A Sinopharm vaccine production plant in Beijing. The Chinese vaccine maker has been running trials in 10 countries.
Credit…Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua, via Associated Press

The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that it approved a Chinese coronavirus vaccine that is being tested in the country after preliminary data showed that it was 86 percent effective.

The U.A.E.’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said it reviewed an interim analysis by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned vaccine maker, of data from late-stage clinical trials that showed its vaccine was 86 percent effective in preventing infection from Covid-19.

Sinopharm’s analysis showed the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease and that there were no serious safety concerns, the government said. It did not say if it conducted an independent analysis of the raw data.

But the data represents a political and scientific win for China, which has three other vaccine candidates in late-stage trials. Like the United States, China’s Food and Drug Administration has said a vaccine should be at minimum 50 percent effective before they grant approval, a benchmark also recommended by the W.H.O.

“The announcement is a significant vote of confidence by the U.A.E.’s health authorities in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine,” the ministry said in a statement on its website. A spokeswoman for Sinopharm hung up the phone when contacted for comment.

The data from the U.A.E. may not be a final indicator of the vaccine’s overall efficacy. Sinopharm has been running trials in 10 countries, data from which has not yet been released. By comparison, Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have showed efficacy rates of more than 90 percent.

It is unclear whether the U.A.E. would start a mass vaccination program — the government had already approved the vaccine for emergency use in September for frontline workers at risk of contracting Covid-19. Separately, Morocco said it is preparing to vaccinate 80 percent of its adults, relying initially on a Sinopharm vaccine, the Associated Press reported.

Because the coronavirus has largely been stamped out in China, Chinese vaccine makers had to launch Phase 3 trials in places with active outbreaks to fully conclude whether their vaccines are effective. Sinopharm, which has two vaccines in late-stage testing, is also conducting trials in Bahrain, Jordan, Peru and Argentina and elsewhere, involving more than 60,000 volunteers.

Dr. Gbenga Ogedegbe conducted a study looking at the outcomes from Covid-19 for people of color and found that infected Black and Hispanic patients were no more likely than white patients to be hospitalized.
Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

When Dr. Gbenga Ogedegbe began to research coronavirus infections among Black and Hispanic patients, he thought he knew what he would find. Infected Black and Hispanic patients would be more likely to be hospitalized, compared with white patients, and more likely to die.

But that’s not how it turned out.

Dr. Ogedegbe, the director of the division of health and behavior at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, and his colleagues reviewed the medical records of 11,547 patients in the N.Y.U. Langone Health system who were tested for coronavirus infection between March 1 and April 8.

After accounting for various disparities, Dr. Ogedegbe found that infected Black and Hispanic patients were no more likely than white patients to be hospitalized. If hospitalized, Black patients had a slightly lower risk of dying.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open. Three other recent large studies have come to similarly surprising conclusions.

The new findings do not contradict an enormous body of research showing that Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be affected by the pandemic, compared with white people.

But the new studies do suggest that there is no innate vulnerability to the virus among Black and Hispanic Americans, Dr. Ogedegbe and other experts said. Instead, these groups are more often exposed because of social and environmental factors.

“We hear this all the time — ‘Blacks are more susceptible,’” Dr. Ogedegbe said. “It is all about the exposure. It is all about where people live. It has nothing to do with genes.”

Among many other vulnerabilities, Black and Hispanic communities and households tend to be more crowded; many people work jobs requiring frequent contact with others and rely on public transportation. Access to health care is poorer than among white Americans, and rates of underlying conditions are much higher.

“To me, these results make it clear that the disparities in mortality that we see are even more appalling,” said Jon Zelner, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan who led one of the new studies.

The toll on Black and Hispanic Americans “could easily have been ameliorated in advance of the pandemic by a less threadbare and cruel approach to social welfare and health care in the U.S.,” he added. “Even failing that, so much of this could have been avoided.”

With children less likely than adults to be hospitalized with Covid-19, pediatric facilities like St. Louis Children’s Hospital have made space available to help ease the burden at rapidly filling general hospitals.
Credit…Allison Long/The Kansas City Star, via Associated Press

With a rising tide of Covid-19 patients threatening to overwhelm hospitals, public health officials across the United States are reaching for a safety valve that the Northeast used in the spring: borrowing beds in children’s hospitals to care for adults.

