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Pfizer/BioNTech to produce Covid-19 vaccine in S.Africa

Wed Jul 21st, 2021
Delta

Covid-19 vaccine makers BioNTech and Pfizer on Wednesday said they had found a South African partner to produce their jab on the African continent for the first time.

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The move comes amid growing criticism of vaccine inequality that has seen poor countries fall behind richer ones in the race to protect people from the coronavirus.

Under the agreement, Cape Town-based Biovac will complete the last step in the manufacturing process of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, known as “fill and finish”, the companies said in a statement.

The project will take time to get off the ground, however, with the first African-finished Pfizer vaccines not expected before 2022.

Once up and running, Biovac is set to churn out more than 100 million doses annually that will be distributed to the 55 countries in the African Union.

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“This is a critical step forward in strengthening sustainable access to a vaccine in the fight against this tragic, worldwide pandemic,” said Biovac chief executive officer Morena Makhoana.

The “technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately,” the statement added.

The coronavirus vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer, based on experimental mRNA technology, was the first to be approved in the West late last year.

Studies have shown it is highly effective against Covid-19, including against newer variants.

Another plant in South Africa is already handling the fill and finish process for the Covid-19 shot developed by pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson, which uses a traditional viral vector-based method.

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Debate over patents
With vaccine rollouts well under way in the West, and supply even outstripping demand in some countries, calls have grown for pharma companies to waive patents on their life-saving jabs.

This has been fiercely opposed by the companies themselves and countries like Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel says suspending intellectual property rights could stifle innovation and would not resolve the lack of manufacturing capacity in the short term.

She has instead argued for licensing agreements and partnerships between vaccine makers and local firms, an approach taken by BioNTech and Pfizer.

“We aim to enable people on all continents to manufacture and distribute our vaccine while ensuring the quality of the manufacturing process and the doses,” said Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s co-founder and CEO.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, according to prepared remarks at a World Trade Organization summit, said weakening intellectual property “will only discourage the type of unprecedented innovation which brought vaccines forward in record time and make it harder for companies to collaborate going forward”.

Pfizer/BioNTech said they have so far shipped more than one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to more than 100 countries or territories, including through the global Covax vaccine-sharing programme.

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The Covax scheme, backed by the World Health Organization and heavily relied on by African countries, has so far delivered far fewer doses than expected, however.

‘They never come’
The WHO estimated earlier this month that only two percent of the African population, around 16 million people, were fully vaccinated.

South Africa has the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Africa, recording more than 2.3 million infections and over 67,000 deaths.

The country is currently battling a brutal third wave of the pandemic, fuelled by a lack of vaccines, public fatigue with Covid restrictions and the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last month announced a plan to turn his country into an mRNA vaccine hub, saying Africans “cannot continue to rely on vaccines that are made outside of Africa because they never come”.





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Pelagic Secures 4th Credit Transaction with Teybridge Capital- $5Million

pelagic secures 4th credit transaction with teybridge capital 5million
singapore

Pelagic Secures 4th Credit Transaction with Teybridge Capital- $5Million – African Union News Today – EIN Presswire

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South African firm to help make Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine

south african firm to help make pfizer biontech covid vaccine

coronavirus 2156 1120Pfizer and BioNTech have struck a deal for South Africa’s Biovac Institute to help manufacture around 100 million doses a year of their Covid-19 vaccine for the African Union, the firms said on Wednesday.

The deal is to “fill and finish” the vaccine, the final stages of manufacturing where the product is processed and put into vials. It does not cover the complicated processes of mRNA drug substance production, which Pfizer and BioNTech will do at their own facilities in Europe.

The agreement comes as Pfizer and BioNTech try to sway World Trade Organisation members from supporting a waiver on some intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines.

It will make Biovac — a joint venture between the South African government and private sector partners — one of the few companies in Africa processing and distributing Covid-19 shots, and the first to do so using the mRNA technology.

South African pharmaceutical company Aspen has a “fill and finish” deal with Johnson & Johnson for its viral vector Covid-19 vaccine.

African countries have some of the lowest vaccination rates worldwide, and many are dependent on global vaccine sharing scheme Covax, which has struggled to deliver.

100 million

Morena Makhoana, CEO at Cape Town-based Biovac, said the aim was to start producing shots “towards the second half of 2022” and then ramp up to maximum output of around 100 million doses a year by early 2023. On-site development and equipment installation would begin immediately, Pfizer and BioNTech said.

Makhoana said Biovac would modify its plant by expanding next to the filling line and investing in new freezers, as the vaccine needs to be stored at -70°C.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who the African Union has named its “champion on Covid-19”, called the agreement a breakthrough in efforts to overcome vaccine inequity. He added it entailed a shared investment of R200-million in the coming six months.

coronavirus vaccine 2156 1120WTO members have been in talks for months on waiving drug firms’ intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines. Many developing countries including South Africa and India support the waiver, but several wealthy countries remain opposed, saying it would deter research that allowed Covid-19 vaccines to be produced so quickly.

“Weakening IP rules will only discourage the type of unprecedented innovation which brought vaccines forward in record time and make it harder for companies to collaborate,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in remarks prepared for a WTO summit later on Wednesday.

