Covid-19 Live Updates: AstraZeneca Vaccine Is 79% Effective in U.S. Study
The coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford provided strong protection against Covid-19 in a large clinical trial in the United States, completely preventing the worst outcomes from the disease while causing no serious side effects, according to results announced on Monday.
The findings, announced in a news release from AstraZeneca, may help shore up global confidence in the vaccine, which was shaken this month when more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, temporarily suspended the use of the shot over concerns about possible rare side effects.
The trial, involving more than 32,000 participants, was the largest test of its kind for the shot. The vaccine was 79 percent effective overall in preventing symptomatic infections, higher than observed in previous clinical trials. The trial also showed that the vaccine offered strong protection for older people, who had not been as well-represented in earlier studies.
But the fresh data may not make much difference in the United States, where the vaccine is not yet authorized and may not be needed.
If AstraZeneca wins authorization for emergency use in the United States based on the new results, the vaccine is unlikely to become available before May, when federal officials predict that three manufacturers that already have authorization will be producing enough doses for all the nation’s adults.
AstraZeneca said on Monday that it would continue to analyze the new data and prepare to apply “in the coming weeks” for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. It already has approval in more than 70 countries, but clearance from American regulators, if the company can secure it, would bolster the vaccine’s reputation globally.
The interim results announced on Monday were based on 141 Covid-19 cases that had turned up in volunteers. Two-thirds of participants were given the vaccine, with doses spaced four weeks apart, and the rest received a saline placebo. Volunteers were recruited from Chile and Peru as well as the United States.
None of the volunteers who got the vaccine developed severe symptoms or had to be hospitalized, a major selling point for the shot. However, AstraZeneca did not disclose how many volunteers had developed severe Covid-19 or had to be hospitalized after receiving the placebo, making it difficult to know how statistically powerful those findings are.
One day after the spring break oasis of South Beach descended into chaos, with the police struggling to control overwhelming crowds and making scores of arrests, officials in Miami Beach decided on Sunday to extend an emergency curfew for up to three weeks.
Officials went so far as to approve closing the famed Ocean Drive for four nights a week until April 12, including to pedestrians, during the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Residents, hotel guests and employees of local businesses are exempt.
The strip, frequented by celebrities and tourists alike, was the scene of a much-criticized skirmish on Saturday night in which police officers used pepper balls to disperse a large crowd of sometimes unruly and mostly unmasked revelers just hours after the curfew had been introduced.
The restrictions were a stunning concession to the city’s inability to control unwieldy crowds. The city and the state of Florida have aggressively courted visitors.
“I believe it’s a lot of pent-up demand from the pandemic and people wanting to get out,” David Richardson, a member of the Miami Beach City Commission, said on Sunday. “And our state has been publicly advertised as being open, so that’s contributing to the issue.”
In an emergency meeting, the commission approved maintaining the curfew in the city’s South Beach entertainment district from Thursday through Sunday for three more weeks, which is when spring break typically ends. Bridges along several causeways that connect Miami Beach with the mainland will also continue to be shut during the curfew.
Law enforcement officials said many people had been drawn to the city for spring break this year because it has relatively few virus restrictions, mirroring the state at large. And hotel rooms and flights have been deeply discounted, to make up for the months of lost time.
Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami Beach, has recently endured one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, and more than 32,000 Floridians have died from the virus, an unthinkable cost that the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge. The state is also thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and possibly more lethal virus variant first identified in Britain.
The coronavirus, once seemingly in retreat in India, is again rippling across the country. On Monday, the government reported almost 47,000 new cases, the highest number in more than four months. It also reported 212 new deaths from the virus, the most since early January.
The outbreak is centered in the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub. Entire districts of the state have gone back into lockdown. Scientists are investigating whether a new strain found there is more virulent, like variants found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
Officials are under pressure to aggressively ramp up testing and vaccination, especially in Mumbai, to avoid disruptions like the dramatic nationwide lockdown last year, which resulted in a recession.
But less than 3 percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion has received a jab, including about half of health care workers.
The campaign has also been plagued by public skepticism. The government approved a domestically developed vaccine, called Covaxin, before its safety and efficacy trials were even over, though preliminary findings since then have suggested it works.
The other jab available in India is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was suspended in some countries after a number of patients reported blood clots and strokes, though most have since reversed course and scientists haven’t found a link between the shots and the patients’ conditions.
