• This daily news round-up brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top stories: WHO issues interim guidance for mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines; Vaccine dispute could be close to resolution, according to WTO chief; AstraZeneca COVID-19 antibody cocktail shows promising results against Omicron.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 272.9 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.33 million. More than 8.59 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Pfizer and BioNTech have filed for full regulatory approval of their COVID-19 vaccine in the United States to include adolescents aged 12 to 15. The shot currently has emergency use authorization for 5 to 15-year-olds.

South Africa has announced it will donate roughly 2 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine to other Africa countries.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have begun distributing free COVID-19 home test kits to international travellers. The kits are currently being given out at Minneapolis-St Paul, Miami and Chicago O'Hare and will soon add Dallas-Fort Worth.

The European Commission is recommending vaccinated people receive COVID-19 booster doses no more than six months after their initial shots, with a further three month grace period for their COVID travel passes to be valid.

Greece has announced changes to its entry restrictions, with travellers required to show either a rapid antigen or PCR test to enter the country.

European Union countries have been told they can use Pfizer's antiviral COVID-19 pill early after diagnosis of an infection, even this its full regulatory review has not been completed, the bloc's drugs regulator announced yesterday.

New daily COVID-19 cases in Australia have hit a record high for the second straight day as social distancing curbs ease.

AstraZeneca has announced that a lab study found its COVID-19 antibody cocktail retained neutralizing activity against Omicron. In similar tests, Regeneron's antibody cocktail was found to be less effective, though.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in selected countries and regions.
Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in selected countries and regions.
Image: Our World in Data

2. WHO issues interim guidance for mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines

The World Health Organization has issued interim recommendations for mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers for both the second dose and booster shots.

Depending on availability, mRNA vaccines, such as those developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna can be used as subsequent doses after initial doses of AstraZeneca's vectored vaccine and vice versa, the global health body said.

AstraZeneca and any of the mRNA vaccines can also be used after initial doses of Sinopharm's inactivated vaccine, WHO said.

Viral vector vaccines contain instructions for making coronavirus antigens, while mRNA vaccines use a code from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to prompt an immune response in recipients. Inactivated vaccines take the SARS-CoV-2 virus and inactivate or kill it using chemicals, heat or radiation.

Many countries have already gone ahead with mixing and matching vaccines as they faced soaring COVID-19 infection numbers, low supplies and slow immunisation over some safety concerns.

COVID-19

How is the World Economic Forum helping to identify new technologies to fight COVID-19?

As part of work identifying promising technology use cases to combat COVID, The Boston Consulting Group recently used contextual AI to analyze more than 150 million English language media articles from 30 countries published between December 2019 to May 2020.

The result is a compendium of hundreds of technology use cases. It more than triples the number of solutions, providing better visibility into the diverse uses of technology for the COVID-19 response.

To see a full list of 200+ exciting technology use cases during COVID – please follow this link.

3. WTO close to resolving COVID-19 vaccines dispute

The World Trade Organization is close to resolving a dispute over how to spread COVID-19 vaccines more widely and fairly, but facing an "orchestrated effort" to block a deal, the body's chief said yesterday.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters she had held talks this month with trade ministers from India, South Africa, the European Union and the United States on how to break an impasse over the issue of intellectual property rights.

"Ease of use, easy of distribution and affordability. These are things that could be unleashed much more if we came to these kinds of agreements," she said.

"We are getting close to an answer, a solution," she said. "On the other hand, it looks to me that there is an orchestrated effort to block success on the issue."