Johnson & Johnson faces lag in Covid-19 vaccine production, NYT reports

1 hr 59 min ago

Johnson & Johnson faces lag in Covid-19 vaccine production, NYT reports

From CNN Health’s Jacqueline Howard

An investigational pharmacy technician holds a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine before it is administered in a clinical trial in Aurora, Colorado, on December 15, 2020. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

The production pace of the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by drugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen appears to be behind schedule.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Operation Warp Speed’s lead manufacturing adviser Dr. Carlo de Notaristefani acknowledged a delay, but said the company might be able to catch up with its original production goals by March. The vaccine is delivered as a one-dose shot could help ramp up vaccination efforts as the United States continues to fight a devastating pandemic.

“I agree there was a problem,” de Notaristefani told The New York Times. But he added, “Manufacturing of pharmaceuticals is not a black box where you turn the key and start counting.”

Meanwhile, results from the vaccine’s clinical trial are expected soon.

Johnson & Johnson could apply for emergency use authorization of its Janssen Covid-19 vaccine around the end of this month, Operation Warp Speed Chief Scientific Adviser Moncef Slaoui said during a briefing on Tuesday. Slaoui said millions of doses should be available by the end of February.

CNN has reached out to Johnson & Johnson for a response.

2 hr 17 min ago

Study reveals deep trauma among ICU workers in the UK

From CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark

A large proportion of doctors and nurses have been traumatized by working in intensive care during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, a new study reveals, with almost half reporting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression, and some feeling they would be better off dead.

The study — which has not yet been peer reviewed — was published Wednesday by researchers at King’s College London. It analyzed the responses to an anonymous online survey in June and July of more than 700 doctors and nurses working in intensive care units (ICUs) across six different hospitals.

Although nearly 60% of respondents reported good well-being, the study found that almost half of ICU staff reported symptoms consistent with a probable diagnosis of PTSD, severe depression or anxiety, or problem drinking.

Almost one in seven (13.4%) of ICU staff reported frequent thoughts of being better off dead, or of hurting themselves in the past two weeks.

Jessica Filoteo, a nurse who was moved to work in an intensive treatment unit, said “I felt consumed. It was awful”.

“I was constantly on edge and would cry for no particular reason,” she told the Royal College of Nursing. The nursing union urged anyone struggling to ask for help in their workplace or via the NHS People confidential helpline.

As the UK struggles to contain the surge of cases, government and senior health officials have warned that many hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed. At a news conference Monday, Hancock said the variant was “putting the NHS [National Health Service] under very significant pressure,” with Covid-related hospital admissions up 22% on just the previous week.

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2 hr 46 min ago

Putin orders ‘mass vaccination’ in Russia from next week 

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting via video at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on January 13. Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to step up its inoculation efforts, launching a “mass vaccination” push that will start next week.

Russia began a “large-scale” coronavirus vaccination program, as Putin previously called it, in December — but it is not clear exactly how many people have been vaccinated as part of this drive. 

“I ask [you] to prepare the necessary infrastructure. Thank God, our vaccine does not require any unusual conditions for transportation, like [storing it at] -50 C, -70 C, everything is much simpler and more efficient with us,“ Putin said Wednesday in a televised government meeting. 

“So I ask you to start mass vaccination of the entire population from next week and build an appropriate schedule, as we do with other diseases, for example, the flu,” Putin added. 

Russia approved its first Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, in August. The news of its approval ahead of large-scale Phase 3 trials necessary to test its safety and efficacy drew considerable criticism from scientific and medical circles.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that by this Thursday, an additional 600,000 doses of vaccine will be dispatched to the country’s regions. 

“By the end of January… there will be 2.1 million doses of vaccine, and we will seriously need to step up the vaccination campaign,” she added.

On Sunday, the head of Russia’s health regulator Rospotrebnadzor said that the new variant of coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom has been discovered in Russia in a patient who recently returned from the country. 

Speaking on Wednesday, Putin said he is “concerned” about the spread of coronavirus in the UK.

3 hr 6 min ago

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford calls Boris Johnson to address Covid poverty in children

From CNN’s Dan Wright and Rob Picheta in London

Marcus Rashford of Manchester United is pictured during a match in Leicester, England, on December 26, 2020. Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford says he has spoken to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson amid a growing row about Covid poverty and the government provision of free meals to school children.

The England international striker has become a vocal campaigner on child poverty, after speaking out about his own difficult upbringing and the struggles of his mother to keep his family fed.

Following his activism throughout the pandemic, the UK government has committed to sending food parcels via a private company for children who were receiving free school meals — reversing its previous position to not do so.

But there has been a growing uproar over the paucity of these provisions, after pictures of the offerings were shared on social media. One of the viral photos showed carrot stubs and half-peppers included in the weekly food parcels. 

“Just had a good conversation with the Prime Minister. He has assured me that he is committed to correcting the issue with the food hampers and that a full review of the supply chain is taking place,” Rashford tweeted on Tuesday. “He agrees that images of hampers being shared on Twitter are unacceptable.” 

Boris Johnson repeated that commitment at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

On Twitter, the prime minister said he agreed with Rashford and called the food parcels “disgraceful.” But Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the photo that sparked the furor showed a package closely resembling the government’s own guidance on what should be included.

Schools in the UK are currently closed, with the country in its third coronavirus lockdown.

3 hr 27 min ago

Vatican begins Covid-19 vaccinations

From CNN’s Lindsay Isaac in London

The Vatican started administering Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday, its spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

Vaccinations are taking place in the Vatican auditorium, where Pope Francis often holds his weekly general audiences, he said. 

