COVID Live Updates: Asia-Pacific nations seek quick delivery of Merck’s home COVID pill

imageMerck said in June that the United States had agreed to buy enough pills for 1.7 million treatments at a cost of $1.2 billion.
Credit…Brendan McDiarmid / Reuters

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region this week became some of the first countries after the United States to secure a supply of mollupiravir, which drug company Merck says can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19. Can do.

Merck said in June that the United States had agreed to buy enough pills for 1.7 million treatments at a cost of $1.2 billion. This week, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea said they have reached agreements with the drugmaker to buy the pills, even though their regulatory agencies have yet to approve the drug. Thailand and Taiwan are also in talks with Merck to buy them, Reuters reported.

While many countries in Asia had a slow introduction to vaccination against COVID-19, countries including Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea have now given more vaccine doses per capita than the United States. Merck’s treatment, the first oral antiviral drug that can be taken at home, is expected to help limit the impact of future outbreaks and reduce the need for costly hospital treatment.

A patient takes four capsules twice a day for five days, or a total of 40 tablets.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that his government has agreed to buy 300,000 courses, pending regulatory authorization, that could happen as early as 2022.

“Such vaccines and new treatments will boost our national plan to safely reopen Australia and keep Australia safely open,” he said in a statement.

Malaysia has struck a deal to secure 150,000 treatments, its Health Minister Khairi Jamaluddin said on Thursday. “This complements our successful vaccination rollout,” he said. Tweet, adding that the ministry will continue to procure more treatment options.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum’s office said on Wednesday that South Korea has received enough pills for more than 20,000 treatments and talks with the company are ongoing. The government has budgeted to procure 38,000 doses of the drug this year and next year together.

Singapore also secured a deal to buy the drug, Merck said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Reuters. The health ministry confirmed the deal to Reuters but did not disclose the number of pills, citing commercial sensitivity.

Merck did not immediately respond to requests for comment by telephone and email.

Merck has said it plans to seek emergency permission for the pills to be used in the United States. Initially, the drug may be available only to people at high risk, such as older people or people with comorbidities, although experts say the pills may eventually become more widely available.

White House officials have said people should get vaccinated, even if the Merck pill would cut death. “Vaccination is our best tool against COVID-19,” said White House coronavirus adviser Jeff Ziants.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden is traveling to Chicago on Thursday to talk about the vaccine mandate.

Chicago was chosen partly because it is home to United Airlines, one of the first major carriers to require shots for its 67,000 US employees. Other airlines have followed similar requirements, including American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Ziants announced the visit on Wednesday and said Mr Biden would focus on the success of the vaccine mandate.

Mr Biden said last month that he would use his presidential powers to require two-thirds of US workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It also includes a private sector mandate that requires that all companies with more than 100 workers be vaccinated or tested weekly.

He also moved to mandate shots for health care workers, federal contractors and most federal workers, who could face disciplinary measures if they refuse to be vaccinated.

Mr Biden will talk about the impact of those requirements, Mr Ziants said.

“We believe that vaccination requirements at workplaces are very effective and an effective way to ensure that people are vaccinated or tested,” Mr Ziants said.

United Airlines has said it will terminate about 600 employees for not complying with its vaccination requirement. According to the airline, about 99 percent of its US workforce has been vaccinated.

Credit…Aaron Neshim for The New York Times

Even as parents in the United States wrestle with tough questions over vaccinating their children against the coronavirus, families in other countries have been given a new option: giving children just one dose of vaccine. To dose

Officials in Britain, Hong Kong, Norway and other countries have recommended a single dose of the Pfizer-BioEntech vaccine for children 12 years of age and older – which provides partial protection from the virus, but sometimes without the potential harm. Seen after two doses. On Wednesday, Sweden and Denmark joined ranks, declaring that teens should only get one jab of the Moderna vaccine.

Health officials in those countries are particularly concerned about rising data suggesting that myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, may be more common in adolescents and young adults after vaccination than was thought.

The risk remains very small and significant only after a second dose of mRNA vaccine. But the numbers have changed the risk-benefit calculation in countries where new infections are mostly lower than in the United States.

Advisors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data on myocarditis in June and voted unanimously to recommend the vaccine for children 12 years of age and older, saying the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Myocarditis was one of the concerns that led the Food and Drug Administration this summer to ask vaccine manufacturers to increase the number of children in clinical trials. The issue is likely to be discussed in depth at a meeting of agency advisors next week to review the evidence for immunization of children aged 5 to 11 years.

Credit…John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register, via The Associated Press

Idaho’s Lieutenant Gov. Janice McGatchin took advantage of an out-of-state travel order by Governor Brad Little issued an executive order on Tuesday forbidding educational institutions to require proof of vaccination from employees. He said on twitter That in his pursuit of “personal liberty”, he had “fixed” an order that the governor had issued earlier.

Governor Little’s order, made in the spring, prohibits state agencies from requiring or issuing proof of COVID vaccination, but does not specifically name universities and public K-12 schools. When he returned from a trip to Texas on Wednesday, he immediately rescinded Ms McGatchin’s order, writing that he had informed her that “no official business would require her services” during her absence.

The lieutenant governor, who is elected independently of the governor, is challenging Mr. Little for the position, and the two have feuded throughout his term. Ms McGatchin has consistently criticized Mr Little’s measures to contain the virus, hailing his restrictions as overreaching to the government. And this week was not the first period of his political ups and downs.

In May, while Mr. Little was away at the Republican Governors Association convention, Ms. McGatchin issued a ban on the mask mandate, which she then repealed. Idaho did not have a statewide mask mandate, but an executive order required masks at long-term care facilities and said they were “strongly recommended” elsewhere. Nor did Mr Little stop municipalities from issuing their own directives on masks.

On Tuesday, Ms. McGatchin Also asked about mobilizing the Idaho National Guard and sending troops to the Mexican border, where Mr. Little and other Republican governors had traveled that day.

Mr Little responded on Facebook that “attempts to deploy our National Guard for political grandeur is an insult to the Idaho Constitution.” In the past she has described her activity in Ms McGatchin’s absence as “irresponsible” and “self-serving”.

When asked about the fight, Jacqueline J., a political scientist at Boise State University. Kettler said that although Mr Little and Ms McGatchin are both Republicans, the lieutenant governor is on the political right and there are tensions between the two, particularly regarding coronavirus rules and restrictions.

While Ms. McGatchin’s premise may be cheering Mr. Little for disregarding him, Professor Kettler said, “there are many Idahons who are perhaps astonished or dismayed by this type of development.”

“The Covid situation here is not very good,” she said.

According to the New York Times database, about 42 percent of eligible people in Idaho are vaccinated. The state’s recent weekly average has been around 1,300 new cases per day.

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