The U.S. top trade negotiator will begin talks Wednesday with the World Trade Organization on ways to overcome intellectual property issues that are keeping critically needed COVID-19 vaccines from being more widely distributed worldwide.
President Joe Biden has faced calls from fellow WTO members, activists, and U.S. lawmakers to temporarily waive the restrictions as some states are turning down planned shipments from the federal government given a decrease in demand. At issue: 82% of shots have been given in high- and middle-income countries and just 0.3% in low-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.
The rush for vaccination has ebbed across much of the nation, with some states turning down all or part of their weekly dose allotments. The federal government will now shift some of those doses to areas where appointments remain difficult to get.
Also in the news:
►Two of the most populous counties in California, San Francisco and Los Angeles County, are now eligible to move to the least restrictive tier in California's reopening framework.
►The chairman of one of South Korea’s biggest dairy companies, Namyang Dairy Products, has resigned over a scandal in which his company was accused of deliberately spreading misinformation that its yogurt helps prevent coronavirus infections.
►Bavarian officials on Monday canceled Germany's Oktoberfest festivities for the second year in a row due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, saying there are too many risks in hosting the celebrations — which bring in visitors from around the world — during a global pandemic.
►Masks in Michigan are no longer required at small outdoor weddings, graduation parties or other similar events or while playing some youth sports, according to a new state health department order set to take effect Thursday.
? Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 578,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 153.9 million cases and 3.22 million deaths. More than 318.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 247.7 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 106.16 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.
? What we're reading: It may not take true "herd immunity" to see a dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases, some researchers say.
The U.S. birth rate fell 4% last year, the largest single-year decrease in nearly 50 years, and the pandemic no doubt contributed to last year's big decline, experts say. The rate dropped for moms of every major race and ethnicity, and in nearly age group, falling to the lowest point since federal health officials started tracking it more than a century ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in a report for release today.
Anxiety about COVID-19 and its impact on the economy likely caused many couples to think that having a baby right then was a bad idea. But many of the 2020 pregnancies began well before the U.S. epidemic. CDC researchers are working on a follow-up report to better parse out how the decline unfolded, said Brady Hamilton,the lead author of the new report.
Amid reports that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will get the OK to be used on adolescents age 12-15 by next week, the company has its eyes set on younger age groups. Pfizer will pursue the FDA's emergency use authorization for the vaccine for children as young as 2 years of age in September and as young as 6 months later in the year, CEO Albert Bourla told investors Tuesday. Adding children to the ranks of vaccinated Americans will have a big impact on the nation's ability to rein in the spread of the virus, said Dr. Rosemary Olivero, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Children make up about 25% of the U.S. population, so getting them immunized "will allow for less rampant spikes in coronavirus cases leading to hospitalization ... It's very, very important for children to be vaccinated."
Clinical trials have shown the Pfizer vaccine is safe for those 12 to 15 years old, said Melissa Lyon, Erie County Department of Health director in Pennsylvania.
"There has been a robust clinical trial process and the vaccine has come out the other side to be safe for those ages," Lyon said. "As always, you should weigh the risk of the vaccine with the risk of getting COVID."
- Kristen Jordan Shamus and Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press; David Bruce, Erie Times-News
To reach his new goal of having 70% of American adults receive at least one vaccine dose by July Fourth, Biden on Tuesday outlined a plan that includes making vaccinations more convenient and convincing those who are hesitant to get the shots. Biden also said he’s aiming for 160 million Americans to be fully vaccinated by Independence Day — an increase of 54 million over the current total. That figure will be easier to reach once adolescents ages 12-15 become eligible, and the president said his administration will be “ready to move immediately’’ once the FDA grants authorization for those inoculations, which could happen as early as next week.
Almost 148 million Americans, including 56% of those 18 and older, have had at least one vaccine dose, and nearly one-third of the population has been fully vaccinated. Biden unveiled a new number — 438829 — where people can text their ZIP code and get a reply with information on the closest vaccination sites, and said most of the government’s 40,000 pharmacy partners would start providing shots for walk-ins without an appointment.
But with surveys showing about 25% don’t intend to get the shots, Biden acknowledged, “Now we’re going to have to bring the vaccine to people who are less eager.’’
India’s health ministry reported 357,229 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and 3,449 deaths on Tuesday. India’s official average of daily confirmed cases has soared from 65,000 on April 1 to about 370,000. The average daily deaths have increased from 300 to more than 3,000.
The infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed. A top U.S. health expert warns the coming weeks in the country will be “horrible.” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said he is concerned Indian policymakers believe things will improve in the next few days.
“I’ve been... trying to say to them, 'If everything goes very well, things will be horrible for the next several weeks. And it may be much longer,'" he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press