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The Latest: Louisiana governor fasting, praying over virus – Alaska Highway News

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said the rate of COVID-19 cases in his state is “probably going to continue to get tougher in the weeks ahead.”

Justice has said he will not consider reinstating an indoor mask mandate and has continued to urge residents to be vaccinated.

The number of active cases statewide has reached at least 4,010, after bottoming out at 882 cases on July 9, according to state health figures.

School began Monday in West Virginia’s largest county. Schools in many other counties are set to open their fall terms this month.

About 57% of state residents ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated, while about 69% have received one dose.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

Canada begins allowing vaccinated US citizens to visit again

— France widely introduces a virus pass that is needed to enter restaurants, trains

— The pandemic’s impact on Tokyo Games is making Olympians dream of Paris

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MIAMI — The superintendent of the school district in the capital of Florida said Monday that he will require masks amid an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fueled by the delta variant.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna said children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will be required to wear masks when classes resume in Tallahassee on Wednesday. He said students who want to opt out need a note from a physician or a psychologist.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order in late July for the education and health departments to come up with ways of punishing school districts that mandate mask-wearing in classrooms.

The Florida Department of Health issued a rule last week that districts must allow parents to decide. And the Florida’s Board of Education approved an emergency rule granting private school vouchers for children who feel they are being harassed by a district’s COVID-19 safety policies, including mask requirements.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The number of COVD-19 patients in Alabama hospitals topped 2,000 Sunday, the highest figure the state has seen since January.

Medical officials have blamed low vaccination rates for a rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations as the highly contagious delta variant of the virus spreads throughout the region.

On Sunday, there were 2,047 patients with COVID-19 in state hospitals, including 581 in intensive care units and 300 patients on ventilators, according to numbers provided by the Alabama Hospital Association.

Decatur Morgan Hospital is treating 26 COVID-19 patients, up from 15 last week, hospital president Kelli Powers said Monday. She said the ill included a 38-year-old person who is on a ventilator in intensive care and that the sickest patients infected by the virus aren’t vaccinated.

“We have a lot of people who are on their deathbeds begging for the vaccine, but at that point it’s too late,” she said.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s top public health official said Monday that as COVID-19 cases continue to surge with the highly contagious delta variant, no intensive care beds were available in 35 of the state’s top-level hospitals.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs also said that more than 200 people were waiting in hospital emergency rooms to be admitted. The wait times affect not only people with COVID-19 but also those with other health conditions.

The state Health Department said Monday that more than 6,900 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mississippi from Friday through Sunday.

“Keep in mind – this will translate into around 500 new hospitalizations in coming days,” Dobbs wrote on Twitter.

He said the intensive care units were full in Level 1, 2 and 3 hospitals in the state’s acute care systems. Those include the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson; North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo; Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg; Memorial Hospital in Gulfport and Singing River Health System in Pascagoula.

Lee Bond, chief executive officer of Singing River Health System, in a statement Thursday said Mississippi is experiencing a “hellacious wave” of COVID-19 cases that are stretching hospitals’ resources and causing extreme stress for health care workers.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — One of North Carolina’s most vaccinated areas is instituting a mask mandate for indoor public places, regardless of one’s vaccination status.

Durham’s city and county-wide emergency order, which takes effect at 5 p.m. Monday, is an effort to combat the rapid spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel on Monday said it’s time to go “back to the basics” to combat what he views as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He called face masks “a common-sense, non-economically damaging way of limiting transmission.”

Schewel said Durham typically enforces such orders “with a light touch” by having the city attorney write a letter notifying a business or person of their noncompliance before sending a police officer and sheriff’s deputy to further address the situation.

“We do have the power to cite someone, but we’ve had to do very little of that,” Schewel said.

Those who are under 5, who are actively eating or drinking or who have medical or behavioral conditions do not need to wear masks in Durham County while in “any indoor public place, business or establishment.”

The order has no expiration date, but Schewel said the city and county will reevaluate the order every week or two.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico will ask the United States to send at least 3.5 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine as the country faces a third wave of infections, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday.

