Alaska Becomes First State To Allow Everyone Over 16 To Be Vaccinated 

Alaska has become the first state in the US to allow Covid-19 vaccines to any adult who wants one, as well as individuals over the age of 16, according to Governor Mike Dunleavy, who took to Twitter this week to make the announcement. 

“Effective immediately, Alaska will become the first state in the nation to allow anyone over the age of 16 to get the Covid-19 vaccine. This marks a significant step forward in our efforts to put this virus behind us.” 

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In order to be eligible you must be living or working in Alaska. 16 is also  the lowest age authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use of the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine are currently approved for individuals 18 and older. With any vaccine further research always needs to be done in order for it to be approved for teenagers and children because their bodies are constantly developing and changing, so scientists need to ensure that the doses will be just as effective. 

Most states are still only vaccinating specific higher risk groups first, such as senior citizens, essential workers, and individuals with underlying medical conditions that put them at a greater risk of contracting the virus. 

“Nearly one year ago the first positive Covid-19 case arrived in Alaska. Today, our state – because of the undaunted efforts of Alaskans – is leading the nation in vaccination efforts.” 

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Governor Dunleavy initially opened up vaccines to anyone 55 and older in the beginning of March. That policy also included essential workers, such as teachers, agriculture workers, first responders, other healthcare workers, and the media. Individuals with underlying medical conditions have always been a priority as with the rest of the nation. 

Alaska was initially allocated with 288,000 vaccine doses and now about 170,993 people have received at least one of their two shots, and about 119,631 people are fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the state has given the most total doses per 100,000 people in the country. With 41,376 doles out, it is one of just two states over 40,000 doses given per 100,000 people – along with New Mexico.” The state of Louisiana has also approved of the vaccine to be given to individuals 16 and older, however, the state is only allowing individuals that young to be vaccinated if they have underlying health conditions that put them at a greater risk. 

Alaska has been one of the luckiest states in the US throughout this pandemic with a total of around 60,000 confirmed cases and 291 deaths; the state is ranked number 46 in terms of states with the most cases. Vermont is the only other state that’s recorded fewer deaths as well. The increase in distribution of these vaccines is a great sign for Americans who are ready and hopeful that the world will start to return to a sense of normalcy within the next few months.

Experts Are Warning The US Could Face Another Surge Of Covid-19

With multiple governors easing up on health and safety procedures before a proper herd immunity is met, many healthcare experts are worried the US might face another severe outbreak of the virus.

US Covid Vaccine

Covid-19 Vaccine Delays And Lack Of Federal Action Putting US In Deadly Position 

For the past 40 days, the US has surpassed 100,000 hospitalizations relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. While health officials across the country are doing their best to speed up vaccine distribution so that average Americans can begin receiving their dosages, a lack of federal action and planning is once again hindering the nation’s ability to heal from this pandemic. 

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, spoke with the media recently about how America “really needs to get this vaccine out more quickly, because this really is our only tool for beating this pandemic.” Experts have been saying from the beginning that universal mask wearing, social distancing, and widespread vaccination is the only way this pandemic will fully reach its end. However, after ten months of nearly no enforcement of these procedures on a federal level, over 22 million Americans have been infected, and over 370,000 have died.

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So far 22.1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine has been distributed, and 6.7 million people have actually received their first dose, however, the initial plan was to get 20 million people vaccinated with their first dose by the end of 2020. Due to a complete lack of interest from the current president and his administration within the past two months, hundreds of thousands of Americans have continued to suffer while their government watched and made daily claims of a fraudulent and unfair election. The only new aide that the government has provided is a $600 stimulus check to every American, after nearly nine months of no other economic assistance.

The US hit a new record last week and surpassed 4,000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day. California alone is thought to be a major epicenter for the virus, after they added almost 50,000 new cases on Sunday alone, bringing the state total up to more than 2.6 million. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been recording data regarding this pandemic in America since March, within the first 11 days of 2021, 28,400 new Covid-19 deaths have been reported. At this current rate, more individuals could die from Covid-19 in January than any other month of this pandemic due to an extreme influx in holiday travel and lack of policy. 

