What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

FILE PHOTO: People arrive at the Javits Center mass vaccination location amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

U.S. FDA to scrutinize vaccine design behind shots linked to blood clots

Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation on Tuesday to temporarily halt the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of six cases of a rare brain blood clot in women who received the shot in the United States, U.S. government scientists are focusing on whether the specific technology behind the shots may be contributing to the risk.

In Europe, health regulators said last week there was a possible link between the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine and 169 cases of a rare brain blood clot.

Both vaccines are based on a new technology using adenoviruses, which cause the common cold, that have been modified to essentially render them harmless. The viruses are employed as vectors to ferry instructions for human cells to make proteins found on the surface of the coronavirus, priming the immune system to make antibodies that fight off the actual virus.

A leading hypothesis appears to be that the vaccines are triggering a rare immune response that could be related to these viral vectors, FDA officials said at a briefing on Tuesday.

Moderna says protection from its vaccine still strong six months on

Moderna Inc said on Tuesday that its COVID-19 vaccine still showed strong protection against the illness six months after people received their second shot, with efficacy of more than 90% against all cases of COVID-19 and more than 95% against severe COVID-19.

The company has also started testing new versions of the vaccine that target a concerning new variant of the coronavirus, which was first identified in South Africa and is known as B.1.351.

It said both versions of the vaccine that it is testing, including a multivalent vaccine that combines the newly designed vaccine with the previous one, increased neutralizing antibody titers against variants of concerns in mice, with the multivalent providing the broadest level of immunity.

With 100 days to go, Tokyo scrambles to stage pandemic Olympics

With 100 days to go before the start of the Olympics, organisers face a deluge of challenges and growing uncertainty as the pandemic rages around the world, affecting decisions on everything from athlete safety to spectator numbers to ticket sales.

The biggest headache is the resurgent coronavirus. As a result, foreign spectators have been barred, parts of the torch relay have been re-routed, and the organizers are yet to decide what to do with the domestic audience. This has caused major challenges for sports venues and travel agencies, already grappling with restrictions to block the virus.

Australia returns to “war footing” amid COVID-19 challenges

Australia’s national cabinet will begin meeting twice a week from Monday, marking a return to a “war footing” in the country’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic amid turmoil in its national vaccination programme. No new cases have been reported on most days this year and officials have swiftly contained small outbreaks, but the country’s vaccination programme has hit major roadblocks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday the return to more frequent meetings of the group of federal and state government leaders was necessary to address “serious challenges” caused by patchy international vaccine supplies and changing medical advice.

India’s Maharashtra shuts most manufacturing, restricts e-commerce to fight COVID-19

India’s richest state Maharashtra will impose stringent curbs on industry and e-commerce for 15 days to slow rising coronavirus infections, its chief minister said on Tuesday, a move that is set to cripple manufacturing and other businesses in the region.

State chief minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered most establishments and public places closed from Wednesday in the state except those which are deemed essential, including grocery shops, hospitals, banks and stock exchanges.

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