What We’re Reading: Global COVID-19 Death Toll; Vaccine Efficacy in Teens; Impact of US Patent Waiver

A new analysis finds the global COVID-19 death toll is much higher than previously estimated; data show promising efficacy rates of COVID-19 vaccines in teens; the US COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver may not result in immediate aid to countries.

Assessing US, Global COVID-19 Death Toll

A new analysis, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, found the global death toll of COVID-19 is more than twice that of the officially reported figure, STAT reported. The analysis suggests 6.9 million individuals worldwide and 905,000 people in the United States have died of the disease since the start of the pandemic. Currently, the CDC estimates around 561,600 Americans have died of COVID-19. The new estimate also surpasses the number of US deaths in the 1918 flu pandemic. The scientists estimate that by September, the global COVID-19 death toll will reach 9.4 million, with India’s toll reaching 1.4 million and the United States’ reaching 949,000. Figures do not include deaths that resulted from the pandemic’s disruption of health care.

Teenagers Respond Well to COVID-19 Vaccines

New data showing COVID-19 vaccines’ efficacy in teenagers could help boost momentum in the United States’ lagging vaccination effort, according to USA Today. In adolescents ages 12 to 17, Moderna’s vaccine appears to be 96% effective, while the FDA is preparing to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in those aged 12 to 15. Experts hope the encouraging data helps spur young people to get vaccinated and will lead to a more normalized school experience for the 2021-2022 school year. In the phase 2/3 trial conducted by Moderna, data showed the vaccine was generally well tolerated by kids and the majority of adverse events were mild or moderate in severity, with no serious safety concerns identified to date.

Implications of US Patent Waivers

Following an announcement that the United States will back a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, experts caution the decision is unlikely to boost vaccine supply quickly, The Washington Post reported. Many hurdles remain before this stance could be adopted internationally and some doubt the 164 members of the World Trade Organization can reach a consensus. It could be months or longer before an agreement is made and years before countries build factories and amass enough materials and expertise to produce vaccines at the scale needed. Even so, other experts laud the United States’ decision and feel it will help pressure vaccine makers and other developed countries to find other, more practical ways to get vaccines to the developing world. 

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