Israel, South Korea agree COVID-19 vaccine swap


Reuters 06 July, 2021 - 12:53am 62 views

JERUSALEM/SEOUL, July 6 (Reuters) - Israel will deliver about 700,000 expiring doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's (PFE.N) coronavirus vaccine to South Korea later this month, and South Korea will give Israel back the same number, already on order from Pfizer, in September and October.

South Korea has quickly distributed the COVID-19 vaccines it has, but has struggled to obtain enough doses in a timely manner amid tight global supplies, particularly in Asia.

"This is a win-win deal," Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement announcing the deal on Tuesday. "Together we will beat the pandemic."

After a stellar roll-out, Israel has administered both shots to around 55% of its population and seen turnout plateau.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said the deal will allow South Korea to accelerate its vaccination plans, including providing shots to employees in some sectors that have a high amount of contact with other people.

Local authorities will decide who gets the vaccines, but she said some possible examples may include street cleaners, delivery workers, and retail employees.

South Korean authorities said last week they are hoping to achieve herd immunity earlier than the current November target by inoculating at least 70% of the population with a minimum of one vaccine dose, mostly mRNA ones such as Pfizer's.

Jeong said if the vaccination drive goes according to plan and South Korea finds itself with surplus doses later in the year after sending back the agreed doses to Israel, it too will look to share its stockpile with other countries.

South Korea has been battling persistent small outbreaks, prompting officials to delay some easing of social distancing rules. The KDCA reported 746 more COVID-19 cases as of midnight Monday, raising the country's total to 161,541, including 2,032 total deaths.

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Japan said on Tuesday it would ship millions more doses of AstraZeneca Plc's (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine to Asian neighbours this week as a continuation of bilateral donations.

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Boy, 16, had cardiac arrest after exercise following 1st Pfizer vaccine dose

Yahoo News 06 July, 2021 - 01:10am

The ministry on Monday (5 July) said it was alerted to the incident on Saturday by the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), where he had been treated at its emergency department following his collapse at home on the same morning. 

The boy was later transferred to the National University Hospital (NUH) in the evening, where he remains in critical condition at the intensive care unit.

Prior to his collapse on Saturday, he was lifting weights at the gym, the MOH said, adding that it "understands that he trains with very heavy weights which were above his body weight".

The boy had received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine on 27 June. 

He was assessed by trained healthcare personnel to be suitable for COVID-19 vaccination and was well following a post-vaccination onsite observation that lasted about 30 minutes, it added.

He was also well for the following five days after vaccination, the MOH noted.

"We are in contact with the medical team in the NUH who are providing close medical care for the patient. The preliminary diagnosis of his condition is an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Clinical and laboratory tests are in progress to understand the underlying cause," said the ministry.

The ministry added that it will also work with the hospital's medical team in NUH to determine if the incident might be linked to the boy's COVID-19 vaccination. This will include a thorough consideration of whether there was acute severe myocarditis, which is severe inflammation of the heart muscles affecting the heart function, as a possible diagnosis.

The expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination will monitor the outcome of the investigation.

"While most persons with vaccine-related myocarditis observed locally and internationally have mild symptoms and make an uneventful recovery, it is possible that the condition may be aggravated by factors or strenuous activities that may affect the heart," said the expert committee in a separate statement on Monday.

It added that given the emerging data on the small risk of myocarditis and pericarditis observed after vaccination with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines – such as those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – all individuals who have received any dose of the mRNA vaccines should avoid any exercise or strenuous physical activity for one week after vaccination. 

This applies particularly to adolescents and younger men aged less than 30 years old.

"During this time, the vaccinated persons should seek medical attention promptly if they develop chest pain, shortness of breath, or abnormal heartbeats. All doctors should also be vigilant around such clinical presentations after vaccination," said the committee.

It also said that any individual diagnosed with myocarditis after receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should not receive further such doses.

There have been 12 reports of myocarditis and pericarditis occurring in individuals following their vaccinations with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines as of 30 June, said the expert committee, which cited the Health Sciences Authority's (HSA) third COVID-19 vaccine safety update released on Monday.

Five of the cases occurred in adults aged 30 years old and above.

The remaining seven involved males aged below 30 years old, "higher than expected for this age group, based on background incidence rates", the committee noted.

"While most of the cases reported previously had occurred after dose two of their vaccination, the HSA had also started to receive reports of some cases that occurred after dose one," it added.

The expert committee said that after extensive deliberation, it continues to recommend vaccination with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for all eligible individuals, including adolescents and younger men, "as the protective benefits from the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks". 

"The use of safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines in Singapore is of paramount concern to the expert committee, and the expert committee will continue to monitor local and international data to ensure our vaccination recommendations are up to date based on the latest scientific evidence available," it added.

As of Saturday, a total of 5.71 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered under the national vaccination programme in Singapore.

