Updates on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in Minnesota
Minnesotans who are not in the designated high-priority groups, including those 65 and older, may start to receive Covid-19 vaccines soon. This is due to the existence of some remnants from Health Care Providers in the State. The Minnesota Health Department (MHD), authorized the expansion of the eligible group to get the vaccine against Covid-19. The new guidance will be applied only to sites that have these remaining doses after completing vaccinations of front-line health care and other high-priority workers. The effort for this expansion is in accordance with the federal government's will, since it asked for states to implement a faster vaccine distribution. MDH is working to plan how the expansion for next phases of vaccination will be, according to the Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm, “It will be some time before the federal government provides our state with enough vaccine to cover all those currently eligible”. On Tuesday (01/19/21), a pilot program was launched, sending 12,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to 9 sites in the State, and these doses are to vaccinate people 65 and above, and educators and child care workers, being 6,000 doses to each group. However the online booking was overwhelmed with more than 1 million calls on the same day that the pilot program was released.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) from CDC developed an action plan mostly to divide groups of people according to their risk of infection by Covid-19. This plan is organized in phases, named 1a, 1b, 1c, 2, and 3. These phases show the order for the best allocation of the available doses. MN used the ACIP’s action plan to develop its own vaccination plan, with some adjustments. Currently, MN is at phase 1a of the State plan, where long term care facilities residents, health care personnel and socially vulnerable individuals (These criteria are guided by SVIndex) are the groups able to receive the vaccine.
Each State in the US developed its own plan for vaccination against the new coronavirus, considering their specific priorities and high-risk groups. In other states, we can see people that stand in groups defined as 1b that were already vaccinated. This can sound that MN is behind other states, but each state defined the best approach considering their population and number of available doses of vaccines against Covid-19.
Smuggled animal products seized at the US International Airports
88 lbs. of swine sausage were seized at the first week of January by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) k-9 agent located at the Newark Airport in New Jersey. A dog, named Kody, sniffed the smuggled meat from a luggage of a passenger that was arriving from the Balcan region in Europe. The seized meat was destroyed, and the passenger was released without penalty because he stated that the sausages would be for self-consumption.
Last week, another apprehension occurred, now it was at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in NY. When the agents of CBP were examining a shipment from China, they found approximately 600 lbs. of fresh duck tongues, a little more than 330 lbs. of frozen duck intestines, and 260 lbs. of live blood clams, and again, the products were destroyed by the U.S. agents.
The seized products were from areas that are currently experiencing outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF), High Pathogenic Avian Influenza, Foot and mouth diseases, and classical swine fever, so, these products pose a real risk of introducing these diseases into the US if not seized by CBP. In 2019, researchers from the Center of Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) / UMN in work collaboration with other Universities of the US and Madrid/Spain, developed a risk assessment for the introduction of ASF in the U.S, through passengers’ luggage, The results of this study suggested that the mean risk of ASFV introduction into the US via this route had increased by 183.33% from the risk estimated before the disease had spread into Western Europe or Asia in 2018.. The five airports most likely to have passengers luggage with smuggled pork product were in this order of high risk: Newark-New Jersey, George Bush-Houston-Texas, Los Angeles- California, John F. Kennedy-New York, and San Jose-California.
These border controls at the U.S. entrances are an important defense against the introduction of animal diseases in the U.S. territory, protecting the health of the U.S. livestock and crops from exotic diseases like African swine fever, Foot and Mouth disease, exotic fruit flies, etc. The CBP has highly trained agriculture specialists that perform inspections at the US borders, ports, and airports, focusing on animal and plant products. In the Fiscal Year 2019, CBP agriculture specialists throughout the nation seized 4,695 prohibited plants, meats, animal byproducts, and soils and intercepted 314 insect pests. In 2020, CBP and USDA working in collaboration to avoid the entrance of ASF into the US, seized more than 20,000 smuggled animal products at Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport. The Agricultural sector generates jobs, and it is an important sector for the US economy. One of the critical infrastructures identified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where 2.1 million farms, approximately 880,500 firms, and over one million facilities are counting on border inspections to barrier the entrance of pathogenic microorganisms for animal and plant health.
New Covid-19 variant and shortage of oxygen in Amazonas State- Brazil
Last week, Manaus, the largest city of Amazonas State in Brazil- around 2.2 million of inhabitants (158.06 hab/km2), had hospitals collapsed by the lack of oxygen. Amazonas, which suffered heavy losses in the first wave of the pandemic, is being hit badly again by a new rise in infections by Covid- 19. People on respirators were dying of suffocation in hospitals. The situation was described as desperate, with staff having to try to keep patients alive through manual ventilation. The demand for oxygen is over three times the supply capacity of the State. Brazilian Federal Government and other States in Brazil are funneling oxygen and other medical supplies to support the shocked state of Amazonas.
Brazil is the second country with the largest number of deaths due to Covid-19, and the third in number of cases. The variant of Covid-19 found in Amazonas State, point that the mutation detected in B.1.1.28 (K417N / E484K / N501Y) is recent, probably occurred between last December to now. Some researchers are saying that this new variant could be the reason for the spike of cases in Manaus, since it is suspected to be more transmissible, similarly to the new strains of Covid-19 in the U.K. and South Africa, but local authorities have not yet been able to confirm it. However, according to Felipe Naveca, a researcher at Fiocruz Amazonia, the Manaus variant has many more mutations than the others.
According to the CDC, these variants found in the UK, South Africa and now in Brazil, seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19, like a spike of cases on top of a spike. However, so far, there is no evidence that these new variants of Covid-19 may be more severe illness, but more cases lead to more pressure on the health care systems, and situations such as shortage of oxygen like happened in Manaus, can happen again. This kind of situation reinforces the importance of keeping embracing public health recommendations, while the vaccine is deployed, to reduce that will lessen the pressure on hospitals.