The president said he planned to discuss a transfer of vaccine with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris during a call scheduled for later Monday.

López Obrador said the U.S. government had initially offered the Moderna vaccine, but Mexican health authorities could not get the necessary approvals in time so now they are considering Pfizer or another approved vaccine.

Mexico has vaccinated more than 50 million people with at least one dose, representing about 56% of the adult population. It has received 91.1 million doses of five different vaccines.

In June, the U.S. donated 1.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Mexico is seeing more than 20,000 reported infections per day.

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BATON ROUGE, La. —Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have hit a record high again in Louisiana, with the state health department reporting 2,720 hospitalizations on Monday.

That’s 299 more hospitalizations than were reported in Friday’s figures.

The state hit a record number of coronavirus pandemic hospitalizations Tuesday, and the number has grown each day.

Monday’s report from the state health department says there have been 16,541 new cases reported since Friday and 50 more deaths. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the new infection figures include 3,106 children under age 18 since Friday.

The highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 is being blamed for the spread.

Rising case numbers have prompted the cancellation of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which was set for this fall, and this weekend’s annual Red Dress Run charity fundraiser in New Orleans.

According to the state health department, nearly 45% of Louisiana residents have had their first shot of vaccine and nearly 38% are fully vaccinated.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a devout Catholic, on Monday began three days of prayer and lunch fasting in honor of the state’s health care workers and those sick with COVID-19.

The Democrat urged others to join him.

“I will be praying that our sick may fight this illness, that the medical professionals caring for them can remain strong and safe, that our children, teachers and school support staff can safely begin the school year and that our people will do everything they can to help us slow the spread of this terrible virus,” he said in a statement.

Louisiana has the nation’s highest per capita rate of new COVID-19 cases over the last week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 693 new cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus authorities are investigating at least five instances where doctors allegedly issued false “SafePass” certificates that show the holder to have been vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from having contracted the virus or to have recently tested negative.

Cypriot Attorney General George Savvides said an arrest warrant was issued for one physician suspected of issuing a false certificate.

Savvides on Monday chaired a meeting bringing together the health minister, chief of police and Cyprus Medical Association officials to look into legal amendments that would empower the association to take action against members before any court proceedings to determine wrongdoing. Savvides pointed to a “legal void” among professional organizations, including the association, that prevents them for revoking their members’ licenses for any misconduct prior to a criminal conviction. He said his office would help draft legislation aimed at addressing that.

Some in Cyprus protest what they see as authorities’ attempts to limit where they go by making them display a “SafePass” in any place where people gather in numbers. That includes bars, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls and supermarkets.

Over 66% of Cyprus’ 900,000 people have been fully vaccinated, while 74% have received at least the first shot.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Face coverings will be required again starting Monday in indoor public places and businesses in Durham County, North Carolina, and the city of Durham due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

City and county leaders issued a new state of emergency that takes effect at 5 p.m. Monday in the county of more than 300,000 people northwest of Raleigh. The mask mandate also applies to those who are fully vaccinated.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide mask mandate ended July 30, but local governments and school systems can still enact restrictions.

State health data shows there were 4,500 new cases reported in North Carolina on Friday. More than 1,700 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized statewide as of Thursday, more than double the number from two weeks earlier.

The Durham city and county mask mandate provides exceptions, including for small children and people who shouldn’t wear one due to a medical condition.

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PARIS — France is now requiring people to show a QR code proving they have a special virus pass before they can enjoy restaurants and cafes or travel across the country.

The measure is part of a government plan to encourage more people to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot and slow down a surge in infections, as the highly contagious delta variant now accounts for most cases in France. Over 36 million people in France, or more than 54% of the population, are fully vaccinated.

The special pass is issued to people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, or have proof of a recent recovery from the virus or who have a recent negative test. The measure also applies to tourists visiting the country.

In hospitals, visitors and patients who have appointments are required to have the pass. Exceptions are made for people needing urgent care at the emergency ward.

The pass is also required on high-speed, intercity and night trains as well as on long-distance travels by plane or bus.

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MIAMI — A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Florida law that prevents cruise lines from requiring passengers to prove they’re vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the law is appears unconstitutional and won’t likely hold up in court.