About 3.55 million individuals have received at least one dose, of whom 2.16 million of them are fully vaccinated.

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Israel data 'preliminary signal' Delta variant can bypass vaccine: expert

Medical Xpress 06 July, 2021 - 01:10am

That is partly due to the overall low number of cases among fully vaccinated Israelis, and because exposure to the virus and the likelihood of being tested are not evenly distributed across the population, further complicating efforts to reach conclusions about the data.

Balicer, also the chief innovation officer at Clalit, Israel's largest health maintenance organisation (HMO), told AFP that the Delta variant's emergence as the "dominant strain" in the country has led to a "massive shift in the transmission dynamic".

Israel's vaccine rollout that began in December was one of the world's fastest, making the Jewish state a closely-watched case study on whether mass inoculation offers a path out of the pandemic.

Vaccinations had brought transmission down to about five local new cases per day, but that figure has risen to around 300 in recent days, with the Delta variant raging.

About half of the daily cases are among children, and half are among mostly vaccinated adults.

"To some extent that could be expected since 85 percent of Israeli adults are vaccinated," Balicer said.

"But the rates in which we see these breakthrough cases make some believe they extend beyond that expected point and suggest some decrease in vaccine effectiveness against mild illness—but not severe illness—is likely."

The number of severe cases among vaccinated Israelis has risen in recent days from roughly one every two days up to five cases per day, Balicer said.

He said it was also too early to draw conclusions about the vaccine's effectiveness against serious illness caused by the Delta variant.

But, he added, experts "remain hopeful that the vaccine effectiveness against serious illness will remain as high as it was for the alpha strain" identified for the first time in Britain in December.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Sunday, ahead of a weekly cabinet meeting, that "with the Delta variant running amok," Israel may have to reintroduce certain restrictions that were lifted last month to curb transmission.

Balicer said it was unlikely Israel could contain rising cases without further restrictions being reimposed, but voiced hope they would be mild and that Israel's "vaccine wall" of inoculated citizens will help reduce further spread.

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Israeli Health Officials: COVID Vaccine Less Effective at Preventing Infections | 06 July, 2021 - 01:10am

As the Delta strain spreads throughout Israel, the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines in preventing infection has dropped considerably and now stands at 64%, down from 94%, according to data presented to Health Ministry officials late Sunday.

The reduction in the vaccine’s efficacy was registered from June 6, five days after Israel lifted almost all coronavirus restrictions. Haaretz on Monday quoted ministry officials as saying that genetic sequencing showed the Delta strain was responsible for 90% of new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.

According to the Health Ministry, data collected between May 2 and June 5 – before the recent outbreak – showed the vaccines had 94.3% efficacy at preventing infection.

A similar drop was observed in effectiveness at preventing serious illness among those who received two doses of the vaccine, with 55% of the new infections found among the fully vaccinated population.

In the period between May 2 and June 5, there was a 98.2% protection rate from serious illness but after June 6 and until July 3, protection dropped to just 93%.

However, the vaccines were found to be still effective against serious illness that could lead to hospitalization.

A senior health official said on Sunday that the recent data was a real cause for concern.

“Vaccines appear to be less effective,” the official said. “It is imperative that Israelis returning from travel abroad be tested five days after their arrival, in addition to tests conducted at the airport. The ministry should also consider a booster shot for the immunosuppressed and elderly population,” he said.

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Tennessee doctors encourage vaccinations as the ‘more dangerous’ Delta COVID-19 strain continues to spread

WJHL-TV News Channel 11 05 July, 2021 - 04:39pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Delta COVID-19 variant is rapidly spreading in several states across the nation including Missouri and Arkansas.

Tennessee doctors are once again warning people eligible for a vaccine to get vaccinated. The goal is to prevent death or severe illness.

“So unfortunately, Tennessee is still ranking very low in terms of vaccination,” said Dr. Jason Martin, a critical care physician.

Doctors are not letting up on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but with just 42 percent of Tennesseans with at least one dose and 37.6 percent fully vaccinated, the race to get the shots into arms of Tennesseans before the Delta COVID-19 strain spreads is ongoing.

“First of all, the Delta variant is more contagious, it’s more likely to be spread among folks who are not vaccinated, so our community is going to be more susceptible to it,” Dr. Martin said.

According to the latest critical indicators report from the Tennessee Department of Health, as of June 24, there have been 27 cases of the Delta variant.

“It’s also more likely to land you in the hospital if you do pick it up, and so it’s a more dangerous strain than we’ve seen in the past than the wild type we had last winter,” Dr. Martin said.

The state has allocated $2.5 million for the “Give It A Shot” campaign to encourage vaccinations.

“I think we need to be respectful of people who have legitimate questions about the vaccine, and that’s when healthcare providers need to step in and be available to answer questions, and to provide the data that’s out there,” said Dr. Martin.

But doctors agree, the best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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