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The Latest: Teachers in Pakistan told to get vaccinated – The Chronicle Journal

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LAHORE, Pakistan— A provincial education minister in Pakistan on Tuesday asked teachers working at private and public schools in the eastern Punjab province to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by August 22 to prevent school closures.

Punjab Education Minister Murad Rass said if any teachers are found unvaccinated after that date, authorities will shut the school where they teach.

The warning comes amid a steady surge in the confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pakistan.

Pakistan on Tuesday reported 3, 884 new daily cases and 86 deaths. The country has reported 1,075,504 confirmed cases and 24,004 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Bangladesh vaccinating Rohingya refugees amid virus surge

— COVID-19 vaccines to be required for military under new US plan

Governor of Texas appeals for out-of-state help against COVID-19

— 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:

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors are set to meet to decide on how to handle pandemic measures amid a discussion about whether people who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 should have greater freedoms than those who aren’t vaccinated.

While Germany has relatively low numbers of virus cases compared with other European countries, cases are rising again and authorities fear that especially young people who are not vaccinated yet may contract and spread the virus in the coming weeks and months.

On Monday, the country’s disease control agency registered 2,480 new cases, about 700 more than a week ago. Some 45.6 million people or almost 55 % of the population are fully vaccinated.

In response to a drop in vaccinations, officials have begun pushing for more vaccine clinics at megastores and in city centers, or offering other incentives to get people to show up for shots.

Merkel and the state governors are also expected to decide Tuesday whether free antigen tests that are available everywhere and can be used to access restaurants or cultural venues should be paid for again.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s Supreme Court has issued an order encouraging anyone entering a judicial facility to wear a mask in response to rising COVID-19 cases caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

The order issued Monday applies to judicial centers, courthouses or other judicial facilities. It’s in line with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, court officials said.

The order says the use of masks or other facial coverings is strongly encouraged for anyone entering a judicial facility.

The order also states that a chief circuit judge can mandate masks for a judicial facility.

The Administrative Office of the Courts — the operations arm of the state court system — supports the activities of nearly 3,300 court system employees and more than 400 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks.

The delta variant has caused a surge in coronavirus cases across Kentucky, leading to increased hospitalizations and concerns that the death toll will spike.

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SYDNEY — Australia’s most populous state is reporting a new daily high of 356 coronavirus infections.

The New South Wales government also reported four more COVID-19 deaths Tuesday. The death toll since the latest outbreak was detected in Sydney in mid-June is now 32. One of the latest deaths is a man in his 80s who was infected overseas, while the rest caught the virus locally.

More than 80% of the state’s 8.2 million people are in lockdown, including the greater Sydney region. The Sydney lockdown began June 26, and hopes are fading that restrictions will be eased as planned on Aug. 28.

Only 22% of Australian adults had been fully vaccinated by Monday. Officials hope that by getting the number above 70% will enable restrictions to be eased even if the virus is continuing to spread.

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DALLAS — Texas is looking for out-of-state health workers to help fight its third wave of coronavirus infections.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s move Monday came as a county-owned hospital in Houston raised tents to accommodate its COVID-19 overflow.

Abbott directed the Department of State Health Services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from outside Texas. He also is urging the Texas Hospital Association to request that hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures.

The governor also ordered an expansion of coronavirus vaccine availability in underserved communities.

Abbott is not lifting his emergency order banning local governments from requiring mask use and social distancing. He says people are able to make their own decisions on protecting their health.

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ATLANTA — Georgia hospitals are raising alarms about being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients as coronavirus infections rise rapidly across the state.

Clinical leaders from four coastal Georgia hospitals said at a news conference Monday that their institutions are rapidly running out of beds and pleaded that more people get vaccinated and wear masks.

Donna Cochrane is the chief nursing officer at Liberty Regional Medical Center in Hinesville and says her 25-bed hospital has 33 patients as of Monday morning, holding eight additional patients in the emergency room. Many are ill with COVID-19.

Georgia’s seven-day average for new coronavirus cases rose to nearly 5,700 on Monday, the highest level since Feb. 1. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide rose to nearly 3,500, eight times the lowest level earlier this summer.

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SEATTLE — Most state workers in Washington, as well as private health care and long-term care employees, will be required to show proof of vaccination for the coronavirus by Oct. 18 or will lose their jobs.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that weekly testing for the virus rather vaccination will not be an option. The only opt-out of the requirement is either a medical or religious exemption.

