‘Full blown third wave’ surges in Africa; same mRNA tech used in vaccines may help treat cancer: Latest COVID-19 updates

With about 45% of the U.S. population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and cases declining in a majority of states, Americans across the country gathered with family and friends at parades, picnics and barbecues over the weekend to mark the Juneteenth federal holiday.

But across the globe, it’s not such a rosy picture. Nearly 85% of all COVID-19 vaccine doses globally have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Less than 1% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, and the continent is seeing a surge of cases, according to the WHO. Twenty-two African countries saw cases rise by over 20% last week, and several nations reported their highest number of new weekly cases since the pandemic began.

“Africa is in the midst of a full blown third wave. The sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement. “We’ve seen in India and elsewhere just how quickly COVID-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems. So public health measures must be scaled up fast to find, test, isolate and care for patients and to quickly trace their contacts.”

The highly-contagious Delta variant has been reported in 14 African countries. President Joe Biden and the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday warned the variant could pose a new public health threat in the U.S.

Also in the news:

►A member of Uganda’s Olympic team was barred from entering Japan after testing positive for COVID-19. It’s the first infection reported among the arriving athletes for the Tokyo Games, which start in five weeks.

►On Sunday, the U.S. sent Taiwan 2.5 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which triples an earlier pledge.

►Milkha Singh, one of India’s first sport superstars and ace sprinter who overcame a childhood tragedy to become the country’s most celebrated athlete, died late Friday of complications from COVID-19. He was 91.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 601,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 178 million cases and more than 3.86 million deaths. More than 149 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – nearly 45% of the population, according to the CDC.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Same mRNA tech used in COVID-19 vaccines may help treat cancer

Fighting COVID-19 proved a huge boon to the cancer research field: It’s made mRNA almost a household term, it’s proven the technology can work, and it’s shown that mRNA can be made very quickly and at a tremendously large scale.

Companies like Moderna and Pfizer’s partner BioNTech are using mRNA to spur cancer patients’ bodies to make vaccines that will – hopefully – prevent recurrences and treatments designed to fight off advanced tumors.

If they prove effective, which won’t be known for at least another year or two, they could be added to the arsenal of immune therapies designed to get the body to fight off its own tumors.

“We feel pretty good about enrolling patients on these trials and are hopeful that ultimately they can demonstrate improved outcomes,” said Dr. Ryan Sullivan, a melanoma expert at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Read more.

— Karen Weintraub

Protesters decry Brazil policies as country’s death toll tops 500K

Anti-government protesters took to the streets in cities across Brazil Saturday as the nation’s confirmed death toll from COVID-19 soared past half a million. It’s a tragedy many critics blame on President Jair Bolsonaro’s attempt to minimize the disease.

Thousands gathered in Rio de Janeiro, waving flags reading “Get out Bolsonaro.” Other marchers hoisted posters reading: “500 thousand deaths. It’s his fault.” Similar marches took place in at least 22 of Brazil’s 26 states.

Critics Bolsonaro’s message that lockdown measures have hurt businesses, as well as his promotion of disproven treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, have contributed to the soaring death toll and a sluggish vaccine campaign that has fully inoculated less than 12% of the population. The country of some 213 million people is registering nearly 100,000 new infections and 2,000 deaths a day.

Women simultaneously hold up placards with a message that reads in Portuguese; "500K deaths! His fault!" during a demonstration against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and economic policies protesters say harm the interests of the poor and working class, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, June 19, 2021.

Women simultaneously hold up placards with a message that reads in Portuguese; “500K deaths! His fault!” during a demonstration against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and economic policies protesters say harm the interests of the poor and working class, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, June 19, 2021.

Mass public viewings of Olympics canceled at 6 sites to be used for vaccinations

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says plans to hold mass public viewings of the Olympics at six sites have been canceled, as worries grow about the coronavirus pandemic amid one of the slowest vaccine rollouts in the developed world.

“These are necessary measures to make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics a success,” Koike told reporters after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The sites had included Inokashira and Yoyogi parks as well as a university in Tokyo to watch livestreaming of the games, which open July 23. Koike said the sites will instead be offered as vaccination sites.

CDC director: Delta variant likely to become dominant in US

The coronavirus pandemic continues to wane in many parts of the U.S., but the spread of the highly-contagious Delta variant among the unvaccinated could pose a new public health threat, warned President Joe Biden and the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

During a coronavirus update with the press, Biden described the Delta variant as being “more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier and particularly dangerous for young people.” While Biden took a moment to acknowledge the “bright summer” that lies ahead for those who are vaccinated, he said there’s cause for concern for people living in “lower vaccination rate states.”

“People getting seriously ill and being hospitalized due to COVID-19 are those who have not been fully vaccinated,” Biden said. “The new variant will leave unvaccinated people even more vulnerable than they were a month ago.”

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky shared Biden’s concern during an appearance on Good Morning America on Friday. Walensky said the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant will likely help make it the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S in the near future.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID third wave surges in Africa, where 1% are vaccinated: Updates

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