Health News Roundup: U.S. CDC raises COVID-19 travel warnings for Czech Republic, Hungary; Britain to extend COVID booster rollout to over-40s and more


Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Pressure on Dutch hospitals mounts as COVID cases break records

Dutch hospitals are feeling the strain from a surge in COVID-19 patients but the worst has yet to come, the head of the country’s hospital association said on Monday. The number of COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals increased to around 2,000 on Monday, including almost 400 in intensive care, reaching the highest level since May.

Washington state, in $95 billion opioid trial, blames drug distributors for crisis

Washington state’s attorney general on Monday argued that three large drug distributors’ excessive shipments of pain pills helped create the U.S. opioid epidemic, calling it the “worst man-made public health crisis in history,” at the start of a trial seeking $95 billion from the companies. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson made that argument as a trial got underway in the state’s bid to recover more money from the distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp than it would receive in a $26 billion nationwide settlement.

U.S. CDC raises COVID-19 travel warnings for Czech Republic, Hungary

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised against travel to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Iceland because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in those countries. The CDC raised its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High” for the three countries, telling Americans they should avoid travel there.

Britain to extend COVID booster rollout to over-40s

Britain’s COVID-19 booster vaccine rollout is to be extended to people aged between 40 and 49, officials said on Monday, in a bid to boost waning immunity in the population ahead of the colder winter months. Currently all people aged 50 and above, those who are clinically vulnerable and frontline health workers are eligible for boosters, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that the rollout would be extended.

Explainer-Delta dominates the world, but scientists watch for worrisome offspring

The Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus now accounts for nearly all of the coronavirus infections globally, fueled by unchecked spread of the novel coronavirus in many parts of the world. So far, vaccines are still able to defend against serious disease and death from Delta, but scientists remain on alert. Here is what we know:

India’s Dr. Reddy’s open to making Pfizer COVID pill after Merck deal

Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, one of a handful of Indian drug companies licensed to make a new COVID-19 pill developed by Merck, said on Monday it was open to making a similar pill from Pfizer, thought to be even more effective. The new drugs, which unlike vaccines can be used to treat patients once they contract coronavirus infection, are expected to be a huge market. Merck has given out licenses to manufacturers in developing countries to ensure a swift global supply, and companies are hopeful that Pfizer will do the same.

U.S. administers 442 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines – CDC

The United States had administered 442,005,260 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Monday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Those figures are up from the 440,559,613 vaccine doses the CDC said had gone into arms by Nov. 14.

Vaccines not linked to menstrual changes; COVID, flu shots can go together

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. No link seen between vaccines and menstrual changes

Austria locks down unvaccinated as COVID cases surge across Europe

Austria imposed a lockdown on people unvaccinated against the coronavirus on Monday as winter approaches and infections rise across Europe, with Germany considering tighter curbs and Britain expanding its booster programme to younger adults. Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, prompting some countries to consider re-introducing restrictions in the run-up to Christmas and stirring debate over whether vaccines alone are enough to tame COVID-19.

Landmark opioid trial of 3 major pharmacy chains nears its end

A lawyer for two Ohio counties urged a federal jury on Monday to hold three major pharmacy chains responsible for fueling an opioid epidemic in their communities as the first trial the companies have faced over the drug crisis neared its end. Mark Lanier, a lawyer for Lake and Trumbull counties, told a federal jury in Cleveland that a verdict in the case against CVS Health Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Walmart Inc would have ramifications all across the country.

(With inputs from agencies.)



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Booster shots are working. Rich countries want to turbocharge their rollout


In the United States, Pfizer-BioNTech are seeking emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for the booster to be distributed to all people aged 18 and over. The drug makers said on Tuesday that results of a Phase 3 trial involving 10,000 participants provided “stunning” results in favor of a third shot. Boosters had an efficacy of 95% against symptomatic Covid-19, they said, compared with the two-dose schedule.

Boosters are already currently available for many Americans. People over 65 and those in certain jobs such as teachers and health care workers, as well as those who are overweight, have depression or a long list of other medical conditions are already eligible — accounting for at least 89% of vaccinated adults, according to an analysis by epidemiologists for CNN. If regulators expand the booster program to all adults, it will move the US closer towards President Joe Biden’s wider-reaching booster plan, which he’s advocated for since August.

