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U.S. reveals plan for sharing 55 million vaccine doses globally

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6/21/2021 Katerina Ang, Miriam Berger, Brittany Shammas, Reis Thebault
a person sitting on a couch: A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Boston Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., on Thursday, June 17, 2021. © Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Boston Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

The White House on Monday announced plans to share 55 million coronavirus vaccine doses from the U.S. supply with more than 50 countries, in its latest effort to strengthen the global response to the pandemic.

The doses are among 80 million that President Biden had pledged to share this month. In past weeks, the White House has detailed the recipients of the first 25 million doses, which have begun shipping. Under the plans revealed Monday, about 41 million more doses would be shared with Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to distribute vaccine doses worldwide. An additional 14 million would go to handpicked countries.

Those efforts come after organizations including the WHO called upon wealthy countries to share vaccine doses with countries in need. The group has called inequitable distribution of vaccine the biggest threat to ending the pandemic.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The youngest U.S. adults remain the least likely to be vaccinated against the coronavirus — and their rates of vaccination are declining, according to federal research released Monday.
  • The number of Americans relying on Medicaid reached an all-time high during the pandemic, with nearly 74 million Americans now covered through the safety-net health insurance.
  • A new book from Washington Post reporters goes behind the scenes of the Trump administration’s chaotic pandemic response, including the former president’s suggestion to isolate infected Americans at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.
  • Excess deaths in just two Indian states over the past year are 360,000 above normal levels, suggesting a massive undercount of covid-19 deaths across the country.
  • China has administered more than 1 billion vaccine doses, the country said, a milestone in one of the world’s fastest inoculation drives. But questions persist about how much protection against symptomatic infection the Chinese-developed shots provide.
  • Olympic organizers will allow spectators at this summer’s Tokyo Games but cap attendance at 10,000 people or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller, they announced Monday.
  • The Philippines has agreed to buy 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, in its largest inoculation supply deal since the pandemic began.

Sign up for our coronavirus newsletter | Mapping the spread of the coronavirus: Across the U.S. | Worldwide | Vaccine tracker

11:26 PM: Youngest adults are least likely to be vaccinated, and their interest in shots is declining, CDC finds

The nation’s youngest adults remain the least likely to be vaccinated against the coronavirus — and their weekly rates of vaccination are declining, according to federal research released Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed adult vaccination rates by age through May 22, finding 80 percent of adults older than 65 had been immunized compared with just 38.3 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds.

The percentage of people getting one shot per week stalled after vaccine eligibility opened to all adults in April and has continued to decline. From April 19 to May 22, the percentage of 18- to 29-year-olds being vaccinated dropped from 3.6 percent a week to 1.9 percent a week. For 30- to 49-year-olds, the percentage getting a shot each week declined from 3.5 percent to 1.7 percent.

If vaccination rates continue at low levels through August, the report said, “coverage among young adults will not reach the coverage level of older adults.”

The weekly shot rates for younger adults never matched the 8.2 percent peak of people older than 65, according to the report.

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By: Akilah Johnson

10:26 PM: The pandemic rocked this small hospital in a mostly Black suburb. Now it’s trying to grow.

The massive medical tents in the parking lot are no longer needed — the few coronavirus patients still arriving are easily cared for within the aging brick hospital. A nurse who was the first volunteer in those tents is vaccinated and finally feels calm. After a year of quarantining from his wife and children, the emergency room doctor went on a family vacation.

This small community hospital has come out on the other side of a pandemic that was particularly devastating for majority-Black populations such as those it serves. Now, Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center faces its next battle: Winning resources and approvals to create a bigger, more advanced hospital — a small step toward bridging racial disparities in medical care that have existed here for generations.

Fort Washington opened as a 16-hour emergency room in 1983, expanding to a full-service hospital in 1991. As Prince George’s County grew, transformed by an influx of Black professionals, the hospital did not. It was just one example of a health-care landscape in which more sophisticated facilities were built elsewhere, drawing medical talent, and residents, in search of top-rated care.

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By: Rachel Chason

9:25 PM: For two days, D.C. and Maryland reported no covid deaths

The District and Maryland over the weekend reported their first consecutive days with zero deaths from the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic — another sign the region has entered a new, more hopeful phase in its fight to stop the spread of the virus.

Virginia reported a single death on Saturday, but the numbers crept up on Sunday and Monday — a reminder that the virus can still claim lives, especially in areas where vaccination rates are relatively low.

Public health experts and elected officials say the numbers are good news but warn that there are health risks for the unvaccinated, including children under 12, and the immunocompromised. Both Virginia and Maryland have reported cases of the contagious delta variant of the coronavirus first detected in India, which the CDC says could soon become the dominant strain of the virus in the United States.

At the peak of the winter surge in coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, more than a hundred residents were dying daily of covid-19. In February — the deadliest month on record for the region — 3,177 covid-related deaths were recorded.

