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via voanews01/22/2021

Brazil to Receive More COVID-19 Vaccines Friday as President Defends Government Effort - Voice of America

Brazil expects to receive 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine Friday in its buildup to launching a mass immunization program.   The vaccine is due to arrive a day after President Jair Bolsonaro fended off criticism by health officials over whether Brazil has enough vaccine to begin its nationwide immunization program.   Bolsonaro, who has long played down the impact of the coronavirus, even after he contracted the disease, said the government will provide the vaccine to all Brazilians free of charge.       However, health officials say the country’s 6 million doses of the China-based Coronavac

via science.sciencemag.org01/21/2021

New mutations raise specter of 'immune escape' - Science

> Science's COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation When the number of COVID-19 cases began to rise again in Manaus, Brazil, in December 2020, Nuno Faria was stunned. The virologist at Imperial College London had just co-authored a paper in Science estimating that three-quarters of the city's inhabitants had already been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the pandemic coronavirus—more than enough, it seemed, for herd immunity to develop. The virus should be done with Manaus. Yet hospitals were filling up again. “It was hard to reconcile these two things,” Faria says. He started to hunt for samples he could sequence to find out whether changes in the virus could explain the resurgence. On 12 January, Faria and his colleagues posted their initial conclusions on the website [][1]. Thirteen of 31 samples collected in mid-December in Manaus turned out to be part of a new viral lineage they called P.1. Much more research is needed, but they say one possibility is that in some people, P.1 eludes the human immune response triggered by the lineage that ravaged the city earlier in 2020. Emerging variants of the coronavirus have been in the news ever since scientists raised the alarm over B.1.1.7, a SARS-CoV-2 variant that first caught scientists' attention in England in December and that is more transmissible than previously circulating viruses ( Science , 8 January, p. 108). But now, they're also focusing on a potential new threat: variants that could do an end run around the human immune response. Such “immune escapes” could mean more people who have had COVID-19 remain susceptible to reinfection, and that proven vaccines may, at some point, need an update. At a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on 12 January, hundreds of researchers discussed the most important scientific questions raised by the wave of new mutations. WHO also convened its COVID-19 Emergency Committee on 14 January to discuss the impact of the new variants and the travel restrictions that many countries are imposing to contain them. The committee called for a global effort to sequence more SARS-CoV-2 genomes to help track mutations. The more transmissible variant, B.1.1.7, is already spreading rapidly in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark, and probably in many other countries. But scientists are just as worried about 501Y.V2, a variant detected in South Africa. Some of the mutations it carries, including ones named E484K and K417N, change its surface protein, spike, and have been shown in the lab to reduce how well monoclonal antibodies combat the virus. In a preprint published earlier this month, Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, showed that E484K also reduced the potency of convalescent sera from some donors 10-fold—although he is quick to add this does not necessarily mean the mutation would cause people's immunity to the new strain to drop 10-fold. P.1 adds to the concerns because it appears to have hit on a similar constellation of mutations and has emerged in a place with a high level of immunity. “Anytime you see the same mutations arising and starting to spread multiple times, in different viral strains across the world, that's really strong evidence that there's some evolutionary advantage to those mutations,” Bloom says. Like B.1.1.7, the Brazilian variant is already on the move. Just as Faria was finishing his analysis of the Brazilian genomes, a report was published of a variant detected in travelers arriving in Japan from Brazil—and it turned out to be P.1. (As Science went to press, U.S. researchers also reported several new variants, but their importance remained unclear.) HOW THESE NEW variants are affecting the course of the pandemic is unclear. In Manaus, for example, P.1 might have nothing to do with the new surge in infections; people's immunity might simply be waning, says University of Oxford epidemiologist Oliver Pybus. Or it might be driving the boost because it is transmitted more easily, like B.1.1.7, not because it can evade the immune response. “Of course it could be a combination of these factors, too,” Pybus says. Similarly, in a recent modeling study, researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine calculated that South Africa's 501Y.V2 variant could be 50% more transmissible but no better at evading immunity, or just as transmissible as previous variants but able