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“We should expect to set new records for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the coming weeks. Policy action is urgently needed to mitigate the worst possible outcome.”

Joe Gerald, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, recently expressed great concern about the “inevitable arrival of the more transmissible” strain of Covid-19 that has appeared in the UK, and is thought to have been in the US since September. “If it gathers a foothold it will accelerate, lengthen, and deepen the outbreaks in Arizona and other states like it.” 

The recent riot at the US Capitol will also likely lead to a “surge event” of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to the fact that a majority of Trump’s supporters are anti-mask, and the footage from the violent event clearly showed a crowd of hundreds of individuals not wearing a mask, mobbed together in a giant crowd. 

Medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen recently shared a statement to the press about this reckless riot that will lead to even more death and infection: “It’s very likely they’re engaging in other risky behaviors there and potentially seeding coronavirus all around the country, wherever they came from. I hope that everyone who participated in those events will go back and quarantine and get tested.”

Many of the rioters who have been identified from images online but have yet to be arrested are being placed on No Fly lists, and local authorities for individuals who came from out of state to participate in the riot have been notified of their citizens involvement in the act of domestic terror that took place last week.

COVID Lockdown in the UK

UK Announces New Lockdown And Mass Vaccinations To End Spread Of Covid-19

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced a national recovery plan this week after the United Kingdom entered another lockdown amid a massive increase in the spread of Covid-19

Coronavirus Vaccination

4.2 Million Americans Have Been Vaccinated For Covid-19

Although more than 4 million Americans have now been vaccinated with their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, health experts are saying the country needs to start moving a lot quicker. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to the media this past Sunday regarding the current rate that America is getting its citizens vaccinated. 

“No excuses, we’re not where we want to be, but hopefully we’ll pick up some momentum and get back to where we want to be in terms of getting people vaccinated.” 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 13 million doses have already been distributed throughout the nation, however, the federal government had repeatedly promised that 20 million individuals would have received their initial dose by the end of 2020. While they may be behind with their original predictions, the rate of distribution is still increasing.

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According to Fauci 1.5 million doses were administered within 72 hours this past week, which means the rate is continuously increasing as well. Moncef Slaoui is the chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, who recently told the media that 17.5 million doses have now been shipped and the government is confident that this will help that rate increase even further. 

Currently vaccines are only being administered to healthcare workers and long-term care patients who are much more susceptible to getting infected with Covid-19. While America continues to wait for vaccinations to be distributed, our current administration is still battling the results of the 2020 election, meaning no further health and safety guidelines are being enforced throughout the nation, and hundreds of thousands of Americans are still being infected. 

The US has reported over 100,000 new Covid-19-related hospitalizations every day for 33 consecutive days, and a majority of the states are still relatively open in terms of businesses and public settings. With holiday travel restrictions being practically non-existent this past month, even more Americans are expected to become infected in the coming weeks. 

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“There’s no running away from the numbers. It’s something that we have absolutely got to grasp and get our arms around and turn that inflection down by very intensive adherence to the public health measures, uniformly throughout the country, with no exceptions.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus response, recently claimed, however, that there is still hope for the US and other countries currently enduring massive surges in new cases and deaths, but only if these countries adopt federally enforced measures such as mass-testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantining. President-elect Joe Biden has made multiple claims in the past that it’s likely he would be placing America under another lockdown once he’s inaugurated to alleviate all the pressure currently being placed on the nation’s hospitals. 

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams urged Americans, especially those who gathered over the holidays, to “self-quarantine, get tested, wear a mask, wash their hands and watch their distance. The projections are pretty scary, but they’re projections, and what we do now matters. I want people to understand that if we get over this current surge, then things will start to get better, but it depends on the actions that we all take right now.”