The Vatican did not say whether the Pope has been immunised yet or who the first recipients were. 

Pope Francis said over the weekend that he is in line to receive the shot. “It is an ethical duty to take the vaccine… I am also in line to take it,” he said in an interview with Italy’s Canale 5 channel.

In December, the Vatican deemed that it was morally acceptable to be vaccinated against Covid-19, after some anti-abortion groups raised concerns about how the vaccines were manufactured.

Some groups had suggested the coronavirus vaccines were made using cells from aborted fetuses. The cells are actually engineered and grown in labs from tissue acquired many decades ago, and are not made directly from aborted fetuses.

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3 hr 37 min ago

Germany is in one of “gravest phases” of the pandemic, says health minister

From CNN’s Stephanie Halasz in London

German Health Minister Jens Spahn arrives at a cabinet meeting on January 13 in Berlin. Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn has said the country is in one of the “gravest phases so far” of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking in the German parliament, Spahn said “we have to bring down the number of infections and deaths which are still too high.” But he said that the situation in Germany’s intensive care units is slowly improving.

Spahn also defended the united European approach to tackling Covid-19.

“No country, no party can defeat this virus alone,” he said. “While nationalism grows in other countries, Europe is growing together.”

Spahn said Germany had benefited from combining forces with the rest of the European Union in terms of vaccine development and manufacture, but said the limiting factor was production capacity.

According to Spahn, more than 750,000 Germans have now received the shot and he promised everyone in the country would be offered a vaccination by the summer.

4 hr 37 min ago

British ski instructors-in-training suspected of bringing UK variant to Austrian Alps

From CNN’s Stephanie Halasz in London

A cluster of Covid cases in the Austrian ski resort of Tyrol has been linked to a group of mainly British skiers who had traveled there to train to be instructors.

The local government said 17 people found to be positive were now being tested to see if they had the UK variant of the virus.

“The first light symptoms regarding this were recorded in the majority of the people concerned on January 3. As a result of these and subsequent positive antigen test results, further investigations were initiated after the abnormalities in the PCR test were known. It then turned out that these were people of different origins — mostly British citizens,” Elmar Rizzoli, head of the CORONA special unit, said.

“They were staying in Tyrol for professional purposes as part of a ski instructor training course,” Rizzoli said, while stressing there were no ski lessons and therefore no contact with students.

Rizzoli said the group had been in Austria for a while, with the last individual arriving on December 18. Austria imposed a landing ban for aircraft from the UK on December 22, the Tyrol government press release notes.

While most of Europe’s slopes have been largely closed to visitors this winter, the Alps were a hotspot for Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 when the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl was, for a while, seen as the continent’s Covid ground zero.

4 hr 17 min ago

EasyJet cabin crew to become Covid-19 vaccinators as UK rollout is fast tracked

From CNN’s Lauren Kent and Lindsay Isaac in London

An EasyJet plane lands at Newcastle Airport in England on October 30, 2020. Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Cabin crew members and pilots for the British discount airline EasyJet will be trained to administer Covid-19 vaccines, the company said Wednesday. 

Easyjet said it expects hundreds of its employees to volunteer for “fast tracked” training to become vaccinators at immunization centers across the country. 

“With over 3000 crew who are first aid trained, security cleared and based up and down the UK in London, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast, easyJet cabin crew are well positioned to support the NHS (National Health Service) in the nation-wide vaccination programme,” the airline said in a statement. 

EasyJet, like other airlines, has been operating on a reduced schedule since the beginning of the pandemic with many employees receiving government support.  

“As cabin crew we are in a great position to support the vaccination effort because of the first aid and safety-focused training we receive for our job, cabin crew member Katy Bryant said. 

Britain set out plans this week to “rapidly scale up” its vaccine program, as cases of the new variant surge and hospital admissions threaten to overwhelm the health service. The government pledged to have capacity to deliver at least two million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January and for every adult in the UK to be offered a vaccine by autumn.

Last year, EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic and other airlines in the UK worked with the government to recruit crew members with first-aid training to support coronavirus field hospitals and to volunteer as frontline workers. 

British Airways crews volunteered with ambulance services or took on support roles in hospitals, performing non-clinical tasks such as changing beds and helping patients call their families. According to a British Airways statement in December 2020, more than 1,500 employees gave up their time last year “to volunteer and support organisations across the UK, including volunteering at Covid-19 test centers and foodbanks” as well as at ambulance services and the British Red Cross. 

5 hr 53 min ago

Germany to tighten restrictions on incoming travellers

From CNNs Claudia Otto in Berlin

Germany is introducing tighter rules for travelers returning to the country, due to the risk of new coronavirus mutations currently spreading in some parts of the world. 

According to the German health ministry, starting January 14, anyone entering the country from an area of risk must be able to prove that they are not infected with the coronavirus no later than 48 hours after entering the country.

Those arriving from the worst affected countries must also present a negative test result prior to entering Germany. These include the UK and South Africa, two places where highly transmissible variants of the virus were first detected.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that “traveling abroad to risk areas is not in keeping with the pandemic situation. Those who nevertheless do not want to forego this must in future be tested on their return. Virus mutations are an additional danger to our health. We must prevent a spread in Germany as much as possible.”

Germany will continue its existing quarantine rules for travelers. After entering the country all travelers must stay in quarantine for ten days unless they can provide a negative test, in which case quarantine is shortened to five days.