Hundreds of millions of Pakistanis were left without power late Saturday owing to a technical fault in the country's power distribution system, said government officials.
The blackout began at about 11:50 p.m. local time on Saturday when power failures were reported in all major cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Rawalpindi.
According to the National Transmission and Despatch Company, the system has tripped, and it may take a while to restore power.
The blackout is caused after the frequency in the national power distribution system suddenly fell from 50 to zero, Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan said in a tweet, adding that "we are trying to ascertain what caused the drop in frequency."
He said that attempts are being made to fire up the Tarbela power station which will lead to a sequential restoration of power supply.
A new study revealed that the Covid-19 patients who recovered from the disease may have strong immunity from the coronavirus eight months after infection.
The study shows immune cells primed to fight the coronavirus should persist for a long time after someone is vaccinated or recovers from infection, said a report of MIT Technology Review.
The result is an encouraging sign that the authors interpret to mean immunity to the virus probably lasts for many years, and it should alleviate fears that the covid-19 vaccine would require repeated booster shots to protect against the disease and finally get the pandemic under control.
“There was a lot of concern originally that this virus might not induce much memory,” says Shane Crotty, a researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California and a coauthor of the new paper. “Instead, the immune memory looks quite good.”
The study, published on January 6 in Science, contrasts with earlier findings that suggested covid-19 immunity could be short-lived, putting millions who’ve already recovered at risk of reinfection.
That predicament wouldn’t have been a total surprise, since infection by other coronaviruses generates antibodies that fade fairly quickly. But the new study suggests reinfection should only be a problem for a very small percentage of people who’ve developed immunity—whether through an initial infection or by vaccination.
Also Read: Global Covid cases inch closer to 89 million
In fact, the new study does show that a small number of recovered people do not have long-lasting immunity. But vaccination ought to offset that problem by ensuring herd immunity in the larger population.
The new paper studied blood samples from 185 men and women who had recovered from covid-19—most from a mild infection, although 7% were hospitalized. Each person provided at least one blood sample between six days and eight months after their initial symptoms, and 43 of the samples were taken after six months. The team that ran the investigation measured the levels of several immunological agents that work together to prevent reinfection: antibodies (which tag a pathogen for destruction by the immune system or neutralize its activity), B cells (which make antibodies), and T cells (which kill infected cells).
The researchers found that antibodies in the body declined moderately after eight months, although levels varied wildly between individuals. But T-cell numbers declined only modestly, and B-cell numbers held steady and sometimes inexplicably grew. That means that despite decreases in free-flowing antibodies, the components that can restart antibody production and coordinate an attack against the coronavirus stick around at pretty high levels. Crotty adds that the same mechanisms that lead to immune memory after infection also form the basis for immunity after vaccination, so the same trends ought to hold for vaccinated people as well.
And while immunity to other coronaviruses has been less than stellar, it’s worth looking at what happens in people who recovered from SARS, a close cousin of the virus that causes covid-19. A study published in August showed that T cells specific to SARS can remain in the blood for at least 17 years, bolstering hopes that covid-19 immunity could last for decades.
The new study isn’t perfect. It would have been better to collect multiple blood samples from every participant. “Immunity varies from person to person, and uncommon individuals with weak immune memory still may be susceptible to reinfection,” Crotty cautions. And we can’t make any firm conclusions about covid-19 immunity until years have passed—it’s simply too early. Nonetheless, this latest result is a good indication that if the vaccination rollout goes well (a big if), we might soon be able to put the pandemic behind us.
With COVID-19 surging and vaccinations off to a slow start, President-elect Joe Biden will rapidly release most available vaccine doses to protect more people, his office said Friday, a reversal of Trump administration policies.
“The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible," spokesman T.J. Ducklo said in a statement. Biden “supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.”
Biden’s plan is not about cutting two-dose vaccines in half, a strategy that top government scientists recommend against. Instead, it would accelerate shipment of first doses and use the levers of government power to provide required second doses in a timely manner.
