FDA Limits Use of Regeneron, Lilly COVID-19 Antibody Treatments 

The U.S. health regulator on Monday revised the emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly to limit their use, as the drugs are unlikely to work against the omicron variant. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the treatments are currently not cleared for use in any U.S. states or territories but may be authorized in certain regions if they work against potential new variants. 

The agency highlighted other therapies that are expected to be effective against omicron, including a rival antibody drug from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology as well as recently authorized antiviral pills from Pfizer and Merck & Co. 

The U.S. government in December had paused distribution of Regeneron and Lilly’s treatments and said the halt would continue until new data emerges on their efficacy against omicron. 

The highly contagious new variant was estimated to account for more than 99% of cases in the United States as of Jan. 15. 

GSK and Vir Biotech are boosting production of their drug sotrovimab to help meet soaring demand in the United States. The FDA has also expanded its approval for the use of Gilead Sciences’ antiviral COVID-19 drug remdesivir to treat non-hospitalized patients aged 12 years and above. 

The Washington Post earlier in the day reported that the FDA was expected to revise authorizations for Regeneron and Lilly’s treatments. 

A Regeneron spokesperson had said the regulator would provide any potential communication on the topic. 

Lilly had no immediate comment but pointed to its statement from December saying its antibody candidate, bebtelovimab, maintains neutralization activity against all known variants of concern, including omicron. 

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WHO Chief: World Will Live with COVID for Foreseeable Future

The head of the World Health Organization warned Monday that COVID-19 will be around for the foreseeable future, and everyone will have to learn to live with it. The WHO chief issued the warning at the opening of the agency’s weeklong executive board meeting.

Two years ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern. Then there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths reported outside China. Those numbers now stand at nearly 350 million cases and more than 5.5 million deaths.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it is hard to know when the pandemic will end. However, while the coronavirus is circulating, he said it will continue to mutate in unpredictable and dangerous ways. 

“It is dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant, or that we are in the endgame. On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge,” he said.

Tedros said countries must learn to manage this deadly disease and use the knowledge gained to prepare for future pandemics. To change the course of the pandemic, he said the conditions driving it must change.

He said the acute phase of the pandemic can be ended this year if countries use all the strategies and tools available to combat COVID-19. He adds this will work only if all countries, rich and poor alike, have equitable access to vaccines, treatments, and other tools.

“Vaccines alone are not the golden ticket out of this pandemic. But there is no path out unless we achieve our shared target of vaccinating 70 percent of the population of every country by the middle of this year. We have a long way to go,” he said.

The WHO chief notes 86 countries have not been able to reach last year’s target of vaccinating 40 percent of their populations.

He warned the emergency phase of the pandemic will not end until the gap between the have and have-not countries is bridged. 

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Ghanaian Football Team Scores Against Sea Turtle Poachers

The coast of Ghana is home to five of the world’s endangered sea turtles, which are threatened by fishing nets and poachers who sell their meat and eggs. To help revive the turtle populations, a group of young footballers have taken it upon themselves to guard turtle nests and rescue turtles captured by fishermen.  

Empty sea turtle shells are commonly found on the beach along Ghana’s coastal Gomoa Fetteh community.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says six out of the seven species of sea turtles are endangered.

Peter Kusaana of the Environmental Justice Foundation says five of those species used to nest in Ghana, but the numbers have reduced.

“Over the years, we are only now recording about four or three of these species nesting in Ghana, meaning that we have already lost two of these turtle species in Ghana,” he said. 

Fishermen here say about 50 turtles are killed every year along the eight-kilometer shoreline, drowned in fishing nets or poached for their meat and eggs. 

Ama Akorfa, a turtle processor, explains why the locals poach turtles. 

She says the meat is a delicacy. She makes stew with the turtle’s entrails and sells the remaining meat.   

Saving the remaining turtles is a team effort.

The Fetteh Youngsters Football Club since 2019 has taken it upon themselves to protect the turtles.

The team’s coach, Daniel Kwesi Botchwey, says they leverage the community’s support for the team to help save the endangered sea turtles.

“There has been the need for us to educate the community about it. And since the football team is for the community, because I always say, ‘Fetteh Youngsters is a community-based team, it is for the community.’ And the chief of the town, he is the live patron of the club, so everyone in the community supports Fetteh Youngsters. So, we have taken it as a means, as a tool, to educate the community,” said coach Botchwey.

During nesting season, the football team patrols the beaches from dusk until dawn to ward off poachers and other predators that would harm nesting turtles or their eggs.   

The players also engage the turtle meat sellers and fishing community to educate them on the importance of protecting marine life.  

Peter Kusaana of Ghana’s Environmental Justice Foundation says their efforts are paying off.

He explains that turtle poaching reduced from 47 killed in the 2019-2020 nesting season to 26 in the last one, while more nests have been found along the coast.

“The number of nesting events recorded, meaning that the data points that have been captured by our patrollers, has increased,” he said. “In 2019-2020, we had around 50 cases that were recorded in our data sheets. In 2020-2021, we have over 145.” 

They’re team numbers that the Fetteh Youngsters Football Club is proud of.

But eliminating the demand for endangered sea turtles — that’s their top goal, and one they’re playing overtime to score.

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Ghanaian Football Team Scores Against Sea Turtle Poachers

The coast of Ghana is home to five of the world’s endangered sea turtles, which are threatened by fishing nets and poachers who sell their meat and eggs. To help revive the turtle populations, a young footballers have taken it upon themselves to guard turtle nests and rescue turtles captured by fishermen. Senanu Tord reports from Gomoa Fetteh, Ghana.

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California Nursing Homes Use Robotic Pets to Help the Elderly

In a California senior care community, very special pets are helping residents keep their spirits up, fight anxiety and feel loved. Officials say these animals are therapeutic, low-maintenance and never get moody. Angelina Bagdasaryan has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

Camera: Vazgen Varzhabetian             

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US Anti-Vaccine Activists to Rally at Lincoln Memorial

 Anti-vaccine activists are set to rally Sunday in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial.The anti-vaccine argument has taken hold among various American groups, including politicians, school officials, professional athletes and health care workers. Public health officials say about 20% of U.S. adults are unvaccinated.

COVID vaccine passport protests were held in several European capitals Saturday.

Thousands of people turned out in Stockholm to demonstrate against the vaccine passes needed to go to indoor sites where there are 50 or more people.

Protesters took to the streets of Paris to demonstrate against the new COVID pass set to go into effect Monday that will curtail the activities of the unvaccinated, restricting their ability to travel and go to entertainment sites, including bars, movie theaters and sports events.

Demonstrators in Helsinki protested the vaccination passes that can be required to enter restaurants and other events. The protesters in Finland’s capital also demonstrated against the Finnish government’s move giving local and regional authorities the ability to enact wide-ranging measures to combat the omicron variant, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. state of Virginia, a woman has been charged with a misdemeanor after threatening to bring guns to her children’s school because of a school board’s continued school mask mandate.

Amelia King said Thursday at a school board meeting, “My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on, all right? . . . That’s not happening, and I will bring every single gun loaded and ready . . .I’ll see you all on Monday.” School officials alerted authorities about King’s comments.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Sunday that it was recorded 349.3 million COVID infections, 5.6 million deaths. The center said nearly 10 billion COVID vaccines have been administered.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press. 

 

 

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