their demand to have their immunity reinstalled if authorities moved to arrest them and it became “sufficiently probable” they would be sent to Spain.
Madrid last month pardoned nine other jailed Catalan separatists behind the failed 2017 independence bid and released them from long prison sentences.