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COVID-19 herd immunity will not be achieved in 2021, WHO says

The World Health Organization is warning that mass vaccinations against the novel coronavirus will not produce herd immunity this year.

WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan told reporters Monday that it takes time to produce and administer enough doses of a vaccine to finally stop the spread of COVID-19.  Dr. Swaminathan stressed the need for countries to continue observing mitigation efforts such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.

In a related story, Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine should provide immunity for at least a year.

According to Reuters news agency, the company said during the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference Monday it was confident the messenger RNA technology it used was well suited to deploy a vaccine based on the new variant of the coronavirus which has emerged in a handful of countries.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, a WHO senior advisor, said Monday the agency is hoping to begin providing COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s poorest countries in February, but said “we cannot do that on our own” as he urged vaccine makers to prioritize deliveries to the  COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX.

COVAX is an alliance of WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, an organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates to vaccinate children in the world’s poorest countries.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 9 million Americans had been given their first COVID-19 vaccination dose as of Monday morning. That is less than one-third of the total doses distributed to states by the U.S. government, signifying the sluggish distribution efforts across the nation which experts have blamed on a lack of a national strategy and a national distribution system.

The CDC also said Monday that at least 72 cases of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain has now been discovered across 10 U.S. states. California has the most with at least 32 cases, followed by 22 in Florida, with the remaining spread across Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, New York state, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The British variant is one of three that have emerged from the original coronavirus, with the third just recently detected in Japan in travelers from Brazil. The Brazil variant is different from the British and South African variants, but the three share a common mutation.

While the variants are worrisome, they are not unexpected, according to scientists. The coronavirus has made thousands of tiny modifications since it was first discovered, researchers say.

Malaysia’s king has declared a national state of emergency as part of an effort to curb the growing numbers of novel coronavirus infections.

The royal palace announced Tuesday that King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah issued the decree after meeting with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. Prime Minister Muhyiddin had issued a two-week lockdown for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, and five surrounding states Monday as the number of total COVID-19 cases has grown over 138,000, including 555 deaths, with the number of daily new cases rising to well over 2,000 in recent weeks.

And New Zealand will require that international travelers from most countries show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights to the country.  Travelers from Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific island nations will be exempted from the rule.

There are nearly 91 million global coronavirus infections, including over 1.9 million deaths.  The United States leads the world in both categories with 22.6 million infections and 376,280 deaths.  India is second in total COVID-19 infections with more than 10.4 million cases and Brazil with 8.1 million, with both nations are in reverse order in fatalities — Brazil trails the U.S. with 203,580 deaths, followed by India with 151,327.  – VOA News

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