The European Union reached a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for 300 million additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, the head of the European Commission said on Friday, in a move that would give the EU nearly half of the firms’ global output for 2021. Pfizer has said it can produce up to 1.3 billion doses around the world this year.
Restrictions are being placed on New Year festivities around the world as many countries struggle to curb new spikes in coronavirus cases. Fireworks displays and other public gatherings have been canceled from Sydney to New York. Festivities are being particularly muted in Europe, amid fears over a new more contagious strain of the disease. France has mobilised 100,000 police to break up New Year’s Eve parties and enforce a night-time curfew.
The first case of a new and potentially more infectious strain of Covid-19 has been confirmed in the United States, Colorado health officials said Tuesday. Preliminary analysis of the mutated strain, first identified in the U.K., suggests it may be the culprit behind Britain’s recent spike in cases. The new strain, referred to as SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01, could be as much as 70% more transmissible, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said on Monday he was confident a COVID-19 vaccine co-developed by his company would be effective against a variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in Britain. He said on Bild TV that the German company would investigate the mutation in the coming days but that he viewed the matter with “with a degree of soberness”.
US Vice-President Mike Pence is to receive the coronavirus vaccine live on television later on Friday. The White House said the aim of the move was to “promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people”. On Monday the US began rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19.
Hundreds more U.S. hospitals geared up to vaccinate their workers Tuesday as federal regulators issued a positive review of a second COVID-19 vaccine needed to boost the nation’s largest vaccination campaign. The Food and Drug Administration said its preliminary analysis confirmed the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, bringing it to the cusp of U.S. authorization.
The first Covid vaccinations approved for public use in the United States are expected to take place in the coming hours, with high-risk healthcare workers set to be first in line. Millions of frozen vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are being distributed and nearly 150 hospitals are expected to receive doses on Monday. The US is gearing up for its largest ever vaccination campaign, with the aim of reaching 100m people by April.
UK and Russian scientists are teaming up to trial a combination of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines to see if protection against Covid-19 can be improved. Mixing two similar vaccines could lead to a better immune response in people. The trials, to be held in Russia, will involve over-18s, although it’s not clear how many people will be involved.
Joe Biden has told Americans he will be able to oversee the delivery of 100 million coronavirus vaccinations in his first 100 days as president, but only if the Trump administration cooperates. In the speech on Tuesday, Mr Biden outlined his immediate plans for his first term in office, including the reopening of most of the nation’s schools and a new mask mandate.
Rich countries are hoarding doses of Covid vaccines and people living in poor countries are set to miss out, a coalition of campaigning bodies warns. The People’s Vaccine Alliance says nearly 70 lower-income countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people. This is despite Oxford-AstraZeneca pledging to provide 64% of its doses to people in developing nations.