WHO; COVAX vaccine; Twitter misinformation; 514,000 U.S. deaths

Health experts warn that it may be too early to believe the COVID-19 pandemic will be over by the end of 2021.

The World Emergency Health Organization chief said it was “premature” to believe the pandemic could be stopped by the end of the year, but the introduction of vaccines could at least help to drastically reduce hospital stays and deaths. Dr. Michael Ryan said at a press conference on Monday that the worldwide unique focus should be on keeping the transmission of COVID-19 as low as possible.

And President Joe Biden’s senior health officials warned Monday that the US could “lose the hard-earned ground we won” if cases plateaued at their current levels.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she was “deeply concerned” as the number of new cases stall but states continue to roll back virus-related restrictions.

Another note: it took the US just two months – January and February of this year – to accumulate 160,209 COVID deaths. That’s more than the country registered in the first six months of the pandemic and more than the current total for all but two nations, Brazil and Mexico.

It should also be sobering news that on Sunday, for the first time in more than a month, a majority of states – 29 total – reported rising case numbers.

Also in February, known variant cases quintupled from 471 to 2,463, although the total number of coronavirus infections fell from a peak in January.

Also in the news:

►Many states have prioritized COVID-19 vaccines for people over 75 and then moved on to those over 65, but they shouldn’t move back on age, an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

►Apple has reopened all 270 stores in the US as efforts mount up to vaccinate more Americans against COVID-19.

► Former President Donald Trump and his wife Melania were silently vaccinated against COVID-19 in January before they left the White House, the New York Times reported. Although other high-ranking elected officials were publicly vaccinated to emphasize the safety of the vaccines, Trump did not. He encouraged his followers to get vaccinated during a speech on Sunday.

►The number of hospitals reporting full intensive care units has decreased by nearly 50% across the country since early January. This emerges from an analysis by USA TODAY of data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

📈 Today’s numbers: The United States has more than 28.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 514,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global total: more than 114.4 million cases and 2.53 million deaths. According to the CDC, more than 96.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed and about 76.8 million administered.

📘 What we read: Drugstore giants CVS and Walgreens, as well as big box stores like Walmart and Kroger, received most of the initial allocation of COVID-19 vaccines sent to retail pharmacies. Community pharmacies want their share. Read the full story.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Please keep updating this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter to get updates for your inbox and join our Facebook group.

In the midst of chaotic vaccines rollout, states are working to get shots in the arms

States and counties are getting better and better at what it takes to get the COVID-19 vaccine up their arms, but the distribution still varies due to the country’s broken and underfunded healthcare system. This has resulted in huge disparities in government vaccination rates.

“This is really a function of the total chaos of 50 public health systems in an uncoordinated, unresponsive, underreported system to the federal government,” said Barry Bloom, immunologist and former dean of Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “As crazy as it is, this is the American way.”

According to experts, it is remarkable how many are finding ways to get it working. A look at the vaccine intake map reveals a wide range in the United States. As of Monday, Alaska led with 23% of the population vaccinated with at least one dose, followed by New Mexico with 22%. At the lower end were Georgia and Utah with 12% and Alabama, Tennessee and Texas with 13%.

– Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub

Ivory Coast is the first country to receive a COVAX vaccine on the initiative of the United Nations

Healthcare workers in Ivory Coast, Africa were the first to receive a vaccine shipment from the United Nations-supported COVAX initiative. The program aims to ensure vaccinations against COVID-19 for the most vulnerable people in the world, but has been hampered by limited global supply and logistical issues.

Colombia also received a shipment on Monday, making it the first country in America to receive a vaccine shipment. 117,000 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine arrived in the capital, Bogota, a few days after the year-long anniversary of the first coronavirus case discovered in the region.

COVAX plans to initially dispense more than 330 million vaccine doses in the first half of 2021, an average of 3.3% of the total population of the 145 participating countries. Their full goal is to distribute 2 billion doses of vaccine by 2022 so that countries can vaccinate 20% of their populations.

Twitter is working to stop misinformation and flag up COVID vaccine falsehoods

Twitter is stepping up its efforts to highlight misinformation on the platform, a long-standing social media problem that has been given a new urgency in last year’s elections and the pandemic.

“Starting today, we will be tagging tweets that may contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to our continued efforts to get the most harmful COVID-19 misleading information removed from service,” Twitter said in a blog post on Monday .

Since the introduction of the COVID-19 guidelines last spring and the announcement to remove harmful, misleading vaccine information in December, Twitter has removed more than 8,400 tweets and “challenged” 11.5 million accounts worldwide.

First, labels are applied to Tweets by the Twitter team when the content is found to be in violation of company policies. After a while, these ratings will be used to inform Twitter’s automated tools that can be used to flag similar content on the social media platform.

– Morgan Hines

Contributor: The Associated Press

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