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COVID-19

Moderna says Omicron-targeted COVID shot shows better response

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(Last Updated On: June 9, 2022)

Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) said on Wednesday a new version of its coronavirus vaccine produced a better immune response against Omicron than the original shot, as the drugmaker pursues a booster against a surge in infections in the fall season.

The vaccine, which was given as a fourth dose in a trial that enrolled more than 800 people, raised virus-neutralizing antibodies by eight-fold against Omicron.

The company said it plans to submit data on the vaccine, which targets Omicron as well as the original coronavirus strain, to regulators in the coming weeks and the doses could be available to consumers in late summer, sending its shares up 3%.

Moderna president Stephen Hoge said the company was in touch with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulators on the design of the study, which should make the filings a smooth process.

“We expect those to be relatively straightforward discussions and submissions,” he said.

It is not known if countries including the United States will adopt annual fall boosters, similar to the flu market.

“The data look quite comforting and convincing,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

He said while he expects the FDA to authorize the vaccine, it is not known if the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend the shot for all adults or for a subset of the population such as older people.

Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said the company had been ramping up manufacturing of the new booster with an aim to be ready to ship as early as August.

In the study, which did not measure vaccine effectiveness, the booster, the vaccine generated greater antibodies against the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta variants compared to the original shot.

COVID-19

China closes Potala Palace after COVID-19 reported in Tibet

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2022)

Chinese authorities have closed Tibet’s famed Potala Palace after a minor outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in the Himalayan region.

The action underscores China’s continued adherence to its “zero-COVID” policy, mandating lockdowns, routine testing, quarantines and travel restrictions, even while most other countries have reopened, AP reported.

A notice on the palace’s Weixin social media site said the palace that was the traditional home of Tibet’s Buddhist leaders would be closed from Tuesday, with a reopening date to be announced later.

Tibet’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and the Potala is a key draw.

China announced 828 new cases of domestic transmission on Tuesday, 22 of them in Tibet. The majority of those cases showed no symptoms.

Meanwhile, more than 80,000 travelers remain stranded on the southern resort island of Hainan under requirements that they consistently test negative for the virus in coming days before being allowed to leave, AP reported.

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COVID-19

China’s COVID-19 lockdown strands 25,000 tourists in Sanya resort town

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2022)

China’s popular tourist island of Hainan locked down more areas on Monday as it battles its worst COVID-19 outbreak after recording very few cases over the past two years, compared with many other regions in the country.

About 25,000 tourists were stranded in Sanya, the hardest-hit city in Hainan’s outbreak and the island’s key tourist center, as of Sunday, The National reported.

The island in the South China Sea, which recorded just two local symptomatic COVID cases last year, has reported more than 1,400 infections this month. 

Although that is small by global standards, it is the province’s biggest outbreak since the virus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, The National reported.

The provincial capital city of Haikou, with about 2.9 million residents, and two smaller towns, Ledong and Chengmai, locked down its residents on Monday, according to state media reports.

The lockdowns in several cities on the tropical island dashed hopes for a quick rebound of the country’s ailing aviation sector, which had counted on a summer travel boom to help to trim record losses.

As of Sunday, mainland China had confirmed 231,266 cases with symptoms, including both local patients and symptomatic international travelers.

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COVID-19

President Biden tests negative for Covid-19

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(Last Updated On: August 7, 2022)

President Biden tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday, according to a letter from White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor, but he will continue to isolate until he tests negative a second time, NPR reported.

“The President continues to feel very well,” O’Connor wrote. Biden has been testing daily since he first tested positive for the virus on July 21. The White House said he experienced only mild symptoms, including fatigue, a runny nose, and cough.

According to NPR Biden, who is fully vaccinated and twice boosted, was prescribed the antiviral therapy Paxlovid, a standard course of treatment for people who are considered to be at higher risk of adverse affects of COVID, including anyone over 50.

His symptoms were “nearly resolved” after four days of treatment, the White House said.

The president briefly left isolation last week, after testing negative for COVID on July 27. He reentered isolation after testing positive again on July 30, in what O’Connor described as a “rebound” case, read the report.

On Saturday night, the White House announced that Biden planned to travel to Rehoboth Beach, Del., early on Sunday morning.

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