Covid Vaccines, Booster Shots and Live Updates
Italy now requires travelers from the United States to take a test before arrival, and unvaccinated American visitors must isolate for five days. Sweden is barring all nonessential U.S. visitors. The Netherlands says vaccinated travelers must isolate after arriving from the United States — and unvaccinated ones are not welcome.
In removing the United States from a safe list of countries whose residents can travel without coronavirus testing or quarantine requirements, the European Union last week opened the door to myriad rules, restrictions and hurdles for travelers, with the bloc’s member countries implementing different measures.
The surge of coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations in the United States has led some countries — including Bulgaria, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden — to enforce new obstacles, and the list could grow.
The E.U. suggestion to reimpose restrictions on unvaccinated U.S. travelers is not binding, however, and many European governments have yet to act on it. Some may even choose to ignore it entirely, creating confusion for travelers.
For questions about requirements in a given European Union member state, the best answers can usually be found on the website of its U.S. Embassy. Most, including France, Spain and Germany, still welcome travelers from the United States without much hassle.
It is different for a few others, and that’s where the confusion starts.
For instance, any traveler from the United States, no matter their nationality, is prohibited from entering Bulgaria “unless they meet an exception,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Sofia. Those exceptions include students with a visa, citizens from an E.U. country, and foreign officials or medical professionals.
In Italy, meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Rome states that vaccinated travelers must take a virus test 72 hours before arrival, and that unvaccinated ones must isolate for five days. France has no travel restrictions on American visitors, but a “health pass,” based on testing or proof of vaccination, is needed to access cultural venues, restaurants or bars, among other places.
These varying measures, which can appear dizzying to non-Europeans, reflect a reality that the pandemic has only amplified: As much as the European Union strives to present a unified front on many issues, the bloc is made of 27 member countries with diverging — sometimes competing — interests, and facing different epidemiological situations.
After the European Union closed its external borders in March last year, it urged member states to reopen to U.S. travelers and some others in June, hoping that a revival of tourism would boost E.U. economies.
Yet some countries had already moved ahead, while others waited for the recommendations from E.U. officials. A similar scenario is at play with the new travel guidelines. And the hurdles don’t only affect travelers from the United States or other non-European countries; some member states have implemented new measures for travelers coming from other E.U. countries, too.
Overall, the European Union has fared better than the United States in vaccinations: 70 percent of the E.U. adult population has been fully inoculated, compared with 64 percent in the United States.
Yet just as the virus’ spread varies across U.S. states, E.U. member countries are seeing divergent outbreaks. More than 83 percent of Belgium’s adult population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, for instance, but only 20 percent have been inoculated in Bulgaria, which has one of the highest death rates in the world and has lately faced a surge of hospitalizations and deaths.
Hundreds of parents in Mexico are asking for court injunctions to have their children vaccinated against Covid-19 before they return to school, because the government is yet to offer a shot to people ages 12 to 18 even though they are authorized to receive it.
The legal battle is taking place as the more transmissible Delta variant has pummeled Mexico, where only 28 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The country is recording some of its highest daily caseloads of the pandemic, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration wants all students to return to school for in-person classes, which have been suspended for almost a year and a half. The Pfizer vaccine was approved in Mexico for use in children age 12 and above in June, but so far only those age 18 and above have been able to get shots.
In the United States and various Latin American countries, vaccinations for children age 12 and above are well underway. But Mexican officials have downplayed the risk of the virus for minors, saying older people still waiting for their doses should be given priority.
Alma Franco, a lawyer from the southern region of Oaxaca, was one of the first parents to sue and win an injunction. When she was granted the vaccine for her 12-year-old son, she tweeted a photo of the constitutional appeal, or “amparo,” a legal process used in Mexico. In her appeal arguing that her son should be entitled to vaccination, Ms. Franco cited both the Health Department’s approval for the Pfizer vaccine and Mexico’s laws around equal medical care.
Since then, she said, about 1,000 parents from around the country have emailed her asking how they can do the same.
“Most of the parents who have asked me for the amparo are just worried about what’s happening at a global level, and particularly in Mexico,” Ms. Franco said.
Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez, the deputy health minister who is running Mexico’s response to the coronavirus, said at a news conference on Tuesday that 262 legal appeals have been filed by parents since August, with the number rapidly increasing. He said that although he understood why parents want to ensure their children are vaccinated, every dose given to a student because of judicial action would otherwise have gone to someone with a higher risk of dying from Covid-19.
“Scientific evidence is abundantly clear and consistent that those who have the highest risk of severe Covid, hospitalization, intubation and death are older people,” Mr. López-Gatell said. “There is a scale where the risk is progressively decreasing for younger ages.”
The new school year in Mexico began on Aug. 30, and the Mexican department of public education released a statement on Tuesday saying that 12 million students 18 and under were attending classes in over 135,000 schools. Entering the second week of the academic year, 88 schools have had coronavirus cases, and 39 had closed “as a preventive measure,” Delfina Gómez Álvarez, the secretary of education, said in the statement.
The Covid-19 pandemic has severely set back the fight against other global scourges like H.I.V., tuberculosis and malaria, according to a sobering new report released on Tuesday.
