TAIPEI, Taiwan – China is rapidly increasing the number of people receiving its experimental coronavirus vaccines, with a city offering one to the general public and a biotech company providing another free to students going abroad.
The city of Jiaxing, south of Shanghai, is offering a vaccine under development by Sinovac, it said in an announcement Thursday. It said high-risk groups, including people who are “responsible for the basic operations of the city” will receive priority, but that residents who have emergency needs can also sign up. The vaccine is in the final stage of clinical testing, but has not yet been approved. The city government said it is being provided under an emergency authorization.
China National Biotech Group, another Chinese vaccine company, is offering its vaccine free to students who study abroad in a strategy health experts say raises safety and ethical concerns. More than 168,000 people signed up to receive the vaccine via an online survey and more than 91,000 are being considered, CNBG said on its website. That page had been removed by Tuesday.
Free nursing home vaccines planned
Federal health officials on Friday unveiled a plan to get yet-to-be-approved coronavirus vaccines to nursing home residents free of charge, enlisting two national pharmacy chains to help.
Such a vaccine is not yet available, and that led to skepticism from some long-term care experts. The distribution program is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration authorizing a vaccine, which does not appear to be imminent.
Under the voluntary program, trained staff from CVS and Walgreens would deliver the vaccines to each nursing home and administer shots. Assisted-living facilities and residential group homes can also participate. Nursing home staffers can be vaccinated, too, if they have not already received their shots. Needles, syringes and other necessary equipment will be included.
WHO study casts doubt on remdesivir
A large study led by the World Health Organization suggests that the antiviral drug remdesivir did not help hospitalized COVID-19 patients, in contrast to an earlier study that made the medicine a standard of care in the United States and many other countries.
The results announced Friday do not negate the previous ones, and the WHO study was not as rigorous as the earlier one led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. But they add to concerns about how much value the pricey drug gives because none of the studies have found it can improve survival.
The drug has not been approved for COVID-19 in the U.S., but it was authorized for emergency use after the previous study found it shortened recovery time by five days on average. It's approved for use against COVID-19 in the United Kingdom and Europe, and is among the treatments U.S. President Donald Trump received when he was infected earlier this month.
New York limit on worshippers stays
A federal judge has refused to block Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order limiting worship to as few as 10 congregants in communities seeing spikes in coronavirus infections.
Ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis said in an order Friday that even though the rules harm religious groups, it is not in the public interest to block them if they are helping prevent a wave of new infections.
The ruling doesn't end the lawsuit, but denied the church's request for a temporary injunction.
Billionaires urged to ease hunger
The head of the World Food Program, this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, again urged billionaires to donate just a few billion to save millions of lives, saying Friday the number of people “marching toward starvation” has jumped from 135 million to 270 million since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Humanity needs the help right now,” David Beasley said. “This is a one-time request. ... The world is at a crossroads, and we need from the billionaires to step up in a way they've never stepped up before.”