White House COVID Adviser Andy Slavitt Calls on WHO to Assist With Virus Origin Investigation

White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt called for full assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) in an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus and said "we don't have that now."

Slavitt spoke during Tuesday's COVID-19 task force briefing and said help from the WHO is needed alongside China, and that they both need to increase their efforts to provide answers to the world. His comments came as the White House announced that 50% of fully vaccinated U.S. adults will be reached on Tuesday.

"We need a completely transparent process from China," Slavitt said.

The coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in the latter part of 2019, and there has been speculation surrounding its origins ever since.

As Americans continue to receive their vaccinations, Moderna announced findings on Tuesday and said its COVID-19 vaccine can protect kids as young as 12. Around 14% of U.S. kids ages 12 to 15 out of 15 million have received their first dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Out of 7.5 million teens ages 16 to 17, 34% have been administered their first dose.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

White House COVID-19 Adviser Andy Slavitt
Senior vice president of CGI Federal Cheryl Campbell (L) and group executive vice president for Optum/QSSI Andrew Slavitt testify during a hearing on implementation of the Affordable Care Act before the House Energy and Commerce Committee October 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Slavitt, as a White House COVID-19 adviser under President Joe Biden's administration, has called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to fully assist in an investigation into the origins of the virus. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Slavitt says "we need to get to the bottom" of the origins of the pandemic pathogen.

The precise origin of the virus remains undetermined and speculation has reigned about whether it jumped from animals to humans or whether it could have escaped from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan, the city that saw the first outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said "many of us" feel like it was a natural occurrence, but "we don't know 100%" and it is imperative to investigate.

The U.S. and the world is still dealing with the impact of the virus since its emergence.

In the U.S., Maryland held its first of 40 consecutive $40,000 lottery drawings on Tuesday for people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, one of several states using lottery prizes to encourage people to get inoculated.

The Maryland Lottery says the first winner lives in Baltimore County. There will be 39 more drawings for $40,000 in the $2 million total promotion, which ends with a $400,000 drawing prize on July 4.

The CDC says 68.3% of Maryland adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Larry Hogan is hoping to reach 70% by Memorial Day.

Maryland's statewide COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped below 2% for the first time during the pandemic. The state is reporting 160 new confirmed cases, the lowest number since March 26, 2020. Hospitalizations from the virus reached a seven-month low with 442, the lowest level since Oct. 19.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp says public agencies in the state can't require people to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Republican governor issued an executive order Tuesday banning vaccine passports and saying state immunization records can't be shared with any private company aiming to create such a record.

A number of Republican-led states have moved to ban vaccine passports, even though they are not in widespread use in the U.S. Kemp's order mostly doesn't apply to private businesses.

Spokesperson Cody Hall says the move won't ban prisons, mental hospitals or juvenile justice facilities from asking whether inmates or patients have been vaccinated.

The order doesn't ban the state from including an entry for COVID-19 vaccines on the standard immunization record for children entering childcare or school. The forms don't currently have an entry.

The University System of Georgia already announced it won't mandate vaccines for students or staff.

A growing number of U.S. public schools are using mascots, food trucks and prize giveaways to encourage students to get vaccinated before summer vacation.

The massive effort to create a pep-rally atmosphere comes only weeks after the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was approved for younger adolescents ages 12 to 15. Administrators want to get as many shots in students' arms as possible and hope it will pave the way to return to regular classes in the fall.

About 22% of teens ages 16 to 17 have had both shots, according to the latest CDC figures released Monday. The doses are scheduled about three weeks apart.

U.S. health officials say coronavirus cases in fully vaccinated people remain rare.

The CDC on Tuesday issued a report on these "breakthrough" cases through the end of April, when 101 million Americans were fully vaccinated. Of those, about 10,300 breakthrough infections were reported — that's about 1 infection in every 10,000 fully vaccinated people, based on the available data.

Nearly two-thirds were women, and the median age of all cases was 58. About 25% of the infections involved people who didn't have symptoms. About 10% were hospitalized and about 2% died.

The report is based on voluntary reporting by 46 states and territories and isn't considered a complete tally of all breakthrough infections that may have occurred. Health officials say no vaccine is perfect and infections were expected in some vaccinated people.

The CDC stopped reporting a total number at the end of April but has been posting weekly updates on breakthrough infections that resulted in hospitalization and deaths. As of May 17, the CDC listed reports of about 1,800 hospitalizations and 350 deaths.

President Joe Biden previously set a goal of having 70% of all adults receiving at least one dose of the vaccine by July 4th.

The White House has ramped up its vaccine distribution, and coronavirus cases and deaths have dramatically fallen across the nation.

There are currently three vaccines in use in the United States. The Biden administration has increased the number of inoculations it is exporting to other nations.

Moderna released their preliminary findings Tuesday about the safety of its vaccines for kids as young as 12 based on testing on more than 3,700 youths ages 12 to 17 in the United States.

There were no COVID-19 diagnoses in those given two doses of the Moderna vaccine compared with four cases among kids given dummy shots. In a press release, the company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says the vaccine appeared 93% effective two weeks after the first dose.

Moderna officials intend to submit its teen data to the Food and Drug Administration and other global regulators early next month. The company says its vaccine triggered the same signs of immune protection in kids as it does in adults, and the same mild, temporary side effects.

It's a step that could put the shot on track to become the second option for that age group in the U.S. Earlier this month, the U.S. and Canada authorized a vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech for use, starting at age 12.

In Mexico, San Diego County and private businesses have donated 10,000 coronavirus vaccines to vaccinate workers at U.S.-owned border assembly plants in Tijuana.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard says the program is aimed at helping equalize vaccination rates at closely connected points along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"This is the first cross-border agreement we have had. This is surely going to grow a lot," Ebrard said. "We plan to replicate this all along the border."