European leaders are also prioritizing booster shots as the continent marks a worrying surge in recent cases. The region is once again the “epicenter” of the pandemic, with the World Health Organization (WHO) saying on Thursday that Europe had seen a more than 50% jump in Covid cases in the past month.

In France, nearly 150,000 people booked appointments for booster doses after French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that a third dose would be required to revalidate one’s health pass. The country’s health pass has been an essential tool for the government in boosting vaccination rates, banning entry to public transport and a variety of public and private spaces for those without proof of full vaccination. People over 65 will have to show proof of a third shot by mid-December, Macron said. That age group has been able to access booster shots since the beginning of September.

And in Germany, health officials expanded its booster vaccine program to all adults on Friday, following a “worrying” record in daily infections. On Monday, Germany recorded its highest seven-day incidence rate since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, the world’s poorest countries continue to bear the brunt of an inequitable global rollout, with a rise in booster shots only amplifying that stark disparity.

In the United Kingdom, for example, 74% of its population have had at least one dose, 67% have gotten two doses, and 15% of the population have already received a booster shot. In contrast, only 9% of people in African countries on average have had a first dose, according to Our World in Data. Only 6.29% of Africa is fully vaccinated, the data shows.

WHO warns that vaccine inequality will prolong the pandemic, with senior leader Dr. Bruce Aylward saying last month that such disparities could see the pandemic “easily drag on deep into 2022.”

YOU ASKED, WE ANSWERED

Q: Which booster shot should I get? 

A: For the most part, it doesn’t matter. Studies indicate it’s all right to mix and match vaccine doses. In some cases it may provide a more powerful boost to get a different vaccine type, but any booster dose will bring immune protection up to very high levels.

Some of the initial data suggests that boosting with a different vaccine type from your initial series might provide a stronger response — but it’s only preliminary data. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says they assume most people will just have the same vaccine they got originally as a booster — and that would be fine. All the groups in an ongoing study by the US National Institutes of Health that compares the three authorized vaccines in the US got a big jump in immunity from a booster shot, starting about 15 days after it was given.

However, some people might want to use a different vaccine type. For example, a younger man who initially got a Moderna vaccine might seek Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine for the boost, because mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s are linked with a slight risk of a heart inflammation called myocarditis, while J&J’s isn’t. Men under 40 are at higher risk of myocarditis. And a woman under 50 might prefer to get an mRNA vaccine for her booster shot, because the J&J vaccine is linked with a slightly higher risk of a rare blood clotting condition that is more likely to affect younger women.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

READS OF THE WEEK

Americans welcome travelers from Canada to the US on Monday, November 8.

The US travel ban is lifted as cases in Europe surge

The United States reopened its borders to fully vaccinated international travelers on Monday, ending a 20-month travel ban on people entering from 33 countries, which include the UK and much of Europe.

But beyond the joyous scenes unfolding across American airports lies a dark backdrop, Sheena McKenzie writes.

Europe is in the grip of its fifth wave of the pandemic and large swathes of the continent are battling to beat back surges of the Delta variant, amid the relaxation of restrictions and stuttering vaccine rollouts in some countries. WHO has warned that a half a million Europeans could die with Covid-19 in a potentially devastating winter, leading some to question if the US will be importing more of the virus as packed transatlantic flights land on American soil.

What the end of the pandemic could look like

It’s highly unlikely that the United States, let alone the world, can eliminate the virus that causes Covid-19, Jacqueline Howard writes.

But there will come a day when it’s no longer a pandemic, when cases are no longer out of control and hospitals aren’t at great risk of overflowing with patients. Many experts predict the spread of coronavirus will look and feel more like seasonal influenza. What’s less clear is how and when that will happen. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the US Senate in a hearing on Thursday that “what we hope to get it at is such a low level that even though it isn’t completely eliminated, it doesn’t have a major impact on public health or on the way we run our lives.” Fauci said that if more people around the world get vaccinated quicker, “hopefully within a reasonable period of time we will get to that point where it might occasionally be up and down in the background but it won’t dominate us the way it’s doing right now.”