The World Health Organisation last month chose a consortium including Biovac for a “tech transfer hub” in South Africa, part of efforts to give poor and middle-income countries the knowledge and licences to produce Covid-19 vaccines.

Biovac has partnered with Pfizer since 2015 to manufacture and distribute its Prevnar 13 pneumonia vaccine, although it is still awaiting regulatory approval, Makhoana said. “Having an existing relationship always helps,” he said on his company’s expanded ties with Pfizer.  — Reported by Michael Erman, Wendell Roelf and Alexander Winning, (c) 2021 Reuters

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Igboho in pains, cries in detention – Lawyer

igboho in pains cries in detention lawyer
Igboho

A group, Democracy Vanguard of Nigeria in Diaspora (DVND) has written a letter to the United States of America through its Nigerian Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, demanding a visa ban on all the senators who voted against the electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria.

The group in a statement issued Tuesday by its President, Timothy Sule, described the action as shameful, disdainful, and completely reprehensible, saying it smacks of a clear contempt for the Nigerian People.

It, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold assent on any Electoral Act bill that failed to incorporate electronic voting, order of elections to start with Governorship and State Assemblies and then Presidential and National Assemblies.

It stated: “We call on the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, African Union and all ally countries to take urgent actions to nip this brewing conflagration in the bud before it consumes the nation and creates a massive refugee crisis in the world.

“In the meantime, we have attached names of all those legislators who played one role or the other in the suppression and undermining democracy in Nigeria for a visa ban. Their family members shall not be spared of the impending visa ban as well.

“This noble intention was vehemently and vigorously challenged by some legislators from a particular zone and political party. These unpatriotic elements eventually succeeded in throwing out such a noble intention into the abyss.”

The group therefore commended a few progressive opposition legislators in the Senate and the House of Representatives led by Senator Ehinanya Abaribe and Ndidi Elumelu respectively who stood for Nigeria when the occasion demanded.

It noted that those who exempted themselves from the chambers without a valid reason are equally reprimanded and condemned, adding that while those who were conspicuously absent are no better than those who shot the amendment down with their selfish and insensitive agenda.

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Pfizer Strikes Deal To Produce Vaccines In Africa As Continent Falls Far Behind In Covid Fight

pfizer strikes deal to produce vaccines in africa as continent falls far behind in covid fight
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Topline

Pfizer has struck a deal with a South African drug manufacturer to begin producing and distributing its coronavirus vaccine in Africa for the first time, the company announced Wednesday, in a move that follows mounting pressure to address inequalities in the global vaccine rollout.

Key Facts

Pfizer said it will be working with South Africa’s Biovac Institute, a public-private partnership focused on vaccine production, to produce and distribute over 100 million doses a year for the African Union beginning in 2022. 

Biovac will be shipped batches of vaccine ingredients from Europe and then will perform so-called fill and finish operations, the last stage of manufacturing and packaging, according to a press release from the company. 

Though technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately, the company said manufacturing of the finished doses will only begin in 2022. 

“At full operational capacity, the annual production will exceed 100 million finished doses annually,” which will be distributed within the 55 member states making up the African Union, the company said. 

Crucial Quotes

Pfizer CEO Andrew Bourla, who is set to give a speech later Wednesday at the World Trade Organization Summit, deemed the partnership progress toward the company’s goal of providing “fair and equitable” access to the vaccine “to everyone, everywhere.” Meanwhile, Biovac CEO Dr. Morena Makhoana lauded it as a “critical step forward.” “We believe this collaboration will create opportunity to more broadly distribute vaccine doses to people in harder-to-reach communities, especially those on the African continent,” said Makhoana. 

Key Background 

The pace of vaccinations in Africa is running far behind the rest of the world. Just over 1.5% of Africans have been fully vaccinated, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making the continent’s goal of having 20% of its population vaccinated by the end of 2021 increasingly unlikely. This is largely due to a lack of African-based vaccine manufacturing facilities. The continent was relying on the World Health Organization-backed COVAX effort for its doses. However, COVAX has fallen far behind schedule, having delivered only 200 million doses since February (the U.S. has administered 338 million), in part because of the troubles of its biggest supplier, the Serum Institute of India. 

What To Watch For 

Africa’s rollout is lagging at a time when the more infectious delta variant is driving a record surge of cases. Earlier this month, the continent reported its “worst pandemic week ever” after 16 countries saw a resurgence in infections, amounting to over 250,000 cases reported in just one week. 

Further Reading 

“Africa’s Covid Crisis Deepens, but Vaccines Are Still Far Off” (The New York Times)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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كوت ديفوار: التعليم مفتاح التنمية – افتتاح الولايات العامة للتربية الوطنية ومحو الأمية

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أبيدجان – "إعادة التفكير في البيئة المدرسية الإيفوارية أمر ضروري لتزويد الأجيال الشابة بتعليم جيد هو هدف الولايات العامة للتربية الوطنية ومحو الأمية التي افتتحها رئيس الوزراء باتريك أتشي يوم الاثنين 19 يوليو". هذا ما كتبه الأب دونالد زاغور ، اللاهوتي الإيفواري من جمعية الإرساليات الإفريقية ، إلى Agenzia Fides ، متحدثًا عن المبادرة. "ليس سراً أن النظام التعليمي الإيفواري في حالة سيئة – يوضح المرسل. البرامج المدرسية رديئة المحتوى. مدارسنا وجامعاتنا ، المشبعة بشكل عام ، تعمل بشكل سيء للغاية.