The vaccines are being administered by medical personnel from the University of California, San Diego, at the San Ysidro border crossing. The program started Monday with about 150 to 200 shots administered per hour.

Mexico has had a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, and has received only about 34.2 million doses for a population of 126 million. Since most vaccines require two doses, Mexico has only vaccinated about 15% of its population so far.

Mexico's top diplomat says shipments of a long-delayed lot of AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive in Argentina this weekend.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard says about 800,000 doses will be flown to Argentina. The effort to fill and finish the vaccines at a Mexican plant took almost three months longer than originally expected.

Ebrard acknowledged Tuesday it had been "a long, complex, hazardous process." The vaccines were produced in bulk in Argentina and sent to Mexico for bottling. But the Mexican plant ran into problems, in part because it had difficulties in obtaining specialized filters.

The delay forced Argentina to look for another plant in the United States to perform the fill and finish operation. The first 843,000 doses from the U.S. plant arrived in Argentina on Monday.

In Japan, Tokyo officials were quick to deny a U.S. warning for Americans to avoid traveling to Japan will have an impact on Olympians.

Japan is determined to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 23. The U.S. cited a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan. Most metro areas in Japan are under a state of emergency .

Those areas are expected to remain so through mid-June because rising COVID-19 cases are putting pressure on the country's medical care systems. That causes concern about how the country could cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Olympic participants if its hospitals remain stressed and so few of its population vaccinated.

About 2% of people in Japan have been vaccinated. No international fans are allowed at the Tokyo Olympics.

In Brazil, the withdrawal of generous pandemic welfare payments is fueling a rapid rise in poverty in the country.

The government responded to the socioeconomic turmoil in 2020 with one of the world's most generous welfare programs. Now the flow of money has been limited, leaving Brazilians exposed to soaring food prices and a still-worsening job market.

The strain comes at a time when there is no near-term hope of mass vaccination to safeguard the labor force. The government failed to anticipate the COVID-19 tsunami that materialized in January.

Welfare resumed in April, but for roughly two-thirds as many people. They are also receiving less than half the previous monthly amounts.

In Brussels, Belgium, European Union leaders have agreed to donate at least 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to poorer nations by the end of the year.

The 27 leaders expressed support for a text in which they pledged to continue efforts "to increase global vaccine production capacities in order to meet global needs," an EU official with direct knowledge of discussions said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly because discussions were ongoing.

Leaders also called "for work to be stepped up to ensure global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines" and supported the U.N.-backed COVAX program. COVAX aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 shots for low-and middle-income countries.

Austria is restricting travel from Britain amid concern about a variant of the coronavirus found spreading there.

Starting immediately, the Alpine nation's health ministry says only Austrians or residents of Austria will be allowed to enter the country from Britain. Starting June 1, all flights from the UK will be banned from landing in Austria.

Britain has been added to Austria's list of "virus variant countries," along with Brazil, India and South Africa.

The variant currently spreading in Britain was first detected in India. On Friday, Germany announced it was restricting travel from Britain because of the same variant.

In Malaysia, the country registered a record number of daily coronavirus cases at nearly 7,300.

The nation has experienced a rapid climb in new cases since April, straining its hospitals and prompting the government to impose a near lockdown until June 7. But infections have not abated, with a record 7,289 new cases reported Tuesday, pushing the country's tally to more than 525,000 — a five-fold increase since the start of the year.

It is the third worst-hit country in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines.

Confirmed deaths have spiked to more than 2,300. The government has resisted calls for a full lockdown because of concerns it would cause an economic distress.

In Pakistan, the country's education minister says he's tested positive for coronavirus but has only mild symptoms.

Shafqat Mahmood took to Twitter to say he was feeling fine. Mahmood didn't say whether he had been vaccinated. Pakistan is offering free vaccinations to people 30 years old or above.

The latest development comes hours after Pakistan's positivity ratio from COVID-19 dropped to 4.82%, one of the lowest levels of infections in recent months. Two months ago, the positivity rate touched 11 percent.

Pakistan has registered nearly 905,852 confirmed cases and 20,400 confirmed deaths.

In the U.K., the British government has been accused of introducing local lockdowns by stealth after it introduced tighter restrictions for eight local areas in England that it says are hot spots for the coronavirus variant first identified in India.

On Tuesday, lawmakers and local public health officials said they hadn't been made aware of changes that the Conservative government published online last Friday.

In that updated guidance, it recommended that people within the eight localities, which includes Hounslow in west London, the city of Leicester and the towns of Blackburn and Bolton, shouldn't meet up indoors or travel outside their areas.

Yasmin Qureshi, a Labour Party lawmaker in Bolton, said she hadn't been informed of the changes, saying it was "typical of this government's incompetence."

Cabinet minister Therese Coffey says the updated guidance shouldn't be a surprise to anyone as it just formalized "on the record" the outlines of what the government had been saying for days.

In the Czech Republic, the country lost its fourth health minister since the coronavirus pandemic struck last year, this one lasting less than two months.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis says Petr Arenberger called him to say he resigned. The presidential office says it will reappoint Adam Vojtech, who was health minister when the pandemic hit the country in March 2020, to the post on Wednesday.

Arenberger has been recently under media scrutiny because of alleged irregularities in his tax returns. Arenberger, the director of Prague's University Hospital Vinohrady, was sworn in by President Milos Zeman on April 7.

Andy Slavitt
Then-Acting Administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Andy Slavitt speaks at a news conference at the Treasury Department in Washington, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Slavitt, the White House coronavirus adviser, said Tuesday, May 25, 2021 “we need to get to the bottom” of the origins of the pandemic pathogen and the World Health Organization and China need to do more to provide definitive answers for the global community. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

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