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March 17, 2022

Covid-19 update: Sinovac ‘modest’ defence against Omicron in children

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 6 million, with a figure of 6,058,304 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 463 million to a world wide figure of 463,906,453.

Young children who received two doses of China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccine gained “modest” defences against Omicron infections, a study in Chile showed. Researchers estimated the Sinovac shot has effectiveness rates of 38% against Covid-19, 65% against hospitalization, and 69% against an infection severe enough to require admission to an intensive care unit. The study took place during the Omicron outbreak in Chile between December and February and was conducted by researchers, mostly working for local universities as well as the country’s health ministry. The results, which were uploaded as a preprint on Research Square, haven’t undergone peer review yet offer insights into how the vaccine fares against the more-transmissible variant. It also sheds some light on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines in children, as the spread of Omicron led to more paediatric hospital admissions.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 79.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 968,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin tested positive for Covid-19 while in Washington for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, according to news reports. The Press Association reported Martin’s positive test on Wednesday. Martin left the Ireland Funds Gala in downtown Washington after learning of the result, according to CBS News. President Joe Biden spoke at the event but he was not in close contact with Martin, according to White House spokesman Kevin Munoz.

Asia pacific

China: China’s Covid outbreak appears to be slowing after it reported the lowest number of cases so far this week. A total of 2,432 infections were reported Thursday, according to the National Health Commission. The epicenter of the outbreak, the northeastern province of Jilin, found around 1,100 cases, down from recent highs after authorities locked down the region of about 24 million people on Monday. Tech hub Shenzhen reported 91 cases. The financial hub of Shanghai found 158 new infections, of which 150 were not showing symptoms. The city has started mass testing the population on a staggered basis by locking down some residential compounds and regions as authorities seek to stymie Omicron’s community spread. Beijing halted some inbound and outbound trains at two stations after finding four new infections on Thursday.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong will give updates on Covid measures on Sunday or Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, referring to steps such as flight bans and school closures announced last month. The government has been working out details of a mass-testing drive since the end of February, but has never said the blitz will start March 26, Lam said. The city still has some way to go to reach a 95% vaccination rate, she added.

The Hong Kong government said that information circulating online about the date and details of a mass-testing drive isn’t official and shouldn’t be believed. Universal testing “would be a large scale operation which called for precise execution,” a government spokesman said in a statement late Wednesday. The plan “is still being refined at the moment, and once confirmed, will be announced and widely publicized so that the public will be fully informed of the arrangements,” the statement said.

Hong Kong last week indefinitely postponed a plan to test the entire population for Covid this month to prioritize vaccinating the elderly and reduce fatalities.

South Korea: South Korea’s daily new Covid-19 infections reached a record 621,328, while the number of deaths rose to a record 429, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. But while cases are surging, the country has one of the lowest virus death rates globally.  The sky-high caseload reflects the nation’s consistent deployment of mass testing, largely abandoned by many places as Covid becomes endemic but a key reason behind Korea’s sliding death rate, according to its virus fighters. Continuing to officially diagnose most infections allows Korea to identify at-risk cases and pre-emptively treat or hospitalize those patients before their conditions become severe. Combined with an 88% vaccination rate – and one of the highest booster shot take-ups in the world, especially among the elderly – it’s delivered a fatality rate of 0.14%. That’s one-10th of the rates in the US and the UK and down from 0.88% two months ago, even as cases have surged eighty-fold in the same time frame.

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