France’s Caution on Moderna; Russia’s Record Cases: Virus Update

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France’s health agency said it is adopting a cautious approach toward administering the Moderna vaccine to young people after a recent alert in Scandinavia. Russia set another record in daily infections.

Meanwhile, more countries prepared to restore normal life and restart international travel. Japan was considering relaxing norms for bars and restaurants, and softening border curbs. Australia sought a travel bubble with Singapore. 

Some 200,000 protesters hit Rome’s streets Saturday in a counter-demonstration to far-right groups opposed to Italy’s Green Pass, Europe’s strictest national vaccine mandate. Elsewhere, Chinese vaccine maker CanSino touted the capacity of its inhaled vaccine to boost antibodies.

France’s Caution on Moderna (6:24 a.m. NY)


France’s health agency wants more details on the effects of Moderna’s Covid vaccine on younger people amid concerns about potential side effects, Dominique Le Guludec, who heads the agency, told Le Journal du Dimanche. 

“We want to be sure about the vaccine’s benefits” on younger people, and an alert in Scandinavia this month “made us change our strategy,” the head of Haute Autorite de Sante said. The agency has also recommended not using the vaccine as a third booster shot for elderly people until it gets European Medicines Agency approval.

Convidecia Boost to Antibodies (4:55 p.m. HK)

CanSino’s inhaled version of viral vector Covid-19 vaccine can boost neutralizing antibody level by 250-300 times among those fully vaccinated with two doses of inactivated shots six months ago, Zhu Tao, the chief scientific officer of the Chinese firm said in a speech Friday.

Russia Cases Keep Rising (4:32 p.m. HK)

Russia set a record for new Covid-19 cases for a fourth day in a row with 34,303 infections in the past day, according to the government’s reporting center. The number of deaths declined to 997, a day after the daily toll exceeded 1,000 for the first time.

Japan May Loosen Some Curbs (1:50 p.m. HK)

Japan’s minister in charge of virus response said restrictions on bars and restaurants could be lifted next month if the current infection trend continues. Daishiro Yamagiwa was speaking on a program broadcast by Fuji TV. The government is also considering softening border restrictions, he added. Tokyo bars are being instructed to stop serving alcohol by 8 p.m. and close by 9 p.m. The daily number of infections recorded in the capital has been less than 100 for a week.

Southwest Airlines Court Case (11:40 a.m. HK)

Southwest Airlines Co. asked a federal court to reject a request from its pilots to temporarily block the carrier from carrying out federally mandated coronavirus vaccinations, saying such an order would put the company’s business, employees and customers at risk.

Singapore Critical Cases (11:26 a.m. HK)

Singapore’s number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care surged on Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry said 62 people were in critical condition, compared with 48 a day earlier. The city state reported 3,348 new coronavirus cases as of noon on Oct. 16, including four imported infections.

Australia Seeks Singapore Travel Bubble (7:06 a.m. HK)

Australia said it’s in talks over a quarantine-free travel bubble with Singapore for fully vaccinated visitors as it secured access to two additional Covid-19 treatments from Roche Holding AG and Pfizer Inc.

Expedited discussions are underway with Singapore over so-called green-lane travel, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Sunday in a televised briefing, adding the proposal is under “rapid development.” Australia is already planning to reintroduce a bubble for visitors from New Zealand’s South Island.

On virus medications, one agreement is with Roche for 15,000 doses of the antibody-based therapy Ronapreve, with initial supplies available by the end of October, the government said in a statement. The other deal is for 500,000 treatment courses of Pfizer’s oral antiviral drug, which is set to be available next year subject to final clinical trials and approvals.

Victoria state, whose capital is Melbourne, will lift its lockdown later this week after making progress on vaccinations, its Premier Daniel Andrews said Sunday.

Robert Durst Reported to Have Covid; on Ventilator (5:44 p.m. NY)

Robert Durst, 78, the New York real estate heir who was recently sentenced to life in prison for murder, has tested positive for Covid-19 and is on a ventilator, his lawyer told NBC News on Saturday. 

Durst has been hospitalized and was “having difficulty” breathing and speaking, his attorney Dick DeGuerin told NBC News. 

U.S. Passes 10 Million Booster Shots (4:28 p.m. NY)

The U.S. surpassed 10 million booster shots, with more doses now going daily to people who are fully vaccinated than those getting a shot for the first time, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Among the 876,000 doses reported on Saturday, 392,000 were boosters or additional doses and 245,000 were first shots, according to a tweet from Cyrus Shahpar, the White House’s Covid-19 data director. More than 407 million doses have been administered in the U.S., and 77% of those eligible are fully vaccinated. 

Extra doses of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine began to be given officially on Aug. 13 to vulnerable groups, including those older than 65. This week, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel approved boosters from Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson. 

New Mexico Hospitals Strained (3:46 p.m. NY)

New Mexico’s hospitals are close to imposing “crisis standards of care,” which set the protocols for rationing medical care, according to a statement from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Such crisis standards have already been put in place in Alaska, Idaho and Montana, among the states hardest hit by the delta variant. Hospital beds “remain in dangerously short supply,” she said in the statement on Friday.

Grisham also announced that the state will extend its indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status. 

Canada’s Yukon Imposes Vaccine Mandate (3:35 p.m. NY)

Canada’s Yukon, the northern territory stretching to the Arctic Ocean, will enforce a vaccine mandate for all government employees and a vaccine passport for anyone wishing to participate in nonessential activities, Premier Sandy Silver said in a live-streamed event Saturday.

The new vaccine mandate will call for all front-line health-care workers and all government employees, including teachers and those who work for outside organizations funded by the territorial government, to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30. The same day, proof of vaccination will be required for everyone in the territory to attend events and access nonessential services like bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms, Silver said.

Though the northern territory’s vaccination rate is over 80%, the highly contagious delta variant has contributed to a rise in cases among its 42,000 people, as it spreads quickly among those still unvaccinated. To ensure the population is protected the vaccination rate will have to climb to 90% at least, Silver said.

Italy’s Vaccine Pass Spurs Dueling Protests (2:02 p.m. NY)

The contentious issue of Italy’s Green Pass, the strictest national vaccine mandate in Europe, helped spur some 200,000 demonstrators to the streets of Rome on Saturday. The protest, organized by the main Italian unions, was a counter-protest to a large demonstration last week, in which far-right protesters occupied the Rome headquarters of the union Ggil in opposition to the Green Pass. 

On Friday, Italy made it mandatory for all workers to present a digital code upon entering the workplace or face a fine. The Green Pass can be obtained after vaccination or after testing negative for the virus, and employers will be responsible for checking certificates. Protests have erupted in cities around Italy against the pass.

Chicago Judge Orders Silence in Police Vaccine Fight (1:55 p.m. NY)

A judge ordered the head of Chicago’s police union to stop urging officers on social media to defy a requirement to report their Covid-19 vaccination status. 

The temporary restraining order hands a momentary victory to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the fight over the mandate, which threatens to widen into a public-safety issue if police officers walk off the job. Cook County Judge Cecilia Horan ruled late Friday that irreparable harm was possible if union leader John Catanzara Jr. continued to make his statements. 

The reporting deadline was Friday. Chicago has said that unvaccinated officers could be placed on unpaid leave, though city officials say there’s no immediate threat to the jobs of officers who don’t comply. 

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