But to transition from pandemic to endemic, populations need to build up immunity to the coronavirus. And with vaccine hesitancy persisting and populations refusing to wear masks, that transition could take time.

Unvaccinated man apologizes to medical staff who saved his life

After battling Covid for almost a month and being released from a Seattle hospital, Richard Soliz returned in late October. But this time it wasn’t for another treatment — it was to apologize, Noah Sheidlower and Christina Zdanowicz write.

Soliz, a graphic artist who had not gotten vaccinated, spent 28 days on a ventilator and heart monitor in hospital in late August and much of September. He is now fully inoculated, and is encouraging people to get the vaccine — not just because of what he went through, but because of the “tremendous burden” on medical staff, many of whom work 12-hour shifts and have received little time off.

“I am certain that there is truth to this virus, and not being vaccinated leaves you vulnerable to the extent of possibly really taking a person’s life,” Soliz said. “I personally know that, because I was not vaccinated. I did not act, I wasn’t certain, and I nearly lost my life,” he said.

TODAY’S TOP TIP

While the US lifted its travel ban this week, strict rules for entering the country still apply. Here’s what you need to know before flying:

Getting vaccinated is a key requirement for most international travelers hoping to enter. Children under 18 are exempt.

Air travelers aged 2 and up also need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test, regardless of nationality. Passengers are required to test negative for Covid-19 within three days of their flight’s departure.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST

CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy about vaccinating younger children. They are also candid about the mental, physical and emotional tolls of the pandemic on young people. Listen here.



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Six Carriers Plan Network-Wide Travel Pass Rollout


Six airlines are planning wide implementation of the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass health passport tool, the organization announced.

Emirates in late September announced itself as the first carrier undergoing a full global implementation of Travel Pass, which provides information on travel requirements, access to Covid-19 testing centers and digital documentation of test results and vaccination certificates. After tests on select routes starting last April, Emirates now will have the tool available across its full network this month.

On Tuesday, IATA announced that Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Qantas and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar Airways, Royal Jordanian and Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways also are planning to implement Travel Pass across their networks in a “phased rollout.”

During the past 11 months, 76 airlines in total have been testing the Travel Pass technology, and it is now ready for the operational phase, IATA director general Willie Walsh said in a statement.

“The app has proven itself to be an effective tool to manage the complex mess of travel health credentials that governments require,” Walsh said. “And, it’s a great vote of confidence that some of the world’s best known airline brands will be making it available to their customers over the coming months.”

IATA Travel Pass currently is able to manage vaccine certificates from 52 countries, representing about 56 percent of the global air travel market. By the end of November, IATA expects that will increase to 74 countries, representing 85 percent of global air traffic.



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Air France-KLM Plans Capacity Growth Pending Vaccination Rollout in Europe


Air France-KLM plans to “progressively ramp up
capacity” in the coming months in line with European vaccination rates,
even as both France and the Netherlands continue to face Covid-19 lockdowns.

For now, the second quarter has started out “similar to
the first quarter,” with most bookings coming in with little lead time,
according to the group. Passenger revenue in the first quarter was down 73.3 percent
year over year to €1.02 billion, and capacity was down 46.2 percent. The group
also continues to be issuing a high volume of refunds, with €550 million issued
during the first quarter, making a grand total of €2.8 billion since the onset
of the pandemic.

Although the vaccination pace in Europe has been slower than
the United States, which has seen a stronger improvement at least in domestic
leisure demand, Air France-KLM expects to build up capacity over the next two
quarters. For the second quarter, it projects capacity will be 50 percent of
levels in the second quarter of 2019, and that will increase to 55 percent to
65 percent of 2019 levels in the third quarter.

The group reported a net loss of €1.5 billion in the first
quarter, and improvement of €320 million compared with the first quarter of
2020. Last month, Air France-KLM announced it would be getting as much as €4
billion in a rescue plan from the French government, which “allows us to
look forward to the summer season with greater confidence, hoping that the
progress of the vaccination roll-out worldwide and the implementation of travel
passes will allow borders to reopen and traffic to recover,” according to
Air France-KLM CEO Benjamin Smith.

