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News Brief: Oct. 18 – Oct. 22

COVID-19 update

  • International

Gates Foundation Pledges $120 million to help get COVID-19 pills to poor countries

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Nati Harnik.

On Oct. 20, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced an investment of $120 million to help low-income countries to get COVID-19 pills. The pill is the first easy-to-use COVID-19 treatment, and it could be available in the United States by December 2021. 

Public health officials said hundreds of millions of people across the globe remain without access to vaccines. 

The U.S. government has a pre-purchase contract for 1.7 billion doses of the medication. The drug production process is waiting for approval and authorization from health officials. 

Mark Suzman, the Gates Foundation’s chief executive officer, said the investment will speed the production process of the pills. 

“We can use resources that multilateral agencies would not be able to put forward at this stage — because they’re constrained waiting for regulatory approval — to incentivize those producers to start manufacturing now, so that we would have a stockpile ready to distribute if and when we get approval,” Suzman said. 

More than 100 countries have received U.S.-donated COVID-19 vaccine doses

The United States has distributed 200 million COVID-19 shots around the world. The initiative is part of President Joe Biden’s global vaccination campaign. 

More than 120 million of the doses came from the U.S.. The doses are part of the initial delivery of the 1 billion doses the Biden administration has purchased from Pfizer for overseas donation until September 2022. The United States remains the largest vaccine donor in the world. 

Samantha Powe, the U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator, said the doses have helped millions of people, but there is still work to do. 

“To end the pandemic, and prevent the emergence of new variants, as well as future outbreaks within our nation’s borders, we must continue to do our part to help vaccinate the world,” Power said. 

  • National

New York City Police and Firefighter Unions contest city’s vaccine mandate 

Photo courtesy of CBS News.

On Oct. 20, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a vaccine mandate to city workers received pushback from the city’s municipal unions.

The New York City Fire Department is threatening to shut down fire houses, while the Police Benevolent Association said they will proceed with legal action. 

“We have fought to make vaccines available to every member who chooses it, while also protecting their right to make that personal medical decision in consultation with their own doctor,” PBA President Pat Lynch said. 

Fire Department Union President Andrew Ansbro said it is hard to staff fire houses as it is. 

“We will definitely be closing firehouses if the amount of people who have told me they’re not going to get vaccinated get sent home,” Ansbro said. “There’s going to be a serious operational problem.” 

White House plans to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 

On Oct. 20, the White House announced its plan to vaccinate children from 5 to 11 years old, if the US Food and Drug Administration approves it. 

Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response director, said the Biden administration has enough doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to vaccinate 28 million children in that age gap. 

“We know millions of parents have been waiting for COVID-19 vaccine for kids in this age group,” Zients said. “Should the FDA authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms.” 

The Biden administration is also launching a partnership with the Children’s Hospital Association to create kids’ vaccination environments in more than 100 children’s hospitals across the country. 

Schools and other community-based sites will also be available for vaccination with help from Federal Emergency Management. 

  • Local

Oklahoma has 1,148 new COVID-19 cases

Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

On Oct. 21, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced the state had 1,148 new COVID-19 cases and 58 new COVID-19 deaths in one day. 

Officials said there are about 7,412 active COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma, with 642 people hospitalized. 

Over 2.29 million Oklahomans have received their initial COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.94 million have completed the series. 

Oklahoma hospitals lacking nursing staff 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals in Oklahoma are struggling with a lack of nursing staff. 

Jenkins said nurses are leaving hospitals for many reasons, including exhaustion and workloads. 

“Some nurses have left the hospital for more lucrative travel nursing physician jobs, retirement or other jobs in nursing that are not at the bedside,” Jenkins said. 

Dr. Woody Jenkins said during the Healthier Oklahoma meeting, Stillwater is one of the most affected cities in the state. 

“Since the beginning of the year, 50 RNs have left Stillwater Medical Center,” Jenkins said. “Our registered nurse turnover is greater than 20%.”

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