Sept. 11 marks 6 months since WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic

Credit: AJC

Hundreds of scientists say coronavirus is airborne, asks WHO to revise recommendations

Besides marking the 19th remembrance of the nation’s deadliest terror attacks, Sept. 11 will also mark six months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.

Two days later, on March 13, the U.S. declared a national emergency over the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since then, more than 27 million cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 905,000 have died from COVID-19, Johns Hopkins reported.

The United States leads all nations in coronavirus cases, with 6.3 million, and more than 191,000 deaths. India is ranked second in the world with 4.4 million cases. While Brazil is third in the world with 4.1 million cases, the South American nation is second with more than 128,000 deaths. India is third in deaths, with more than 75,000.

On Thursday, Serum Institute of India announced clinical trials for AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine candidate have been halted. Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume and has said it will mass-produce the vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford.

On Tuesday, AstraZeneca said in a statement that a potentially unexplained illness in a recipient had triggered a “standard review process” and that late-stage studies were put temporarily on hold.

The news came as India reported another record spike of 95,735 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours as the virus spreads beyond its major cities.

The ministry said the surge in new infections is due to ramping up of daily testing that exceeds 1 million now. However, experts caution that India’s outbreak is entering a more dangerous phase as the virus spreads to smaller towns and villages.

In the U.S., White House officials say hospitals have all the medical supplies needed to battle the deadly virus, but frontline workers, hospital officials and even the Food and Drug Administration say that’s not the case.

Shortfalls of medical N95 respirators — commonly referred to as N95 masks — and other gear started in March, when the pandemic hit New York. Pressure on the medical supply chain continues today, and in “many ways things have only gotten worse,” the American Medical Association president, Dr. Susan Bailey, said in a recent statement.

“N95s are still in a shortage,” said Mike Schiller, the American Hospital Association’s senior director for supply chains. “It’s certainly not anywhere near pre-COVID levels.”

The federal government continues telling states to be ready to distribute doses of a coronavirus vaccine by Nov. 1, two days before the presidential election.

The two vaccines that are furthest along are made by Pfizer and Moderna. Both require two doses, given three or four weeks apart. On Thursday, Pfizer said it is “on track” to seek regulatory review by late October. On July 27, Moderna announced it had started the pivotal phase 3 clinical trial, in which effectiveness is established in addition to safety.

A COVID-19 vaccine would need to prevent or decrease the severity of the disease by 50% or more, according to FDA guidelines.

Two groups — the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and a newly formed panel from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine — are working on how to prioritize vaccines because doses are expected to be limited at first. The academies committee released its draft recommendations earlier this week, and ACIP’s may come later this month.

Both groups are suggesting prioritizing health care workers because they are at high risk of exposure to the virus and of spreading it. The academies proposal includes nursing home employees and first responders such as police and firefighters. Both groups are likely to give special consideration to people at high risk of serious illness and death, including older people and those with chronic health conditions.