Since then, much of the region has embraced the vaccine — and case numbers and deaths have begun falling.

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By: Rebecca Tan, Michael Brice-Saddler and Jenna Portnoy

8:25 PM: Europe is opening back up to Americans. Here’s how to see some of its most iconic sites.

The door to European destinations keeps cracking open for Americans — and in some cases, has been wide open for weeks already. But even as coronavirus-era border restrictions continue to fall, travelers shouldn’t expect their trips to be anything like pre-pandemic visits.

That word of warning especially applies to some of the continent’s most popular attractions, which are often overwhelmed with crowds even in normal times. With social distancing measures and reduced capacity, getting access to a favorite spot — especially in tight indoor spaces — could be more of a challenge than ever.

Countries and attractions will be putting a major emphasis on safety and security, Luís Araújo, president of the European Travel Commission, said in a statement. He said travelers should check national tourism office websites, the Re-Open E.U. app or Visit Europe for information about rules from country to country. And visitors should check to see if advance reservations will be necessary at popular sites.

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By: Hannah Sampson

7:24 PM: New book offers fresh details about chaos, conflicts inside Trump’s pandemic response

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as White House officials debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, President Donald Trump suggested his own plan for where to send them, eager to suppress the numbers on U.S. soil.

“Don’t we have an island that we own?” the president reportedly asked those assembled in the Situation Room in February 2020, before the U.S. outbreak would explode. “What about Guantánamo?”

“We import goods,” Trump specified, lecturing his staff. “We are not going to import a virus.”

Aides were stunned, and when Trump brought it up a second time, they quickly scuttled the idea, worried about a backlash over quarantining American tourists on the same Caribbean base where the United States holds terrorism suspects.

Such insider conversations are among the revelations in “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” a new book by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta that captures the dysfunctional response to the unfolding pandemic.

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By: Dan Diamond

6:24 PM: Pandemic relief funds boosted surpluses for some large hospitals

The Biden administration is giving hospitals and other providers even more time to use coronavirus relief money and apply for more.

Yet many of the larger, wealthier hospitals have been back to normal operations for months — and they posted banner profits in 2020.

Hospital admissions declined precipitously in the early months of the pandemic, as providers cut down on elective procedures and many patients stayed away for fear of the virus, but by summer 2020 they were at 90 percent of levels in previous years. By the end of last year, overall health spending was up 3.4 percent compared to 2019.

An analysis from Kaufman Hall found that hospital operating margins rose by more than 100 percent between April 2020, at the start of the pandemic, and April 2021. The report noted, however, that hospitals have seen a big increase in expenses, and margins remain thin.

Ge Bai, an expert on health-care finance at Johns Hopkins, questioned whether the extension on funding this late in the game was a good use of taxpayer money.

“Right now, the hospitals have already resumed their normal operations, and most of the hospitals are capable of overcoming short-term financial difficulty,” Bai said

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By: Alexandra Ellerbeck and Paige Winfield Cunningham

5:24 PM: For Ward 8 residents, coronavirus vaccine appeal comes with a touch of celebrity: ‘It’s Fauci!’

The Anacostia residents sitting on their porches Saturday morning jumped up, yelped and clamored for selfies as if a celebrity was walking down their block.

The center of attention? Anthony S. Fauci, the 80-year-old doctor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whose face has become a public fixture during the pandemic.

Fauci spent the Juneteenth holiday Saturday knocking on doors with Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) in D.C.’s majority-Black Ward 8 — the poorest segment of the city and the area with the lowest coronavirusvaccination rate — to talk to residents about the virus’s disproportionately heavy impact on Black Americans and to encourage the residents to get vaccinated if they had not already.

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By: Julie Zauzmer

4:26 PM: Medicaid enrollment swells during the pandemic, reaching a new high

The number of Americans relying on Medicaid swelled to an apparent all-time high during the coronavirus pandemic with nearly 74 million Americans covered through the safety-net health insurance, new federal figures show.

From February 2020 through January, Medicaid enrollment climbed nationwide by 9.7 million, according to a report based on the most recent available data and expected to be released Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Some people signed up last year as the pandemic’s economic fallout took away their jobs, income and health benefits. But according to federal health officials and other Medicaid experts, much of the increase is because of a rule change that was part of the first coronavirus relief law adopted by Congress last year.

That law created a trade-off: It gave states extra federal money to help cover what were anticipated to be ballooning Medicaid costs. In exchange, states needed to promise they would not remove anyone from their Medicaid rolls until the federal government ended the coronavirus public health emergency.

Taken together, the spike means the size of the public insurance program for low-income Americans now significantly eclipses the nearly 63 million older Americans covered last year through Medicare. Both health insurance programs date to the mid-1960s and were pillars of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” anti-poverty strategies.

