COVID-19 live updates: Moderna finds stainless steel contaminants in suspended doses

(NEW YORK) — The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

More than 642,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.5 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 61.5% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing Thursday. All times Eastern:

Sep 02, 9:37 am
Virginia’s Liberty University reports 430 COVID-19 cases among students

Liberty University switched all residential classes to be online and suspended indoor gatherings as the campus — which does not require vaccinations for students or staff — grapples with a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

The college reported 430 active cases of students with COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to ABC News’ local affiliate WSET-TV. This is more than the total number of cases at four neighboring Virginia colleges combined. The University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech and James Madison University have reported a total of 125 students with active cases total.

The latter four universities require students to get the COVID-19 vaccine and wear masks, while Liberty does not require either.

Sep 02, 7:34 am
Africa set to miss COVID-19 vaccination goal, WHO warns

The World Health Organization warned Thursday that Africa, the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent, is set to miss the global goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable 10% of every country’s population against COVID-19 by the end of September.

Forty-two of Africa’s 54 nations — nearly 80% — will fall short of that target, set in May by the World Health Assembly, if the current pace of vaccine deliveries and vaccinations holds, according to the WHO.

“With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement Thursday. “Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back and we urgently need more vaccines, but as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people that still face a grave threat from COVID-19.”

With more COVID-19 vaccines expected to be delivered across Africa from the global vaccine-sharing initiative COVAX as well as the African Union, the WHO said there could be enough doses to meet the 10% target. Nine African countries have already reached the goal and, at the current pace, three more are set to do so. Two more could meet it if they speed up vaccinations, according to the WHO.

But while many African nations have sped up vaccinations as shipments increased, the WHO said that 26 countries have used less than half of their doses.

So far, some 39 million people — just 3% of Africa’s population — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In comparison, 57% of people are fully vaccinated in the European Union and 52% in the United States, according to the WHO.

“The inequity is deeply disturbing,” Moeti said. “Just 2% of the over five billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa. Yet recent rises in vaccine shipments and commitments shows that a fairer, more just global distribution of vaccines looks possible.”

Sep 02, 6:33 am
WHO monitoring new ‘variant of interest’: Mu

The World Health Organization has added another version of the novel coronavirus to its list of “variants of interest” amid concerns it may mutate to the point of evading the immunity people have developed from vaccination or past infection.

The so-called mu variant, also known as B.1.621, was added to the list on Monday after it was detected in 39 countries around the world.

“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the WHO said in its COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update published Tuesday. “Preliminary data presented to the Virus Evolution Working Group show a reduction in neutralization capacity of convalescent and vaccinee sera similar to that seen for the Beta variant, but this needs to be confirmed by further studies.”

Sep 02, 6:05 am
Moderna to recall 1.63 million doses in Japan after discovery of stainless steel contaminants

American drugmaker Moderna and its Japanese distribution partner Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. announced Wednesday that they are planning to recall three suspended lots of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Japan after an investigation discovered stainless steel contaminants.

Last week, the Japanese government suspended use of the batches, containing about 1.63 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, following reports of foreign substances in some unused vials at multiple inoculation sites. Moderna told ABC News that one of the three lots received “several complaints of particulate matter” in its vials, while the two other adjacent lots were put on hold out of “an abundance of caution” and for continued assurance of quality.

An analysis confirmed the contaminants to be high-grade stainless steel, commonly used in manufacturing and food processing. The most probable cause of contamination was related to friction between two pieces of metal installed in the stoppering module of the production line due to an incorrect set-up. The contamination only impacted the lots that were included in the suspension, according to a joint press release from Moderna and Takeda.

The investigation was conducted by Moderna in partnership with Takeda and ROVI, the Spanish manufacturer that operates the production plant where the contamination occurred.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Wealth said in a statement Wednesday that, based on the companies’ investigation, it is unlikely the stainless steel particles pose any additional health risk.

The contamination raised further concern after two men, aged 30 and 38, died in Japan within days of receiving their second doses of the Moderna vaccine from one of the suspended lots. The cause of death in both cases remains under investigation.

Moderna and Takeda said there is currently no evidence that the fatalities were caused by the vaccine.

“The relationship is currently considered to be coincidental,” the companies said in a joint statement Wednesday.

Sep 02, 3:08 am
WHO opens global hub to ward off next pandemic

The World Health Organization opened a center in Berlin on Wednesday that will gather, assess and share information internationally to help prepare for the next global health crisis.

The so-called “WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence” is receiving an initial investment of $100 million from Germany and will be led by Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control. The facility “will harness broad and diverse partnerships across many professional disciplines, and the latest technology, to link the data, tools and communities of practice so that actionable data and intelligence are shared for the common good,” according to a press release from the WHO.

“The world needs to be able to detect new events with pandemic potential and to monitor disease control measures on a real-time basis to create effective pandemic and epidemic risk management,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said in a statement Wednesday. “This Hub will be key to that effort, leveraging innovations in data science for public health surveillance and response, and creating systems whereby we can share and expand expertise in this area globally.”

“All the work that goes into pandemic and epidemic preparedness must occur before an outbreak starts,” Tedros added. “Data linkage and analysis, and the ability to better detect and assess risks of disease events in their earliest stages before they amplify and cause death and societal disruption, is what the WHO Hub will focus on.”

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic was the impetus for the hub’s creation.

“Despite decades of investment, COVID-19 has revealed the great gaps that exist in the world’s ability to forecast, detect, assess and respond to outbreaks that threaten people worldwide,” Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergency Program, said in a statement Wednesday. “The WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence is designed to develop the data access, analytic tools and communities of practice to fill these very gaps, promote collaboration and sharing, and protect the world from such crises in the future.”

Sep 01, 6:54 pm
US hospital admissions could surge to 22,000 a day by late September: CDC

On average, approximately 12,200 Americans are being admitted to the hospital each day with COVID-19. The forecast models used by the CDC suggest that by Sept. 27, that number could surge to as high as 22,400 a day.

The lower end of the forecast puts the daily hospital admissions at around 6,400.

There are signs the rate of hospital admission nationwide may be slowing, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting hospital admissions will likely “remain stable or have an uncertain trend over the next 4 weeks.”

Kentucky currently tops the list of states expected to see the most hospital admissions, per capita, in the next two weeks, followed by Florida and Georgia.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.