The “vaccine passport” ban signed into law in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis fails to protect medical privacy or prevent discrimination against unvaccinated people, but it does appear to violate the First Amendment rights of Norwegian Cruise Lines, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams wrote.

In a nearly 60-page ruling issued late Sunday, the judge said Florida failed to “provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate” for banning requirements that passengers prove they’ve been vaccinated. Norwegian has shown that suspending the requirement will jeopardize public health, potentially causing “superspreader” events wherever passengers disembark, she wrote.

Florida separately sued the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeking to block federal cruise ship vaccination requirements. The CDC lost on appeal, but then made its guidelines non-binding, and all cruise lines operating in Florida have agreed to keep following the CDC’s instructions on a voluntary basis, the judge wrote.

The CDC’s current guidelines, in effect until Nov. 1, say cruise lines can sail again with confirmation that at least 95% of passengers and crew have been vaccinated, the judge noted.

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ROME – Italian police have cracked down on sales of fake Green Passes needed in the country to access gyms, theaters, cinemas, bingo parlors or dine indoors.

The Italian postal police corps that specializes in internet and other cybersecurity crime said on Monday that the passes, which certify that holders have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine, recovered from the illness in the last six months or tested negative in the previous 48 hours, were being sold for prices ranging from 150 to 500 euros ($180-600).

The police said four suspects, including two minors, are under investigation. The suspects allegedly used the communications app Telegram to offer fake certifications.

Italy announced last month the virus rule would take effect on Aug. 6. The certification can also facilitate travel among European countries honoring the system. The postal police said the investigation was continuing to identify those who bought the phony passes.

Authorities noted that real Green Passes have QR codes that link up with health ministry data.

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BERLIN — German pharmaceutical maker BioNTech, which developed the first widely used coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer, saw its profits surge in the second quarter of 2021.

The Mainz-based company said Monday that it made a net profit of almost 2.8 billion euros ($3.3 billion) from April to June. This boosted first-half net profits to over 3.9 billion euros, compared with a net loss of almost 142 million euros in the first six months of 2020.

The company has said the windfall from its mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine will help it to develop drugs against cancer and other diseases.

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LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria has postponed the rollout of its second batch of COVID-19 vaccine due to “unforeseen circumstances,” a setback for Africa’s most populous nation as it faces a major surge in confirmed cases.

The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 made the announcement Sunday night, without providing further details about why the Tuesday launch was being delayed.

Less than 2 percent of the country’s 200 million citizens have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency.

Nigeria initially received about 4 million doses of AstraZeneca donated through COVAX, but exhausted its supply in mid-July. The country now has received 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the United States.

There has been a 553% increase in confirmed monthly infections since the delta variant was detected in the country in early July, according to data from the Nigeria Center for Disease Control.

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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia is reopening Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina to pilgrims from abroad to perform the smaller pilgrimage known as “umrah.”

State media reported that for the first time since the pandemic prompted the government to seal off Mecca to international travelers, the kingdom will begin gradually receiving requests for umrah pilgrims from various countries of the world starting Monday.

Travelers will need to prove they have been vaccinated and will need to quarantine if they are traveling from nations still red-listed by the kingdom, which include many of the countries that once sent the most pilgrims annually. The government plans to increase the capacity of pilgrims to 2 million per month.

The kingdom has allowed its own citizens and residents to perform the umrah since October of last year under certain conditions, and held dramatically downsized hajj pilgrimages last year and this year due to the pandemic.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has started a program to home-manage asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, abandoning its policy of hospitalizing almost everyone who tests positive, as the number of daily infections surges.

People aged between 2 and 65 will be observed by doctors manning call centers. Doctors will assess the patients daily and recommend admission if needed.

However, those who are obese or with a history of chronic heart, kidney or other major ailments will be hospitalized immediately.

Until recently, most people testing positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized in Sri Lanka. However, the country has seen a sharp surge in patients since late July with the emergence of the delta variant. The number of new daily cases is approaching 3,000, with almost 100 deaths daily on average.