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By: Amy Goldstein

3:53 PM: Starting Saturday, D.C. residents can get gift cards when they get vaccinated

In her latest push to get D.C. residents vaccinated against the coronavirus, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has announced a new incentive: $51 Visa gift cards.

Starting Saturday, District residents 12 and older who receive their first vaccine dose at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center, Anacostia High School or Ron Brown College Preparatory High School will receive a $51 gift card after getting their shot, Bowser (D) said in a statement.

The promotion — a nod to the District’s quest to become the 51st state — will last through July 17.

Bowser’s announcement came ahead of the city’s third community “Day of Action” this Saturday — when volunteers and community leaders knock on doors to engage with unvaccinated residents in hopes of motivating them to get inoculated.

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By: Michael Brice-Saddler

2:24 PM: As difficult school year ends, school superintendents are opting out

Austin Beutner has been an investment banker, first deputy mayor of Los Angeles, and publisher and chief executive of the Los Angeles Times. But none of those jobs were tougher than the position he is soon leaving after the grueling covid-19 year: superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Beutner is one of a wave of school superintendents leaving their posts, far more than in a typical year, a result of the extraordinary challenges of keeping kids learning after schools closed in spring 2020 and serving as crisis managers for months on end while dealing with pandemic pressures on their own families.

The departures are from the top spots in large cities — including the largest three, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago — but also in many midsize and smaller districts in suburban and rural areas, according to AASA, the School Superintendents Association, which keeps track of its 9,000 members.

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By: Joe Heim and Valerie Strauss

1:13 PM: Since February 2020, fundamental shifts have taken place in the U.S. economy

a person standing in front of a building: A contractor frames a house under construction in Lehi, Utah. © George Frey/Bloomberg A contractor frames a house under construction in Lehi, Utah.

The U.S. economy is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic with considerable speed but markedly transformed, as businesses and consumers struggle to adapt to a new landscape with higher prices, fewer workers, new innovations and a range of inconveniences.

In late February 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, inflation was tame, wages were rising and American companies were attempting to recover from a multiyear trade war.

The pandemic disrupted everything, damaging some parts of the economy much more than others. But a mass vaccination effort and the virus’s steady retreat this year have allowed many businesses and communities to reopen.

What Americans are encountering, though, is almost unrecognizable from just 16 months ago. Prices are up. Housing is scarce. It takes months longer than normal to get furniture, appliances and numerous parts delivered. And there is a great dislocation between millions of unemployed workers and millions of vacant jobs.

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By: Heather Long

12:18 PM: U.S. details which countries will share 55 million vaccine dose donation

The United States will share 55 million coronavirus vaccine doses with more than 50 countries, the administration’s latest effort to bolster the global response to the pandemic, the White House announced Monday.

“For all of these doses, those most at risk, such as health care workers, should be prioritized, based on national vaccine plans,” according to a fact sheet released by the White House. President Biden had vowed to share a total of 80 million doses from the U.S. vaccine supply this month, and the White House earlier in June detailed the recipients of the first 25 million doses, which have begun shipping.

Under the White House plan outlined Monday, about 41 million more doses would be shared with Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to distribute vaccine doses around the globe. White House officials said they intend about 16 million doses of the Covax share to go to Asia, 14 million to Latin America and the Caribbean, and 10 million to Africa, working with global partners such as the African Union.

Meanwhile, the United States would share an additional 14 million doses with an array of handpicked countries, including Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Cabo Verde, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, Oman, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Georgia, Moldova, and Bosnia.

The Biden administration had been scrutinized for its global approach to the pandemic, with some advocates and officials warning the United States was doing too little to help protect the world’s poorest countries. Just 3.6 percent of South Americans and 2.4 percent of Africans have received at least one shot, compared with more than 52 percent of Americans, according to the Our World in Data project managed by the University of Oxford.

However, wealthy nations have increasingly committed to sharing doses with the world, and the United States separately announced plans to purchase 500 million doses from Pfizer and donate them to low- and middle-income countries.

By: Dan Diamond

11:39 AM: If U.S. vaccination rates lag, coronavirus infections could surge in the fall, warns former FDA chief

a group of people standing in a parking lot: People work at a mass vaccination site operated by the University of Alabama at Birmingham on May 18 in Hoover, Ala. © Jay Reeves/AP People work at a mass vaccination site operated by the University of Alabama at Birmingham on May 18 in Hoover, Ala.

The transmission of the more contagious delta variant in the United States could spur a fall surge in coronavirus infections if only 75 percent of the country’s eligible population is vaccinated, former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb said Sunday.

Although Gottlieb cited one projection forecasting an increase in infections reaching as high as 20 percent of last winter’s peak, he called that an “aggressive estimate,” saying he doesn’t “think it’ll be quite that dire.” But he said states with low vaccination rates already are showing a concerning rise in cases with the spreading of delta, which is up to 60 percent more contagious than earlier variants.