Covid-19 vaccines are expected to continue to be distributed throughout the nation to all vulnerable parties first. Fauci has claimed that it is likely most Americans will be vaccinated by the summer, however, that will also be dependent on what happens with this pandemic in the meantime in terms of new infections.

AstraZeneca Vaccine

UK Approves AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine 

Health officials in the United Kingdom have officially authorized the AstraZeneca-Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine for distribution. The vaccine was approved this Wednesday, and marks the second vaccine in the UK approved for public distribution. 

The government is expected to begin rolling out the vaccine on Monday. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is much more inexpensive and easier to store when compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been approved in the US. The UK ordered 100 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine which will be enough to vaccinate 50 million citizens; which equates to about three-quarters of the country’s population. 

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The government has already given out its initial doses for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to over 600,000 UK residents. UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, spoke with the media on Wednesday as well, claiming that between the two vaccines, the government should be able to fully protect the entire population. 

The approval of this second vaccine couldn’t have come at a better time for the country, as the UK is currently battling one of the worst waves of the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. With a new Covid-19 strain spreading rapidly around the UK as well, it’s expected that millions of residents will be placed under strict new lockdown measures soon; the vaccines protect against the new strain, however, the new strain is proving to give patients a much more severe case of Covid-19, so minimizing the spread is top priority.

England just recently reported a new single-day record of new Covid-19 cases with 53,000 new cases appearing on Wednesday alone; likely due to the new strain that scientists are claiming is harder to control and more transmissible than the standard coronavirus we’ve been battling all year. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to the press this week to hopefully ease some nerves and reinforce that the second vaccine’s approval is an amazing step for the nation.

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“The second vaccine’s approval is truly fantastic news. We now just have to move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine in the sense that it will require two doses to be truly effective. For this specific vaccine the second dose is required to be given 12 weeks after the first; for comparison both Pfizer and Moderna’s two doses are administered within 30 days of one another. 

AstraZeneca’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, released a statement this week in which he claimed that the vaccine “has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer, and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit.” 

Trials have shown that the AstraZeneca vaccine has a 62% effectiveness, which may be staggering for those who have seen Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have a 95% effectiveness, however, in all of the cases that appeared during the trial, none were serious, and even after individuals received just half of the two doses of the vaccine it still proved to be 90% effective against the coronavirus. The vaccine is expected to reach millions of residents next week once it begins distribution. 

Thai Flag

Thailand To Mass Test Its Citizens After Shrimp Market Covid-19 Outbreak 

Thailand officials have begun testing tens of thousands of their citizens for the coronavirus a day after one of the most populous provenances in the nation went under lockdown. The lockdown occurred due to a massive outbreak of Covid-19 which stemmed from a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon. 

Samut Sakhon is known in Thailand as the center of the country’s seafood industry. The province is located southwest of Bangkok, and is the home to thousands of migrant workers who depend on the markets being open to provide for themselves and their families. The outbreak is thought to have initially begun at a shrimp market in the province. 

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Last Friday four cases of Covid-19 had been reported and by Sunday there were over 680 cases. The public health ministry reported these numbers as soon as they got them due to the fact that the country has done a great job at keeping the pandemic under control overall; partially due to how rigorous they begin testing when an outbreak occurs. 

Kiattiphum Wongrajit, the ministry’s permanent secretary, told a news conference that up to 40,000 people will be tested in Samut Sakhon and nearby provinces within the next few days; 10,000 are scheduled to be tested on Wednesday alone. 

“Today is just the first stage, further results will show a lot more infections.” 

Migrant workers began getting tested this past Sunday, so far most of the cases that have appeared have been asymptomatic. The market is currently shut down and all entrances are covered in barbed wire, additionally all schools in three districts that share borders with Samut Sakhon will be shut down until at least January 4th. 

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The province itself is also expected to remain under lockdown until then, as Kiattiphum believes they’ll be able to get this outbreak under control within two to four weeks. This is due to the fact that Thailand was the first country outside of China to report Covid-19 cases, so their process for outbreaks is efficient and organized. 

