NYC Gets First J&J Shots; Italy Blocks Vaccines: Virus Update

A healthcare worker, right, administers a dose of Bharat Biotech Ltd. Covaxin vaccine for coronavirus at Sanjeevan Hospital in Daryaganj, New Delhi, India, on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. India is the second-worst virus-hit country in the world, trailing only the U.S. with more than 10.9 million infections. Photographer. T. Narayan/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) --New York City has received its first delivery of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Governor Phil Murphy said he is expecting a “much more normal summer” at the New Jersey Shore. Alabama will let its mask mandate expire in April.

By Bloomberg News
Mar 4, 2021, 12:47 AM – Updated on Mar 4, 2021, 9:13 PM
Word Count: 2256
Vaccine manufacturers face a global shortage of raw materials, the head of the world’s biggest vaccine maker and the World Health Organization said. Italy blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine that were destined for Australia.

Countries where more than half of adults are overweight have recorded Covid-19 mortality rates more than 10 times higher than other nations.

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Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Dangerous Weight
N.J. Shore to Be ‘More Normal’ (2:05 p.m. NY)
Governor Phil Murphy said he is expecting a “much more normal summer” at the New Jersey Shore than last year, when many restrictions were in place to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As long as the vaccine rollout continues and the variants do not overwhelm, the state will continue to slowly reopen, Murphy said Thursday during an interview on CNBC. The governor said he is “highly confident” that most adults who want the vaccine will be able to get it by the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the traditional start of the summer tourist season.

France Tightens Restrictions (1:20 p.m. NY)
France plans to tighten restrictions and accelerate vaccinations in parts of the country as the government continues to shy away from a third nationwide lockdown on hopes that improvement is just weeks away.

The Pas-de-Calais department on the northern coast of France will be put under a weekend lockdown as of Saturday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a weekly news conference.

“A lockdown, even limited to the weekend, is a heavy measure,” he said.

Ireland Reports Still Births (1:18 p.m. NY)
Irish authorities have identified four cases of still birth caused by Covid placentitis, a virus-related condition that leads to inflammation of the placenta, deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn said. While the findings are preliminary, the nation’s health service has been informed and is monitoring the situation, he said. Ireland reported 462 more cases on Thursday, with 39 deaths. About a third of close contacts are now testing positive for the virus, he said, a result of the greater transmissabilty of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. That is now the dominant strain in Ireland.

Kuwait Imposes Curfew (12:53 p.m. NY)
Kuwait has imposed a partial curfew as daily cases jumped to the highest on record. The curfew comes into force from March 7 between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. for a month, the Council of Ministers said in a statement. The Gulf nation reported 1,716 new cases on Thursday, taking the total to 196,497 with 1,105 deaths.

Alabama to Lift Mask Rule in April (12:46 p.m. NY)
Governor Kay Ivey said she’ll let Alabama’s mask mandate expire on April 9, as she announced immediate easing of other restrictions. “Folks, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting close,” she tweeted. She said the mask mandate has been “in place for more than a generous amount of time because it has helped.” She said businesses that wish to continue requiring masks will have until then to devise policies.

This week, Texas and neighboring Mississippi said they were ending their mask mandates.

After cases and hospitalizations plunged, Alabama’s new changes lift limits on the number of people allowed at tables in bars and restaurants and allow two visitors at a time to nursing homes instead of one.

Our new, modified order will include several changes that’ll ease up on some of our current restrictions, while keeping our mask order in place for another 5 weeks, until April 9. After April 9th, I will NOT keep the mask order in effect. #alpolitics 3/8

— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) March 4, 2021
Fraud in Colorado Jobless Claims (12:28 p.m. NY)
An estimated 1.1 million fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance have been filed in Colorado since the start of the pandemic, exceeding the number of legitimate claims, Joe Barela, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said at a Thursday news conference. Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the state was investigating just 90 fraudulent claims, Barela said. The state has launched a task force to crack down on the fraud, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said. There’s no evidence state labor department computers were hacked, officials said.

NYC Gets First J&J Shots (11:05 a.m. NY)
New York City has received 16,300 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses, its first delivery of the one-shot vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. The city will use the J&J shots to begin vaccinating home-bound seniors, the mayor said in a Thursday briefing. De Blasio said when he becomes eligible to get the vaccine, he hopes to get the J&J shot. The city surpassed 2 million vaccinations this week and the city’s health commissioner has said vaccines may be available to all residents by late April.

Zimbabwe Approves Indian Vaccine (11:02 a.m. NY)
Zimbabwe has become the first African country to authorize the use of India’s only homegrown coronavirus vaccine, which the developers this week said showed strong efficacy.

The first batch of Covaxin, which was co-developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd. and the Indian Council of Medical Research is due to arrive shortly, the Indian Embassy in the southern African nation said on its Twitter account.

Italy Blocks Export of Astra Vaccine (10:47 a.m. NY)
Italy has blocked a shipment of the AstraZeneca Plc.’s coronavirus vaccine to Australia, using a recently introduced European Union regulation, in a move that risks triggering a global backlash.

The move comes after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called during an EU summit last week for a tougher approach against companies that don’t respect their delivery commitments. Officials in Brussels and in Rome confirmed the news of the export ban of 250,000 doses of the shots, which was first reported by the Financial Times.

Vaccine Maker Warns of Delays (10:43 a.m. NY)
The head of the world’s biggest vaccine maker and the World Health Organization’s chief scientist said manufacturers of coronavirus shots face a global shortage of the raw materials needed to churn out the inoculations.

Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India Ltd. — which is licensed to produce hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and Novavax Inc. — told a World Bank panel on Thursday that a U.S. law blocking the export of certain key items, including bags and filters, will likely cause serious bottlenecks. Soumya Swaminathan from the WHO added that there were shortfalls of vials, glass, plastic and stoppers required by those companies.

Covid Probe Controversy Heats Up (10:23 a.m. NY)
The controversy over the investigation by the World Health Organization and China into the origins of Covid-19 heated up as a group of scientists called for an independent probe to consider all hypotheses and nail down whether the virus came from an animal.

A group of more than 20 signatories said in an open letter published by the Wall Street Journal that the existing mission isn’t independent enough and demanded a new probe to consider all possibilities over the origin. Half of the joint team are Chinese citizens whose scientific independence may be limited, they said.

The criticism comes as the mission considers delaying an interim report, which was expected soon. The investigators may instead publish that summary statement on the same day as the full report, a WHO spokesman said.

Germany Will Lift Debt Spending (8:31 a.m. NY)
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said Germany will need to increase debt spending this year to help tackle the impact of the coronavirus crisis on Europe’s largest economy.

“We will do extra activities yes, this is true, and we are able to do so,” Scholz said in an interview Thursday with Bloomberg TV.

Play Video
He declined to provide a specific figure when asked about a Bloomberg report last month that the government is weighing as much as 50 billion euros ($60 billion) in additional debt spending for 2021.

Germany, Sweden Clear Astra Shot for Elderly (7:44 a.m. NY)
Germany has joined countries widening guidelines for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, based on incoming data that support giving the shot to the elderly.

Germany’s immunization commission is recommending the shot vaccine for people aged 65 and older, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in an emailed statement. That expands on a ruling that initially limited it to adults between the ages of 18 and 64.

Sweden has lifted its recommendation against using AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people older than 65, Public Health Agency Official Sara Byfors told reporters.

Novartis Signs Vaccine Pact With CureVac (7:00 a.m. NY)
Novartis AG agreed to produce CureVac NV’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate in a deal that will boost the potential supply of the shot by as much as 250 million doses over the course of this year and next.

The Swiss pharmaceutical giant could make as many as 50 million doses this year and 200 million doses in 2022, the partners said in a statement. Once the final agreement is signed, Novartis plans to start production in the second quarter and ship the first deliveries to CureVac this summer.

Milan Tightens Curbs on Surging Cases (6:42 a.m. NY)
Almost one year after Milan became the first European region to enter into a hard lockdown, the Italian financial capital is again facing major restrictions.

All schools will be closed until March 14 and no person will be able to leave town if not for business and health reasons. Milan citizens won’t be allowed to reach their holiday houses, with bars and restaurants remaining closed while shops can stay open.

Italy Tightens Coronavirus Restrictions In Milan
Customers drink outside a bar in Milan, Italy, on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Italy’s new government may soon seek parliamentary approval for more stimulus spending as a sluggish vaccination campaign and new coronavirus strains extend the nation’s reliance on fiscal support.
Hungary Approves New Lockdown (6:35 p.m. HK)
Hungary’s government approved a lockdown as authorities seek to stem the spread of the virus. Steps include closing kindergartens and primary schools until April 7 and shutting most shops and banning all services except for health-care from March 8 to March 22, Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas said in a televised briefing on Thursday.

Deaths Surge Where Obesity Is High (5:55 p.m. HK)
Countries where more than half of adults are overweight have recorded Covid-19 mortality rates in excess of 10 times those in other nations, according to a report by the World Obesity Federation.

Of the 2.5 million pandemic deaths reported by the end of February, 2.2 million were in countries above the 50% threshold, the study showed, suggesting obese people should be included in priority groups for testing and vaccinations.

U.K. to Fast-Track Approval of Modified Shots (5:45 p.m. HK)
U.K. health regulators said authorized Covid-19 vaccines that are modified for new variants of the disease will be fast-tracked through the approval system.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued guidance — in step with partners in Australia, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland — that will reduce the time taken for the new vaccines to be ready for use, according to a statement on Thursday.

Vaccine manufacturers will need to provide robust evidence that the modified vaccine produces an immune response, but time-consuming clinical trials will not be needed. Instead a small trial will be used to assess the main adverse effects which could take a few weeks rather than months.

EMA to Start Review for Sputnik V Vaccine (5:12 p.m. HK)
The European Medicines Agency said it has started a rolling review of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine to test compliance with safety and quality standards, the first major step in gaining approval for use in the European Union.

Phase III Trials of Russia’s ‘Sputnik V’ COVID-19 Vaccine
A vial of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine.
“The rolling review will continue until enough evidence is available for formal marketing authorization application,” the agency said in a statement Thursday. “While EMA cannot predict the overall timeline, it should take less time than normal to evaluate an eventual application because of the work done during the rolling review.”

The review doesn’t mean the vaccine will be included in the EU’s vaccine portfolio. “There are currently no talks ongoing” for an advance purchase agreement, Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told journalists in Brussels.

Finland Hospitals Under Strain (5:03 p.m. HK)
The pandemic is starting to burden Finland’s hospitals as the weekly number of confirmed infections hit a record, with more patients expected to need treatment in hospitals and intensive care units in the coming week, the health ministry warned.

ICUs continue to have capacity, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said on Thursday. The government is set to invoke emergency powers on Friday, which would allow non-urgent care to be delayed as the pandemic spreads.

–With assistance from Shelly Banjo, Vincent Del Giudice, Zaid Sabah and Peter Flanagan.


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