to evade immunity in one in five people previously infected. “Reality may lie between these extremes,” the authors wrote. Ester Sabino, a molecular biologist at the University of São Paulo, São Paulo, has launched a study to find reinfections in Manaus that could help decide between these hypotheses for P.1. Lab studies investigating the variants are also underway. The United Kingdom on 15 January launched a new consortium, G2P-UK (for “genotype to phenotype-UK”), headed by Wendy Barclay of Imperial College London, to study the effects of emerging mutations in SARS-CoV-2. One idea discussed at the 12 January WHO meeting is to set up a biobank that would aid studies by housing virus samples, as well as plasma from vaccine recipients and recovered patients. Interactions between the new mutations may make it harder to tease out their effects. The variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Manaus all share a mutation named N501Y, for instance, or Nelly, as some researchers call it. But the mutation, which affects the spike protein, also occurs in some variants that do not spread faster, suggesting N501Y does not operate alone, says Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research: “Nelly might be innocent, except maybe when she's hanging with her bad friends.” Bloom thinks none of the changes is likely to let the virus escape the immune response entirely. “But I would expect that those viruses have some advantage when a lot of the population has immunity”—which might help explain the surge in Manaus. SO FAR THE VIRUS does not appear to have become resistant to COVID-19 vaccines, says vaccinologist Philip Krause, who chairs a WHO working group on COVID-19 vaccines. “The not-so-good news is that the rapid evolution of these variants suggests that if it is possible for the virus to evolve into a vaccine-resistant phenotype, this may happen sooner than we like,” he adds. That possibility adds to the urgency of putting good surveillance in place to detect such escape variants early on, says biostatistician Natalie Dean of the University of Florida. Some scientists worry that proposed changes in vaccine dosing regimens could hasten the evolution of such strains. Desperate to tame a massive surge in cases, the United Kingdom on 30 December decided to allow up to 12 weeks between the first and second dose of two authorized vaccines, rather than the 3 or 4 weeks used in the vaccines' clinical trials, so more people can get their first dose quickly and have at least some immunity. And the Trump administration decided to ship all available doses immediately, rather than holding back 50% to guarantee that people receive their second doses on time. That policy, which the Biden administration has said it will follow, could inadvertently extend the dosing interval if future vaccine deliveries don't arrive or aren't administered on time. Widespread delays of the second dose might create a pool of millions of people with enough antibodies to slow the virus and avoid getting sick, but not enough to wipe it out. That could well be the perfect recipe for creating vaccine-resistant strains, says virologist Florian Krammer of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: “If we end up with everybody just getting one dose with no doses available for a timely boost, that would in my opinion, be a problem.” But others say unchecked spread of the virus poses greater risks. “It's carnage out there,” says evolutionary microbiologist Andrew Read of Pennsylvania State University, University Park. “Twice as many people with partial immunity has got to be better than full immunity in half of them.” Historically, few viruses have managed to evolve resistance to vaccines, with the notable exception of seasonal influenza, which evolves so rapidly on its own—without vaccine pressure—that it requires a newly designed vaccine every year. If vaccine-resistant SARS-CoV-2 strains emerge, vaccines might need to be updated. Several vaccines could be easily changed to reflect the latest changes, but regulators might balk at authorizing them without seeing updated safety and efficacy data, Krause says. If new variants circulate alongside older strains, multivalent vaccines, effective against several lineages, might even be needed. “To be clear: These are downstream considerations,” Krause says. “The public should not think that this is imminent, and that new vaccines will be needed.” But Ravindra Gupta, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, says manufacturers should start to produce vaccines designed to generate immunity to mutated versions of the spike protein, because they keep cropping up. “It tells us that we should have these mutations in our vaccines, so that you shut off one of the avenues for the virus to go down.” For now, increased transmissibility is the biggest worry, says virologist Angela Rasmussen of Georgetown University. “I'm puzzled why [that] isn't a bigger part of the conversation,” she says. The U.S. hospital system, she says, “is at capacity in many places and further increases in transmission can tip us over the edge where the system collapses. Then we'll start seeing potentially huge increases in mortality.” [1]:

via reuters01/20/2021

Brazil's Maia says China is working to speed up exports of vaccine supplies - Reuters