Thailand has over 70 million residents, and of those only 60 died from the coronavirus due to these health and safety procedures. This makes Thailand the nation with one of the lowest coronavirus mortality rates per capita in the world. 

Authorities in Bangkok are calling upon authority figures to step up their preventative measures, however, by avoiding gatherings, entertainment venues, restaurants, etc. These establishments have been able to reopen due to how minimal the damage caused by this pandemic has been for the nation. 

Somsak Paneetatyadai is the president of the Thai Shrimp Association who claims that this new outbreak is “bad news” for shrimp exports; Samut Sakhon accounts for 30% of the world’s shrimp exports.

The surge in cases is supposedly due to Thailand’s efforts to revive their tourist industry and rebuild their economy. Last week the nation eased some of its restrictions to allow more foreign tourists in the country, and then the outbreak occurred, so only time will tell how much further the nation decides to loosen those restrictions.

Moderna Vaccine

FDA Advisory Panel Officially Recommends Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine 

An advisory panel working for the Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization, nearly one week after Pfizer’s vaccine was approved. The panel itself isn’t a part of the FDA, but is a crucial part in the process of a new vaccine being approved for public consumption. 

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met this Thursday and unanimously voted 20-0 in favor of the vaccine’s approval. Now the FDA will review the committee’s analysis and trial data, like they did with Pfizer, and will likely start sending out the vaccine next week throughout the nation. 

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The committee’s unanimous vote indicates that each expert on the panel believes that the scientific evidence gathered from Moderna’s clinical trials prove the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for individuals 18 years or older. Dr. James Hildreth is the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and was a member of the panel who recently spoke with the press about how hopeful he was after looking through all the data.

“To go from having a sequence of a virus in January to having two vaccines available in December is a remarkable achievement.” 

The committee’s main role is to provide solid advice to the FDA for moving forward in terms of vaccine distribution. Members have obviously been quite busy the past two weeks as now two vaccines are receiving the green light to be administered to Americans starting this month. For the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, frontline healthcare workers and other priority groups (nursing home residents) began receiving their initial doses this Monday. 

Panel member Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatrician at Stanford University Medical Center and professor of pediatrics, claims that with Moderna’s vaccine “the evidence that has been studied in great detail highly outweighs any of the issues we’ve seen and it really supports us being able to put the pandemic in our background, really move forward and finally provides a safe and effective way to get to herd immunity.”

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The Moderna vaccine reportedly is 94% effective in providing immunity against the coronavirus; Pfizer’s is just as effective as well. One of the biggest hurdles that healthcare workers/vaccine administers have had to deal with in terms of Pfizer’s vaccine is the fact that it has to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures beyond what standard pharmaceutical freezers typically can handle.

Moderna’s vaccine, on the other hand, can be kept at a standard freezer temperature, which would make it much easier to store and allow it to be distributed to more vaccination sites throughout the nation who may not have the technology to store Pfizer’s vaccine. 

Both of the vaccines require two separate doses; the Pfizer vaccine’s second dose must be given 21 days after the first while Moderna’s can be given 28 days later. 

These vaccines couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is currently in the worst phase of the pandemic yet. More than 17 million people have been infected with Covid-19 and over 310,000 people have died. As case numbers surpass 100,000 daily and deaths surpass 1,000, the federal government is continuing to debate whether or not to give its citizens $600 or not and is continuing to allow the states to determine what establishments remain open to curb the spread. 

While President-elect Joe Biden has made numerous policy promises in terms of curbing the spread, he won’t be taking office for another month, and as we’ve seen, a lot of damage can be done in a month.

Covid-19 Positive Test

French President Emmanuel Macron Tests Positive For Covid-19

The Élysée Palace made an official announcement this week that President Emmanuel Macron has been diagnosed with Covid-19 after developing symptoms.

US Prepares To Approve A Second Covid-19 Vaccine As Cases Rise Exponentially

This Tuesday a multitude of healthcare workers and assisted living facility residents received their first dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. It’s expected that about 20 million people will receive their first shots by the end of December.