Photos have circulated on social media over the past week showing crowded hospital wards with many patients on the floor, along corridors and even outdoors. The government says it has reserved more wards to help ease the congestion and refer asymptomatic patients for home care.

Sri Lanka has reported 329,994 COVID-19 positive cases so far including 5,111 deaths.

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TEHRAN — For the second straight day, Iran has shattered its single-day record for new coronavirus deaths and infections.

Iranian authorities on Monday reported 588 new fatalities, surpassing the previous day’s record by nearly four dozen. Another 40,800 new virus cases were recorded, with more than 6,500 people in critical condition.

Over a year and a half into the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, Iran is in the midst of its deadliest wave yet, fueled by the rapid spread of the delta variant.

The pandemic has killed more than 94,000 people in Iran, overwhelming hospitals in major cities as mass vaccination remains far off. Roughly 4% of Iran’s more than 80 million people have been fully vaccinated.

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal has begun a campaign to fully vaccinate all over-65s in the country Monday against COVID-19 following the arrival of AstraZeneca vaccines donated by Japan.

The 1.4 million citizens over 65 had been given the first dose of the vaccine in March but they had to wait for many months for the second one because of India’s refusal to export any vaccine made there. Japan’s donation follows Nepal government’s desperate appeals to foreign governments for AstraZeneca vaccines.

Nepal is attempting to boost its vaccination campaign, which struggled for months due to a shortage of all vaccines. It received 4 million Sinopharm doses from China last month and 1.5 million Johnson and Johnson jabs gifted by the United States.

The government is warning of the possibility of a new wave of infections in the Himalayan country. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nepal is 714,877 since the pandemic began last year.

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CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government says Moderna next month will become the third COVID-19 vaccine available in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian vaccine regulator approved the Moderna shot Monday for adults.

The first million doses will arrive in Australia in late September and 10 million Moderna shots are scheduled to be delivered to Australia this year, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Australia has a shortage of the Pfizer vaccine and a glut of locally manufactured AstraZeneca, which many are refusing to take because of the slight risk of blood clotting. New South Wales and Victoria states, where cities are in lockdown due to virus outbreaks, have stockpiles of more than a million unwanted doses of AstraZeneca, media reported.

Only 22% of adults among an Australian population of 26 million people had been fully vaccinated by Monday. The government expects to have provided a vaccine to every Australian adult who wants one by the end of the year.

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BEIJING — More than 30 local officials have been fired or received other punishments for shortcomings in handling China’s latest virus surge.

Among the officials fired for failing to fully implement anti-pandemic measures were a vice mayor, heads of city districts and health commissions, and staff from hospital management, airport and tourism departments.

China’s National Health Commission said Monday 94 new cases of domestic transmission had been recorded over the previous 24 hours. Of those, 41 were in the central province of Henan, which has been slammed by deadly flooding in recent weeks.

Another 38 cases were reported in Yangzhou, a neighboring city to Nanjing, where China’s widest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic was traced. The highly contagious delta variant spread among Nanjing airport workers and has since spread from tropical Hainan province in the south to Inner Mongolia in the far north.

While the number of total cases in the outbreak hovers around 1,500, a small number relative to those occurring in other countries, Chinese authorities have renewed travel restrictions, locked down communities and sealed off the entire city of Zhangjiajie, with a population of 1.5 million.

China has administered more than 1.7 billion doses of vaccine domestically, although it doesn’t disclose how many of its 1.4 billion people are now fully protected. Questions have been raised about the efficacy of the domestic jabs as the delta variant continues to spread.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria state in Australia is lifting its pandemic lockdown beginning Tuesday, except in the city of Melbourne.

Australia’s second-most populous state imposed a seven-day lockdown last Thursday due to concerns about the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

But Victoria Premier Daniel Andrew says all the cases detected in Victoria in recent days have been in Melbourne, with 11 more reported there Monday. So the lockdown will end in the rest of the state at the end of Monday.

Neighboring New South Wales state on Monday reported 283 new coronavirus infections and one COVID-19 death in the latest 24-hour period. The death toll from the latest outbreak that was first detected in Sydney on June 16 is now 29.

Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26 and will remain under tight pandemic restrictions until at least Aug. 28.

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NEW ORLEANS — With new coronavirus cases surging in Louisiana, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival won’t be returning this year.

The festival is traditionally held in the spring but it had been scheduled to run Oct. 8-10 and Oct. 15-17 after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But organizers on Sunday cited “current exponential growth” of new cases in the city and region in announcing that the festival will not occur as planned.

They say next year’s dates are April 29-May 8.

Jazz Fest celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. The music encompasses nearly every style imaginable: blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, contemporary and traditional jazz, country, bluegrass and everything in between.

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Mass vaccination campaign against Monkeypox needed, experts say – Global News

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As the World Health Organization calculates whether to declare monkeypox a global health emergency, infectious disease experts are urging health officials to be more proactive and start ramping up vaccinations and surveillance — especially in African nations where the virus is most prevalent.

The WHO convened its emergency committee Thursday to consider whether the spiralling outbreak of monkeypox should be declared a “public health emergency of international concern,” the WHO’s highest level of alert.

But the United Nations agency is facing criticism over its treatment of monkeypox — jumping into action only after the disease started to spread in rich western nations.

Read more:

WHO to discuss declaring monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency

The viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions is endemic in parts of Africa, which means it is consistently present in certain regions. The continent has registered just over 1,500 suspected cases since the start of 2022, of which 70 have been fatal, according to the WHO.

By comparison, Canada has confirmed over 200 cases, the majority of which are in Quebec, and has had no deaths.

“There are more cases that occur in Africa on a yearly basis than have already been reported outside of Africa right now. And there are more deaths that have occurred in Africa from monkeypox than have occurred in the rest of the world,” said Dr. Sameer Elsayed, an infectious disease physician and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University.

Read more:

Monkeypox in Canada: 211 confirmed cases reported across the country

That’s why he believes Africa should be getting the lion’s share of resources to deal with monkeypox — and that should include mass vaccinations, he says.

“I think Africa needs to be looked at with high, high priority,” he said.

“It needs to be a mass vaccination campaign for monkeypox with the newer vaccines for people in the African continent, especially in the high endemic areas.”

He’s not alone.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, a physician and infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, says she also believes more people living in regions where monkeypox is more prevalent should be vaccinated.

“That will actually stop it in endemic regions in this non-endemic outbreak.”

That the WHO is only now taking monkeypox seriously is “profoundly problematic,” Gandhi says, given that the disease has been spreading and killing people in Central and West Africa for years.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll'



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Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll


Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll – Jun 17, 2022

“It’s been circulating since 1958. There are increasing outbreaks — a severe one in Nigeria, for example in 2017 — and it’s only really essentially when this has affected high-income countries that the WHO is jumping on it.”

Experts who have worked on monkeypox in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo have long taken note of rising cases while population immunity to pox viruses has been decreasing, due to lack of vaccination. This is why the world shouldn’t be surprised at the current outbreaks, said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA in California, who has studied monkeypox for two decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how quickly a deadly virus can spread across the globe when the right conditions are present, so health officials ought to learn from this and start being more proactive, she said.

“When it comes to infectious diseases, in particular those viruses that have the potential for global spread, it’s much easier to stay out of trouble than it is to have to get out of trouble.”

In addition to providing vaccines, health officials should also be ramping up resources to study this disease and do more surveillance to get a better understanding of monkeypox and learn why it is spreading in new and unusual ways, Rimoin said.

Read more:

Monkeypox outbreak: Case count rises to more than 3,200 globally, says WHO

“We’ve given this virus a lot of runway to be able to spread. We have not been looking for it as vigilantly as we should be,” she said.

“I think we have to learn the lessons that we’ve learned with COVID-19 and that it is much better to invest ahead of time to get in front of these viruses, to do the kind of surveillance it’s necessary to be regularly updating our knowledge about viruses.”

Good disease surveillance is just as important in poorer countries as it is in “high-resource settings,” she added.

