Vaccine by Christmas amid record cases in the US

 

A vaccine candidate for COVID-19 developed by the University of Oxford with the backing of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has produced positive results.

The test jabs have triggered robust immune responses in adults.

According to Bloomberg, findings from blood tests which were carried out on a group of older trial participants reinforce data released in July which suggest the vaccine is effective for adults aged between 18 and 55, Astra announced on Monday local time.

Results from the study show that the vaccine increases levels of protective antibodies and immune T-cells that block the virus.

 

According to various reports high-risk individuals including medics, the old and vulnerable could get the first jabs of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-­19 vaccine before Christmas.

Australia's supply of the vaccine, in stage three trials, is likely to be available only after full regulatory approval.

The Astra-Oxford vaccine is one of several candidates in the global race to produce viable inoculation against the virus.

A trial of the shot was resumed in the US last week after a temporary stay following a participant's illness in a separate UK trial, which has since resumed.

In a statement a spokesman for AstraZeneca said, "It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the disease severity is higher."

But while this is positive news for the UK, US virus response chief Dr. Anthony Fauci said widespread availability probably won't come until next year.

 

 

 

CORONAVIRUS CASES SURGE IN US

It comes as more than half of US states reported their highest single-day of new COVID-19 cases in October.

The seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday, topping the previous peak of 67,293 reported on July 22, according to CNN.

The two highest single days of new cases were Friday and Saturday, with more than 83,000 new cases added each day.

 

 

The US average of new daily infections is now at its highest point of the pandemic, with 481,372 cases reported in a week.

There has been a national uptick in hospitalisations with experts warning the fragile American healthcare system may become overwhelmed over the Northern Hemisphere's winter months.

The US stock market plunged more than 900 points by Monday afternoon local time as virus cases soared and policymakers' negotiations over a new spending package to aid the virus-hit economy lost momentum.

"The talks have certainly slowed down, but they're not ending," Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC.

After months of discussions between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, time has nearly run out to get a deal before the election.

The sides have agreed on a package of about $US2 trillion, but remain at odds over what it includes, with Republicans pressing for more limited measures and Democrats insisting on aid for state and local governments.

 

 

WHITE HOUSE 'HAS SURRENDERED TO VIRUS'

Over the weekend, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the US is "not going to control the pandemic" - saying it is contagious like the flu, and must be managed with therapeutics and vaccines.

"We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation efforts," Mr Meadows said during a TV interview on Sunday (local time).

 

 

"Why aren't we going to get to control the pandemic?" Mr Tapper asked.

"Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu," Mr Meadows responded.

He later said the US "would defeat" the pandemic, because that's what Americans do.

Mr Meadows then went on to suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden wants to quarantine the country.

"He says, lock everybody down, we're going to have a dark winter," Mr Meadows said.

In response to Mr Meadows saying the US is "not going to control" the coronavirus pandemic, independent Senator Angus King said that's "unconditional surrender."

"Remember, I don't know, five or six months ago, the US President said, 'this is war. I'm a wartime president?' Yesterday was unconditional surrender," Mr King, who caucuses with the Democrats, said. "It was basically waving the white flag, saying, 'we can't control it, there's nothing you can do.' And that's nonsense. Of course, they can control it."

He cited the US CDC guidelines on wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing for stopping the spread of the virus, and he blamed the White House for inconsistent messaging.

 

 

It comes as at least five people in US Vice President Mike Pence's orbit tested positive for coronavirus in recent days, including chief of staff Marc Short and outside Adviser Marty Obst.

And there are concerns that more people within Mr Pence's inner circle will test positive in the coming days, the source said.

Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence each tested negative for coronavirus on Sunday, a White House official said.

The vice president's office has declined to comment on the total number of Pence aides to test positive for coronavirus in recent days.

 

 

 

 

BORIS JOHNSON UNDER FIRE OVER PANDEMIC POVERTY

Boris Johnson's government voted against a proposal to give free meals to vulnerable youngsters over school holidays this week.

The economic fallout from the virus outbreak is pushing more families into poverty, leaving many unable to afford essentials such as food and heating.

Some 1.3 million children in England benefit from free meals at school, according to the latest official data.

A campaign by Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford to feed England's poorest children during school holidays has turned into a political football.

"This is not politics, this is humanity," tweeted the 22-year-old after Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government voted against a proposal to give free meals to vulnerable youngsters over school holidays this week.

But Johnson is not budging this time around, despite the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales continuing meal provisions to the most needy children during holidays.

On Monday he again pointed out that increased welfare payments to families during the pandemic are helping to feed children when schools are not in session.

