Health News Roundup: Russia says Sputnik Light is 70% effective against Delta variant; FDA sets new goal for lower salt in everyday American food and more

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

WHO chief urges COVID-19 vaccine sharing to make mass coverage ‘reality’

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday urged countries and companies controlling the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to prioritise supply to the vaccine sharing programme COVAX in order to meet vaccination targets. “We’re working with leaders to support the prioritisation and planning that’s needed to make 40% coverage a reality with aggressive and ambitious action,” he said at a media briefing.

Russia says Sputnik Light is 70% effective against Delta variant

Russia’s Sputnik Light vaccine shows 70% effectiveness against the Delta variant of COVID-19 three months after injection and the one-shot product is likely to become the country’s main vaccine, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said on Wednesday. The findings are part of a Russian push to promote Sputnik Light as an effective standalone vaccine and as a booster that can be combined with non-Russian vaccines.

FDA sets new goal for lower salt in everyday American food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday is pushing to cut salt levels by an average of 12% in food ranging from packaged meats to cheese, trying to clamp down on a growing epidemic of preventable health issues that has plagued the country. In far-reaching guidelines, the FDA is seeking voluntary short-term lower sodium targets for food manufacturers, chain restaurants and food service operators – focusing largely on processed and take-out food.

WHO says it may be ‘last chance’ to find COVID origins

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday its newly formed advisory group on dangerous pathogens may be “our last chance” to determine the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and urged China to provide data from early cases. The first human cases of COVID-19 were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. China has repeatedly dismissed theories that the virus leaked from one of its laboratories and has said no more visits are needed.

COVID cases dropping in North, South America, health agency says

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday that COVID-19 cases are dropping overall in North America but remain high in the American Midwest, Alaska, and Canada’s Northwest Territories, where infection rates are 10 times the national average. Infections are also dropping across South America, though cases are up in the greater Caracas area of Venezuela, and in parts of Chile’s southernmost regions.

Ebola vaccination campaign begins in Congo after virus resurfaces

Medics in eastern Congo began an Ebola vaccination campaign on Wednesday, the World Health Organisation said, days after the death of a two-year old boy raised fears of another major outbreak. The toddler died last Wednesday in a clinic in the eastern city of Beni, one of the epicentres of a 2018-2020 outbreak which killed more than 2,200 people and infected about a thousand more.

U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rates up thanks to mandates; cases and deaths down -officials

Vaccination rates against COVID-19 in the United States have risen by more than 20 percentage points after multiple institutions adopted vaccine requirements, while case numbers and deaths from the virus are down, Biden administration officials said on Wednesday. White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that 77% of eligible Americans had received at least one shot of a vaccine.

Texas vaccine mandate ban likely to be trumped by federal law but could cause uncertainty

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates will likely be superseded by the Biden administration plan to require shots for workers, but the dueling rules could take months to sort out in court, creating uncertainty for employers with business in the state. The Republican governor signed an executive order on Monday banning private employers and other entities from imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, which he said threatened an economic recovery by disrupting the workforce.Some large employers are betting that federal law and President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates will trump Abbott’s executive order.

FDA scientists’ analysis of J&J COVID-19 booster data raises red flags

U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists said on Wednesday they did not receive enough data in time to do their own analysis of Johnson & Johnson’s application for a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, but the agency’s review of company studies raised some red flags. Advisers to the FDA will meet on Oct. 15 to assess the risks and benefits of a booster shot of J&J’s vaccine, which is currently given as a single dose.

J&J shot performs best with paired with booster dose from Moderna or Pfizer, NIH study suggests

People who got Johnson & Johnson Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine as a first shot had a stronger immune response when boosted with vaccines from Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE or Moderna Inc, a study run by the National Institutes of Health showed on Wednesday. The study, which included more than 450 adults who received initial shots from Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson, showed that “mixing and matching” booster shots of different types is safe in adults. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines are based on messenger RNA while J&J’s uses viral vector technology.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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