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SA faces down Pfizer as Big Pharma vaccine woes continue

20 April

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim tally of 3 million with a figure of 3,030,557 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 142 million world wide.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the world has the means to bring the global Covid-19 pandemic under control in the coming months provided countries work “consistently and equitably”.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 31.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 567,694 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Ireland: Ireland has recorded its first three cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India, a senior health official said on Monday in a statement.

UK: The UK reported four coronavirus deaths on Monday – the country’s lowest figure since September, government statistics show.

India: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces growing criticism across the political spectrum for holding large election rallies as the country’s health system reels from a deadly wave of Covid-19 cases, forcing citizens to beg for oxygen and hospital beds on Twitter. Modi avoided wearing a mask at a campaign rally on Saturday, saying “I’ve never seen such huge crowds” at an event in West Bengal.

New Zealand: A border worker at Auckland International Airport has returned a positive test result for Covid-19, the Ministry of Health said in an emailed statement. The worker was “fully vaccinated, quite early on in the campaign,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Tuesday. The person had been tested twice, on April 12 and 19, as part of normal procedure, she said.

Singapore: Singapore is working with a local medical-technology firm on potential mass usage of Covid-19 breathalysers for safe travel arrangements and screenings at large-scale events, the Straits Times reported Tuesday. Silver Factory Technology is working with the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, Changi Airport Group and security firm Certis to develop the tool. Testing has started, the paper said, citing the company. Breathalyser tests are less invasive, cheaper, and can deliver results in two minutes or less, Changi Airport’s senior vice president Albert Lim was cited as saying.

Vaccine news

South Africa: Deliveries of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine to South Africa were delayed by demands from the US drugmaker that it determine the guarantees needed to indemnify the company from any negative effects from the shots. The condition was resisted by the government and Pfizer eventually backed down, agreeing to supply 30 million doses of the vaccine co-developed with Germany’s BioNTech SE.

Greece: Greece has suspended its planned rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine pending review by the European Medicines Agency on 20 April.

US: The US has expanded its vaccine eligibility to everyone aged 16 years and above, the country’s health agency said on Monday.

Emergent BioSolutions Inc. was told by US regulators to stop making Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine at a plant where 15 million doses worth of a key ingredient had to be discarded, adding to roadblocks preventing wider use the single-dose shot. The US Food and Drug Administration began inspecting a plant in Baltimore on 12 April where Emergent was making the drug substance used in the J&J vaccine. Four days later, the FDA asked the company to stop making new materials there and quarantine existing materials until the inspection and any remediation are concluded, according to a company filing. Use of J&J’s vaccine has been paused in the US since last week as health officials probe a possible link to life-threatening blood clots. The halt at Emergent could add to questions about how many Americans will ultimately receive J&J’s shot even if it’s found to be safe.

The number of New York state residents who say they don’t plan to get the Covid-19 vaccine dropped to 14% in April from 25% in January, according to a new Siena College poll out Monday. Political party, residency and demographics revealed the biggest divisions: 22% of Republicans polled said they weren’t planning to get vaccinated, compared with 11% of Democrats; 18% of New York City residents polled said they wouldn’t get jabbed, compared with 8% in the city’s suburbs; And 21% of Latinos polled said they didn’t want the shot, compared with 13% of White residents and 16% of Black respondents.

Japan: Japan’s health ministry is asking AstraZeneca to provide additional data on blood clots as it assesses its vaccine for approval, the Asahi newspaper reported, without saying who provided the information. Approval was expected as soon as May but could be delayed as a result, Asahi said.

DRC: The Democratic Republic of Congo has launched its vaccine rollout via the Covax scheme after it was delayed for more than a month over concerns about the AstraZeneca jab’s safety.

Austria: Austria will not use Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine until the European Medicines Agency approves it, chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said.

China: China is expected to approve BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine in June, according to the head of American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Ker Gibbs.

India: India will let all citizens aged 18 and over get coronavirus vaccinations from 1 May, the government said on Monday, as cases there surge to record highs.

Indian drugmaker Cadila Healthcare Ltd., which expects regulatory approval for its vaccine by June, will potentially ramp up capacity to 240 million annual doses as the South Asian nation races to contain the world’s fastest-growing coronavirus outbreak. Cadila is expecting efficacy readings from its last stage of clinical trials in May, Sharvil Patel, the family-run firm’s managing director, said in an interview. If that data is promising, the drugmaker may double its vaccine making capabilities and is banking on a new local factory that will likely be commissioned next month, according to Patel.

Philippines: The Philippines has authorized the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine days after the US suspended use due to a rare side effect. The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration approved J&J’s application, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said at a televised briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night. It’s eyeing up to 10 million doses from J&J, Galvez said. Meanwhile, India-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd.’s vaccine was also approved for emergency use, CNN Philippines said, citing Philippine FDA head Eric Domingo. Vaccines from Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc., Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology were earlier given similar approvals.

Lockdown updates

Malaysia: Travel between different states will only be allowed for work, medical reasons, education, emergencies, death of immediate family members, and married couples living apart, according to a statement from the Malaysian police late Monday. Travelling between states for social purposes, such as attending weddings and feasts, is not permitted. This ruling will remain in effect until after Eid celebrations.

Colombia: Colombia’s capital Bogota will implement a night-time curfew and a weekend-long quarantine aimed at curbing coronavirus cases, according to the mayor’s office.

US: The US State Department is changing the way it issues travel advisories to reflect the prevalence of the coronavirus in countries around the world, in a move it said will result in about 80% of the world’s nations being considered no-go zones. Travel advisories will be updated to better reflect health notices issued by the Centers for Disease Control and will also take into account metrics including the prevalence of testing and domestic travel restrictions, the Department said in a statement. The advisories, which rank countries on a scale of 1 to 4, aren’t binding. “This update will result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80% of countries worldwide,” the department said.

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