The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is once again urging pregnant women in the country to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The advisory issued Wednesday also includes women who are trying to get pregnant or have recently been pregnant. The agency warns the virus poses a severe risk during pregnancy of serious illness and death, as well as increased risk of premature birth, stillborn infants or other complications.
The CDC says about 125,000 pregnant women in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19, with 22,000 hospitalized and 161 who have died, including a record high of 22 deaths in August. The advisory said 97% of pregnant women hospitalized with COVID-19 were not vaccinated.
An advisory issued by the CDC last month said evidence showed that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risk of miscarriage or any other potential complications.
Separately, U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Merck says its experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug appears to be effective against known variants of the disease. The company said Wednesday that early-stage clinical trials revealed the new drug, molnupiravir, was most effective when given to patients within five days of their initial diagnosis.
Merck says it has begun two widespread late-stage trials of molnupiravir -- one as a therapeutic treatment of COVID-19, and the other as a post-exposure prophylaxis, or preventative treatment.
In other developments, the International Olympic Committee announced COVID-19 restrictions for next year’s Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in Beijing. The IOC said a plan presented by Olympic organizers includes a “closed-loop management system” in which all athletes, journalists and staffers will have to compete, work and live within a limited area during the entire duration. The “closed-loop” system is similar to the so-called “bubble” created by the U.S. National Basketball Association in mid-2020 when it resumed its 2019-20 season at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
The plan also mandates that athletes who are not fully vaccinated will have to enter a 21-day quarantine period after arriving in Beijing. Unlike this year’s Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, spectators will be allowed to attend competitive events, but tickets will be limited to those living in mainland China.
The Beijing Winter Olympics will take place from February 4 to 20 next year, while the Paralympics will run from March 4 to 13.
In a related matter, authorities in Australia’s southern Victoria state say an increase of more than 50% in new COVID-19 cases to 1,438 on Thursday is partly due to the large crowds that attended an Australian Football League match in the western city of Perth last Saturday. The match between the Melbourne Demons and its inter-city rival Western Bulldogs was moved to the coastal city because of the ongoing lockdown in Australia’s second-largest city, the capital of Victoria state.
Jeroen Weimar, the head of Victoria state’s COVID-19 response office, said the new infections is the result of people “dropping their guards” during the weekend event.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.