Agency: Australia has overcome a sluggish start to its Covid vaccination campaign, and 72 percent of its population have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 66 percent in the U.S., according to government data collated by the Our World in Data project.
The successful shift from a zero-Covid strategy to one prioritizing vaccines has allowed children to return to school in Sydney and state governments to relax the country’s borders.
And in the Pacific, some of the world’s most isolated and smallest nations have also achieved some of the highest rates of vaccination against Covid.
Palau, an archipelago of hundreds of islands east of the Philippines, has now vaccinated 92 percent of its population of around 17,600 people, according to government data. New Zealand has provided doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccines to the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
Agency: The former top U.S. military official died of complications of Covid-19 at 84, his family said.
Colin Powell served as the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. At the end of the Cold War, he helped to negotiate arms treaties and an era of cooperation with the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Powell was the architect of the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and when he retired in 1993, he was the most popular public figure in America. But his return to service in 2001 as secretary of state was difficult. He clashed with conservatives on President George W. Bush’s foreign policy team, and his address to the U.N. in 2003 helped pave the way for the U.S. to go to war in Iraq, a speech he later said he regretted.
Powell had been vaccinated and received treatment for multiple myeloma, which compromised his immune system, a spokeswoman said. He had been due to receive a booster shot last week but could not because he had fallen ill.
Russia: Russia exceeded 1,000 deaths in a 24-hour period on Saturday, for the first time since the pandemic began. Russia broke another record yesterday with more than 34,000 new infections registered in the previous 24 hours.
For comparison, Britain, with a little less than half the population, had 57 deaths in a recent 24-hour period.
Apathy and mistrust for the Kremlin has left only 42 million of Russia’s 146 million inhabitants fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said last week, a rate well below other advanced countries. Still, the government has imposed few restrictions.
“Approximately 40 percent of Russians do not trust the government, and those people are among the most active who refuse the vaccines,” said the director of an independent polling operation. In August, one of its polls showed that 52 percent of Russians said they were uninterested in getting the vaccine.
The government’s initial nonchalance engendered a casual view of the virus in many Russians. Some say they trust other vaccines more than Russia’s own Sputnik V. The Kremlin has started to worry: President Vladimir Putin — who announced only in June that he had been vaccinated — asked parliamentarians to promote vaccination last week.
Agency: Merck, which recently announced that its antiviral medication had proved effective against the coronavirus, said it would allow its pills to be sold by generic manufacturers in India at a significantly reduced price in more than 100 poorer countries.
The move by the drug maker was largely celebrated by advocates who see it as a step closer to equity while the vast majority of vaccinations have gone to wealthy nations. If all goes according to plan, the generic version of the treatment could help significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths in regions like sub-Saharan Africa, where vaccination rates are as low as 3 percent.
But obstacles still remain. It is unclear how much of the generic product will be available next year, and distribution agreements are not set for many undervaccinated nations, such as Ukraine, that have been hit hard by Covid-19. Additionally, testing, which is limited in some poorer regions, is necessary for reliable and efficient treatment.
Data: The poorest nations may be able to buy molnupiravir, Merck’s antiviral medication, for well under $20 per five-day course, compared to $712 for the U.S., which has agreed to purchase 20 percent of what the drug maker says it can produce this year.
Agency: President Biden warned that the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t yet over, but said that the U.S. “was headed in the right direction.” He called on states and private businesses to support vaccine mandates in an effort to avoid another surge in cases.
“We have critical work to do and we can’t let up now,” Biden said in a speech at the White House on Thursday. “I’m calling on more business to step up. I’m calling on more parents to get their children vaccinated when they are eligible.”
He projected optimism amid a drop in new cases compared to a devastating summer wave.
The numbers: The U.S. is now recording roughly 90,000 new infections a day, down more than 40 percent since August. Hospitalizations and deaths are also falling. Nearly 70 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, and many children under 12 are likely to be eligible for their shots in a matter of weeks.
Related: An F.D.A. advisory committee recommended Moderna booster shots for high-risk groups. The F.D.A. had authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Agency: Chinese authorities are rolling out third shots of coronavirus vaccines for high-risk groups in at least 10 regions, according to state media, as the country races to meet its goal of fully vaccinating 80 percent of its population by the end of the year.
After outbreaks of the Delta variant, Wang Huaqing, China’s top immunization official, recommended last month that additional shots be administered to people in frontline professions, including medical workers; people with weaker immune systems; those age 60 or older; and travelers to high-risk countries.
A W.H.O. panel of experts on Monday recommended that an additional dose be administered to people over 60 who were inoculated with vaccines made by the Chinese companies Sinopharm and Sinovac.
