Covid-19 roundup: Brazil backs out of Sputnik V vaccine deal; White House implements new mask, vaccine mandates
In March, Brazil’s government signed a contract with Russia for 10 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. Now, the country is backing out of that agreement with its health minister citing a lapsed registration deadline as the reason why.
Brazil is battling one of the toughest outbreaks in the world. There has been a recent drop in daily cases, but the country is still seeing a seven-day average of over 45,000 infections.
Health minister Marcelo Queiroga said the lapsed deadline in the registration process with health regulator Anvisa — whose emergency approval is needed — was to blame, and added the national immunization program doesn’t currently need the Russian vaccine, Reuters reported.
Queiroga also canceled a $316 million contract for 20 million doses of Covaxin, the jab made by India’s Bharat Biotech. Bharat is being investigated over accusations of irregularities, according to Reuters.
Brazil has had nearly 20 million Covid-19 cases and 554,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
White House implements mask mandate inside federal buildings, vaccine mandate for workers
Urging in a speech that a mask is not a political statement and warning the country was not yet out of the woods, US President Joe Biden enacted a vaccination mandate for all federal employees Thursday.
The move comes after civilian hospitals and the Department of Veteran Affairs have announced their own mandate. Any federal employee who is not vaccinated will be required to wear a mask and be tested twice a week for work. Those employees will also not be able to travel for work. The same initiatives will be applied to federal contractors.
“If you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated,” he said.
All visitors to federal buildings will also have to wear a mask indoors, Biden said. The update comes along with the CDC’s recommendation to wear a mask inside a public place, such as the grocery store or the workplace. The increase of cases of the Delta variant, which originated in India, has raised cause for concern, as a vaccinated person who is protected from severe illness could still pass on the variant to an unvaccinated person.
“The bottom line is: If you’re fully vaccinated, you’re highly protected from COVID-19,” Biden said. “But I also know that many of you who are vaccinated are concerned about what’s called ‘breakthrough cases.’ Yes, some fully vaccinated people will still test positive, and some will show some symptoms of COVID-19. That’s expected with almost every vaccine there is for other diseases.”
The federal government will now reimburse small-to-medium sized businesses that offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated themselves, or to bring their family members to get vaccinated. It’s also offering $100 to anyone who gets fully vaccinated.
“I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks who’ve gotten vaccinated already, but here’s the deal: If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them,” Biden said.
About 190 million Americans have had at least one shot, and more than 163 million of those people have received both. Still, less than 50% of Americans have gotten the shot. Biden also definitively told Americans that there is no need for booster shots at this moment. But if the science indicates otherwise in the future, his stance on that will change.