U.S. hospitalizations are at a record-high of 104,600, according to the Covid Tracking Project, and the nation set a record this past week for the most deaths in a seven-day period.

“As the fall came into play and the second surge hit, I think we’re seeing a lot more of that happening now,” said Amy Knight, president of the Children’s Hospital Association, a national group representing more than 200 U.S. facilities.

It’s rare for American children’s hospitals to admit adult patients or loosen their admittance criteria, so the fact that it is being done now speaks to the severity of the crisis, according to Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine and the co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

“I don’t even know if this was done during H1N1 in 2009, so I can’t think of too many modern precedents,” he said.

Because coronavirus infections seem to largely spare younger children, compared with teenagers and adults, children’s hospitals and the pediatric wards of general hospitals tended not to become swamped early in the pandemic.

“It was more like a trickle of kids that needed to be hospitalized,” Ms. Knight said.

Since then, however, the number of children becoming infected and needing hospital care has risen sharply, and children’s hospitals may have less room and resources to spare at a time of year when the need for pediatric beds tends to rise anyway because of influenza.

“We’re much more limited in capacity for pediatric critical illness throughout the country,” said Dr. Brian Cummings, who works in the intensive care unit at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. “Clearly we’re overwhelming the adult I.C.U. capacity, and then to use an even scarcer resource really does concern all of us that advocate for children.”

Even so, children’s hospitals are pitching in to help with the coronavirus surge in various ways. The Children’s Hospital Association released guidelines in April for several possible approaches, including taking in pediatric patients from general hospitals to free up space in those facilities, and raising their maximum admission ages.

The St. Louis Children’s Hospital, a part of BJC HealthCare, started opening its doors to adult patients in November, and another pediatric hospital in St. Louis, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, has been accepting adult transfers who do not have Covid-19. Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo said it would temporarily raise its admission ceiling to admit patients up to 25 years old.

During the first big surge in the Northeast, from April to June, MassGeneral Hospital for Children took adult patients in its 14-bed intensive care unit. “As we watched hospitals become overwhelmed, everyone wanted to step up and do their part,” Dr. Cummings said.

The unit went back to normal over the summer, but with cases trending upward again in Massachusetts, he said, “we are definitely worried that we’re going to have patients again in the next week or two.”

Dr. Lyudmila Soboleva, 38, was given Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Moscow, on Monday.
Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Russia has made its coronavirus vaccine available for free in recent days to teachers, medical workers and social-service employees younger than 61 in Moscow. But a lack of trust is hobbling Russia’s rollout: the country’s scientists may well have made great strides in battling the pandemic, but many Russians are not ready to believe it.

President Vladimir V. Putin proclaimed in August that Russia had become the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for the coronavirus, even though it had not been tested in a large-scale medical trial.

In research afterward, an independent polling institute found that the first-in-the-world bombast may have only deepened Russians’ suspicions: 59 percent of respondents said they would not get the vaccine, even if it was free of charge.

Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader now recuperating in Germany from a nerve-agent attack, voiced doubts about the vaccine’s safety on Saturday, calling on top government officials to get vaccinated “under the eye of doctors and journalists.”

While many members of the Russian elite have said they have already gotten the vaccine, Mr. Putin has not, though he says one of his daughters has.

The government entity that makes the vaccine says its product is 95 percent effective, but outside experts are skeptical. The name of the vaccine, Sputnik V, suggests the Kremlin views the vaccine as part of its competition with the West: Sputnik was the first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, in 1957, a high point for Moscow during the Cold War.

But the volunteers have generally concluded that the Sputnik V vaccine does appear to coax the body to produce Covid-19 antibodies. The organizer of one Facebook group of trial volunteers, Vera Smirnova, said she often criticized the government but was disappointed that many Russian liberals reflexively rejected the vaccine because of its association with the Kremlin.

“The price of this will be human lives,” said Ms. Smirnova, who works as a university instructor in Moscow. “I think this is a moment in which, perhaps, we need to try to trust the authorities, because in the coming months we won’t have any other option.”

Oleg Matsnev, Ivan Nechepurenko and Sophia Kishkovsky contributed reporting.

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