In other developments around the world:
The leading opposition candidate for president in the Republic of Congo died while being transferred to France for treatment for Covid-19, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a spokesman. The candidate, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, 61, had been hospitalized in the capital, Brazzaville, after becoming ill in the final days of the campaign. In a video that circulated on social media over the weekend, he warned supporters that he was “fighting death” but asked them to “stand up and vote for change.” The election was on Sunday, and the incumbent, President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, is expected to extend his 36 years in power.
Norway reported on Sunday that two more people had died after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, bringing the country’s total number of such deaths to four. The Norwegian Medicines Agency said in a statement that it “cannot rule out that these cases may be related to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” although the European Medicines Agency, the continent’s top drug regulator, said last week that it considered the vaccine safe. Denmark reported over the weekend that two people had experienced brain hemorrhages after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of whom died.
The Philippines reported record-breaking numbers of new coronavirus infections over the weekend, leading the government to place metropolitan Manila and four surrounding provinces under the second-highest level of lockdown for the next two weeks. On Saturday, officials reported 7,999 cases, the most the country has had in a single day. President Rodrigo Duterte approved restrictions including a ban on all mass gatherings and a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Nonessential travel to or from the area is banned. The restrictions will disrupt in-person religious services for Holy Week, a popular travel period, for the second year in a row.
Health officials in South Africa say the country has sold its unused doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to 14 other states in the African Union, Reuters reported on Sunday. It paused the use of the vaccine last month after a small trial showed it offered only minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the dominant local variant of the virus. At the time, South Africa had received one million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute of India, with 500,000 more pending.
JERUSALEM — Vaccinated Israelis are working out in gyms and dining in restaurants. They’re partying at nightclubs and cheering at soccer matches by the thousands.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking credit for bringing Israel “back to life,” as he calls it, and banking on the country’s giddy, post-pandemic mood of liberation to put him over the top in a close election on Tuesday.
But nothing is quite that simple in Israeli politics.
Even as most Israelis appreciate the government’s world-leading vaccination campaign, many worry that the grand social and economic reopening may prove premature and suspect that the timing is political.
Instead of a transparent reopening process led by public health professionals, “decisions are made at the last minute, at night, by the cabinet,” said Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health in Jerusalem. “The timing, right before the election, is intended to declare mission accomplished.”
The parliamentary election on Tuesday will be the country’s fourth in two years. Mr. Netanyahu is on trial on corruption charges and analysts say his best chance of avoiding conviction lies in heading a new right-wing government. He has staked everything on his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
He takes personal credit for the country’s inoculation campaign, which has fully vaccinated about half the population of nine million — outpacing the rest of the world — and he has declared victory over the virus.
“Israel is the world champion in vaccinations, the first country in the world to exit from the health corona and the economic corona,” he said at a pre-election conference last week.
The vaccination campaign has been powered by early delivery of several million doses from Pfizer, and Mr. Netanyahu has presented himself as the only candidate who could have pulled off that deal, boasting of his personal appeals to Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, who, as a son of Holocaust survivors, has great affinity for Israel.
Mr. Netanyahu even posted a clip from “South Park,” the American animated sitcom, acknowledging Israel’s vaccination supremacy.
But experts said his claim that the virus was in the rearview mirror was overly optimistic.
Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, died by suicide on Thursday after suffering from post-Covid-19 symptoms, the company and his family said in a statement. He was 65.
“After a battle with post-Covid-related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life this week,” the statement said.
His body was found in a field on his property near Louisville, Ky., the Kentucky State Police told The Louisville Courier Journal. The State Police and the Oldham County coroner did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Mr. Taylor, who was also the chairman of the company’s board of directors, founded Texas Roadhouse in 1993. He sought to create an “affordable, Texas-style” restaurant but was turned down more than 80 times as he tried to find investors, according to a biography provided by the company.
Eventually, he raised $300,000 from three doctors from Elizabethtown, Ky., and sketched out the design for the first Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin for the investors.
The first Texas Roadhouse opened in Clarksville, Ind., in 1993. Three of the chain’s first five restaurants failed, but it went on to open 611 locations in 49 states, and 28 international locations in 10 countries.
Until his death, Mr. Taylor had been active in Texas Roadhouse’s operations, the company said. He oversaw decisions about the menu, selected the murals for the restaurants and picked songs for the jukeboxes.
Greg Moore, the lead director of the company’s board, said in a statement that Mr. Taylor gave up his compensation package during the coronavirus pandemic to support frontline workers in the company.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.