The Trump administration has been holding back millions of doses of vaccine to guarantee that people can get a second shot, which provides maximum protection against COVID-19. It's seen as a prudent approach, since both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require a second shot after the first vaccination.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar raised questions about Biden's plan, telling a hospital forum on Friday that “we’re pushing the system as much as I as secretary believe is ethically and legally appropriate.”
But a recent scientific analysis in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that a “flexible” approach roughly analogous to what Biden is talking about could avert an additional 23% to 29% of COVID-19 cases when compared to the “fixed” strategy the Trump administration is following. That’s assuming a steady supply of vaccine.
Read Also: Global Covid cases inch closer to 89 million
After a glow of hope when the first vaccines were approved last month, the nation's inoculation campaign has gotten off to a slow start. Of 21.4 million doses distributed, about 5.9 million have been administered, or just under 28%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden has indicated his displeasure with the progress of vaccinations.
“I think the way it’s being done now has been very, very sad,” he said at his news conference Friday.
The Trump administration's “Operation Warp Speed” has delivered vaccines to the states, he said, “but did not get them from those vials into people’s arms,” he continued. “And so it is a gigantic logistical concern of how we do that.”
Biden says he intends to speed up vaccinations by having the federal government deliver more vaccines and take a stronger role ensuring that they are being administered.
The American Hospital Association estimates that the nation would need to vaccinate 1.8 million people a day, every day, from Jan. 1 to May 31, to reach the goal of having widespread immunity by the summer. That's also called “herd immunity” and would involve vaccinating at least 75% of the population.
Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration. He's previously said that he and Vice-President elect Kamala Harris have been talking with state and local leaders about meshing the efforts of governments at all levels. Among the specifics: opening up vaccination centers and sending mobile vaccine units to hard-to-reach communities.
The Biden transition office said its experts believe that pushing out available vaccine as fast as possible will not create problems for people needing their second dose. Biden will make broader use of a Cold War-era law to direct private industry to supply materials for vaccine production, should that become necessary, his office said. One-shot vaccines are moving through development.
Former Food and Drug Administration head Mark McClellan said he agrees with Biden's decision, but the increased supply of vaccines has to be coupled with steps to get shots actually administered.
“We're holding back more doses than we really need to,” McClellan said in an interview. But “this needs to be combined with steps to increase the administration of vaccines, or it won't make much difference.” McClellan, who served under former Republican President George W. Bush, now leads a health policy center at Duke University.
But Azar, President Donald Trump's health secretary, said if vaccine production doesn't increase Biden's approach could lead could lead to “fits and starts” in vaccination. “What we’ve set up is a system that manages the flow, to maximize the number of first doses, but knowing there will be a second dose available,” Azar said, defending the Trump administration's decision.
Biden announced his plan after eight Democratic governors wrote the Trump administration on Friday urging it to do as much.
“The federal government currently has upwards of 50% of currently produced vaccines held back,” the governors wrote. “While some of these life-saving vaccines are sitting in Pfizer freezers, our nation is losing 2,661 Americans each day, according to the latest seven-day average. The failure to distribute these doses to states who request them is unconscionable and unacceptable. We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately.”
The letter was signed by Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gavin Newsom of California, Laura Kelly of Kansas, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Tim Walz of Minnesota, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Tony Evers of Wisconsin.
With the winter wave of the pandemic pushing deaths to record levels, and hospitals overwhelmed in cities large and small, some have called on the government to authorize using just one dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That would indeed confer a boost of immunity.
However, government scientists including Dr. Anthony Fauci have said the vaccines should continue to be used as prescribed under their emergency approval by the FDA. The two-shot regimen provides around 95% protection.
More than 365,000 Americans have died as a result of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average positivity rate for the nation has continued to rise since Christmas, and stood at 13.6% on Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That's well above the 10% rate considered a marker of widespread contagion.
Biden spokesman Ducklo said the president-elect will share additional details next week.
Biden's plan to change the vaccine distribution plan was first reported by CNN.
The House has voted overwhelmingly to reject an objection to President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Arizona, joining the Senate in upholding the results of the election there.