RELATED:  Air France-KLM Q4 earnings



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Covid-19 live updates: Club of rich countries to address unequal global vaccine rollout – The Washington Post



Covid-19 live updates: Club of rich countries to address unequal global vaccine rollout  The Washington Post



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AAA sees surge in regional travel as vaccination rollout continues


This year, the focus of National Travel and Tourism Week is the significant impact the industry has on economies in local communities.

In 2019, people visiting Virginia spent a total of $27 billion, supported 237,000 work opportunities and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. That’s according to Virginia is for Lovers. Then in 2020, when the pandemic hit across the country, spending by domestic and international travelers declined by 40%.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, there is now a surge in traveling as millions are vaccinated.

Martha Meade, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, told 10 News their travel advisors are getting more calls of interest and doing more bookings.

Destination Analyst has been doing weekly polls since the start of the pandemic. Meade said the polls show 80% of travelers say when they are fully vaccinated they are comfortable traveling, 88% of travelers have at least tentative plans to travel and 71% said they would take a trip in the next three months.

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“We are seeing folks get vaccinated and we’re calling it vaccine and vacation day because folks will literally get vaccinated in the morning, they still have their band-aid on the arm, they grab lunch and then they come to us to book their vacation,” said Meade.

Meade also mentioned people are now booking four to six weeks out instead of the usual six to eight weeks.

Meade also highlights that travel doesn’t necessarily mean flying. Only 30% of those in the most recent Destination Analyst survey on April 30 said they were going to fly on their vacation in the next few months. Last year, road trips across state lines became extremely popular and AAA is not seeing that die down.

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Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 – All rights reserved.



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Global Airport Traffic Tracker: 1Q21 Update (Travel Restrictions and New Infection Waves Limit Recovery Despite Vaccine Rollout) – Fitch Ratings



Global Airport Traffic Tracker: 1Q21 Update (Travel Restrictions and New Infection Waves Limit Recovery Despite Vaccine Rollout)  Fitch Ratings



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UK airlines push for travel corridor with US as vaccine rollout raises hopes for summer travel






UK airlines push for travel corridor with US as vaccine rollout raises hopes for summer travel































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Australia news live updates: Scott Morrison blames ‘supply problem’ for slow Covid vaccine rollout | Australia news









Australia Post’s submission to the same Senate inquiry clearly indicates it doesn’t resile from the position she stood aside.

It said:


On 22 October 2020, Ms Holgate agreed to stand aside from the role of group chief executive officer & managing director of Australia Post pending the outcome of an investigation by the shareholder departments and any further actions taken by Australia Post. On 2 November 2020, Ms Holgate resigned with immediate effect and advised that she was not seeking any financial compensation from Australia Post.

The submission also quotes the Maddocks review of the incident, which it said contradicts Holgate by finding that:

  • The “former Chair’s position is that he did not” approve the provision of the watches to the watch recipients
  • There was “contradictory evidence as to whether the former Group CEO & Managing Director informed the former Chair that it was her intention to purchase the Cartier watches”.

Australia Post said it considers current chair, Lucio Di Bartolomeo’s, evidence to the Senate “to be accurate” but that is after “incorporating the subsequent clarification provided on 21 December 2020”.

Updated








Former Australia Post chief executive, Christine Holgate, has lodged an explosive submission to the Senate inquiry into her sacking for the decision to award executives Cartier watches as bonuses.

“It is almost five months since the events of October 22nd, 2020, when, for no justified reason, I was humiliated in Parliament and then unlawfully stood down by the Australia Post Chair from a role I was passionately committed to,” the submission begins.

In the submission, Holgate doubles down on her claim she never voluntarily stood down and accuses Australia Post chairman, Lucio Di Bartolomeo, of unlawfully standing her down and alleged “he lied repeatedly to the Australian people and to their parliament about his actions”.

”Time after time he has made statements that I had agreed to stand down when I had done no such thing.”

Holgate said she offered to resign, but alleged Australia Post then leaked the letter to the media, before sending a counter-offer which is “itself confirmation that no agreement had been reached”.

