Coronavirus Morning News Brief – June 26: Updated Pfizer Vaccine Offers Better Protection Against Omicron Variants, Britain Sees New Spike

A panda at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding


Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 808th day of the pandemic.


Here’s a look at what has taken place over the past 24 hours.


UNITED STATES


Pfizer and partner BioNTech said that two coronavirus vaccine boosters which have been updated to target the omicron variant show a substantially higher immune response than the current vaccine, the two said Saturday.


The test involved a vaccine that targets the BA.1 omicron subvariant as well as a bivalent booster that targets two strains, including the current vaccine they offer as well as a vaccine candidate that targets omicron.


GLOBAL


Britain is seeing a major spike in new Covid cases that started the week following the queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The rise in cases is fueled by the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants and scientists there believe that the variants will spark a new and significant wave of cases.


The number of new daily infections was up 43% in the week following the Jubilee compared to the prior week.


Bereaved families who lost ones since the outbreak of Covid in the United Kingdom are taking legal action against Boris Johnson’s government over the public inquiry concerning the country’s handling of the pandemic. The prime minister had pledged that the inquiry would start by spring.  So far there have been 196,977 deaths in the country listing the coronavirus as the cause of death.


A group, the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice, says it is afraid that evidence may be destroyed because the hearings are likely to prove embarrassing to the current government.


Meanwhile, Covid cases in Israel have slowly been rising since the end of May, when daily case figures were as low as 975 on May 25.  Officials there reported 6,950 new cases Sunday and the 7-day incidence was 9,371.  The Health Ministry there said that the number of serious cases has continued to rise as well


In China, officials in Shenzhen, the country’s manufacturing hub, have closed fitness centers, cinemas, and wholesale markets in the Futian district, which borders Hong Kong.


The city also suspended some bus and subway lines and the window for proof of mandatory Covid tests, which are needed to ride public transit and for entry into some establishments, was halved to 24 hours.


The move, they said, was to prevent a wider spread of the coronavirus.


Meanwhile, Shanghai city officials said that in-restaurant dining will start to resume on June 29.  It will first restart in low-risk areas without any community spread during the past week.


TODAY’S STATISTICS


Now here are the daily statistics for Sunday, June 26.


As of Sunday morning, the world has recorded 548.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.5 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 6.35 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 523.7 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.4 million.


Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Sunday is 18,715,480, an increase of 72,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 18,679,103, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 36,377, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.


The United States reported 46,781 new coronavirus infections on Sunday for the previous day, compared to 118,491  on Saturday, 156,487  on Friday, 169,329 on Thursday, and 209,738 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to be over 100,000and is now 109,740.  Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.


The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 106,423, a decrease of 2%, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 355, an increase of 7% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 31,364, a 7% increase.


In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Sunday, recorded 88.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.04 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 43.4 million, and a reported death toll of 524,999.


New data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed at the end of May that the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 812,890, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, after the United States.  Rosstat reported that 11,583 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in April, down from 35,584 in March and from 43,543 in February.


Meanwhile, Brazil now has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 670,418, and has recorded 32.1 million cases.


France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 30.5 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 27.8 million.  The United Kingdom, with 22.6 million cases, is now number six and is the only other country in the world with a total number of cases over the 20 million mark.


VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Sunday, over 259.4 million people in the United States – or 78.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.9%, or 222.1 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 593.7 million. Breaking this down further, 89.5% of the population over the age of 18 – or 231.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.8% of the same group – or 198.4 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 50.7% of that population, or 100.5 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.


Starting on June 13, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish it on Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.


Over 66.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Sunday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.03 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 5.38 million doses are now administered each day.


Meanwhile, only 17.8% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.


Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.


In addition, North Korea and Eritrea are now the only two countries in the world that have not administered vaccines.


Paul Riegler contributed to this story.


(Photo: Accura Media Group)