“So Connecticut, for example, where I am, shows no upsurge of infection, but Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri show very substantial upsurges of infections. That’s based entirely on how much population-wide immunity you have based on vaccination,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

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By: Jeanne Whalen

10:36 AM: Where did the coronavirus come from? Scientists battle over the ultimate origin story

a large building: An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 17, 2020. © HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 17, 2020.

Stanley Perlman, who has been studying coronaviruses for 39 years, got a nasty email June 4: “Dr. Frankenstein just wants more public money and wants to research things he shouldn’t be messing with. THANKS A LOT FOR CORONA LOSER.”

Perlman, a mild-mannered, grandfatherly virologist at the University of Iowa, didn’t know the author of the dyspeptic email and had nothing to do with the emergence of the coronavirus. But he had co-signed a letter to the Lancet in February 2020 saying SARS-CoV-2 was not a bioengineered virus and condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

That remains the consensus of many scientists — but the “lab leak” theory has never gone away and has become louder than ever. It is not a theory so much as a constellation of scenarios that imagine how the virus may have emanated from a laboratory in China, ranging from the accidental to the sinister.

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Video: WH outlines plan to share 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world (Yahoo! News)

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By: Joel Achenbach

9:37 AM: Lotteries as public health incentives began before the coronavirus

In some parts of the world with more coronavirus vaccine doses than willing takers, attention-grabbing incentives have begun to catch on. Among them: a chance to win big.

Ten Californians won $1.5 million each in vaccination lotteries last week. A 22-year-old in Ohio became a surprise vaccine millionaire last month.

Other countries have begun to follow suit. Two provinces in Canada announced lotteries with hefty cash prizes this month. Moscow is raffling off five cars a week to vaccinated residents. Hong Kong residents who get the shots are eligible to win a luxury apartment or airline tickets.

Lottery proponents say the hope of receiving eye-popping prizes could propel the vaccine hesitant to roll up their sleeves. It’s a gamble at the intersection of behavioral economics and public health: the idea that an opportunity to roll the dice could drive healthy behavior — potentially more effectively than more equitable incentives could.

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By: Claire Parker and Sammy Westfall

8:47 AM: Nine teachers reflect on a school year like no other

There hasn’t been much time this school year for teachers to reflect. They’ve been busy. Busy making sure the kids in their classrooms kept their masks on and the ones at home kept their cameras on. They had to keep their students physically safe and distant but also mentally safe and connected.

They’ve been busy teaching, too. Teaching under conditions and in ways they had never imagined before the coronavirus made Zoom, quarantining and temperature checks as much a part of the school day as reading, writing and recess.

Now, as the first full school year of the pandemic has ended in many states and winds to a close everywhere else, many of the nation’s 3.2 million public school teachers and 500,000 private schoolteachers are taking stock.

How did it go? How did I do? What worked? What failed miserably? How can we make sure we never have to do this again? Please tell me we won’t have to do this again.

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By: Joe Heim

8:14 AM: Ugandan Olympian tests positive for virus upon arrival in Japan, the first detection as athletes head to Tokyo

The 2020 Tokyo Games hit another snag after a vaccinated member of Uganda’s team tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival in Japan on Saturday.

It marked the first detection of the coronavirus among incoming athletes five weeks ahead of the competition at a time when cases are surging in many countries, including Japan.

Uganda’s team had all been vaccinated with AstraZeneca shots and tested negative for the virus before departure, Japanese media reported, according to the Associated Press. Japan requires a two-week quarantine for international travelers, though it is waiving the rule for many Olympic athletes and support staffers.

Read more here.

By: Miriam Berger

7:42 AM: Hundreds of thousands of deaths appear to be missing from India’s coronavirus toll, state figures indicate

a person is standing in the dark: Relatives and volunteers in protective suits pray next to the burning pyre of a person who died of covid-19, at a crematorium in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, May 28, 2021. © Dar Yasin/AP Relatives and volunteers in protective suits pray next to the burning pyre of a person who died of covid-19, at a crematorium in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, May 28, 2021.

NEW DELHI — Two large Indian states recorded more than 360,000 “excess” deaths during the pandemic, media outlets reported, a sign of massive undercounting of coronavirus fatalities.

Officially, India’s total death toll in the pandemic is 388,000, the third highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil.

But experts say that figure does not capture the true scale of India’s losses. To arrive at a more accurate toll, journalists are using a technique that has also been deployed elsewhere in the world: examining deaths from all causes recorded during the pandemic to see how they compare to a normal period.

Such an analysis gives a figure for “excess” deaths that can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic. Not all such excess deaths were due to covid-19, say experts, but many of them were.

