Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS

Global Virus Update: J&J seeks EU clearance; US boosts dose shipments; SA registers 1,210 new cases

Global Virus Update: J&J seeks EU clearance; US boosts dose shipments; SA registers 1,210 new cases
City of Tshwane Health workers screen and test people for Covid-19 at a mobile clinic at Denlyn Mall Taxi Rank in Mamelodi on 20 January 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

South Africa registered a further 1,210 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total to 1,494,119. A further 219 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, bringing the total to 48,313 deaths.

The Biden administration is boosting vaccine shipments by 23% and doubling the number of shots distributed through pharmacies. US cases and hospitalisations are dropping dramatically, suggesting that measures to interrupt transmission are working.

Vaccination drives have begun delivering results, with a report in the UK suggesting that people over age 80 – a high-priority group – were the most likely to test positive for Covid antibodies. That followed an Israeli study showing a 94% drop in symptomatic cases among the vaccinated.

In Hong Kong, a panel recommended approval of Chinese developer Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine, paving the way for a second shot. Johnson & Johnson sought regulatory clearance for its Covid-19 vaccine in the European Union.

Key developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 109.2 million; deaths pass 2.4 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 176 million shots given worldwide
  • Remote workers flee to beach resorts while awaiting vaccines
  • Praise gives way to rage for Cuomo, Newsom after missteps
  • Europe prepares a mutant vaccine plan
  • Why delaying the second Covid shot is messy: QuickTake

Two French airlines to test Covid app

Two French airlines, Air Caraibes and French Bee, will start a pilot study next month of the AOKpass mobile application used to verify travellers’ Covid-19 test results. The test will include flights from Paris to overseas territories such as Guadeloupe and Tahiti. AOKpass is used on Etihad flights connecting Abu Dhabi with Paris and Pakistan.

More than 250,000 book shots in New York

More than a quarter of a million New Yorkers signed up for coronavirus vaccines on Sunday as the state expanded eligibility to include people with comorbidities, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday. Nearly all state-run vaccinations are now booked through April 16.

People with comorbidities or underlying conditions, such as cancer, pulmonary disease, pregnancy, and those immunocompromised, were eligible for the vaccine as of Monday. Approximately 10 million people are now eligible for the vaccine in New York, including essential and healthcare workers, as well as those aged 65 and older.

People began flocking to the state’s Covid-19 vaccine website, which in the past has experienced technical difficulties due to the influx of applicants.

US boosts weekly vaccine supply

The US vaccine supply is increasing to 13.5 million doses per week, up from 11 million, and the number of shots distributed through pharmacies will double, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, announced the increases to governors in a conference call earlier, Psaki told reporters at a briefing. Two million doses will be delivered to pharmacies this week, she said, up from one million. The pharmacy programme began on February 11.

J&J seeks EU clearance for its single-dose shot

Johnson & Johnson sought regulatory clearance for its Covid-19 vaccine in the European Union, on track to become the fourth shot approved in Europe and the first that can be given as a single dose.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said a decision could be possible by mid-March, capping a rolling review process that started on December 1 and has allowed EMA to examine the data on the vaccine as it emerged. A European Commission approval could follow immediately thereafter, President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet.

New York City gave out 317,000 shots last week

New York City recorded the highest number of vaccine doses administered last week since the inoculation drive began in December, doling out more than 317,000 shots, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday.

The city also released new data revealing where the vaccines have been delivered by zip code in a bid to create a more equitable distribution. The data showed deep disparities and presented a road map to the city on where to target the city’s vaccine efforts, de Blasio said during the briefing.

The city still has a long way to go to deliver vaccinations to its more than eight million residents. So far, the city has administered nearly 1.3 million total doses as of Sunday, including 870,600 first doses. It gave out 57,000 first and second doses on February 12, the highest one day of vaccinations the city has recorded, according to Health Department data.

