The U.S. expands its support for international COVID-19 vaccine accessibility. 

The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, announced its new program on Monday: the U.S. Government’s Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, or Global VAX for short.

The new Global VAX program will invest $315 million to support vaccine readiness programs, in addition to $10 million for in-country vaccine manufacturing and $75 million for delivering life-saving resources like oxygen, USAID said. 

The initiative will prioritize scaling up support to countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where vaccination rates remain strikingly low compared to other parts of the world. 

While nearly 70% of the population in the U.S. has received at least one COVID-19 shot, only about 17% have in Botswana — where scientists first detected the new, rapidly-spreading omicron variant.

This disparity has played across the world, and it’s one health experts have warned of since the onset of the pandemic: While richer countries rapidly vaccinate their populations and buy up doses, other nations are projected to not have wider access to the vaccine until late 2022 or 2023, according to the World Health Organization.

The United States had already promised more vaccines to low- and middle income countries before the Global VAX announcement. According to President Joe Biden, the U.S. has “shipped for free more vaccine than all other countries in the world combined.” 

Yet, fewer than one-quarter of the 1.2 billion vaccine doses donated by the U.S. have been delivered.

And the path of omicron, which is now present in over one-third of U.S. states, shows that Americans are vulnerable no matter where a new variant first appears.

In the news also:

►The University of Notre Dame is requiring students to get a COVID-19 booster to keep their fully vaccinated status.

►Reported cases of COVID-19 cases among Indiana’s K-12 students jumped back up, after taking a dip around the Thanksgiving holiday. There were 4,321 new cases reported among students this week, the highest number of newly-reported cases since mid-September.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 49 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 789,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global numbers: There have been more than 266,000,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and there has been 5.2 million deaths. More than 199 million Americans — 60% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: For a year since COVID-19 vaccines first became available, a small but vocal group has warned about the need to protect the most vulnerable around the world. However, the reaction from wealthy nations has been slow.

This page is updated regularly so you don’t miss any new information. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

In COVID-19 case, court orders hospital to permit ivermectin therapy

A court order issued late Friday allowed a Pennsylvania man on a ventilator in a medically induced coma from COVID-19 to be treated with the controversial drug ivermectin.

Keith Smith’s wife, Darla, filed a lawsuit in York County Court last week asking a judge to compel the hospital to treat her husband with ivermectin, seeking an emergency injunction to force UPMC Memorial to administer the drug.

Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic that is not part of the medical center’s COVID-19 protocols and is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of the virus. 

In a somewhat confusing ruling, York County Judge Clyde Vedder denied Darla Smith’s request for an emergency injunction to force UPMC to administer ivermectin.

But a paragraph of the order directed UPMC to allow the doctor who had prescribed the drug or another physician or registered nurse to administer it under the doctor’s “guidance and supervision.” 

The court order touched off a weekend of back and forth between the lawyers involved, Darla Smith and the hospital’s administration, ending Sunday night when Keith Smith, 52, received his first dose of ivermectin. 

— Mike Argento, York Daily Record

Source: USAToday.com

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