هذه مبادرة مفعمة بالأمل ، بالنظر إلى حالة التدهور التي تعرّض لها النظام التعليمي الإيفواري منذ عدة عقود. ستتمثل الولايات العامة في تقييم الوضع ، من أجل رسم مسارات من خلال مقترحات ملموسة لإنقاذ المدرسة الإيفوارية ". ويؤكد الأب زاغور على أن التعليم هو مفتاح التنمية الحقيقية:" لا يمكننا أن نتطلع إلى تنمية حقيقية وشاملة إذا تم إبعاد التكوين البشري المتكامل إلى الخلفية.

يجب أن يبدأ أي مشروع من القاعدة التعليمية. لا يمكننا بناء الطرق والمستشفيات والجسور من خلال مناشدة دائما للمهاجرين. إنه في المدارس حيث يجب تدريب شبابنا. يجب أن يكون التعليم على رأس الأولويات. يتمثل التحدي الأكبر في مكافحة الفقر في أفريقيا في تعليم أصيل وشامل ".

"إن مجتمع الغد الإيفواري ، المولود من ضمائر خلقها التعليم ، – يخلص إلى أن زاغور – سيصبح المكان الذي تُحترم فيه حياة الإنسان وتُحمى وتُحمى من الحمل حتى الموت. المكان الذي لم يعد فيه الشباب مجبرين على البحث عن الوهم السعادة بين المخدرات والعصابات ، ولكن حيث تتألق العدالة والحقيقة والحب والتضامن والخدمة. يجب أن يصبح مجتمعنا مكانًا يحظر فيه الفساد ".

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Covid-19: Pfizer/BioNTech set …

covid 19 pfizer biontech set scaled
AR

The project will facilitate the distribution of more than 100 million doses annually to 55 countries in the African Union.

Covid-19 vaccine makers BioNTech and Pfizer said they had found a South African partner to produce their jab locally, the first such deal on the African continent.

The move comes amid growing criticism of vaccine inequality that has seen poor countries fall behind richer ones in the race to protect people from the coronavirus.

Under the agreement, Cape Town-based Biovac will complete the last step in the manufacturing process of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, known as “fill and finish”, the companies said in a statement.

However, the project will take time to get off the ground, with the first African-finished vaccines not expected before 2022.

Once up and running, Biovac is set to churn out more than 100 million doses annually distributed to the 55 countries in the African Union.

“This is a critical step forward in strengthening sustainable access to a vaccine in the fight against this tragic, worldwide pandemic,” said Biovac chief executive officer Morena Makhoana.

The “technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately,” the statement added.

The coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer, based on mRNA technology, was the first to be approved in the West late last year.

Studies have shown it is highly effective against Covid-19, including against newer and more contagious virus variants.

They never come

With the vaccine rollouts well underway in the West and supply even outstripping demand in some countries, calls have grown for pharma companies to waive patents on their life-saving jabs.

The companies themselves have fiercely opposed this, and countries like Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel says suspending intellectual property rights could stifle innovation and would not resolve the lack of manufacturing capacity in the short term.

She has instead argued for licensing agreements and partnerships between vaccine makers and local firms, an approach taken by BioNTech, a German company.

“We aim to enable people on all continents to manufacture and distribute our vaccine while ensuring the quality of the manufacturing process and the doses,” said Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s co-founder and CEO.

Pfizer/BioNTech said they have so far shipped more than one billion Covid vaccine doses to more than 100 countries or territories, including through the global Covax vaccine-sharing programme.

The Covax scheme, backed by the World Health Organisation and heavily relied on by African countries, has delivered far fewer doses than expected so far, however.

The WHO estimated earlier this month that only two per cent of the African population, around 16 million people, were fully vaccinated.

South Africa has the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Africa, recording more than 2.3 million infections and over 67,000 deaths.

The country is currently battling a brutal third wave of the pandemic, fuelled by a lack of vaccines, public fatigue with Covid restrictions and the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Last month, south African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a plan to turn his country into an mRNA vaccine hub, saying Africans “cannot continue to rely on vaccines that are made outside of Africa because they never come”.

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Pfizer-BioNTech collaborates with South African company to produce COVID-19 injections | Coronavirus pandemic news

pfizer biontech collaborates with south african company to produce covid 19 injections coronavirus pandemic news scaled
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According to the agreement, the Cape Town-based Biovac company expects to produce 100 million doses of vaccine each year for shipment to African Union countries.

Pfizer and BioNTech stated that they have reached an agreement with South Africa-based Biovac to produce a COVID-19 vaccine for the African Union (AU).

In a statement released on Wednesday, the two companies said that Cape Town-based Biovac will complete the final step of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine manufacturing process, which is “fill and finish.”

“In order to promote Biovac’s participation in the process, technology transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately,” the statement read.

It added that the raw materials for the production of lancets will come from factories in Europe, and the production of finished medicines will begin in 2022.

The two companies predict that Biovac’s annual output will reach 100 million doses per year under “full capacity operation”-which will be distributed among the member states of the African Union.