Like many countries around the world, Canada and the United States stopped vaccinating the general population against smallpox by around 1972, which means many on this continent are highly susceptible to pox viruses like monkeypox.

Given that scientists expect to see more emerging infectious diseases due to factors such as climate change, deforestation and globalization, the world should start getting better prepared for new outbreaks, Elsayed said.

Read more:

Monkeypox has Canadian researchers scrambling. Why, and how contagious is it?

This is why, in addition to calling for vaccinations and more resources to fight monkeypox in Africa, Elsayed believes governments in developed nations should also consider more options to protect citizens from pox viruses, including possibly re-introducing mass smallpox vaccinations.

“I believe that these vaccines should come on board again for the general population … but not (just) for monkeypox, but also to protect the world against perhaps a smallpox pandemic that can happen in the future, or even another virus that’s closely related to monkeypox but hasn’t reached humans,” Elsayed said.

He stressed this should only be considered after addressing the more pressing needs in Africa first.


Click to play video: 'WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen'



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WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen


WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen – Jun 15, 2022

Rimoin noted that when the world stopped vaccinating against smallpox, it opened a “gap of immunity” for populations to once again be vulnerable to it. And with the emergence of a number of new pox viruses in different parts of the globe, including mousepox, cowpox and camelpox, the world is not immune to new outbreaks, she said.

“We now have to really think about, How important is it for us to be able to keep pox viruses out of the population?” she said. “What are the stakes of allowing this virus to spread? And then acting accordingly.”

-With files from Global News reporter Reggie Checcini and Reuters.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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New Brunswick prepares for COVID-19 vaccine rollout for children under 5 – CBC.ca

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New Brunswick will be ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to children under five as soon as they’re approved and available, according to the chief medical officer of health.

The province is also working on an early flu vaccination campaign in anticipation of “a higher than normal” influenza season this year, said Dr. Jennifer Russell.

In the U.S., immunization of infants and preschoolers against COVID-19 began this week after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in children as young as six months old last Friday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended use of the vaccines in this age group the following day.

No COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children under five in Canada yet. Health Canada is reviewing an application from Moderna.

“We are waiting for Health Canada as well as NACI [National Advisory Committee on Immunization] to come forth with their recommendations,” said Russell.

The province is “watching very closely,” she said, and is “ready to act on those when they come through.”

Russell could not estimate when that might be.

“But we are preparing ahead of time for that inevitability.”

No details yet

Planning for the rollout is underway, said Department of Health spokesperson Michelle Guenard.

The department is working with its primary care partners, including the regional health authorities, community pharmacies and the New Brunswick Medical Society, she said.

No other details, such as where the shots will be available or who will administer them, are available yet.

“Final decisions will be made after Health Canada has given approval to the vaccine,” Guenard said in an emailed statement. “This includes reviewing a statement from NACI and local considerations.”

“Guidance will be provided to those identified to be immunizers for the under-five vaccinations,” she added. “This includes sharing information from Health Canada, the vaccine supplier, NACI and guidance from New Brunswick Public Health.”

‘Very encouraging’

Russell called the U.S. approval “very encouraging.”

“I think whatever protections we can provide to the population as a whole is very important,” she said. “This is one of the last pieces, really, that we’ve been waiting for.”

The under-five age group is the only one in the province that doesn’t currently have COVID-19 vaccines available to them.

Children aged five to 11 have been able to get a shot since November.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said with COVID-19 vaccines already available to New Brunswickers aged five and older, the pending approval for those under five is ‘one of the last pieces’ the province has been waiting for. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

“As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” FDA commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said in a statement.

“Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data,” he said.

The FDA found the known and potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines “outweigh the known and potential risks in the pediatric populations.”

According to the clinical trial data, the most commonly reported side effects in children aged six months to five years old included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fever and underarm (or groin) swelling/tenderness of lymph nodes in the same arm (or thigh) as the injection.

Spike in flu cases

A total of 52.7 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received a COVID-19 booster shot, as of this week’s COVIDWatch report, 88.1 per cent have received two doses and 93.3 per cent have received one dose.

The province wants to have as many people protected as possible going into the fall, said Russell.

