Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to authorize COVID-19 treatment pills from both Pfizer Inc and Merck as early as Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. The two drugs, especially Pfizer’s pill Paxlovid, are seen as promising new oral treatments that can be taken upon onset of symptoms at home to help prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
Biden plan to spur 200 million-500mln COVID tests to market -Fauci
The nation’s top infections disease official, speaking before President Joe Biden’s unveils his latest plan to combat COVID-19 amid the Omicron variant, also said officials were weighing a shorter recommended quarantine period for healthcare workers.
Countries across Europe considered new curbs on movement on Tuesday while U.S. President Joe Biden appealed to all Americans to get vaccinated to fight the Omicron variant sweeping the world days before the second Christmas of the pandemic. Omicron infections are multiplying across Europe, the United States and Asia, including in Japan, where a single cluster https://www.reuters.com/world/coronavirus-cluster-linked-us-base-japan-grows-least-180-2021-12-20 of COVID-19 cases at a military base has grown to at least 180.
EU sets binding 9-month validity of vaccinations for COVID-19 travel pass
The European Commission on Tuesday adopted rules that will make the European Union COVID-19 certificate valid for travel nine months after the completion of the primary vaccination schedule. The proposal comes as several EU states introduce additional requirements on travellers in a bid to reduce the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told Reuters the EU Commission was against additional requirements, and was assessing the measures.
France to introduce vaccination pass in early January as Omicron spreads
France will pass a law transforming its health pass needed to exercise some professions and to go to cinemas and bars into a “vaccination” pass in the first half of January, the government said on Tuesday. “The wave awaiting us will be high,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told journalists, adding that the Omicron variant accounts for 20% of new COVID-19 infections in France and is spreading rapidly, particularly in the Paris region.
Valneva says Chikungunya vaccine Phase 3 trial has met primary endpoint
French-Austrian biotech firm Valneva on Tuesday announced what it described as positive topline results from the lot-to-lot Phase 3 trial of its single-shot Chikungunya vaccine candidate, VLA1553, saying the trial met its primary endpoint. “Three consecutively manufactured vaccine lots elicited equivalent immune responses,” the company said in a statement, adding that it would kick-off proceedings to win regulatory approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year.
Softbank leads $127 million funding round for Brazilian healthcare startup Alice
Brazilian healthcare startup Alice has raised $127 million in its series C funding round led by Softbank Latin America Fund, the company said on Tuesday. Other investors include shareholders Kaszek Ventures and ThornTree Capital Partners and new investors such as Allen & Company LLC, G Squared, Globo Ventures and StepStone.
Israeli hospital reports first death of patient with Omicron variant
An Israeli hospital on Tuesday confirmed the first known death in the country of a patient with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, but said he had suffered from a number of serious pre-existing conditions. The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba said the man, in his sixties, died on Monday, two weeks after he was admitted to the coronavirus ward. A hospital statement said the patient suffered from a variety of serious illnesses. “His morbidity stemmed mainly from pre-existing sicknesses and not from respiratory infection arising from the coronavirus,” it said.
The World Health Organization’s European head on Tuesday warned countries to brace for a “significant surge” in COVID-19 cases as Omicron spreads, and advised the widespread use of boosters for protection. Since it emerged in late November, Omicron has been detected in at least 38 of the 53 countries in the WHO’s European region and is already dominant in several of them including Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom, Hans Kluge told a news conference in Vienna.
Biden announces free tests, more vaccination sites and doctors to battle surging Omicron
U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday the opening of more federal vaccination and testing sites to tackle a surge in COVID-19 cases sparked by the Omicron variant, and said some 500 million at-home rapid tests will be available to Americans for free starting in January. Biden offered both a warning to the unvaccinated, who he said have “good reason to be concerned,” and reassurance that those who are inoculated can gather for the holidays despite the new variant sweeping the country.
(With inputs from agencies.)