Coronavirus infectivity ratio takes a nosedive in Pakistan

NIH data shows 158 infections, one fatality in 24 hours: US foresees annual Covid boosters, just like flu: EU recommends elderly get priority for Omicron jabs

By: News Desk
Published: 09:54 AM, 7 Sep, 2022
Coronavirus infectivity ratio takes a nosedive in Pakistan
Caption: A photo shows crowded Narita International Airport in Narita City, Chiba Prefecture. The Japanese government starts to ease quarantine measures about the new coronavirus COVID-19.–AFP)
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Pakistan has reported 158 daily coronavirus infections and one death during the last 24 hours (Tuesday) with the positivity ratio nosediving to just over one percent, suggested the statistics released by the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Wenesday morning, reported 24NewsHD TV channel. 

According to NIH data, the death toll in the country inched up to 30,594 after adding the only fatality while the number of total infections now stood at 1,570,462 after adding the fresh 158 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Tuesday), 15,303 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 1.03 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 105.

US foresees annual Covid boosters, just like flu

Barring the emergence of drastically different variants, Covid boosters will likely be recommended annually in a similar manner to influenza vaccines, US health officials said Tuesday.

The announcement came after the Food and Drug Administration last week authorized updated bivalent shots against both the original strain of the coronavirus and the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the Omicron variant, which are predominant.

"We likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine, with annual updated Covid-19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains," President Joe Biden's chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci told reporters.

However, the elderly and immunocompromised may require more frequent shots -- and the annual strategy would have to be reviewed in case of a "curveball" such as a dangerous new variant that differs dramatically from predictions.

Ashish Jha, the White House Covid coordinator, added the message was "simple" -- if you are 12 or older, and have been previously vaccinated, now is the time to get boosted.

If you were recently infected or vaccinated, "it's reasonable to wait a few months," he added.

People can get their Covid booster at the same time as the flu booster, he said. "I really believe this is why God gave us two arms, one for the flu shot and the other one for the Covid shot."

Officials expect millions of people to receive their bivalent boosters, made by Pfizer and Moderna, in the month of September, and are focused especially on people aged 50 and up.

"Winter is not that far away. The past two years, we have seen COVID-19 cases and deaths soar. It does not have to be that way this year," Biden said in a statement. "If you are 12 and older, go get your new Covid-19 shot this fall."

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walenksky said projections showed that uptake of Covid boosters at rates similar to annual flu coverage could prevent as many as 100,000 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths.

The updated vaccines were recommended by the CDC last week on the basis of favorable animal data, which showed they produced a greater immune response and lowered levels of the virus in the lungs, compared to older shots.

The Omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5 lineages comprise 99 percent of circulating coronavirus in the United States and are predicted to continue to dominate this fall and winter.

EU recommends elderly get priority for Omicron jabs

EU health authorities on Tuesday recommended that older people and high-risk patients should be first in line for updated Covid-19 vaccines targeting the Omicron variant.

Pregnant women and care home workers should also be prioritised, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a joint statement.

Ahead of a winter booster campaign, the EMA last week approved "bivalent" jabs by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna which target both the original Covid virus and the BA.1 subvariant of Omicron.

"The ECDC and EMA advise that these boosters be directed as a priority to people who are more at risk of progressing to severe disease because of certain risk factors," the EU agencies said.

These included people aged 60 and above, the immunocompromised, people with other underlying conditions putting them at risk of severe Covid, and pregnant women, they said.

Care home workers should also get priority and healthcare workers "may also be considered due to their increased exposure in case of future new waves".

The EU agencies said the original jabs should be used for people having their first vaccinations and where adapted boosters are not available, as they are "still effective against severe disease, hospitalisation and death".

The vaccines currently in circulation target the initial strain of the virus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, but have gradually proven to be less effective against the variants that have evolved over time.

In contrast to the Alpha and Delta variants, which eventually waned, Omicron and its subvariants have come to dominate infections worldwide in 2022.

India approves its first nasal vaccine for Covid-19

India approved a locally developed, needle-free and nasally administered Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use on Tuesday, in a boost to the country's homegrown pharmaceutical industry.

The new inoculation was developed by Bharat Biotech, the makers of another intravenous vaccine that was greenlit by the World Health Organization last November.

India's drug regulator gave the new product emergency authorisation on Tuesday, which will allow it to be used as a primary dose by any unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adult, but not as a booster.

"This step will further strengthen our collective fight against the pandemic," health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Twitter.

Bharat Biotech conducted third-phase trials in 14 sites around India and found that its safety was "highly comparable" to other vaccines, the company said in a statement.

Development data would be submitted to peer-reviewed journals and released publicly, the statement added.

"Despite the lack of demand for COVID-19 vaccines, we continued product development in intra nasal vaccines to ensure that we are well prepared with platform technologies for future infectious diseases," Bharat Biotech chair Krishna Ella said.

It remains unclear when the product will be available for public use, with the company saying it would be rolled out in "due course".

The announcement comes two days after China launched the world's first inhalable Covid vaccine, Convidecia Air, which is administered through a nebuliser.

India was hit by a devastating spike in Covid cases last year that brought its health care system close to collapse, with oxygen supplies running out and patients struggling to source medicine from depleted pharmacies.

More than 200,000 people died within a few weeks, according to official figures, though experts believe the real toll is several times higher.

India has since administered more than two billion vaccine doses, fully inoculating more than two-thirds of its 1.4 billion population.

With inputs from AFP.