The “pattern of the pandemic” has been that the risks tend to decrease in the summer when people are outside more, physically distancing, and increase in the fall and winter, she said.

“I think that correlation is holding true at the moment but you know we try to be prepared for whatever comes our way with COVID because there aren’t any guarantees.

“We are aware that we’re expecting a higher than normal flu season this year and so we will be pushing our vaccination campaigns early.”

The red line indicates the growth in the percentage of positive influenza tests in New Brunswick. Yellow represents the Influenza A (H3)cases, while green illustrates Influenza A (unsubtyped). (Government of New Brunswick)

New Brunswick is dealing with an unusually late flu season, due in part to the lifting of COVID-19 protective measures in March, such as masking.

Normally, the flu season really starts to “take off” in January and “peters out” once the warmer weather begins, the province’s acting deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Yves Léger has said.

But nearly a quarter of this season’s cases occurred in one week this month.

Seventy-three positive influenza cases were reported in week 23, which ended June 11, the most recent statistics available from Public Health show. Six of the cases required hospitalization.

Two new influenza outbreaks were reported in nursing homes and one new influenza-like illness outbreak was reported in a school, the influenza surveillance report shows.

A total of 302 cases have been reported so far this season, which began Aug. 29, 2021 and continues until Aug. 27. That’s up from 40 just a month ago.

There have been 60 hospitalizations and four deaths.

‘Double’ risk

If the risks for COVID-19 transmission increase in the fall at the same time the risks for the flu are expected to rise, “then we’ve got, you know, a double kind of risk happening,” said Russell.

“So we want to address that early and making sure that everybody who’s eligible for flu vaccination gets vaccinated as well.”

The province is also “really keen” to have people who fell behind with their routine vaccinations to get caught up on those, she said.

“We wouldn’t want to see a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

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COVID-19 vaccines saved 20M lives in 1st year, scientists say – CTV News

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Nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year, but even more deaths could have been prevented if international targets for the shots had been reached, researchers reported Thursday.

On Dec. 8, 2020, a retired shop clerk in England received the first shot in what would become a global vaccination campaign. Over the next 12 months, more than 4.3 billion people around the world lined up for the vaccines.

The effort, though marred by persisting inequities, prevented deaths on an unimaginable scale, said Oliver Watson of Imperial College London, who led the new modelling study.

“Catastrophic would be the first word that comes to mind,” Watson said of the outcome if vaccines hadn’t been available to fight the coronavirus. The findings “quantify just how much worse the pandemic could have been if we did not have these vaccines.”

The researchers used data from 185 countries to estimate that vaccines prevented 4.2 million COVID-19 deaths in India, 1.9 million in the United States, 1 million in Brazil, 631,000 in France and 507,000 in the United Kingdom.

An additional 600,000 deaths would have been prevented if the World Health Organization target of 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021 had been met, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The main finding — 19.8 million COVID-19 deaths were prevented — is based on estimates of how many more deaths than usual occurred during the time period. Using only reported COVID-19 deaths, the same model yielded 14.4 million deaths averted by vaccines.

The London scientists excluded China because of uncertainty around the pandemic’s effect on deaths there and its huge population.

The study has other limitations. The researchers did not include how the virus might have mutated differently in the absence of vaccines. And they did not factor in how lockdowns or mask wearing might have changed if vaccines weren’t available.

Another modelling group used a different approach to estimate that 16.3 million COVID-19 deaths were averted by vaccines. That work, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, has not been published.

In the real world, people wear masks more often when cases are surging, said the institute’s Ali Mokdad, and 2021’s Delta wave without vaccines would have prompted a major policy response.

“We may disagree on the number as scientists, but we all agree that COVID vaccines saved lots of lives,” Mokdad said.

The findings underscore both the achievements and the shortcomings of the vaccination campaign, said Adam Finn of Bristol Medical School in England, who like Mokdad was not involved in the study.

“Although we did pretty well this time — we saved millions and millions of lives — we could have done better and we should do better in the future,” Finn said.

Funding came from several groups including the WHO; the U.K. Medical Research Council; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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AP health and science reporter Havovi Todd contributed

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content

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