The objection failed 303-121 on Wednesday night, with only Republicans voting in support.
Earlier Wednesday, supporters of President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol, forcing a lockdown of the lawmakers and staff inside. Trump has claimed widespread voter fraud to explain away his defeat to Biden, though election officials have said there wasn’t any.
Now that Arizona is out of the way, Congress will reconvene as the joint session and make its way through the rest of the states that have objections.
The European Union’s executive commission gave the green light Wednesday to Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, providing the 27-nation bloc with a second vaccine to use in the desperate battle to tame the virus rampaging across the continent.
The European Commission granted conditional marketing authorization for the vaccine. The decision came against a backdrop of high infection rates in many EU countries and strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region of some 450 million people.
“We are providing more COVID-19 vaccines for Europeans. With the Moderna vaccine, the second one now authorized in the EU, we will have a further 160 million doses. And more vaccines will come,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
The EMA recommended the conditional authorization following a meeting earlier Wednesday.
“This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency,” said EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke. “It is a testament to the efforts and commitment of all involved that we have this second positive vaccine recommendation just short of a year since the pandemic was declared by WHO.”
The EMA last month granted the same conditional approval to a coronavirus vaccine made by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Both vaccines require giving people two shots.
The EU has ordered 80 million doses of the Moderna vaccine with an option for a further 80 million. The bloc also has committed to buying 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said that the vaccine authorization “will ensure that 460 million doses will be rolled out with increasing speed in the EU, and more will come. Member States have to ensure that the pace of vaccinations follows suit.”
German Health Minister Jens Spahn — who has in the past been critical of the slow pace of the EMA — said shortly before the announcement of the EMA authorization that he expected the Moderna vaccine to begin rolling out to EU nations next week. Germany would get 2 million doses in the first quarter and 50 million in all of 2021, Spahn told reporters in Berlin.
“The problem is the shortage of production capacity with global demand,” he said.
Spahn said that if further vaccines beyond the BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna shots are approved in the EU, “we’ll be able to offer everyone in Germany a vaccine by the summer.”
He insisted that the strategy of bulk-buying for the entire bloc had been the right one as it had given manufacturers certainty to go ahead with production and ensured fair distribution among all the 27 EU countries.
Early results of large, still unfinished studies show both the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines appear safe and strongly protective, although Moderna’s is easier to handle since it doesn’t need to be stored at ultra-frozen temperatures.
The EU agency gave the green light to use the Moderna vaccine on people age 18 year and above. It said side effects “were usually mild or moderate and got better within a few days after vaccination.”
The most common side effects are “pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, chills, fever, swollen or tender lymph nodes under the arm, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting,” the EMA said.
Cook stressed that EU authorities “will closely monitor data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine to ensure ongoing protection of the EU public. Our work will always be guided by the scientific evidence and our commitment to safeguard the health of EU citizens.”
The United States, Canada and Israel have already authorized use of the Moderna vaccine. The U.S. gave it the green light for emergency use in people over 18 years on Dec. 18, followed by Canada five days later with an interim authorization also for people over 18. Israel authorized the vaccine on Monday.
Moderna said Monday that it is increasing its estimate for global vaccine production in 2021 from 500 to 600 million doses. The company said it is “continuing to invest and add staff to build up to potentially 1 billion doses for 2021.”
Both Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s shots are mRNA vaccines, made with a groundbreaking new technology. They don’t contain any coronavirus – meaning they cannot cause infection. Instead, they use a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spike protein on the surface of the virus, ready to attack if the real thing comes along.
The EU officially began giving out Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination shots on Dec. 27, but the speed of each nation’s inoculation program has varied widely. France vaccinated around 500 people in the first week, while Germany vaccinated 200,000. The Dutch were only beginning to give out vaccine shots Wednesday, the last EU nation to start doing so.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted that approval of the Moderna vaccine “is another important step in the fight against the pandemic. This means we have more vaccine available in the EU and can fight the pandemic faster.”