Australia's top medical officer urges nation to follow through on vaccinations; mRNA shots don't decrease sperm count: Live updates

·8 min read

Australia's top medical officer on Monday urged countrymen who have received an AstraZeneca COVID shot to "not delay" getting the second dose – even though the vaccine has been linked to more deaths than COVID in Australia this year.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, after a National Cabinet meeting, reiterated the benefits of vaccination and encouraged Australians to stay vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19. He told Australia's ABC network that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in combating COVID-19 "far outweighed" the risks of developing a very rare blood clotting syndrome.

Two women in Australia have died from the blood clots. The only COVID fatality this year was an 80-year-old traveler who died in April after being infected overseas and diagnosed in hotel quarantine. Last week authorities recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine be given only to people 60 or over; people 50-59 were encouraged to get the Pfizer vaccine instead.

Since the start of the pandemic, Australia, a country of 25 million people, has recorded just over 30,000 infections and 910 deaths.

Also in the news:

►The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, is hosting a free vaccine clinic Tuesday. Anyone who gets a first shot will get a free ticket to the Hall of Fame that can be used when they return for their second dose on July 13.

►Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Virginia has become the 16th state to vaccinate 70% of adults with at least one shot.

►Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Monday that New York had 10 new deaths. At the height of the outbreak, nearly 800 New Yorkers a day were dying.

►Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens who test negative for COVID-19 will be exempt from two weeks of quarantine when returning to the country as of July 5, officials said Monday.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 601,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 178.5 million cases and more than 3.86 million deaths. More than 149.6 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – nearly 45.1% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘 What we're reading: Companies such as Moderna and Pfizer's partner BioNTech, whose names are familiar from COVID-19 vaccines, are using mRNA to spur cancer patients' bodies to make vaccines that will – they hope – prevent recurrences and treatments designed to fight off advanced tumors. Read the full story.

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.

Study shows mRNA vaccines do not decrease sperm count

Seeking to dispel fears, researchers at the University of Miami conducted a study to assess men’s fertility after COVID-19 vaccination and found no negative effects on their sperm.

From Dec. 17, 2020, to Jan. 12, 2021, they recruited 45 healthy volunteers ages 18 to 50 who were scheduled to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to the study published in JAMA Network.

The participants were prescreened to ensure they had no previous or underlying fertility issues. Semen samples were taken before the first vaccine dose and approximately 70 days after the second, which is about how long sperm takes to regenerate.

Scientists analyzed semen volume, sperm concentration, sperm motility and total sperm count and found no significant decrease in any of these parameters compared with the samples taken before the COVID-19 shots.

“It was an unknown area that was making guys nervous to get the vaccine,” said study co-author Jesse Ory, urology fellow in infertility/andrology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Adrianna Rodriguez

US deaths dip below 300 per day as pandemic's grip eases

COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have dipped below 300 a day for the first time since the early days of the disaster in March 2020. The drive to put shots in arms also approached an encouraging milestone Monday: 150 million Americans fully vaccinated. The coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But CDC data suggests that more Americans now are dying every day from accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes or Alzheimer’s disease than from COVID-19.

Biden administration unveils details for sending 55M vaccines overseas

The Biden administration announced plans Monday to send 55 million COVID-19 vaccine doses overseas, part of its pledge to donate 80 million shots to other countries by the end of June. The U.S. will distribute about 41 million – about 75% – through the U.N.-backed global sharing COVAX initiative, which includes sending 14 million doses to Latin America and the Caribbean, about 16 million to Asia and about 10 million to Africa to be shared in coordination with the African Union, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.

The rest of the 55 million doses will be sent directly to specific countries struggling with a pandemic surge, including Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, other Caribbean community countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, West Bank and Gaza and Ukraine.

The U.S. has already begun shipping 25 million doses of the 80 million President Joe Biden vowed to send abroad by the end of the month. The president joined G-7 leaders last week to announce a pledge to provide more than 1 billion additional COVID-19 vaccines globally, 500 million of which will come from the U.S.

Courtney Subramanian

Blood shortage postpones surgeries at some New England hospitals

Some New England hospitals are rescheduling surgeries, citing a shortage of blood fueled by the pandemic. Periodic, localized blood shortages are not uncommon, but this shortage is “unprecedented in its scope,” said Dr. Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer for the American Association of Blood Banks. Officials point toward a number of factors including the typical summer drop in blood donations at a time when surgeries are increasing because of procedures that were postponed during the pandemic.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in about 30 or 40 years at least,” Dr. Vishesh Chhibber, director of transfusion medicine at UMass Memorial Health, told the Boston Globe.

Borders with Mexico, Canada to remain closed through July

U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed "to reduce the spread" of COVID-19 through the end of July, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Twitter on Sunday. The agency, in conjunction with its Canadian and Mexican counterparts, originally closed the United States' northern and southern borders to leisure travelers in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions have been extended on a monthly basis ever since, and were previously extended to July 21.

"Access for essential trade & travel" is still allowed, according to the DHS.

Delta variant could fuel autumn surge across US

About 45% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and cases are declining in a majority of states. But the spread of the highly contagious delta variant among the unvaccinated could pose a new threat, public health officials warn. The delta variant, first identified in India, now accounts up to 10% of cases in the United States.

The delta variant could trigger a surge in the fall if only 75% of the country's population is vaccinated, former Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation."

Afghanistan battling deadly third surge

Afghanistan is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of COVID-19 worsens, a senior health official told The Associated Press. The government is installing oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where up to 65% of those tested in some areas are positive, health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigir Nazari said. By World Health Organization recommendations, anything higher than 5% shows officials aren’t testing widely enough, allowing the virus to spread unchecked. Afghanistan carries out barely 4,000 tests a day and often much less.

Afghanistan’s 24-hour infection count has also continued its upward climb from 1,500 at the end of May when the health ministry was already calling the surge “a crisis,” to more than 2,300 this week.

A Barbados resort offers guests and locals onsite COVID-19 testing

A resort in Barbados created a first-ever COVID-19 lab within a hotel in the Caribbean. Paul Doyle, the owner of The Crane Resort, worked with Barbados Public Health Laboratory and the World Health Organization to receive guidance and acquire the equipment for onsite testing.

For some guests traveling internationally, returning home requires a negative COVID-19 test. There are some hotels and properties that offer testing at the location but rely on offsite lab processes, resulting in a longer wait to receive results. The resort's lab conducts tests onsite so tests can come back within hours.

The hotel currently has both PCR COVID testing and rapid antigen testing, which provides results within 15 minutes. Depending on what test is required, the lab can provide guests with fast and convenient COVID-19 testing required for traveling. The lab is also open to locals, ex-pats, and guests from other hotels.

“We know that visitors who have been in lockdown and have waited a long time for their vacations will appreciate a hassle-free airport experience and speedy test results,” Doyle told Forbes.

– Steven Vargas

Contributing: The Associated Press.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vaccine clots more deadly than COVID in Australia this year