Holgate said the gift of Cartier watches was “legal, within Australia Post’s policies, within my own signing authority limits, approved by the previous chairman, expensed appropriately, signed off by auditors and the CFO, [and] widely celebrated within the organisation”.

Holgate accused Di Bartolomeo of “seriously misleading” evidence to the Senate on 9 November, including about his knowledge of a BCG report into the incident.

Updated








Travel agents and hotel operators have welcomed details of the two way travel bubble with New Zealand, but have warned “there will be very little real benefit” for the sector in the short term.

This is because most of the initial travellers from 19 April are expected to be low-spending tourists visiting family and friends, as Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive, Margy Osmond, told the Guardian.

Accommodation Association of Australia has backed that prediction up, with its chief executive Dean Long reigniting calls for post-jobkeeper wage support for CBD hotels in Melbourne and Sydney that are still reeling from a drop off in international tourism and business travel.

The Association said Sydney is currently the worst performing city market in Australia with revenue declines of 67% and forward booking rates of less than 10% for the next 90 days and that Melbourne is similarly decimated.

Long said:


The opening of the trans-Tasman corridor is a very welcome step in the right direction but the reality is while it’s good news for the travel sector, given most travellers will be catching up with friends and families there’s very little immediate benefit for our tourism sector or our hotels and motels. With the end of jobkeeper and given the massive holes in the market especially in Australia’s international hubs of Sydney and Melbourne, the flow on benefits for our hotels and motels, and the many small businesses who supply them is negligible. There’s no doubt it will be a big kick along for consumer confidence but it doesn’t erase the need for tailored support for our accommodation sector. The reality is it’s great news for our travel sector but not so good for tourism.

Australian Federation of Travel Agents chair Tom Manwaring said many of his members were already seeing “increased interest in booking NZ albeit primarily to visit friends and family”.

Manwaring said:


It’s not a massive increase in business and our sector still desperately needs support but it is a much needed step in the right direction.” However, we urge both the Australian and the New Zealand governments to do all they can to ensure now the corridor is open that it stays open. This is important both in terms of consumer confidence in booking travel and from a workload perspective for travel agents who are still working hard on repatriating the outstanding $4bn still owed to Australians by airlines, hotels and tour operators on Covid-impacted travel and managing re-bookings and cancellations as a result of state restrictions.

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PNG man dies of Covid in Queensland hospital

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Vaccine Rollout, Relaxed Restrictions Spark Travel Rush – NBC Boston


For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic started, business is booming again for travel agents like Steve Jermanok.

“Finally we see the writing on the wall,” he said. “We’re hopeful, optimistic and people want to get out.”

Jermanok says the nationwide travel rush is sparked by the vaccine rollout and more relaxed restrictions.

Tess Myers admits the decision to take a family vacation to the Bahamas wasn’t easy.

“We are thrilled and excited, but on the other hand you feel also have a little bit of feeling of, well should we be waiting another two to three months?” she said.

Myers is not vaccinated, but her 80-year-old parents finally are, and in her opinion, you can only press pause on life for so long.

“My daughter and husband haven’t seen them in two years so it’s an exciting thought to be able to get everyone together away for a week,” she said.

The Myers will get tested before they leave in two weeks, and then their hotel will facilitate the testing before they return.

“What’s happening overseas right now is all hotel chains like Marriotts, Hyatts, Hiltons, they’re doing testing at the hotels,” Jermonak said.

For some peace of mind, Jermonak says Delta is still leaving middle seats open, and he’s suggesting trips to low-risk areas.

“The numbers are lower everywhere in the Caribbean especially Puerto Rico,” he said.

A year after the COVID-19 pandemic upended the travel industry and cancelled flights, those with vouchers could be racing the clock. The first step to avoid losing out is to read the fine print on your expiration date. Travel experts say now is the time to read up on the stipulations of that travel credit and perhaps give customer service a call.

And while there are a lot of people still not comfortable flying, Jermonak is thankful they’re calling again — even if it’s to book an escape for the future.

“As far out as African safari next June, Australia next February…people want to dream,” Jermonak said.

If all of this has you considering a vacation and you’d be flying out of Boston Logan International Airport, you can get a rapid test at the airport — just arrive to terminal C or E an hour before you’d normally arrive for your flight.





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