Figures for the state of Karnataka, accessed by the Hindu newspaper and reported on Sunday, showed that there were 168,000 excess deaths from April 2020 to May 2021. That is nearly six times the official number of covid deaths in the state for that period.

In Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, the situation is even starker. There were nearly 200,000 excess deaths in 24 of its districts from July 2020 to March 2021, according to a report on Monday by Article 14, an online media outlet, based on data from an official records request. That figure is more than 40 times as high as the official covid deaths during that time. The data does not include April and May, the deadliest months of the pandemic in India.

Similar evidence of a spike in excess deaths far exceeding the official covid toll has emerged in recent days from other states, including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

By: Joanna Slater

7:13 AM: Walmart de Mexico cuts program for elderly baggers, citing customer changes post-pandemic

a group of people standing in a parking lot: A family leaves a Mexico City branch of Walmart de Mexico, the country’s biggest retailer, in 2013. © Marco Ugarte/AP A family leaves a Mexico City branch of Walmart de Mexico, the country’s biggest retailer, in 2013.

For decades, elderly people in Mexico in need of extra cash could seek work as checkout baggers in stores like Walmart de Mexico through a government-run assistance program.

During much of the coronavirus pandemic, these workers, like many in the low-income and informal economy, remained without work after stores were closed.

But now, as Mexico’s economy is beginning to reopen, Walmart said it is cutting these positions, angering many elderly workers who had counted on returning, the Associated Press reported.

“Due to the health emergency, we have seen that our customers want to avoid third parties having contact with their purchases,” Walmart de Mexico, the country’s largest retailer, said in a statement, according to the AP. “Added to this is the fact that under current law to protect the environment, we have stopped giving free, single-use plastic bags.”

Walmart said it informed the National Institute for the Elderly, which oversees the assistance program, back in December that it was cutting the technically volunteer bagger positions because of the combination of the ban on plastic bans and changing customer preferences.

But many elderly workers only heard the news last month, and some have since organized small protests against their loss of extra income.

Around 35,000 elderly Mexicans had worked as baggers nationwide, Fadlala Akabani, Mexico City’s secretary of economic development, told the AP.

“It’s not fair,” Maria Guadalupe Garcia, who lost their job as a grocery bagger, told the Telediario news program, the AP reported. “I don’t have anything other than this.”

By: Miriam Berger

6:43 AM: Cuba says late-phase trial of its Soberana 2 vaccine showing promising results

a group of people walking down the street: An image of the late Cuban President Fidel Castro hangs at the entrance to a vaccination center amid a rise in covid-19 cases in Havana on June 15. © Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters An image of the late Cuban President Fidel Castro hangs at the entrance to a vaccination center amid a rise in covid-19 cases in Havana on June 15.

Cuba is boycotting foreign-made coronavirus vaccines and is instead betting on its homegrown versions to protect its citizens against covid-19.

It’s a gamble, but Cuba on Saturday announced promising results from late-phase trials of its Soberana 2 vaccine candidate, which state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma said was 62 percent effective with just two out its recommended three doses, Reuters reported.

“In a few weeks we should have the results for the efficacy with three doses which we expect will be superior,” Vicente Vérez​, director of the state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute, which is developing Soberana 2, said, according to Reuters.

The communist island nation has five vaccines against the coronavirus under development. Of those, Soberana 2 and another candidate, Abdala, have reached the final stages of trials. Cuba says its vaccine candidates are intended to be affordable and easy to store, unlike some of the more complicated versions offered by Modern and Pfizer that pose logistical challenges for some low-income countries.

Cuba has partnered with Iran, which has also banned the importation of Western-made coronavirus vaccines, for late-phase clinical trials of Soberana 2. Several countries, including Mexica, Venezuela and Argentina, have said they are interested in purchasing Cuba’s vaccines once they are on the market.

Cuba has a well-established pharmaceutical industry that has been exporting vaccines for decades. But its race to create its own vaccines — and profit from them — is facing off with the island’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began as highly transmissible variants spread.

As part of these efforts, Cuban authorities in May launched an experimental mass vaccination program of the Soberana 2 vaccine.

By: Miriam Berger

6:13 AM: Qatar says only vaccinated spectators will be permitted at 2022 World Cup games

Fans are seen in the stands of Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, Qatar during an India vs. Afghanistan match on June 15, 2021. © Ibraheem Al Omari/Reuters Fans are seen in the stands of Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, Qatar during an India vs. Afghanistan match on June 15, 2021.

Only fully vaccinated spectators will be allowed in to the 2022 World Cup games in Qatar, Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani told state media on Sunday.

“When the date of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 comes, most countries of the world will have vaccinated and immunized their citizens,” Khalid said, the Associated Press reported. “Due to the possibility that some countries will not be able to vaccinate all their citizens, Qatar will not allow fans to enter stadiums without receiving a full vaccination against the virus.”