Before the pandemic, the world had been making strides against these illnesses. Overall, deaths from them had dropped by about half since 2004.
But the pandemic has flooded hospitals and disrupted supply chains for tests and treatments. In many poor countries, the coronavirus diverted limited public health resources from treatment and prevention of these diseases.
Many fewer people sought diagnosis or medication, because they were afraid of catching the coronavirus at clinics.
Unless comprehensive efforts to beat back the illnesses resume, “we’ll continue to play emergency response and global health Whac-a-Mole,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a nonprofit organization promoting H.I.V. treatment worldwide.
The report was compiled by the Global Fund, an advocacy group that funds campaigns against H.I.V., malaria and tuberculosis.
Before the arrival of the coronavirus, TB was the biggest infectious-disease killer worldwide, claiming more than a million lives each year. The pandemic has exacerbated the damage.
In 2020, about a million fewer people were tested and treated for TB, compared with 2019 — a drop of about 18 percent, according to the new report.
Compared with 2019, the number of people who sought testing for H.I.V. last year declined by 22 percent, and those who opted for H.I.V. prevention services by 12 percent. Medical male circumcision, thought to slow the spread of the virus, decreased by 27 percent.
However, there were some hopeful developments: The crisis forced health agencies and ministries in many poor countries to adopt innovations that may outlast the pandemic. Among them: dispensing several months’ supplies to patients of TB and H.I.V. drugs, or condoms, lubricants and needles; using digital tools to monitor TB treatment; and testing simultaneously for H.I.V., TB and Covid-19.
An Ohio judge on Monday reversed an earlier decision requiring a hospital to administer ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug that is primarily used as a veterinary deworming agent, to a patient as a treatment for Covid-19.
The judge, Michael A. Oster Jr., wrote that “there can be no doubt that the medical and scientific communities do not support the use of ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19” and that the plaintiff had failed to provide convincing evidence to show that it was effective.
The Food and Drug Administration has warned Covid-19 patients against taking ivermectin. Concentrated doses intended for horses and other large livestock can be toxic in humans, the agency has said.
However, the drug has become a popular subject among conservative talk show hosts. Physicians and toxicologists have raised alarms about people obtaining ivermectin from livestock supply centers amid a surge in calls to poison control centers about overdoses and adverse reactions to the drug.
The Ohio lawsuit was filed by Julie Smith, who was acting as the guardian for her husband, Jeffrey Smith. A different judge granted a 14-day injunction last month, ordering West Chester Hospital north of Cincinnati to administer the drug to Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith, 51, tested positive for the virus on July 9 and the following week was admitted to West Chester Hospital’s intensive care unit, according to court documents. On Aug. 1, he was sedated, intubated and placed on a ventilator.
Ivermectin was prescribed by Mr. Smith’s physician, who does not have privileges at West Chester Hospital and did not see Mr. Smith before approving the treatment, court records show.
“While the court is sympathetic to the plaintiff and understands the idea of wanting to do anything to help her loved one, public policy should not and does not support allowing a physician to try ‘any’ type of treatment on human beings,” Judge Oster wrote.
BRUSSELS — More than 70 percent of the European Union’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, making it one of the world’s vaccination leaders. But vaccination rates in Eastern and Central Europe are all below that average, exposing the bloc to new waves of infections and creating a divide that E.U. officials and experts say could hamper recovery efforts.
While 80 percent of the adult populations in countries like Belgium, Denmark and Portugal have been fully vaccinated, European data shows that the figure plunges to about 32 percent in Romania and about 20 percent in Bulgaria, where deaths have been surging.
Those countries, along with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, have had some of the highest excess mortality rates across the European Union during the pandemic. And inoculation rates have fallen broadly in recent weeks, particularly in countries like Poland and Slovakia.
“We cannot afford to have parts of Europe less protected, this makes us all more vulnerable,” Stella Kyriakides, the European Union’s health commissioner, said.
The high vaccination rates in Western European countries are an achievement that few would have believed possible earlier this year, when E.U. member countries were embroiled in sluggish rollouts that probably caused thousands of additional deaths and quarreling with bloc officials and vaccine makers over delivery issues.
But they made a strong comeback, and countries like France and Germany are about to vaccinate millions with booster shots. Spain is aiming to inoculate 90 percent of its total population soon. And Italy is considering making vaccinations mandatory. In contrast, large swaths of the populations of Eastern European nations have yet to receive a single dose.
“The story we hear about the pandemic in France, Germany or the Netherlands is very different than the one we hear in Bulgaria or Poland,” said Ivan Krastev, a Bulgarian political scientist and the co-author of a report on the perceptions of the pandemic in 12 E.U. countries.
The scarcity of doses that dogged early vaccination campaigns across the bloc is no longer an issue. Instead, misinformation, distrust of the authorities, and ignorance about the benefits of inoculation seem to be behind the low uptake in Central and Eastern Europe.
The World Health Organization warned last month that 230,000 people in Europe could die of the coronavirus by December, citing slowing vaccination rates and the lack of restrictive measures to combat the spread.