Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,162nd day of the pandemic as well as the 18th anniversary of the day on which the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990. As a result, the date of May 17 was chosen as the International Day Against Homophobia, now referred to as the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia.
OP-ED ON WEDNESDAY
We’ve had automobile shortages, white goods shortages, iPhone shortages, and many other kinds of shortages in the course of the three plus years of the coronavirus pandemic and now we have an even more worrisome shortage: a shortage of critical drugs.
While the pandemic as a public health emergency is officially over (while the pandemic itself continues), the drug shortage presents a public health emergency of its own.
The bankruptcy and sudden shutdown of generic drugmaker Akorn in February 2022 took the medical world by surprise. The pharmaceutical house made over 100 medications. It was the only company to make dimercaprol, an antidote to lead poisoning and it produced cylinders of albuterol that were used by children’s hospitals to ease breathing difficulties. According to its website, which is still on line, the company offered products in the following categories: inhalations, injectables, nasal, opthalmics, oral liquids, oral solids, otics, topicals, and unit-dose cups.
The life-threatening shortages include a number of chemotherapy agents to treat lung, breast, bladder, and ovarian cancers, doctors say.
In addition, im short supply are also the sterile fluid needed to stop the heart for bypass surgery, some antibiotics, and children’s Tylenol.
In addition, the United States is far from alone in experiencing shortages of essential drugs. In the United Kingdom, a shortage of remifentanil is forcing anesthesiologists to relearn the use of drugs and techniques they abandoned a decade or more ago.
One problem generic drugmakers face is falling prices.
At a Congressional hearing on the shortages on Thursday, Anthony Sardella, a business research advisor at Washington University in St. Louis, said that generic drug prices had fallen by some 50% since 2016, and added a sobering thought to the cost of lower prices.
“[T]here is a high cost to low prices,” he said, adding that low prices may lead to cost cutting that could result in quality problems down the road.
In other news we cover today, a pediatrician in Connecticut lost his license.
The Senate investigation into the origins of SARS-Cov-2 has turned up additional – albeit circumstantial – evidence that supports the theory that the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan but it failed to find any “smoking gun” evidence to support that theory as opposed to the virus having emerged naturally in the wild, according to a new report released on Wednesday. The report echoes what top U.S. intelligence officials told Congress earlier this year, namely that there continue to be conflicting views about the true origins of the virus and the pandemic.
In Connecticut, Kenneth Inchalik a pediatrician who asked his nurse to give him a fake coronavirus vaccine and certificate in 2021, was ordered by the state Medical Examining Board to surrender his license to practice medicine in order to avoid disciplinary action.
Japanese officials reported that the number of visitors to the country rose to two million in April. The increase followed the end of restrictions on travel from China, curbs put into place in the early days of the pandemic. The two-million figure is an all-time pandemic high.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
A trial of an mRNA pancreatic cancer vaccine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York is showing promise.
The vaccine succeeded in staving off the return of one of the deadliest forms of cancer. It provoked an immune response in half of the pancreatic cancer patients treated during a recent clinical trial, and patients showed no recurrence of their cancer during the course of the years-long study.
Finally, the CDC is warning of a rebound of monkeypox, also known as mpox, this summer after a sudden cluster of new cases of the virus. Health officials are calling for more people to be vaccinated against the virus.
Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, May 17.
As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 688.5 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day, and over 6.87 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 660.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of less than 0.1 million from the previous day.
The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.
Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday at press time is 20,754,297, an increase of 64. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,715,695, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,602, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past eight months.
The United States reported 72,136 new cases in the period May 4 through May 10, a figure that is down 26% over the same period one week earlier, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll for the same period is 840 , a figure that is down 20%. The average daily number of hospital admissions from Covid was 4,073 on May 15, a figure that is down 5% over the preceding 14 days. Finally, the test positivity rate is 5.2%, up 5% over the 14 days preceding May 11.
Starting on March 25, 2023, the Morning News Brief began to update case data as well as death tolls on a weekly basis. In addition, starting on May 15, the Morning News Brief has pressed pause on certain data sets as we assess the update of changes in reporting by U.S. health authorities at the CDC.
Since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 106.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.16 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 45 million, and a reported death toll of 531,794.
The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States. Rosstat last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.
Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with over 40 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.4 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 702,421, has recorded over 37.5 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.
The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with 33.8 million cases, South Korea, with over 31.4 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.8 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with just under 24.6 million, and Russia, with 22.9 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 270.1 million people in the United States – or 81.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.5%, or 230.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 676.7 million. Breaking this down further, 92.23% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79.1% of the same group – or 204.3 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 20.5% of the same population, or just under 53 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 23.9 million people over the age of 65, or 43.3% of that population have also received the bivalent booster.
Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.
Some 70% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Wednesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 13.38 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 38,858 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 29.9% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.
In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.
Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)