Brazil's lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia said China's ambassador Yang Wanming is working with his government to speed up the shipment of active ingredients to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Latin America's biggest economy, and denied any political obstacles to the effort,...

via cbc.ca01/20/2021

What's different about the coronavirus 'variants of concern' flagged by WHO -

​The seemingly more transmissible variants of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil are called "variants of concern" by the World Health Organization. Here's a look at what's driving the concern and calls for more precautions in Canada.

via voanews01/17/2021

Brazil Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Program for Hard Hit Indigenous People - Voice of America

Indigenous people in Brazil's rainforest are getting their long awaited first doses of a vaccine against the coronavirus, which has infected thousands in their community and killed hundreds of others.  The Brazilian military flew medical workers and 1,000 doses of the CoronaVac Chinese vaccine into the Amazon rainforest on Tuesday and began vaccinating the indigenous people, who celebrated the arrival of the vaccine.  Isabel Ticuna, one of the people in her village to get inoculated said, “the vaccination is so important for all of our indigenous community, for all the villagers.

via thelancet01/15/2021

Characterisation of the first 250 000 hospital admissions for COVID-19 in Brazil: a retrospective analysis of nationwide data - The Lancet

We observed a widespread distribution of COVID-19 across all regions in Brazil, resulting in a high overall disease burden. In-hospital mortality was high, even in patients younger than 60 years, and worsened by existing regional disparities within the health system. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to improve access to high-quality care for critically ill patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, particularly in LMICs.

via ecns.cn01/15/2021

Coronavirus found in late 2019 in Brazil - ecns

In Europe, the United Kingdom logged a new record number of deaths at 1,564 over 24 hours, taking the overall toll to 84,767.Spain registered a record daily number of coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with nearly 39,000 new infections over the prior 24 hours, its health ministry said.

via voanews01/22/2021

Brazil to Receive More COVID-19 Vaccine Friday - Voice of America

Brazil expects to receive 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine Friday in its buildup to launching a mass immunization program. The vaccine is due to arrive a day after President Jair Bolsonaro fended off criticism by health officials over whether Brazil has enough vaccine to begin its nationwide immunization program. Bolsonaro, who has long played down the impact of the coronavirus, even after he contracted the disease, said the government will provide the vaccine to all Brazilians free of charge. However, health officials say the country’s 6 million doses of the China-based

via un.org01/21/2021

Brazilian college student organizes care package deliveries in hometown during COVID-19 - UN News

Estephany Oliveira, 22, a college student whose studies were interrupted by COVID-19, considered those who might be more at risk during the pandemic. She founded Solidarity Laranjal with her friends to deliver food to impoverished and isolated families in Northern Brazil.

via news.yahoo01/20/2021

Brazil's COVID-hit indigenous receive vaccine - Yahoo News

Deep inside the reaches of the Amazon rainforest, medical personnel rolled out long-awaited COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday for Brazil's indigenous tribes. Villagers clapped as 68-year-old Isabel Ticuna became the first to be vaccinated in Umariaçu (ooo-ma-rya-su), a remote village of wooden houses on the banks of the Amazon River. She was innoculated with the CoronaVac shot, developed by China's Sinovac. Village medic Tarcis Marques Ticuna says it's a collective sigh of relief for a community where over three dozen residents have died from the disease, and some 2,000 more have been infected. "I was waiting for this moment, this D Day and it has finally arrived after so many deaths here and in the world. This is hope for us, the indigenous people." Brazil's more than 800,000 indigenous people have been particularly devastated by the pandemic, many of them llive in isolated villages, days away from the closest medical post by river boat. According to Brazil's Indigenous Peoples Articulation, a tribal umbrella organization, the coronavirus has killed nearly a thousand indigenous people in Brazil, and infected over 46,000. The country's right-wing government has faced criticism for its slow response to the disease, which has killed more than 210,000 Brazilians so far. Following weeks of setbacks, Brazil finally began its nationwide vaccination drive Monday using China's Sinovac vaccine. But shipments of the active ingredients needed for local manufacturers to fll the vaccine doses have still been delayed, threatening to further hamper their distribution.

