The U.S. plans to invest $ 3.2 billion in developing antiviral drugs to treat COVID-19 and other viruses that have the potential to become pandemics.
A new program will invest in "speeding up things that are already happening" for COVID-19, but also developing treatments for other viruses, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's foremost infectious disease expert and chief medical officer to President Joe Biden's officer, reported to the Associated Press.
However, Fauci stressed that vaccines would remain the primary tool in fighting COVID as research advances to find better treatments than Gilead's existing antibodies and antiviral remdesivir, which come with onerous logistical hurdles as most of IV must be administered in a hospital setting. Health professionals are increasingly demanding a convenient pill that patients can take themselves when symptoms first appear.
The news comes amid growing concerns about the spread of new variants of COVID, and in particular the Delta variant, a highly contagious strain first discovered in India. This variant is behind a surge in infections in the UK, despite the fact that that country has vaccinated more than 80% of its adult population.
The UK recorded 11,000 daily cases on Friday for the first time since February as the new variant spreads rapidly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed with the World Health Organization earlier this week by declaring the Delta variant "of concern," a more worrying assessment than its previous "of concern."
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Earlier this week, the UK postponed its reopening plans by four weeks to give the British more time to vaccinate.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a four-week extension to the country's Covid-19 restrictions on Monday as the country grapples with an increase in Delta variant infections. WSJ's Jason Douglas explains what this could mean for global efforts to contain the virus. Photo: Henry Nicholls / Reuters
The U.S. vaccine program, meanwhile, continues to slow, with the number of fully vaccinated Americans rising to 147.8 million or 44.5% of the total population on Friday, up from 44% on Thursday, according to the CDC's vaccine tracker. Approximately 176 million Americans have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc.
and German partner BioNTech SE
or Moderna Inc. Johnson & Johnsons
One-shot therapy is also approved in the US, but the AstraZeneca
one is not.
Among adults aged 18 and over, 55.2% of the population are fully vaccinated. Among adults over 65 years of age, 42 million people, or 76.8% of this group, are fully vaccinated and 87% of this cohort have received at least one vaccination.
The rest of the world looks very different, however.
Source: Johns Hopkins University
As the map above shows, parts of Africa have vaccinated less than 1% of their population. According to Johns Hopkins University, a total of 2.5 billion doses have been administered worldwide. According to a recent New York Times report quoting research from Duke University, it takes about 11 billion doses for the world to vaccinate 70% of its population.
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In other news, the European Union has now confirmed that it is recommending that its member countries allow vaccinated US travelers to visit this summer, although it is up to individual countries to decide on the terms.
See: AstraZeneca says the EU has been defeated in the legal battle over vaccine supplies
Moscow saw a record 9,056 new cases on Friday, up 46% from Thursday, the Moscow Times reported. The Russian capital is hit by new variants, causing Mayor Sergei Sobyanin to announce new restrictions on gatherings and extend a curfew on bars and restaurants.
Spain said it will drop its mandate on face masks for people outdoors this coming weekend, El Pais reported.
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According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the global number of coronavirus-borne diseases rose to over 177.4 million on Friday, while the death toll rose to over 3.8 million.
The US continues to lead the world with 33.5 million cases while the death toll is 600,935.
India ranks second with 29.8 million total cases and third with 383,490 deaths, although these numbers are likely to be underestimated due to a lack of testing.
According to JHU data, Brazil has the third highest number of cases at 17.7 million and ranks second in terms of deaths at 496,004.
See: The COVID-19 pandemic was a "preventable disaster" made worse by a lack of global coordination and fluctuating results from independent bodies
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll with 230,792 and 2.5 million cases.
The UK has 128,209 deaths and 4.6 million cases, the highest number of deaths in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.
China, where the virus was first discovered in late 2019, had 103,471 confirmed cases and 4,846 deaths, according to official figures, which are widely reported as massively under-reported.