The United States extended its roll-out of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, inoculating healthcare workers on Tuesday, as Moderna’s candidate is on track to be authorised for use later this week.
The European Union’s medicines regulator dramatically advanced the decision day for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus jab under pressure from Germany, meaning vaccinations in the bloc could start by the year’s end.
The Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency’s announcement that it will meet on December 21 instead of December 29 to decide whether to authorise the shot, followed a growing backlash from desperate EU countries.
Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has begun registering citizens and foreign residents for vaccination against COVID-19, the country’s state agency said.
The head of the United Nations children’s agency, Henrietta Fore, said teachers should be “prioritised to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, once front-line health personnel and high-risk populations are vaccinated”.
Globally, COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 1.6 million with more than 73 million infections.
Here are the latest updates:
WH says Trump to receive vaccine as soon as medical team say it is best
US President Donald Trump will “absolutely” encourage Americans to take COVID-19 vaccines, and will receive a vaccine himself as soon as his medical team determines it is best, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Tuesday.
But the president also wanted to show that vulnerable Americans are the top priority to receive the vaccines, she told reporters at a White House briefing.
McEnany said some career national security staff would have access to vaccines to ensure a continuity of government, along with a “very small group” of senior administration officials for the purpose of instilling public confidence.
Italy PM says new curbs may be needed to ward off new COVID-19 wave
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says the country may tighten restrictions over Christmas to limit the spread of COVID-19 infections, and urges Italians to avoid “irresponsible” gatherings during the holiday period.
Italy had managed to avoid a generalised lockdown to halt the surge of new cases since the summer, instead, imposing a more limited set of restrictions to hold back the pandemic.
But as the Christmas break approaches “there might be certain little adjustments, certain additional supplementary measures,” Conte said on Tuesday.
“We have to avoid the risk of a third wave,” Conte said, adding that the consequences would be “devastating”.
Biden says he will take vaccine ‘publicly’
President-elect Joe Biden has said he plans on taking the coronavirus vaccine “publicly” and after giving prior notice to the public and the media.
Earlier on Tuesday, the US top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci recommended Biden, his VP Kamala Harris, as well as outgoing President Trump, take the COVID-19 vaccine “as soon as we possibly can”.
“Dr Fauci recommends I get the vaccine sooner than later,” Biden told a group of journalists in the New Castle Airport in Delaware as he headed to Atlanta to campaign with the Democratic Senate candidates in the state. “I want to just make sure we do it by the numbers. When I do it you’ll have notice and we’ll do it publicly,” he said.
Q: "Do you know when you're getting the vaccine?"
.@JoeBiden: "Dr. Fauci recommends I get the vaccine sooner than later. I want to just make sure we do it by the numbers…When I do it you'll have notice and we'll do it publicly." pic.twitter.com/WV7VlyVZZY
— CSPAN (@cspan) December 15, 2020
Turkey’s daily COVID-19 deaths at record high 235: Ministry
Turkey’s daily coronavirus deaths rose to a record 235 on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 16,881, health ministry data has showed.
Turkey also recorded 32,102 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. For four months, Ankara only reported daily symptomatic cases but has reported all cases since November 25.
The government has imposed weekday curfews and weekend lockdowns to curb the surge in cases. Turkey ranks third globally in the highest number of daily cases, behind the US and Brazil.
Canada to receive Moderna COVID-19 vaccine within 48 hours of approval
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce on Tuesday that the government has reached an agreement with Moderna to receive the first deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine within 48 hours of regulatory approval, the CBC said.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp gave no further details.
Moderna’s vaccine is currently under review by Canada’s drug regulator. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received regulatory approval last week and Canada began inoculations on Monday.
Canada became just the third nation in the world to administer the vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.
Respiratory therapist receives Puerto Rico’s first vaccine
A respiratory therapist who treated the first two COVID-19 patients hospitalised in Puerto Rico became the first person in the US territory to be vaccinated against the virus on Tuesday.
Yahaira Alicea had treated an Italian couple who visited the island on board a cruise ship in March. The woman later died. Alicea said it was a fearful moment for her that wore her down physically and emotionally as she urged everyone to get vaccinated.
“This is what we want, for this pandemic to end,” Alicea said. “Don’t be afraid.”
The event was cheered by many on the island of 3.2 million people that recently imposed more severe measures to fight an increase in coronavirus cases and deaths. Puerto Rico has reported more than 107,000 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and more than 1,280 deaths.
Fauci says vaccinate top US leaders
Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris should be vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible.
“For security reasons, I really feel strongly that we should get them vaccinated as soon as we possibly can,” Fauci told ABC’s Good Morning America, adding that he would like to see Biden “fully protected as he enters into the presidency in January”.
Fauci said that while Trump probably still has antibodies to the virus that will protect him for at least several months, he should get the vaccine as well to be “doubly sure”.
Fauci said Vice President Mike Pence should get vaccinated too.
Ireland aims for vaccination by mid-2021
Anyone in Ireland who wants a COVID-19 vaccine should be able to get one by the middle of next year, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said.
Inoculations among the most vulnerable of Ireland’s 4.9 million population should start seven to 10 days after the EU’s drug regulator approves the first shot, Coveney said after the government approved a roll-out plan.
That raised the prospect of the programme beginning before the end of the year after the bloc’s regulator brought forward a decision on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to December 21.
Sweden failed to protect elderly, commission finds
Sweden failed to protect elderly people during the pandemic with the high level of community spread likely the biggest factor as the coronavirus ravaged ill-prepared nursing homes, an initial report by an official commission has said.