via voanews01/18/2021

Brazil OKs Two COVID Vaccines Amid Steep Surge in Cases - Voice of America

J Brazil approved two vaccines for emergency use against the coronavirus Sunday as the country’s death toll from the disease it causes neared 210,000 and some of its hospitals grappled with an oxygen shortage.   The country’s health ministry said Sunday that the death toll was nearing 210,000, the second highest in the world after the United States.   Brazil approved emergency use of vaccines from both Britain’s Astra-Zeneca and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

via laprensalatina01/16/2021

Coroner makes house calls in Brazilian city slammed by Covid-19 - La Prensa Latina

By Maria Angelica Troncoso Manaus, Brazil, Jan 16 (efe-epa).- More than 1,000 people have been buried over the last seven days in this Amazon metropolis battered by coronavirus and the coroner’s office is making house calls to expedite the issuance of death certificates so families can lay deceased loved ones to rest. A record 213 …

via hindustantimes01/20/2021

Covid: South African, Brazilian strains raise new fears on vaccines, immunity - Hindustan Times

The first major mutation of the Sars-Cov-2 virus was reported from the UK in the so-called B.1.1.7 variant (also called VOC202012/01) ; authorities said in December that it was more infectious, and it was later seen as a factor in leading to the country’s worst wave yet.

via voanews01/20/2021

New California Coronavirus Joins Worrisome Strains from UK, South Africa, Brazil - Voice of America

As a more contagious coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom takes root in the United States, researchers in California have identified a separate, home-grown strain that may be contributing to the spike in cases there.  The California variant first appeared in July in just one sample out of 1,230 in Los Angeles County. As of December, it was found in one-quarter of all samples tested in Southern California.  The dramatic increase took place at the same time as cases spiked in California.

via riotimesonline01/18/2021

How Proposed Brazilian Nasal Spray Vaccine Against Covid-19 Could Work - The Rio Times

A vaccine with no needle, no pain and no crying - this is the proposal of Brazilian scientists developing a nasal spray immunizer against the novel coronavirus. The vaccine, which has been under development since April 2020, has already shown good results in tests with mice and should be approved by the end of this year (if all goes well).

via reuters01/17/2021

Brazil regulator to decide on emergency use of Sinovac, AstraZeneca vaccines - Reuters

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa on Sunday opened an extraordinary meeting of its board of directors to decide whether to approve emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines from China's Sinovac Biotech and Britain's AstraZeneca to begin immunizations as the pandemic enters a deadly...

via voanews01/16/2021

NY Prosecutors Interview Michael Cohen About Trump Finances - Voice of America

New York prosecutors conducted an hours-long interview Thursday of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, asking a range of questions about Trump's business dealings, according to three people familiar with the meeting. The interview focused in part on Trump's relationship with Deutsche Bank, his biggest and longest-standing creditor, according to the three people, who weren't authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The interview, at least the second of Cohen by the Manhattan district attorney's office

via lutheranworld.org01/15/2021

COVID deaths reach 200000, Lutheran church in Brazil issues manifesto - The Lutheran World Federation

In Brazil, the new year began with the number of Coronavirus deaths reaching 200,000 sparking the Presidency of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil to issue a manifesto calling for “guaranteed free access to the COVID-19 vaccine for the entire Brazilian population.”