Qatar is set to be the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup, in November 2022. But its bid has been beset by controversies, including allegations over labor rights violations among the migrant workers laying the infrastructure for the games in the Persian Gulf country.

Some soccer fans and human rights groups have called for boycotting the event unless Qatar issues further overhauls of its migrant worker sponsorship system, known as kafala. The government has denied charges of exploitation.

Khalid said Sunday that Qatar was considering ways to vaccinate would-be spectators who have not been inoculated.

“We are currently negotiating with a company to provide 1 million vaccine doses against the coronavirus for the immunization of those coming to the FIFA World Cup Qatar,” he said. “Our primary goal in vaccinating the unvaccinated is to protect the public health of citizens and residents.”

By: Miriam Berger

5:50 AM: Despite covid concerns, Tokyo Olympics to allow up to 10,000 at venues

TOKYO ­— Olympic organizers will allow spectators at this summer's Tokyo Games but cap attendance at 10,000 people or 50 percent of a venue's capacity, whichever is smaller, they announced on Monday.

But they have also warned they could still ban spectators entirely if the situation with coronavirus infections deteriorates dramatically before the Games begin on July 23.

Earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would prefer to see fans in the stands, but if the pandemic situation worsens, banning any from attending is “definitely a possibility.”

"I think that's obvious from the standpoint of making safety and security our utmost priority,” he said, according to the Kyodo News Agency.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike also said the decision to allow in limited numbers of spectators might have to be revisited if the infection situation worsens dramatically.

Read the full story

By: Simon Denyer

5:20 AM: Washington triples its donation of vaccines to Taiwan, angering Beijing

The Taipei 101 Tower is lit up with a sign on the building reading “Cherish Taiwan's Friendship with the United States” to thank the U.S. for giving Taiwan 2,500,000 doses of Moderna coronavirus vaccine on June 20, 2021. © Chiang Ying-Ying/AP The Taipei 101 Tower is lit up with a sign on the building reading “Cherish Taiwan's Friendship with the United States” to thank the U.S. for giving Taiwan 2,500,000 doses of Moderna coronavirus vaccine on June 20, 2021.

In a move with major health and political significance, the United States on Sunday tripled its pledge of coronavirus vaccines to Taiwan, which is battling a rise both in cases and in pressure from China, which claims control over the self-governing island.

Some 2.5 million Moderna doses arrived in Taiwan on Sunday on a cargo plane that left the United States the day before.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen praised the delivery in a Facebook post in Chinese, saying that Washington had decided to increase its donation following discussions over the past two weeks, the Associated Press reported.

“Whether it is for regional peace and stability or the virus that is a common human adversary, we will continue to uphold common ideas and work together,” Tsai wrote.

But the move clearly angered China, whose Foreign Ministry followed up Monday with a warning to the United States not to mask “political manipulation” with vaccine assistance, Reuters reported.

The virus had until recently largely overlooked Taiwan’s 24 million residents. But since May, new infections and deaths have been increasing fast, prompting the government to ramp up its search for vaccines.

Washington does not have formal ties with Taipei, which Beijing claims to control as part of its one-China policy. U.S. law, however, does commit the country to help Taiwan protect itself.

U.S. support for Taiwan asserting its political independence greatly angers China, which has been seeking to consolidate its control over its territories, such as Hong Kong.

“These vaccines are proof of America’s commitment to Taiwan,” said Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, which functions as the de facto U.S. Embassy. “Taiwan is a family member to the world’s democratic countries.”

By: Miriam Berger

4:47 AM: Hong Kong to slash quarantine restrictions for vaccinated travelers

several people waiting for their luggage at an airport: The arrival hall at the Hong Kong International Airport, which has been relatively quiet since the Chinese city tightened pandemic border controls. © Paul Yeung/Bloomberg The arrival hall at the Hong Kong International Airport, which has been relatively quiet since the Chinese city tightened pandemic border controls.

Hong Kong will relax quarantine restrictions for many vaccinated travelers starting at the end of the month, following the lead of other developed economies, its leader said Monday.

From June 30, Hong Kong residents who have left the semiautonomous city will have to quarantine in a hotel for only seven days, down from as many as 21 days, if they meet certain requirements. These include completing a full vaccination course, testing positive for antibodies and testing negative for the coronavirus, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters.

The Chinese territory also intends to extend the shorter quarantine period to eligible nonresident travelers in about a month’s time.

“The situation in Hong Kong is relatively stable,” she said. “It is time to appropriately reopen the border for places where the situation is similar to ours.”

The South China Morning Post, which first broke news about the loosened measures, had reported that only people coming from select destinations — including the United States, Britain and Singapore — would benefit from the new rules. It wasn’t immediately clear from Lam’s Monday news conference if that was the case.