The announcement of the partnership comes at a time when more and more people are calling for a solution to the huge gap in global vaccine distribution. According to our data world, only 1.5% of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, while the proportions in the European Union and the United States are 43.7% and nearly 50%, respectively.

For months, uneven distribution has been the focus of debate in the World Trade Organization, as developing countries led by India and South Africa have been pushing for a proposal to temporarily cancel the intellectual property (IP) of vaccines in order to increase global manufacturing capabilities.

Without intellectual property rights, among other issues, manufacturing companies will not be sued for producing lancets because they do not have the license of the vaccine manufacturer company.

But the proposal was submitted in October and was supported by the majority of WTO members, but it was opposed by a few wealthy countries, who claimed that such abandonment would hinder technological innovation.

Last month, the World Health Organization said it was establishing a center or training facility in South Africa to provide companies there with expertise and licenses to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

Biovac was one of the first participants in the center. It has been a partner of Pfizer since 2015, producing and distributing its Prevenar 13 pneumonia vaccine.

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South African company to help produce BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine for Africa

south african company to help produce biontech pfizer vaccine for africa
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BioNTech and Pfizer announced today a deal with South African biopharmaceutical Biovac to complete the final stage of the production process for their coronavirus jab and distribute it on the vaccine-starved continent. 

The companies have signed a letter of intent that would see Biovac start to carry out “fill and finish” of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine starting in 2022, with their facility being incorporated into the BioNTech/Pfizer supply chain by the end of this year. The drug substance will come from European facilities. Eventually, the partners hope that Biovac will be able to fill and finish over 100 million doses that would be exclusively distributed within the African Union. 

It’s a significant step towards the production of vaccines on the African continent, which has relied on vaccines being produced elsewhere. But today’s agreement is still limited, as it would allow Biovac to only take part in the final stage of vaccine manufacturing, which has been a point of contention for many critics. 

“We aim to enable people on all continents to manufacture and distribute our vaccine while ensuring the quality of the manufacturing process and the doses,” said Uğur Şahin, CEO of BioNTech. “Our mRNA technology can be used to develop vaccine candidates addressing other diseases as well. This is why we will continue to evaluate sustainable approaches that will support the development and production of mRNA vaccines on the African continent.”

A separate technology transfer hub for mRNA coronavirus vaccines has been established by the World Health Organization, with which Biovac is a partner. However, the hub aims to support the production of the drug substance as well, which is a significantly more complex process.

As of yet, neither BioNTech/Pfizer nor Moderna has indicated that they wish to work with the hub. 

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Life expectancy in the United States dropped 1.5 years in 2020, mostly because of the pandemic.

life expectancy in the united states dropped 1 5 years in 2020 mostly because of the pandemic
The deal marks the first time Pfizer’s Covid vaccine will be partly produced in Africa.
Credit…Brett Carlsen for The New York Times

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Wednesday that they have reached an agreement with a South African vaccine manufacturer, starting next year, to handle the final stages of manufacturing for doses of their Covid shot that will be supplied exclusively to African nations.

The deal represents the first time Pfizer’s Covid vaccine will be partly produced in Africa and it could eventually help increase supply to a continent where months of severe vaccine shortages have resulted in only about 1.5 percent of people being fully immunized.

But the agreement comes with caveats that will significantly limit its impact at a time when the fast-spreading Delta variant has driven a surge in infections and hospitalizations and sent the continent into the most devastating phase of its pandemic.

Crucially, the South African producer, Biovac, will only be handling distribution and “fill-finish” — the final phase of the manufacturing process, during which the vaccine is placed in vials and packaged for shipping. It will rely on Pfizer facilities in Europe to make the vaccine substance and ship it to its Cape Town facility.

Public health activists have called on Pfizer and other major vaccine manufacturers to transfer their technology to local producers in poorer parts of the world so as to ramp up production and alleviate shortages. Sharing recipes in this way can either be voluntary or forced.

Matthew Kavanagh, director of the Global Health Policy and Politics Initiative at Georgetown University, called Wednesday’s agreement “deeply disappointing.”

“What we have seen from all of these licensing agreements that only are fill-finish and keep the full production capacity to high-income-country producers is that they continue to just perpetuate the inequalities in distribution,” Mr. Kavanagh said.

A company spokeswoman, Pamela Eisele, said that in trying to rapidly scale up Covid vaccine manufacturing, Pfizer is “primarily focusing on multiple existing sites, looking to external contract manufacturers to support the important fill-and-finish and distribution steps.”

Michelle Viljoen, a spokeswoman for Biovac, said that starting with fill-finish is “the quickest manufacturing step to making vaccines accessible.” Ms. Viljoen added: “We will continue to pursue our vision of drug substance manufacture. We view this initiative as a stepping stone towards the realization of that vision.”

Pfizer has pledged that it will supply two billion doses of its vaccine to low- and middle-income countries through various channels by the end of 2022, but so far, only a small fraction of those doses have been delivered.

Pfizer said that efforts would begin immediately to transfer technology and install the necessary equipment at Biovac’s facility. Pfizer said the plant would be able to fill-finish more than 100 million doses annually at full capacity, though it did not say when that would be reached. Those doses will be supplied only to the 55 member states that make up the African Union, the company said.

