What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

FILE PHOTO: A participant receives a mock coronavirus disease vaccine shot during a mock inoculation exercise as the local municipality prepares for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mass vaccination campaign, at a shopping mall in Sakura, east of Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Biden says to procure more vaccines, share any surplus

President Joe Biden on Wednesday directed his administration to procure 100 million more doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to boost U.S. supply in the event of “unexpected challenges” in the pandemic.

The U.S. government will first give Americans COVID-19 vaccines, but any surplus would be shared with the world, Biden said. The Democratic president said it was clear that the pandemic would not be over until it was ended everywhere. “We’re not going to be ultimately safe, until the world is safe,” he said.

Rich, developing nations wrangle over COVID vaccine patents

Richer members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) blocked a push by over 80 developing countries on Wednesday to waive patent rights in an effort to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines for poor nations. Western nations argue protecting intellectual property rights encouraged research and innovation and that suspending those rights would not result in a sudden surge of vaccine supply.

In its eighth discussion on the topic since it was first raised in October, the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Council spent three hours debating, but failed to agree. Proposals need backing by a consensus of the WTO’s 164 members to pass. They did at least agree to discuss the matter twice again in April before the next scheduled TRIPS Council meeting on June 8-9.

South Korea extends AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 65 and over

South Korea will extend vaccination for people aged 65 years and older with AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to ramp up its immunisation drive, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting on Thursday.

The country has been rolling out the vaccine since the last week of February, beginning with the elderly and health workers, but had excluded more than 370,000 over-65s in nursing homes citing a lack of clinical trial data on the age group. Real-world data from Britain has now shown AstraZeneca and Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines are both more than 80% effective in preventing hospitalisations in over-80s after one shot.

Emirates tells staff to get vaccinated or pay for regular COVID-19 tests

Dubai’s Emirates has told employees to take a free coronavirus vaccine or pay for tests to prove they are not infected with the deadly disease, cautioning that an unvaccinated workforce could create operational issues.

In an internal email, seen by Reuters, the airline told cabin crew that starting March 15, those not vaccinated must pay for a test valid for seven days to the start of flight or standby duty. The policy applies to all employees in the United Arab Emirates, an Emirates spokeswoman told Reuters, declining further comment.

Antibody combo treatment protects against severe COVID-19

A combination of two monoclonal antibody drugs – bamlanivimab and etesevimab – from Eli Lilly and Co reduced the risk of hospitalisation and death by 87% in a U.S. study of 769 non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients with risk factors for developing severe illness, according to trial data released by the company on Wednesday.

This is the second late-stage, randomised trial to show that the antibody cocktail is effective at treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The previous study, published in January, used a higher dose of the drugs and reduced the risk of hospitalisation by 70%.

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