COVID-19 infections escalate

Reporting from the May 11 WHO epi update reveals a 79 percent week-on-week increase in new case numbers in Nepal and test positivity is currently sitting at around 45 percent, while ‘India continues to account for 95% of cases and 93% of deaths in the South-East Asia Region, as well as 50% of global cases and 30% of global deaths’. In the wider region, an uptick in infections in Vietnam has led to quarantine for around 60,000 people who were exposed to confirmed COVID-19 cases, and in Thailand, surging case numbers have prompted a mask mandate for all public areas.

In related news -

- Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine BIBP has been granted Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by the WHO, the 6th EUL vaccine. It is an inactivated vaccine for adults 18 years and older, with two doses given three to four weeks apart (and is supplied with a vaccine vial monitor to register cumulative heat exposure). Read more

- Novavax has signalled delays in seeking regulatory approval for its NVX-CoV2373 vaccine, with intent to file in many regions now forecast for the third quarter of 2021. Rolling reviews have been initiated with authorities, including the TGA. Read more

- This week, the WHO determined that the variant B 1.617 (with three sub-lineages), that first appeared in India in October, was to join B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 as variants of concern (VOCs). While ‘distancing, limiting gatherings, and wearing masks’ appear to work against all four VOCs, the fact they are, or appear to be, more easily transmissible increases the need for strict adherence to these public health measures. Read more

- On May 10, the WHO published the COVID-19 natural immunity scientific brief and advised that ‘More information about considerations on vaccine certificates or “passports” will be covered in an update of WHO interim guidance, as requested by the COVID-19 emergency committee’.

- A summary compiled by CIDRAP expands on the results of three ‘real-world’ studies, rating the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Comirnaty, as ‘highly effective in preventing coronavirus-related infections and severe outcomes’. In other news, the May 7 JH newsletter reported that ‘this week, Pfizer officials indicated that the company intends to apply for an [emergency use authorisation in the US] for the vaccine to be used in children aged 2-11 years in September. This comes on top of the May 10 announcement by the FDA that it had granted EUA for Comirnaty in adolescents aged 12 to 15 years, with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting today to consider adding its recommendation for use (Canada gave approval for this age group on May 5).

- Mounting evidence suggests COVID vaccines do reduce transmission. How does this work? The Conversation

- WHO unveils global Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence Read more

- In the US, the CDC has issued Phases 2B and 3 of the Conditional Sailing Order for cruise lines.

Before you travel, call Travelvax Australia’s telephone advisory service on 1300 360 164 (toll-free from landlines) for country-specific advice and information. You can also make an appointment at your nearest Travelvax clinic to obtain vaccinations, medication to prevent or treat illness, and accessories for your journey.