To people “who have expressed concern that Africa is being left behind in part due to lack of vaccine manufacturing, I want to say that we hear you,” Pfizer’s chief executive, Dr. Albert Bourla, said in prepared remarks to a meeting put on by the World Trade Organization on Wednesday.

But Mr. Kavanagh said he was worried that Pfizer would not send enough drug substance to Cape Town, especially if wealthy countries sought third booster shots for their populations. In that scenario, he said, “what likelihood is it that most of the drug substance is going to shift to Africa to do first vaccinations instead of doing boosters in high-income countries that pay more and have political power to demand it?”

A site where Johnson & Johnson vaccines were being administered in Newark, N.J., in March.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

The single-dose coronavirus vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson is much less effective against the Delta and Lambda variants than against the original virus, according to a new study posted online on Tuesday.

Although troubling, the findings result from experiments conducted with blood samples in a laboratory, and may not reflect the vaccine’s performance in the real world. But they add to evidence that the 13 million people inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may need to receive a second dose — ideally of one of the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, the authors said.

The conclusions are at odds with those from smaller studies published by Johnson & Johnson earlier this month, suggesting that a single dose of the vaccine is effective against the variant even eight months after inoculation.

The new study has not yet been peer reviewed nor published in a scientific journal. But it is consistent with observations that a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine — which has a similar architecture to Johnson & Johnson’s — shows only about 33 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant.

“The message that we wanted to give was not that people shouldn’t get the J.&J. vaccine, but we hope that in the future, it will be boosted with either another dose of J.&J. or a boost with Pfizer or Moderna,” said Nathaniel Landau, a virologist at N.Y.U.’s Grossman School of Medicine, who led the study.

The Delta variant is the most contagious version yet of the coronavirus. It accounts for 83 percent of infections in the United States, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

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Delta Variant Accounts for 83% of Virus Cases

Health officials testified before the Senate that the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus was spreading rapidly across the country, particularly in areas with low levels of vaccinations.

“C.D.C. has released estimates of variants across the country, and predicted the Delta variant now represents 83 percent of sequenced cases. This is a dramatic increase from, up from 50 percent for the week of July 3. In some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher, particularly in areas of low vaccination rates. The best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease, and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have.” “It has now been detected in at least 90-plus countries throughout the world. The reason it’s so formidable is the fact that it has the capability of transmitting efficiently from human to human in an extraordinary manner, well beyond any of the other variants that we’ve experienced up to now, which has led to its becoming the dominant variant in this country.” “We are at a point of great promise and peril in the fight against Covid-19. While I am encouraged by the fact that two-thirds of adults in our country have received their first dose of vaccine, I am alarmed by how the rate of vaccination has been slowing, and how driven by the Delta variant, rates of Covid-19 cases and deaths are once again on the rise.” “Covid won’t just go away. We need all Americans who can get the vaccine to get the vaccine. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your friends, your families, for your neighbors and your local community. Do it for your grandchildren, so they can go back to school. Do it for your grandparents, so they can finally go out and eat.”

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Health officials testified before the Senate that the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus was spreading rapidly across the country, particularly in areas with low levels of vaccinations.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The highly infectious Delta variant now accounts for an estimated 83 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States — a “dramatic increase” from early July, when it crossed the 50 percent threshold to become the dominant variant in this country, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

In some regions, the percentage is even higher — particularly where vaccination rates are low, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, said during a Senate health committee hearing. Two-dose vaccines have been shown to be effective against the Delta variant but questions have been raised about Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose regimen against Delta. While almost 60 percent of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated, less than half of the total U.S. population is.

She said the C.D.C. would update its website later Tuesday to reflect the new estimate of Delta cases, which the agency derives from gene sequencing of new coronavirus cases.

The new figure comes as new cases have been rising across the United States, though cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain a fraction of their peaks. Still, public health experts are watching the increases with deep concern and Dr. Walensky warned last week that “this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” The seven-day average now shows nearly 38,000 new daily cases, up from about 11,000 a day not long ago, according to a New York Times database.

Tuesday’s hearing was contentious at times. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, pressed Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, on when the F.D.A. would authorize booster shots — and was not happy when she could not provide a specific answer. Federal health officials have said booster shots are not necessary now and have pressed Pfizer for more evidence.

Other Republicans clashed with witnesses over matters including mask mandates, booster shots for Covid-19 vaccines and “gain of function” research designed to identify genetic mutations that could make a virus more powerful.

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‘If Anybody Is Lying Here Senator, It Is You,’ Fauci Says to Rand Paul

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci responded angrily to Republican Senator Rand Paul during a committee hearing after Mr. Paul accused him of lying to Congress about the National Institutes of Health funding the “gain of function” research in Wuhan, China.

Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11th where you claim that the N.I.H. never funded “gain of function” research in Wuhan? I have never lied before the Congress and I do not retract that statement. This paper that you were referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being “gain of function.” What was. Let me finish. You’re saying that’s not “gain of function?” Yeah, that is correct. And Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. You’re trying to obscure responsibility for four million people dying around the world from a pandemic. If the point that you were making is that the grant that was funded as a sub-award from EcoHealth to Wuhan created SARS-CoV-2, that’s where you are getting. Let me finish. We don’t know. Well, wait a minute. We don’t know if it did come from the lab but all the evidence is pointing that it came from the lab and there will be the responsibility for those who funded the lab, including yourself. I totally. This committee will allow the witness to respond. I totally resent the lie that you are now propagating. You’re saying they are “gain of function” viruses because they’re animal viruses that became more more transmissible in human and you funded it. And you. Admit the truth. Senator Paul your time has expired. And I will allow witnesses who come before this committee to respond. You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individual. I totally resent that. If anybody is lying here, senator, it is you.

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Dr. Anthony S. Fauci responded angrily to Republican Senator Rand Paul during a committee hearing after Mr. Paul accused him of lying to Congress about the National Institutes of Health funding the “gain of function” research in Wuhan, China.

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, escalated his long-running attacks on Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus pandemic, and accused Dr. Fauci of committing a crime by lying to Congress in May when he told senators that the National Institutes of Health did not fund “gain of function” research at a laboratory in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic’s early days.

Dr. Fauci, in turn, accused the senator of falsely implying that the N.I.H. is somehow responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths from the pandemic — an extraordinary exchange for the Senate, where witnesses almost always defer to lawmakers.

“I have never lied before Congress and I do not retract that statement,” Dr. Fauci declared, adding, “Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially.”

Friends and family paid their respects to a man who died from Covid-19 at a funeral home in Elsa, Texas, last year.
Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

The coronavirus pandemic was largely responsible for shaving a year and a half from the life expectancy of Americans in 2020, the steepest drop in the United States since World War II, according to federal statistics released on Wednesday.

An American child born today, if they hypothetically lived their entire life under the conditions of 2020, would be expected to live 77.3 years, down from 78.8 in 2019. It’s the lowest life expectancy since 2003, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the agency that released the figures and a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The difficult year also deepened racial and ethnic disparities in life expectancy, with Black and Hispanic Americans losing nearly two more years than white Americans. Life expectancy for Hispanic Americans dropped to 78.8 from 81.8, while the numbers for Black Americans dropped to 71.8 from 74.7. Non-Hispanic white Americans saw their life expectancy drop to 77.6 from 78.8.

The statistics further quantified the staggering toll of the pandemic, which has killed more than 600,000 Americans as it has, at times, pushed the health system to its limits.

Measuring life expectancy is not intended to precisely predict actual life spans; rather, it’s a measure of a population’s health, revealing either society-wide distress or advancement. The sheer magnitude of the drop in 2020 has left researchers reeling as it wiped away decades of progress.

The precipitous drop in 2020 caused largely by Covid-19 is not likely to be permanent. In 1918, the flu pandemic wiped 11.8 years from Americans’ life expectancy, but the number fully rebounded the following year.

But even if deaths from Covid-19 fall off, the economic and social effects will linger, especially among racial groups that were disproportionately affected, researchers have noted.

The World Health Organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, left, received the Olympic torch from Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Credit…Greg Martin/OIS/IOC/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images

In a world divided by access to vaccines, social restrictions aimed at limiting human contact, and an ever-changing maze of border closures that continue to keep people apart, the head of the World Health Organization said he hopes the Olympic Games in Tokyo could represent a moment of global solidarity.

“The Olympics have the power to bring the world together, to inspire, to show what’s possible,” the agency’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday.

Holding an Olympic torch aloft, he sought to strike a note of optimism even as the world confronts yet more waves of infection and uncertainty.

“May the rays of hope from this land illuminate a new dawn for a healthy, safer and fairer world,” he said.

But even as he spoke, the virus continued to stalk the sporting contest.

A Chilean taekwondo athlete, Fernanda Aguirre, was ruled out of action after testing positive for the virus, according to a statement from Chile’s National Olympic Committee. A Dutch skateboarder, Candy Jacobs, also announced on Wednesday that she had tested positive and was out of the Games.

With the opening ceremony still two days away, thousands of athletes, coaches, referees and other officials have poured into Japan in recent days. More than 70 people affiliated with the Games have tested positive, according to organizers, including five within the Olympic Village.

With less than a quarter of the Japanese public fully vaccinated, there is intense opposition to the Games in a nation that fears the competitions could turn into superspreader events.

Tedros said that it was always highly unlikely that there would be no infections at the Olympics, only that the spread of the virus could be mitigated.

Success did not require “zero cases,” he said. “The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible, and onward transmission is interrupted. That is the mark of success for every country.”

Even as he warned that the world was “now in the early stages of another wave of infections and deaths,” Tedros said that stopping the worst ravages of the epidemic would take greater political unity than governments have so far mustered. He called the world’s failure to more equitably distribute vaccines “a moral outrage” and “epidemiologically and economically self-defeating.”

But the gathering of athletes in Japan, he said, could perhaps provide some inspiration for a divided planet.

“It is my sincere hope the Tokyo Games succeed,” he said.

Relatives and friends gathering to bury some of those killed by Covid-19 in New Delhi in April.
Credit…Archana Thiyagarajan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Facing a chorus of criticism over accusations of underreporting the Covid-19 death toll, India’s government sought to shift blame to the states, suggesting that local officials were not accurately registering deaths.

