WHO team visits Wuhan virus lab at center of virus origins speculation; Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine appears safe, effective; US boosts vaccine allotments, financing for virus costs
World Health Organization investigators have visited a research center in the central Chinese city of Wuhan that has been the subject of speculation about the origins of the coronavirus.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has extensive virus samples, leading to unproven allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community, Emily Wang Fujiyama reports from Wuhan.
China has strongly denied that possibility and has promoted also unproven theories that the virus may have originated elsewhere. The WHO team that includes experts from 10 nations has already visited hospitals, research institutes and a traditional wet food market tied to the original outbreak.
Russia Vaccine: Russian scientists say the Sputnik V vaccine appears safe and effective against COVID-19. That's according to early results of an advanced study published in The Lancet. The news is a boost for the shot that is increasingly being purchased by countries around the world who are desperate to stop the devastation caused by the pandemic. Researchers say their study involved about 20,000 people and showed the vaccine was about 91% effective.
Scientists not linked to the research acknowledged that the quick rollout of the Russian vaccine was criticized for appearing to cut corners. But they said it was now clear that Sputnik V is another effective shot to use in fighting the pandemic, Maria Cheng and Dara Litvinova report.
- Mexico approved Sputnik V following the publication of early results, making it the third vaccine to receive emergency approval in Mexico. The regulating agency approved the Pfizer vaccine in December and AstraZeneca’s in January.
U.S. Vaccines: The Biden administration announced it is moving to expand access to vaccines, freeing up more doses for states and beginning to distribute them to retail pharmacies next week. The push comes amid new urgency to speed vaccinations to prevent the spread of potentially more serious variants of the virus that has killed more than 445,000 Americans, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Zeke Miller report. Starting next week, 1 million doses will be distributed to 6,500 pharmacies across the country, the White House said.
U.S. Schools: Pressure is building on school systems around the U.S. to reopen classrooms to students who have been learning online for nearly a year. The debate is pitting politicians against teachers who have yet to be vaccinated. In Chicago, there’s so much rancor that teachers are on the brink of striking. In California, a frustrated Gov. Gavin Newsom implored schools to find a way to reopen. In Cincinnati, some students have returned to their classrooms after a judge threw out a teachers union lawsuit over safety concerns, Holly Ramer and Michael Kunzelman report.
Malawi Surge: The southern African country faces a virus resurgence that is overwhelming: a presidential residence and a national stadium have been turned into field hospitals to save lives. President Lazarus Chakwera, just six months in office, lost two Cabinet ministers to COVID-19 in January amid a surge that led him to declare a state of national disaster. Chakwera declared three days of national mourning over the deaths of the ministers and his government ordered a raft of new measures to stem the spread of the virus in a country with a poor health system, Gregory Gondwe reports.
Captain Tom: The World War II veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for British health care workers has died after testing positive for COVID-19. Capt. Tom Moore was 100. Captain Tom, as he became known as he cheered the country in a dark time, set out to raise 1,000 pounds for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard. But his quest went viral and donations poured in from as far away as the United States and Japan, raising 33 million pounds ($40 million). Danica Kirka has his moving story.