CDC advisers weigh delaying second doses

US public health advisers are weighing recommendations for extending the interval between the first and second doses of Covid-19 vaccines, a potential strategy for quickly getting protection to more people amid the spread of new variants.

Health officials have rejected a dose-stretching policy adopted by the UK that allows up to 12 weeks between Covid shots. Most drugmakers have concurred, saying that policies should follow the protocols used in the shots’ testing, in which the intervals were set at three or four weeks.

Scotland to begin phased schools reopening

Scotland confirmed schools would start a phased return on February 22 after a drop in the rate of infections, though First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned it will still be a slow process. The government in Edinburgh will review the next stage of getting older kids back into the classroom in two weeks. She said it was unlikely more pupils would return before March 15.

“We will need to monitor the impact before taking any further decisions,” Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday. The success of the limited reopening depends on everyone continuing to abide by the existing lockdown rules because the risk is of the virus spreading among adults having more contact, she said.

Biden predicts US will break vaccine goal

“I set a big goal of administering 100 million shots in the first 100 days. With the progress we’re making I believe we’ll not only reach that, we’ll break it,” President Joe Biden said in a tweet.

Encouraging data from UK, Israel

In the UK, a report from the Office for National Statistics showed people over the age of 80 – a high-priority group in the country’s vaccination drive – were the most likely to test positive for Covid antibodies in England. The analysis estimated that 40.9% of people in that bracket had antibodies during the four-week period ending February 1, “most likely due to the high vaccination rate in this group”.

That followed study results earlier this week from Israel’s Clalit health service provider showing a 94% drop in symptomatic cases among the vaccinated. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed spurring Israel’s sputtering vaccine drive by “outing” the uninoculated.

Romania also reported significant declines in cases among the elderly and inside hospitals after most residents in nursing homes and medical workers were vaccinated. The hospital infection rate has dropped by 87% in recent weeks, according to Valeriu Gheorghita, the head of the vaccination task force.

Germany plans hardship fund to ease tension

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government aims to establish a fund to help German companies threatened with collapse, part of an effort to defuse mounting tension over the sluggish reopening of the economy. After listening to the grievances of dozens of business lobbies on Tuesday, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he would lay out a path for easing lockdown measures.

CVS gains on vaccine push

CVS Health forecast a strong year ahead after administering more than three million vaccines in about 40,000 long-term facilities in the fourth quarter, a key part of the US campaign to beat the pandemic.

Hong Kong panel recommends China’s Sinovac

A panel of experts recommended that Hong Kong approve a vaccine from Chinese developer Sinovac Biotech, saying the shot – CoronaVac – has an efficacy rate of 50%. The move came after the group last week postponed a decision on the shot, saying it needed more efficacy data.

Separately, the Hong Kong government will allow venues including gyms, beauty parlours, cinemas and theme parks to reopen from Thursday while keeping public beaches and swimming pools closed.

Dutch court rules that curfew must be lifted

A Dutch court ruled that a nationwide curfew, in effect since January 23, must be lifted immediately, according to the court’s website. The judge ruled that the pandemic didn’t constitute an acute emergency allowing the government to impose the curfew without gaining parliamentary approval. The curfew is also in violation of personal liberty, the court said. The government is studying the verdict and has yet to respond.

Iran cases highest since mid-December

Iran recorded 8,011 new virus cases over the last 24 hours, the highest since December 12. The death toll reached a total of 59,117 with 89 more fatalities overnight, up from 83 a day earlier, the latest Health Ministry data showed.

Sputnik registration sought in South Africa

The manufacturers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine have applied to register the shot for use with South Africa’s health products regulator, according to the country’s health ministry. DM

— With assistance by Mark Schoifet, Alisa Odenheimer, Colin Keatinge, Tim Ross, Rodney Jefferson, Henry Goldman, Keshia Clukey, and Alan Katz.

Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c), it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address Covid-19. We are, therefore, disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information we should know about, please email [email protected]

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"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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