In the commission’s first findings, it said the overall spread and previously known structural problems within the elderly care system, for which the current and previous governments were ultimately responsible, were to blame for the many deaths.
“These shortcomings meant that elderly care was unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with a pandemic,” the commission said in a statement. “The employees in elderly care were largely left alone to handle the crisis situation.”
US FDA staff raises no new concerns with Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine
The US’s FDA staff have said a two-dose regimen of Moderna’s vaccine was highly effective in preventing confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The comments were made in documents prepared for Thursday’s meeting of outside experts, who will discuss whether to endorse a US emergency use authorisation (EUA) for the Moderna vaccine.
The FDA reviewers did not raise any specific safety issues with using the vaccine in adults over the age of 18.
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Lebanon to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in two months
Lebanon is expected to sign a deal this week for supplies of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and is set to receive the first batch eight weeks after that, the caretaker health minister said.
Despite the nation’s dire shortage of foreign exchange, the government expects to sign the $18m deal for supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, Health Minister Hamad Hassan said.
The first payment of $4m “was secured” in a meeting with the central bank and outgoing prime minister.
“We removed this obstacle,” the minister said, adding that the first batch of vaccines was expected to arrive eight weeks after the signing.
New kinds of loans and bonds could fill $28bn COVID-19 funding gap: WHO
A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has said the body was looking at new financial instruments to help fill a $28bn finance gap for COVID-19 tools, saying financing was proving a “real challenge”.
“It’s a real challenge in today’s fiscal environment despite the fact that this is the best deal in town,” WHO Senior Adviser Bruce Aylward told Geneva-based journalists. “This will pay itself off in 36 hours once we get trade and travel moving again.”
London mayor backs tougher restrictions in UK capital
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has criticised the UK government’s plan for a relaxation of coronavirus measures over Christmas, saying it could lead to a rise in infections.
The capital city will be under stricter restrictions from Wednesday, along with other surrounding areas, to tackle an increase in cases, but rules will be eased countrywide from December 23-27 to allow people to see family and friends over the festive period.
Speaking to UK broadcaster Sky, Khan said it was “nonsensical” for London to enter so-called “Tier 3”, the highest level of restrictions under the UK’s current system, for a matter of days before what he said amounted to “Tier 0”.
EU’s COVID-19 vaccine approval should come ‘before Christmas’: Germany
Germany says it wants the EU to approve the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine “before Christmas”, as criticism grows of the EU health regulator’s plan to make a decision by December 29 at the latest.
“The goal is to get approval before Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters. “We want to start vaccinating in Germany before the end of the year.”
Jordan approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Jordan has announced it has approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
The Jordanian Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) did not specify when it would begin the roll-out of the vaccine.
JFDA Director-General Nizar Mheidat told the official Petra news agency it had “concluded all stages of granting the licence, in order to approve and distribute the vaccine”.
Health Minister Nazir Obeidat said last month the vaccine would be distributed free of charge to foreign residents as well as Jordanians.
Italy plans new coronavirus restrictions for the Christmas holidays
The Italian government is planning new coronavirus restrictions for the Christmas holidays, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.
“We now need some further restrictive measures,” Conte told La Stampa newspaper, without offering more details.
“We must at all cost forestall a third wave [of the virus], because it would be devastating also in terms of the loss of human lives,” Conte said.
Italy is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic. With a population of 60 million, it has recorded about 65,000 deaths linked to COVID-19, Europe’s highest death toll.
Singapore to allow business travel arrivals from all countries
Singapore will allow business travellers and visiting officials from all countries to enter from next month, authorities said, as the financial hub seeks to recover from a coronavirus-induced downturn.
Under the new arrangements, a limited number of travellers can apply for stays of up to 14 days from mid-January, the trade ministry said.
Singapore already had arrangements allowing in selected visitors from countries including China and South Korea, but the new scheme marks a significant easing of travel curbs.
Travellers must undergo virus tests before leaving their home country, on arrival in Singapore and regularly during their stay, and must reside and conduct meetings at locations selected by the government.
Pakistan to complete research in immunoglobulin therapy to treat COVID-19
Pakistani scientists say the country is likely to be the first to complete the research needed to treat the coronavirus disease at a mass level, saying “severe” patients who had received the product had a 100 percent recovery rate.
Scientists at Karachi’s Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) are conducting clinical trials by using intravenous immunoglobulin (C-IVIG) therapy, which is a blood product extracted from the plasma of people who have recovered from the infection, and is rich in the antibodies that target the virus.
Teachers should receive vaccine priority: UNICEF
The head of the UN children’s agency, UNICEF has called for teachers to be among those given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccines.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on children’s education around the globe. Vaccinating teachers is a critical step towards putting it back on track,” UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
Teachers should be “prioritised to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, once front-line health personnel and high-risk populations are vaccinated,” she said.
“This will help protect teachers from the virus, allow them to teach in person, and ultimately keep schools open.”
UNICEF must “do everything in our power to safeguard the future of the next generation,” Fore said. “This begins by safeguarding those responsible for opening that future up for them.”
Saudi Arabia starts registering people for COVID-19 vaccination
Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has begun registering citizens and foreign residents for vaccination against COVID-19, the state news agency SPA reported, with the vaccination divided into three stages pertaining to target groups.
The vaccine has passed all testing stages and contains a strong immune response against the virus, the health ministry said.
The treatment is free for all citizens and residents as was instructed by the Saudi leadership, the ministry added.