Despite its high vaccination rate, China has shown no signs of abandoning its “zero Covid” strategy, and has continued to use a mix of strict border controls, mass testing and snap lockdowns.
Details: Last month, China announced that it had fully inoculated 1 billion people, or about 71 percent of its population of 1.4 billion. The country has administered 2.21 billion doses.
What’s next: Chinese health officials have said that further studies are still needed to determine whether the rest of the population would benefit from boosters.
London: Britain’s initial response to Covid-19 “ranks as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced,” a parliamentary inquiry published Tuesday found, blaming the British government for “many thousands of deaths which could have been avoided.”
In effect, the report indicated, the government pursued an ill-conceived strategy of herd immunity when it failed to carry out widespread testing and delayed imposing lockdowns or border rules in the early months of the pandemic.
Officials’ assumption that British people would not accept lockdowns or contact tracing was “one of the critical things that was completely wrong,” said Dominic Cummings, a former chief adviser. It was only in late March 2020, with infections doubling every three days and the health system at risk of being overwhelmed, that Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown.
Data: Britain has experienced one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks among wealthy nations, with 162,000 deaths officially attributed to the disease. The report did praise the government’s vaccine strategy; 78.6 percent of people aged 12 and over have now received two doses.
Bigger picture: The findings do not require the government to act, but could help shape the public debate ahead of a full public inquiry into the pandemic response promised by Johnson in 2022.
The flu causes three million to five million cases of severe illness every year and up to 650,000 deaths, despite the fact that we have had vaccines to fight it for eight decades.
“The bottom line is that the flu vaccines we have aren’t good enough,” said Nicholas Heaton, a virologist at Duke University School of Medicine.
For about three decades, researchers have been working on flu vaccines based on mRNA, which powers the Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines. They are made quickly from scratch instead of being grown for months in chicken eggs, which could make them better matched to each season’s flu strains. They may also provoke a stronger immune response.
When Moderna formed in 2010, influenza was one of its first targets. It ran an encouraging clinical trial of an mRNA flu vaccine in 2016, and in early 2020 it was preparing for a new trial — when Covid emerged.
Moderna had to shelve the trial, but it and other companies are still working on the technology. Approval could be a few years off, and efficacy may not be as high against the shape-shifting flu as it has been for the coronavirus, but researchers are hopeful it will improve on “not good enough.”
Sydney: Sydney stepped out of lockdown Monday after more than 100 days: “Freedom Day,” with rules.
Across the state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, as many as 10 vaccinated people could gather at home, with the number rising to 100 people for weddings and 500 for outdoor events. Bars and restaurants also opened, with masks required indoors when people were not eating and drinking. Some salons opened at 12:01 a.m.
With more than 70 percent of the state’s adult population fully vaccinated, the first few sips of normalcy were more than enough to celebrate.
“People can call it whatever day they want to call it,” said Dominic Perrottet, the state premier, who accidentally sprayed himself with beer as he tapped a keg to commemorate the occasion. “I just think it’s a great day for the people of our state based on the efforts and sacrifices that everyone has made.”
Nationwide, progress remains uneven. Melbourne is still locked down, with cases hovering around 1,500 a day. In Western Australia, case counts are low but only about 50 percent of people are fully vaccinated.
Details: When its outbreak started in June, Australia lacked both urgency and vaccines. New cases exploded to 1,500 a day in New South Wales. Now, after months of public compliance, case numbers there have fallen to about 500 daily. Many epidemiologists believe the country is on track to fully vaccinate 90 percent of its population, if not more.
Agency: Vaccines were supposed to be the city-state’s ticket back to normalcy. But even with an 83 percent vaccination rate, Singapore is not opening up.
Instead, the government reinstated restrictions and urged people to work from home. For many residents, there was a feeling of whiplash and nagging questions about what it would take to reopen if vaccines were not enough.
But even though nearly all infections, 98.4 percent, present mild or no symptoms, the country is unaccustomed to large outbreaks. It’s a sobering case study for nations like New Zealand and Australia that are trying to transition from a zero-Covid strategy.
Background: Singapore’s initial handling of the coronavirus was widely considered a success. It closed its borders, tested and traced aggressively and was one of the first countries in Asia to order vaccines.
What’s next: One vision of how the pandemic might play out in Singapore includes face masks, limited travel and social distancing, perhaps until 2024.
Quotable: “In a way, we are a victim of our own success, because we’ve achieved as close to zero Covid as we can get and a very, very low death rate,” said an infectious disease specialist. “So we want to keep the position at the top of the class, and it’s very hard to do.”