the Omicron variant becomes widely predominant in the United States

The European Union authorized, on Monday, December 20, the use of a fifth vaccine against Covid-19, that of the American Novavax, while warnings and restrictions in the face of the meteoric progression of the Omicron variant are multiplying in the whole world.

The pandemic has killed at least 5.35 million people worldwide since the World Health Organization (WHO) office in China reported the onset of the disease at the end of December 2019, according to a report established by Agence France-Presse, Monday.

The WHO estimates, taking into account the excess mortality directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19, that the toll of the pandemic in the world could be two to three times higher, or 10 to 16 million deaths. The United States is the most bereaved country in the world in absolute terms, with more than 807,000 official deaths.

  • The Omicron variant becomes widely predominant in the United States

A queue in front of a Covid-19 test center, on December 20, 2021, in Miami, in the US state of Florida where the Omicron variant has become a large minority.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant took over the Delta variant within a few weeks in the United States. It accounted for 73.2% of new Covid-19 infections during the week ended December 18, compared to only 12.6% last week, according to data from US health authorities. It even represents up to 96.3% of new cases in three states in the northwest of the United States (Oregon, Washington and Idaho). In another group of southeastern states, including Florida, Alabama and Georgia, 95.2% of new infections are due to Omicron, a similar proportion in other parts of the country.

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However, the Biden administration does not plan to  » to confine «  the country for now, said executive spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday on the eve of a much-anticipated speech by the president. Joe Biden is expected to announce news  » measures «  aiming to « Increase access to screening » of Covid-19, and will hammer « The risks run by unvaccinated individuals ».

« We are going to have difficult weeks or months as we approach winter », warned, Sunday, the White House adviser on the health crisis Anthony Fauci, worrying about the number of Americans still unvaccinated.

  • EU approves Novavax vaccine

A vaccination center in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (Yvelines), on December 17, 2021.

The European Commission authorized, on Monday, the use in the EU of the Covid-19 vaccine from the American Novavax, shortly after the approval given by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This is the fifth vaccine so approved in Europe. “It’s a welcome addition to the arsenal to protect Europeans. May it be a solid encouragement for the unvaccinated or those who have not been recalled! « , greeted Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a press release.

Novavax uses more conventional technology than those used for messenger RNA vaccines. Like childhood vaccines, the Novavax product is a so-called “subunit” vaccine. According to the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), vaccines of this type, based on purified microbe fragments (such as vaccines against pneumococcus or whooping cough) or toxins treated to no longer be toxic (like vaccines against tetanus and diphtheria), are better tolerated than inactivated vaccines. However, their ability to induce an immune response may be weak.

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A technology that could, however, according to the firm, reduce the skepticism of unvaccinated people. For the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the company, Stanley Erck, the vaccine « Could help overcome major barriers to global immunization, including challenges of global distribution and vaccine reluctance ».

In June, the pharmaceutical company presented the results of clinical trials which showed an efficacy of 90.4% against the disease, and 100% against moderate to severe cases. On the other hand, the company admitted that it « Evaluated its vaccine against the Omicron variant » and was still working on a specific version to combat this particularly contagious variant.

After the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, the product from Novavax is the fifth vaccine authorized in the European Union. The European Commission had already signed a contract with the laboratory for the advance purchase of 200 million doses of its vaccine when it would be approved by the EMA.

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  • London cancels New Years festivities

The Labor Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced on Monday evening the cancellation of the festivities planned in the British capital for the New Year, in the face of the drastic increase in cases of the Omicron variant.

“With Covid-19 infections at record levels in our city and across the UK, I am determined to (…) do everything possible to slow the spread of the new variant and ensure that our services [de santé publique] don’t be overwhelmed this winter ”, said in a statement, Mr. Khan. « This means that we will no longer be having this 6,500-person celebration planned in Trafalgar Square on New Years Eve. », he announced. « It will be very disappointing for many Londoners, but we have to take the right steps to reduce the spread of the virus ».

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London is following in the footsteps of Paris, which announced, on Saturday, the cancellation of the fireworks and concerts planned on the famous avenue of the Champs-Elysées, or even in Morocco, which prohibits the organization of parties in venues. reception and instituted a curfew between midnight and 6 a.m.

  • Germany prepares to tighten the screw

In Germany, the government is also preparing to tighten health restrictions on the New Year, according to a project consulted on Monday by AFP and which is still to be discussed Tuesday during a crisis meeting between the government and representatives of the sixteen regions. German.

From December 28, except children under 14, people vaccinated or cured will not be able to welcome more than ten guests at home and provided that they are all immunized, according to the text. Non-vaccinated people are only allowed to invite a maximum of two people from one household.

Sporting events, such as Bundesliga football matches, will take place « Without spectators » from December 28 and until further notice, as well as cultural events and concerts, according to a second amended text broadcast in the evening. Discos and dance clubs will be closed.

Unlike neighboring Netherlands, Germany does not plan to close non-essential stores, cinemas or restaurants, considering it sufficient to limit their access to people who have been vaccinated or cured.

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The World with AFP

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