"We don't want to see children going hungry this winter, Christmas, certainly not as a result of inattention from the government."

 

 

Staff wear protective attire at a COVID-19 nucleic acid testing location for staff and media. Mass testing has found more cases in China. Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Staff wear protective attire at a COVID-19 nucleic acid testing location for staff and media. Mass testing has found more cases in China. Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

 

CHINA'S MASS TESTING UNCOVERS MORE CASES

A mass testing program of more than 4.7 million people in China's Xinjiang province over the weekend has identified nearly 140 asymptomatic cases.

Chinese officials were responding to a new outbreak in the country's far northwest after 137 infections were discovered.

Mass testing began Saturday evening to cover 4.75 million residents in and around Kashgar, Xinjiang province, after a 17-year-old garment factory worker tested positive for the virus.

China has largely brought domestic transmission of coronavirus under control through lockdowns, travel restrictions and testing, and the use of various domestically-produced vaccines.

But sporadic regional flare-ups of COVID-19 have emerged.

Beijing has cultivated an image of victory over the virus as the rest of the world, Oceania aside, appears to have lost control of its spread.

But China's top epidemiologist has said that his country has done too much testing.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said that testing everyone as China was "overkill", in an interview with China Newsweek.

"From the scientific perspective of epidemiology, there is no need to test everyone," he said.

 

 

 

 

VICTORIA COMES OUT OF LOCKDOWN

The Prime Minister has congratulated Victorians on the easing of restrictions after the state recorded no new cases for the first time since June 9.

From 11.59pm on Tuesday, Melbourne residents will be able to leave their homes for any reason, at any time - ending Victoria's lengthy lockdown.

Mr Morrison said on Monday afternoon the decision to start easing restrictions was "welcomed" by the Commonwealth Government, and thanked Victorians for their patience and perseverance.

"Today's announcement is a reflection of the dedication and effort of Victorians - taking the next step to reopen Victorian society and the state's economy," he said.

"After a long winter, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Victorians.

"As we said yesterday - Victorians have made great progress in reducing the rate of COVID-19 infections from the second wave outbreak in Victoria."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces the easing of restrictions. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Daniel Pockett
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces the easing of restrictions. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Daniel Pockett

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews congratulated Victorians for "staying the course".

"With zero cases and with so much testing over the weekend … now is the time to open up," he said.

"Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course. Now is the time to thank every single Victorian family for being guided by the data, the science and the doctors. Not letting our frustration get the better of us but, instead, proving equal to this wicked enemy," Mr Andrews said during his daily press conference on Monday.

The much-anticipated easing of restrictions will come into effect at 11.59pm on Tuesday October 27 and include a full reopening of retail, beauty and tattoo parlours, as well as a reopening of restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars with a maximum of 20 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.

 

The existing four reasons to leave home will be scrapped, non-contact outdoor sports will be allowed again, with no more than 18 participants, outdoor gatherings for up to 10 people will be allowed and with the two household limit removed.

Up to 10 people can attend weddings and up to 20 people can attend funerals, while up to 10 people for every one faith leader can attend indoor religious ceremonies, and up to 20 can attend outdoor events.

Mr Andrews said updates to at-home visits would be provided at Tuesday's briefing.

The next tranche of restriction updates will roll out on November 8 and include an easing of the 25 kilometre limit, a reopening of gyms and fitness centres, and a change to restaurant and bar patron numbers.

"It was worth waiting to be sure," Mr Andrews said.

When asked if he was planning to have a beer tonight, the Premier joked he'd be "going for something higher up on the shelf".

 

 

 

 

COVID'S MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS

Young people have experienced a loss of hope about what the future holds and feel their world has narrowed as a result of COVID, Australia's top mental health bureaucrat warns.

Mental Health Commissioner

Christine Morgan has told a Senate Estimates committee the problem is worst among those in their final years of school up to the age of 25.

The committee was earlier told there had been a huge surge in people contacting the nation's leading mental health services as a result of COVID.

The increase in people seeking health was three times higher in Victoria which has been locked down for almost three months.

There was an 18 per cent increase in calls to Kids Helpline between September 7 and October 4 2020 compared to the same time last year.

In Victoria the increase was 61 per cent, Senate Estimates was told.

Calls to Lifeline increased by 18 per cent outside Victoria but by 40 per cent in Victoria.

There was an 8 per cent rise in calls to Beyond Blue outside Victoria but a 67 per cent surge in calls in Victoria.

 

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Originally published as Vaccine by Christmas amid record cases in the US



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