The government’s response came in a reply to questions raised by opposition leaders in the Parliament on Tuesday, as a new study found that the number of people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic in India so far is likely to exceed three million. That is nearly 10 times the official Covid-19 death toll, and would make it one of the worst human tragedies in the nation’s history.

“Many people here said that the government of India is hiding deaths. The government of India compiles the numbers sent by state governments and publishes it,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new health minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, said in Parliament. “Our job is only to publish the data.”

The estimate of more than three million deaths was the result of a comprehensive examination by the Center for Global Development, a Washington research institute, which attempted to count excess deaths from all causes during the pandemic by looking at state data, international estimates, serological studies and household surveys.

During India’s devastating second wave of infections earlier this year, journalists from The New York Times and other news outlets interviewed staff members and families at cremation grounds across India and found an extensive pattern of deaths far exceeding the official figures.

Mr. Mandaviya said that allegations that the government was trying to minimize the toll of Covid were untrue.

“The government of India has not told anyone to report less numbers,” he said. “We have not asked of anyone to report less Covid patients. There is no reason for it.”

Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, which extended its lockdown after the state case total passed 100.
Credit…Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Thirteen million people in Australia — about half the country’s population — woke up on Wednesday under some form of lockdown as the country struggles to contain outbreaks of the Delta variant across three states.

On Tuesday, the state of South Australia was placed under a seven-day lockdown after recording five coronavirus cases. The state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, extended its lockdown for another week as its case total surpassed 100.

New infections show no sign of slowing in the largest city, Sydney, which is now in its fourth week of lockdown and has recorded over 1,000 cases. Sydney reported 110 new local cases on Wednesday, the third highest daily total since this outbreak began.

Although the case numbers are relatively small, Australia has used a strategy of swift local lockdowns to keep the virus under control since last year. But because of the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, and Australia’s slow vaccination campaign, infectious disease experts are concerned that it might be impossible to completely stamp out these outbreaks.

“With the vaccination rates the way they are, we won’t be able to live freely and safely unless we’re able to quash this current outbreak,” Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of New South Wales state, which includes Sydney, said on Wednesday.

About 29 percent of Australia’s population has received at least one vaccine dose and 11 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that the country had administered a million doses in the past seven days, the first time it had reached that weekly mark. If that rate continues, he added, all Australians who wanted a vaccine would be able to get one by the end of the year.

U Nyan Win in Yangon in 2015. He acted as a spokesman for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
Credit…Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

U Nyan Win, a spokesman for the governing party of Myanmar that was ousted by the military earlier this year, died on Tuesday of Covid-19 contracted in prison, his lawyer said.

The death of one of the most high-profile of thousands of political prisoners locked up since the February coup underscored the tragedy unfolding in Myanmar, where a failing health system has been utterly shattered by a junta determined to keep oxygen and other lifesaving care from those who oppose its rule.

In addition to acting as a spokesman for the former governing party, the National League for Democracy, Mr. Nyan Win, 79, served as a lawyer for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the onetime civilian leader of Myanmar. Both were imprisoned after the coup, along with the party’s entire senior leadership.

Mr. Nyan Win was charged with sedition and sent to Insein, Myanmar’s most notorious prison. On July 11, he was transferred to a hospital in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, the National League for Democracy said.

After earlier waves of the coronavirus crested in Myanmar last year, the Delta variant has washed over the country in recent weeks, devastating a country that was already reeling from the bloody aftermath of the coup. More than 900 people have been killed by the military since the putsch, according to a monitoring group. Among the dead are dozens of children.

The military has halted a nationwide vaccination campaign, reserving most doses for those who publicly support the coup. It has also hoarded oxygen for soldiers and their families, doctors say, making a private trade in oxygen akin to a criminal act. The enforced oxygen shortages have prematurely ended hundreds of lives, medical experts said.

Mr. Nyan Win is not the only senior politician to have contracted the coronavirus while in detention. U Phyo Min Thein, the former chief minister of the area surrounding Yangon, the largest city, is in critical condition because of the virus, according to the National League for Democracy, as is the former head of the party’s national vaccination effort.

Medical experts fear that the coronavirus is spreading fast in the country’s crowded prisons, just as it has among the general population. Myanmar borders India, where the highly transmissible Delta variant was first identified. Bodies are piling up at crematories in major cities, according to witnesses.

Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, speaking on Tuesday. He has blamed President Biden for vaccine hesitancy.
Credit…Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the coronavirus surges in their states and districts, many congressional Republicans have declined to push back against vaccine skeptics in their party who are sowing mistrust about the shots’ safety and effectiveness.

They have instead focused their message about the vaccine on disparaging President Biden, characterizing his drive to inoculate Americans as politically motivated and heavy-handed.

On Tuesday, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican who said he had received his first Pfizer vaccine shot only on Sunday, blamed Mr. Biden and his criticism of Donald J. Trump’s vaccine drive last year for hesitancy.

Some elected Republicans are the ones spreading the falsehoods. Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, a Senate candidate, warned on Twitter of “KGB-style” agents knocking on the doors of unvaccinated Americans — a reference to Mr. Biden’s door-to-door vaccine outreach campaign.

