China Readies Boosters; Kremlin Outbreak Spreads: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Booster shots are in the spotlight, as a highly anticipated study in Israel showed a third Pfizer Inc. dose can dramatically reduce rates of virus-related illness in people 60 and older. The analysis comes as Pfizer and Moderna Inc. said the immunity offered by their vaccines may wane over time.  

© Bloomberg South African Vaccinations as Johnson & Johnson Weigh Booster Shot Trial

China has fully vaccinated more than 1 billion people — more than 70% of its eligible population — powering ahead of the U.S. and Europe despite having no immediate plans to ease some of the strictest pandemic measures in the world.  The nation will start inoculating key population groups with booster shots this month, Henan Daily reported. 

A Covid outbreak inside the Kremlin has sickened dozens of people working close to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president said, highlighting the scale of the outbreak in one of the country’s most carefully guarded areas.

Key Developments:

Global Virus Tracker: Cases pass 226.4 million; deaths exceed 4.66 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 5.83 billion doses administeredECB’s Lagarde sees part-time home office outlasting pandemicWorld’s worst HIV epidemic stymies South Africa’s Covid fightWhy the Delta variant is giving more children Covid: QuickTake

China to Offer Booster Shots from September (6:15 a.m. NY)

China will start inoculating key population groups with booster shots between September and November, Henan Daily reported, citing a meeting held by the local government of central China’s Henan province. The program is aimed at people who were fully vaccinated before May 1.

U.K. Mask Wearing Falls (6:12 a.m NY) 

More than four million British people stopped wearing face coverings in public, the Guardian reported. 

In May, 98% of people said they had worn a face covering in the past week when leaving the house. That fell to 89% this month, the newspaper said, citing Office for National Statistics figures. 

South African Shots (6:05 a.m. NY)

Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s South African partner plans to have a vaccine-making facility operational as early as the end of the year after the two companies started an inoculation trial in infants, children and adolescents.

Numolux Group expects the so-called fill-and-finish factory to produce 100 million doses a year once it’s operating at full capacity, Chief Operating Officer Anton Arendse said.

China Has Fully Vaccinated More Than 1 Billion (3:14 p.m. HK)

China has fully vaccinated more than 1 billion people against Covid-19 — over 70% of its eligible population — powering ahead of the U.S. and Europe despite having no immediate plans to ease some of the strictest pandemic measures in the world. 

Video: Pfizer on track for U.S. vaccine boosters, Moderna lagging, Fauci says (Reuters)

A total of 2.16 billion doses have been given in China as of Sept. 15, Mi Feng, a spokesperson at the National Health Commission, told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

The success of China’s vaccination strategy hasn’t averted flareups of the pathogen in recent months, and questions remain about how effective the shots are, especially against the newest variants. The nation is currently battling a cluster in the southeastern province of Fujian after squelching an earlier delta outbreak, the broadest it’s experienced since Covid first appeared in Wuhan.

Putin Says ‘Tens’ of Cases in His Entourage (2:50 p.m. HK)

A Covid outbreak inside the Kremlin has sickened dozens of people working close to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president said, highlighting the scale of the outbreak in one of the country’s most carefully guarded areas.

“It’s not one or two people but tens of people,” Putin told a televised video link with other leaders in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. “I will have to observe self-isolation for several days.” 

Putin received the Russian Sputnik V vaccine earlier this year.

Health Minister Calls Nicki Minaj Claim Waste of Time (1:44 p.m. HK)

Trinidad and Tobago’s health minister said there has been no evidence of testicular-swelling due to Covid vaccines, disputing a claim by rapper Nicki Minaj that drew international attention. 

Minaj, who has about 23 million Twitter followers, tweeted earlier this week that her friend’s cousin in Trinidad became impotent and his testicles became swollen after taking the vaccine. 

“Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim,” Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Minaj, who skipped the prestigious Met Gala because she did not meet the vaccination requirement, said she was still researching vaccines. The White House said Wednesday it had offered her a call with a doctor to answer questions about the shot.

Singapore Begins Vaccine Boosters (1:07 p.m. HK)

Singapore this week began its program to give booster shots for those above 60 years and people who are immuno-compromised. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post that 3,200 seniors stepped forward to receive boosters on Wednesday, and more than 12,000 have made appointments for shots.

Singapore is launching the program as cases surge in the island nation, with daily infections topping 800, though critical cases remain under control. The government has said it’ll seek to stick to the course of living with Covid-19 for now, though officials warned daily cases may rise to 2,000 in a few weeks.

Melbourne Lockdown to Ease Slightly (11:24 a.m. HK)

Lockdown restrictions in Australia’s second most populous city Melbourne will be slightly eased this weekend after more than 70% of Victoria state’s adult population had their first vaccination, Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters. Among the changes, residents will be allowed to travel up to 10 kilometers from their home for up to four hours of exercise a day and be allowed to meet a friend in a park for a picnic, he said.

Health authorities in Victoria continue to struggle to bring the delta varient under control. The state recorded 514 more daily infections, and its outbreak has doubled in seven days, according to Bloomberg calculations of Victorian health department data.

Indonesia Eases Visa Rules for Vaccinated (11:19 a.m. HK)

Indonesia is allowing foreigners holding more types of visas to enter the country as long as they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

Those holding the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation business travel cards, visitors with permits to stay for diplomatic and work purposes, as well as people having limited or permanent rights to stay can enter the country, according to a statement on the immigration office’s website. Offshore visa applications have also been reopened as of Thursday.

Alberta Imposes New Curbs (9:01 a.m. HK)

Alberta imposes new restrictions to control a surge in cases that is overwhelming hospital intensive care units, public officials including Premier Jason Kenney said in a press conference. The Canadian province may run out of ICU beds in the next 10 days.

The restrictions require people to work from home and forbid indoor dining at restaurants. Limits are imposed on indoor social gatherings for people who are vaccinated and forbids gatherings for those who aren’t vaccinated.

Raytheon, Walgreens Add Mandates for U.S. Workers (5:50 a.m. HK)

Raytheon and Walgreens will require all U.S. workers to be vaccinated, while Southwest Airlines Co. is rolling out a new carrot-and-stick approach, as pressure grows across corporate America to ensure employees are protected.

The steps by several of the largest companies in the U.S. come as the fast-spreading delta variant has fueled a surge in cases, prompting other big corporations to require shots or impose penalties.

CDC Meeting Next Week on Boosters (5:25 a.m. HK)

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hold a two-day meeting next week to discuss booster shots.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices posted notice of the meeting, which will be held Sept. 22-23, on its website on Wednesday. The panel of outside experts advises the CDC on how best to administer new vaccines.

Booster Dose Slashes Infections (5:00 a.m. HK)

A third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine can dramatically reduce rates of Covid-related illness in people 60 and older, according to data from a short-term study in Israel. 

Starting 12 days after the extra dose, confirmed infection rates were 11 times lower in the booster group compared with a group that got the standard two doses, the analysis released Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine found. Rates of severe illness were almost 20 times lower in the booster group.

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