The order applies to about 60,000 employees of the 24 state agencies that are part of the governor’s executive Cabinet. Those include the departments of corrections, social and health services and transportation, as well as the Washington State Patrol.

Employees in the private sector who are covered under the order include those who work in health care and long-term care and other congregate settings, including nursing homes, assisted living and treatment facilities.

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

Dr. Thomas Dobbs also said Monday that more than 200 people are 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.

Dobbs 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.

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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 that he planned to discuss a transfer of vaccine with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris during a call scheduled for later in the day.

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.

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'Waning immunity?' Some experts say term leads to false understanding of COVID-19 vaccines – CBC.ca

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The idea of waning immunity has picked up steam in recent weeks, with some countries using it to justify rolling out third-dose COVID-19 vaccine boosters to their populations. But immunologists say the concept has been largely misunderstood.

While antibodies — proteins created after infection or vaccination that help prevent future invasions from the pathogen — do level off over time, experts say that’s supposed to happen.

And it doesn’t mean we’re not protected against COVID-19.

Jennifer Gommerman, an immunologist with the University of Toronto, said the term “waning immunity” has given people a false understanding of how the immune system works.

“Waning has this connotation that something’s wrong, and there isn’t,” she said. “It’s very normal for the immune system to mount a response where a ton of antibodies are made and lots of immune cells expand. And for the moment, that kind of takes over.

WATCH | Waning immunity sparks debate about need for COVID-19 booster shots: 

Waning immunity sparks debate about need for COVID-19 booster shots

25 days ago

Recent studies show a drop in effectiveness for COVID-19 vaccines, but the lack of information about how severe breakthrough cases were has sparked a debate about whether booster shots are necessary. 2:03

“But it has to contract, otherwise you wouldn’t have room for subsequent immune responses.”

Antibody levels ramp up in the “primary response” phase after vaccination or infection, “when your immune system is charged up and ready to attack,” said Steven Kerfoot, an associate professor of immunology at Western University in London, Ont.

Memory of pathogen remains

They then decrease from that “emergency phase,” he said. But the memory of the pathogen and the body’s ability to respond to it remain.

Kerfoot said B-cells, which make the antibodies, and T-cells, which limit the virus’s ability to cause serious damage, continue to work together to stave off severe disease long after a vaccine is administered. While T-cells can’t recognize the virus directly, they determine which cells are infected and kill them off quickly.

Recent studies have suggested the T-cell response is still robust several months following a COVID-19 vaccination.

“You might get a minor infection … [but] all of those cells are still there, which is why we’re still seeing very stable effectiveness when it comes to preventing severe disease,” Kerfoot said.

In the U.S., an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly decided on Friday against offering Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans — limiting third doses to those aged 65 and older or at high risk for severe disease. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

A pre-print study released this week by Public Health England suggested that protection against hospitalization and death remains much higher than protection against infection, even among older adults.

So the concept of waning immunity depends on whether you’re measuring protection against infection or against severe disease, Kerfoot said.

Ontario reported 43 hospitalized breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated on Friday, compared with 256 unvaccinated hospitalized infections. There were 795 total new cases in the province that day, 582 among those who weren’t fully vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.

British Columbia, meanwhile, saw 53 fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients hospitalized over the last two weeks, compared with 318 unvaccinated patients.

“You’ll hear people say that vaccines aren’t designed to protect infection, they’re designed to prevent severe disease,” Kerfoot said. “I wouldn’t say necessarily it’s the vaccine that’s designed to do one or another … that’s just how the immune system works.”

Moderna, Pfizer back need for booster

Moderna released real-world data this week suggesting its vaccine was 96 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization, even amid the more transmissible delta variant, and 87 per cent effective at preventing infection — down from 94 per cent efficacy seen in clinical trials last year.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said that dip “illustrates the impact of waning immunity and supports the need for a booster to maintain high levels of protection.”

Pfizer-BioNTech has argued the same with its own data, and an advisory panel to the U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration voted Friday to endorse third doses for those aged 65 and older or at high risk for severe disease.

However, the panel rejected boosters for the general population, saying the pharmaceutical company had provided little safety data on extra jabs.

The University of Toronto’s Gommerman said the efficacy data presented by Moderna doesn’t signal the need for a third dose.

“The fact it protects 87 per cent against infection, that’s incredible,” she said. “Most vaccines can’t achieve that.”

Bancel said Moderna’s research, which has yet to be peer reviewed, suggested a booster dose could also extend the duration of the immune response by re-upping neutralizing antibody levels.