As of Monday, Hong Kong has gone 14 days without logging a locally transmitted case. Lam’s administration also announced that many distancing measures would be relaxed further. In some instances, curbs would be eliminated entirely if enough people in a setting were vaccinated.

While it is easy to get a shot in Hong Kong, vaccine hesitancy has been high. Only a single-digit percentage of people over 80 in the city have been fully inoculated, one of Hong Kong’s top public health officials said. About 25 percent of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents have received at least one dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech or Sinovac coronavirus vaccine.

By: Katerina Ang

4:10 AM: Japan rolls out employer-led strategy to boost vaccine uptake, with companies giving out free shots to employees

Employees of Japan's Mori Building Company, a property management firm, queue to receive the Moderna coronavirus vaccine during the company's workplace vaccination campaign in Tokyo on June 21, 2021. © Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images Employees of Japan's Mori Building Company, a property management firm, queue to receive the Moderna coronavirus vaccine during the company's workplace vaccination campaign in Tokyo on June 21, 2021.

Five weeks ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games, Japan is taking an employee-led approach to energizing its sluggish vaccine rollout: Having companies distribute the shots to their workers and their families.

About 3,500 Japanese companies began offering free coronavirus shots Monday, with more expected to sign up to the program.

Each participating company must have a plan to inoculate at least 1,000 people. But they can decide whether to offer vaccines to the families of employees, as well as to affiliate companies, suppliers, part-time workers and cleaning staff, among others, according to the Associated Press.

Companies have until February 2022 to apply for vaccines through the program.

About 6 percent of Japan’s 126 million residents have so far been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate among developed countries.

That has left many worried about infections rising as thousands of Olympic athletes begin arriving and outbreaks, probably driven by highly transmissible variants, surge in cities like Osaka and Tokyo.

Many countries and communities have sought to incentivize inoculation through giveaways or creative campaigns.

In Japan, major companies, including automaker Toyota Motor and clothing chain Uniqlo will be taking part, with plans to vaccinate tens of thousands of people at many sites.

By: Miriam Berger

3:30 AM: Israel struggles to restore vaccine swap deal after Palestinians reject doses for being too old

TEL AVIV — Israeli officials are working to revive talks to deliver vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority after a deal Friday was suddenly called off by authority officials, who said the doses were too close to their expiration date and did not meet their standards.

Some 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are still without sufficient vaccine supplies as shipments from other sources continue to lag, while Israel is mostly returning to pre-pandemic life.

The announcement and cancellation of the deal has given rise to conspiracy theories and further damaged the low standing of the Palestinian Authority among its people.

On Friday, Israeli officials celebrated the finalization of the three-way deal between the two governments and Pfizer in which Israel would ship more than 1 million doses of its vaccine to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for a similar number of doses to be delivered back to Israel later this year.

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By: Shira Rubin

2:45 AM: Teen vaccinations surge in Washington region during first month of eligibility

When a coronavirus vaccination clinic set up in a nearby school in the Washington suburbs four weeks after her daughter became eligible for a shot, Meghan McCoy did not hesitate to bring in her 13-year-old.

Her daughter emerged from Montgomery Blair High School in Montgomery County with the first of her two doses — one of thousands of students helping to drive a surge in vaccinations among 12- to 15-year-olds in the Washington region.

Vaccinations among children ages 12 to 15 in Montgomery County have climbed faster since the opening of eligibility than for any other age group amid the pandemic, according to county health officials.

In just over a month, up to 57 percent of adolescents in this youngest-yet bracket have received at least one dose. Adding in older teens, the number for 12- to 18-year-olds jumps to 59 to 65 percent, county health officials say.

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By: Donna St. George, Hannah Natanson and Perry Stein

2:08 AM: Chilean soccer players fined for popping Copa America bubble with barber visit

a man with a football ball: Bolivia's goalkeeper Carlos Lampe blocks the goal as Bolivia's Adrian Jusino marks Chile's Ben Brereton during their Conmebol Copa America 2021 football tournament group phase match at the Pantanal Arena in Cuiaba, Brazil, on June 18, 2021. © Silvio Avila/AFP/Getty Images Bolivia's goalkeeper Carlos Lampe blocks the goal as Bolivia's Adrian Jusino marks Chile's Ben Brereton during their Conmebol Copa America 2021 football tournament group phase match at the Pantanal Arena in Cuiaba, Brazil, on June 18, 2021.

Members of the Chilean men’s soccer team will be fined for breaking coronavirus protocols during the Copa America tournament after they invited a barber into their hotel.

The incident came to light last week after two players posted videos of themselves getting a haircut on social media during the month-long competition, which involves 10 South American countries and is being held in Brazil, the Associated Press reported.

