COVID-19 Around the world weekly highlights: Israel leading the vaccination race, new virus variants...

  • Univadis Medical News
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Due to the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Medscape would like to share with you the most impactful and clinically relevant articles across our network from the past week.

This is a snapshot of emerging best-practices during a rapidly evolving pandemic. Any and all information currently available related to COVID-19 is subject to change as more details become available. Some of the information below may also be contradicted by local or global health authorities.



The United States has reported more than 100,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations for 40 days and continues to hit records with deaths rapidly heading toward 400,000. To try to counter the surge and speed vaccinations, the government is urging states to give access to anyone 65 years or older, and younger adults with comorbidities. But with distribution and access still unreliable, some physicians in small practice report they are only now getting vaccines for themselves, let alone their patients. 


In Brazil, the transmission rate rose to 1.21, according to data gathered by the Imperial College (United Kingdom) and released on the 12th of January. There are more than 203,000 deaths by COVID-19 and 8.1 million cases.


Post-Christmas pressure on UK hospitals continued after London declared a major incident and another hospital had to ration oxygen. COVID-19 deaths within 28 days of a positive test passed the 80,000 milestone at the weekend. Seven mass vaccination centers opened this week working alongside primary care and hospital vaccination services. As of Tuesday, 2.4 million first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs had been delivered.

With a third wave after Christmas holidays this past weekend Spain reached a new peak of infections, exceeding the 2 million cases. On Wednesday January 13, the first 37,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine were received, adding to the 350.000 weekly from Pfizer/BioNTech. Spain has already administered 488,122 doses from the 743,925 received, a 65%.


The report issued by the Italian Ministry of Health shows that, after Christmas holidays, the Rt index is higher than 1 in all regions. In Lombardy and Sicily, the transmission rate is around 1.25: if the rate is confirmed, the two regions will become “red zones” (the highest level of lockdown) starting from Monday January 18th. 

On January 10th, Italy counted 23,427 COVID-19 hospitalized patients, 2,615 in ICU. The number of diagnosed patients isolated at home is also rising (579,932, according to the Ministry of Health). One in two regions already has more than 30% of the ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

The immunization campaign started on January 4th. Italy has the highest number of vaccinated people in the EU (871,152 on January 13). The vaccination plan involves, in the first phase, health professionals and patients in retirement homes.


After difficulty launching the vaccination campaigns in France, as of the 13th of January, 247,167 people have now been vaccinated with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine among the priority groups. At the same time, 50,000 doses of Moderna vaccine were received this week and have begun to be distributed in the areas most affected by the epidemic.


While the number of daily deaths linked to COVID-19 (232 on January 13 at 2pm) remains far below that observed in neighboring countries, concern is growing due to an increase in the number of positive cases (23,852 on January 13) and the spread of the English variant on French territory, which is still under-estimated. 

Germany is approaching 700,000 people with at least 1 vaccine dose, averaging over 50,000 doses per day. But there are still around 20,000 new daily cases, and over 1,000 deaths. A German research team has shown that hypertension is an independent risk factor for severe COVID-19, but that patients with treated hypertension (including ACE inhibitors) are not at increased risk.


Belgium started its large-scale vaccination campaign on January 5th after a week of several successful pilot tests in nursing homes. So far, only the vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech has been administered, but the first doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Belgium this Monday. So far, 8000 people got a vaccine which represents 0.07% of the population. The latest results of the Great Corona Study show that 80% of the general public is prepared to get a jab to protect themselves against coronavirus.


More than 70,000 people have already been vaccinated in mainland Portugal, according to the government. As for this week, 39,286 doses were reserved for hospice patients, long-term care facility users, and 8,384 for professionals from the National Health Service (SNS).


 Israel has demonstrated the world’s fastest per capita COVID-19 vaccination. The Health Ministry reported that nearly 20% of the population has received the first dose, including more than 72% of individuals aged more than 60 years. The country began administering booster doses on January 10. The UAE was in second place, having vaccinated 10% of its population.


Japan has identified a new SARS-CoV-2 variant in 4 travelers who arrived from Brazil’s Amazonas state. The variant which has 12 mutations is distinct from the UK and South African variants. There is no clear evidence at the moment which shows that the new variant could be more infectious.


In Africa, several countries have seen a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, while the South African variant is a cause for concern. How is Rwanda managing the COVID-19 epidemic?


- Univadis, Medscape, & Mediquality editorial teams


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