Such statements, and the widespread silence by Republicans in the face of vaccine skepticism, are beginning to alarm some strategists and party leaders.

“The way to avoid getting back into the hospital is to get vaccinated,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader and a polio survivor, pleaded on Tuesday, one of the few members of his party to take a different approach. “And I want to encourage everybody to do that and to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

The political disparity in vaccine hesitancy is stark. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported at the end of June that 86 percent of Democrats had at least one shot, compared with 52 percent of Republicans. An analysis by The New York Times in April found that the least vaccinated counties in the country had one thing in common: They voted for Mr. Trump.

Coronavirus patients at a public hospital received treatment at an emergency tent set up to handle an overflow of patients in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday.
Credit…Ulet Ifansasti for The New York Times

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia said Tuesday he would extend coronavirus restrictions at least until Monday as the country celebrated a muted Eid al-Adha, one of the most important Muslim holidays traditionally marked by large gatherings and the slaughter of cows and sheep.

The country hit a series of daily records last week, surpassing India and Brazil with the largest number of daily cases in the world and establishing Indonesia as an epicenter of the virus.

Many hospitals on densely populated Java island are overwhelmed by patients, and lifesaving oxygen is in short supply. Some patients wait days in tents and hallways for admission to a hospital ward and many others die in isolation at home. Gravediggers struggle to keep pace with the surge of bodies. On Monday, the government reported a record 1,338 deaths.

Mr. Joko said the restrictions on much of Java and Bali islands were needed “so as not to paralyze hospitals due to overcapacity.”

Since last week, the number of reported cases has declined sharply, reaching 38,325 on Tuesday. But the number of tests being conducted has also dropped sharply, from a high of nearly 260,000 on Friday to fewer than 115,000 on Tuesday.

Indonesia had hit a record of nearly 57,000 cases on Thursday.

Mr. Joko, who has been reluctant throughout the pandemic to impose lockdowns that slow the economy, said that if the trend continues, he will begin lifting restrictions on commerce and gatherings in stages.

“This is a very difficult situation,” he said in a video address. “But with our joint effort, God willing, we will soon be free from Covid-19 and social activities and people’s economic activities can return to normal.”

The percentage of tests that are positive has remained at more than 30 percent for the past week, which health experts say is a sign that the virus is widespread and that too few tests are being conducted.

On Tuesday, the positivity rate was even higher: one out of every three people tested was positive.

This was the second year in a row that Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, celebrated Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, under the shadow of the coronavirus. The holiday commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismail, at God’s command.

This year, mosques in high-risk areas were not allowed to stage the ritual animal sacrifices and distribution of meat that traditionally draw large crowds.

The restrictions, which were imposed July 3, were set to expire Tuesday. They include the closure of malls, sports facilities and a ban on nonessential travel. The government had initially ordered the closure of houses of worship, but later said they were merely advised not to hold services.

In his address, Mr. Joko called on the public to follow health guidance and help reduce pressure on the health care system.

“For this, we must all heighten discipline in implementing health protocols, isolate those with symptoms, and provide treatment as early as possible to those who are exposed,” he said.

Hector Velazquez, along with another teammate, tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday. They are asymptomatic and isolating in their hotel rooms, the Mexican baseball federation said in a statement.
Credit…Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Mexican national baseball team is in quarantine after two players tested positive for coronavirus ahead of traveling to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics, Mexican baseball federation officials announced.

Hector Velazquez and Sammy Solis, both 32-year-old pitchers, were tested on Sunday in Mexico City as the team gathered to begin practice. They were asymptomatic and isolating in their hotel rooms, the federation said in a statement. As a result, national federation officials said practice on Monday was canceled and the rest of the team was quarantining in its hotel awaiting results from further testing.

Over the weekend, players and coaches reported to Mexico City and had begun training ahead of their departure to Japan. Mexico’s first game in the Olympics is scheduled for July 30, against the Dominican Republic, at Yokohama Baseball Stadium. Solis and Velazquez — both former Major League Baseball players — play for the same team in Mexico’s top professional league.

“Honored and excited to announce that I will be representing #TeamMexico at the Olympics in #Tokyo2020!!!!,” Solis said earlier this month, when the Mexican team was announced. “Being named an Olympian is a lifelong dream! Time to chase that.”

The news was a blow for fifth-ranked Mexico, which had qualified for the first time for the Olympics in baseball, a sport making its return to the Summer Games after a 13-year hiatus.

With games beginning on Wednesday and the opening ceremony on Friday, nearly 60 people connected to the Tokyo Games, from athletes within the Olympic Village to Japanese residents working at the events, have tested positive. Organizers are struggling to manage public anxiety as many thousands more athletes, coaches and other officials arrive in Japan for the Games.

The Mexican baseball team was the latest Olympic team to be disrupted by the virus. The United States’ men’s basketball, women’s 3×3 basketball and the women’s gymnastics teams have had to reshuffle their rosters after athletes either tested positive or entered virus health and safety protocols.

From protests and Covid-related bans on fans, join Times journalists for an exclusive virtual event as we discuss what this moment means for Tokyo 2020. Plus learn about the sports new to the Olympics through interviews with U.S. surfer Carissa Moore and Czech climber Adam Ondra. Click the button above to R.S.V.P.

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