The Chilean soccer federation issued a statement Sunday saying it “recognizes the violation of the health bubble of the squad participating at Copa America, with the unauthorized entry of a barber who, despite his negative PCR test, should not have made contact with the players.”

“We regret what brought us to this situation and we inform that all members of the squad tested negative for the virus on Saturday,” the federation said.

The breach in the city of Cuiaba came amid criticism over the decision to stage the tournament, which was originally scheduled to take place in Colombia and Argentina last year but was postponed 12 months due to the pandemic. Colombia was removed as a host in May because of political protests and Argentina balked over covid-19 concerns.

Brazil agreed to host despite a third wave of infections and widespread opposition, including from members of the country’s national soccer team.

Games began last week in empty stadiums. On Friday, the Brazilian government said 82 people connected with the tournament had contracted the coronavirus so far.

More than 500,000 people have died of covid-19 in Brazil, second only to the United States.

By: Michael E. Miller

1:31 AM: Philippines orders 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: People in Manila wait to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech dose. © Rolex Dela Pena/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock People in Manila wait to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech dose.

The Philippines has agreed to buy 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, its covid response czar said Sunday, in a major boost for the Southeast Asian country that has struggled to control the pandemic.

The order, which is set to be delivered through the third and fourth quarters of this year, represents a significant increase on the roughly 14 million vaccine doses that Manila has received, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency. Up to half of the doses will be reserved for use on children, covid response chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

The deal “will significantly boost our national immunization program and will enable us to realize our goal of achieving herd immunity by year-end,” Galvez said. “Once we have … approval for most vaccines to be used on children … we will do.”

While the Philippines is a longtime U.S. ally, it has courted China throughout the tenure of President Rodrigo Duterte. One of its largest deals before it reached an agreement with U.S. firm Pfizer and German partner BioNTech was for 26 million doses of the Chinese-developed Sinovac coronavirus vaccine.

But Manila’s inoculation program has been off to a sluggish start. As of Friday, under 6 percent of the country’s residents had received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to Our World in Data. The nation of some 108 million people hopes to vaccinate about two-thirds of its population by the end of the year.

The Philippines has logged more than 1.35 million infections and at least 23,500 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

By: Katerina Ang

12:53 AM: When anti-vaxxers want to come to your wedding

Their “Love in the Time of Covid” cards in each save-the-date envelope spelled it out clearly: This October wedding would be a vaccinated-only event. After all, the groom’s father, who is vaccinated against covid-19 but immunocompromised, needed to be sure he could safely attend.

Still, Michelle and her fiance knew what would probably happen once invitees began tearing open their mail. Some, like their bridesmaids and groomsmen would RSVP without a second thought. Others, though, “were not going to get the vaccine, were going to be mad at us for requiring that and would make sure that we knew they were upset and then angrily not come,” says Michelle, a 34-year-old in Phoenix.

The couple didn’t expect a third scenario — like, say, someone who hadn’t been vaccinated showing up anyway. But then a family member disclosed some shocking intel: Michelle’s father and stepmom were planning to lie about having gotten the vaccine.

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By: Ashley Fetters

12:52 AM: Five tips to avoid post-pandemic spending sprees

Your company wants you back in the office in just a few short weeks, but you fear you’ll need a new post-pandemic wardrobe to accommodate the weight you gained from all that comfort-snacking over the past year.

You stopped, for the most part, wearing makeup. You made your own coffee. You let your hair grow out long — and gray — and now you’re fretting about having to make room again in your budget for barbershop or beauty-salon expenses.

And as more people get vaccinated, the wedding receptions, parties and reunions are back on, making you feel like you need to lavish money on presents, airline tickets and restaurant tabs.

A year of forced austerity is now giving way to post-pandemic spending sprees.

The pressure is back on to spend money on clothes, dining out and social experiences. For those who have the financial ability to splurge, here are five reasons to avoid returning to pre-pandemic spending sprees.

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By: Michelle Singletary

12:51 AM: The post-covid luxury spending boom has begun. It’s already reshaping the economy.

Travel agent Dottie Williford’s phone won’t stop buzzing: Her high-end clients in Raleigh, N.C., are eager to explore the world again. She stayed up until midnight recently to book two $20,000 cabins on a luxury cruise to the Bahamas in July.

The luxury travel boom is one of the clearest signs of a budding spending surge by wealthy Americans that is likely to tilt the balance of the economy even further toward the well-off and may deepen economic disparities already heightened by the global pandemic.

The spending tsunami, though good news for an economy still salving the financial wounds of the coronavirus, underscores how the wealthy can propel economic recoveries. As the rich have amassed more spending power, U.S. recoveries from recessions depend on a jump in their discretionary spending, according to data analyzed by The Washington Post. This represents a direct challenge to President Biden’s stated goals of rebuilding “our economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

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By: Andrew Van Dam and Heather Long

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