Looking beyond the antibody response

But Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious physician in Mississauga, Ont., said looking solely at the antibody response is misleading and could be falsely used as justification for an infinite number of boosters.

Israel, which has opened third doses for its citizens, recently talked about administering fourth doses in the near future.

“This idea of waning immunity is being exploited, and it’s really concerning to see,” Chakrabarti said. “There’s this idea that antibodies mean immunity, and that’s true … but the background level of immunity, the durable T-cell stuff, hasn’t been stressed enough.”

While some experts maintain that boosters for the general population are premature, they agree some individuals would benefit from a third jab.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended boosters for the immunocompromised, who don’t mount a robust immune response from a two-dose series.

Other experts have argued that residents of long-term care homes, who were prioritized when the rollout began last December, may also soon need a third dose. The English study suggests immunity could be waning in older groups but not much — if at all — among those under age 65.

Chakrabarti said a decrease in protection among older populations could be due more to “overlapping factors,” including their generally weaker immune systems and congregate-living situations for those in long-term care.

Immune cells live for years within bone marrow

“These are people at the highest risk of hospitalization,” he said. “Could [the length of time that’s passed following their doses] be playing a role? Yeah, maybe.”

While we still don’t know the duration of the immune response to COVID-19 vaccination, Gommerman said immune cells typically continue to live within bone marrow and make small amounts of antibodies for “decades.”

“And they can be quickly mobilized if they encounter a pathogen,” she said.

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Coronavirus cases in Quebec rise by 821 with three new deaths and two more hospitalizations – CTV News Montreal

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MONTREAL —
Quebec reported Saturday that 821 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, bringing the overall number of infections to 402,283.

Of the new infections, 609 people were unvaccinated when they received their positive result, 49 received one dose of vaccine more than two weeks prior, and 163 were double-vaxxed more than a week before the test. 

Hospitalizations rose by two bringing the total number of people receiving care in the province’s hospitals to 264. The ministry reports that 36 people checked in for care, and 34 were discharged. Of the 36, 28 were unvaccinated, two received one vaccine dose more than 14 days prior and six got both jabs more than a week before entering the hospital. 

There are 89 people in intensive care wards, which is six fewer than on Friday.

Three more people have died due to COVID-19, bringing that total to 11,321 since March 2020.

There are 508 active outbreaks in the province.

Quebec’s vaccination rate remains at 88 per cent for one dose of the eligible population and 82 per cent for both doses. 

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Spike in COVID-19 cases is pushing New Brunswick's health-care system to the limit – CTV News Atlantic

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MONCTON, N.B. —
New Brunswick’s jump in COVID-19 cases has overloaded the health-care system this week.

The Horizon Health Network is now looking to hire more staff across the province to help with the growing demand for testing and vaccinations.

The health network has seen an increased demand in testing as COVID-19 cases have soared over the last month.

“Two weeks ago, if you wanted a test, you could walk in or call and get it at almost anytime you wanted,” said Dr. Jeff Steeves with New Brunswick’s Medical Society.

But now, assessment centres are seeing long line ups and delays in testing.

Steeves wants people to get the jab and practice caution during this time to prevent overloading the system even more.

“Remember, we were running short even before COVID, so we’re trying to maintain that,” Steeves said. “Therefore, we can’t divert the staff like we did before, hence the call for new staff.”

Horizon Health’s vice-president said in a statement Friday that they are currently looking to recruit staff at vaccination clinics, assessment centres and school clinics in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.

“Given the recent rise in COVID activity in New Brunswick, and the increased demand for these services, we are hoping to replenish our pool of available clinicians and administrative support staff as we ramp up activity at these locations,” said Jean Daigle.

Since the province announced proof of vaccination requirements this week, public health has reported a significant jump in vaccination appointments.

On Wednesday, 1,700 appointments were booked, while yesterday there were 1,929.

Health officials say prior to Wednesday’s number, the recent average for vaccinations was 600 bookings per day. On Thursday, 600 additional vaccines had to be delivered to a clinic in Moncton.

“Things have picked up dramatically,” said Fredericton pharmacist Alistair Bursary, who says they’ve been busy taking calls from people looking to get their first or second dose.

“So, whereas we were doing perhaps 10 patients a day on average now we are probably going to hit 40-50 just at our pharmacy alone,” Bursary said.

While the demand for services continue to climb, those working on the frontlines hope to get the help they need sooner rather than later.

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