US COVID-19 cases top 15 million as surge expands: Live news

Record cases in at least three US states – Arizona, Alabama and Ohio – pushed the cumulative coronavirus case load to over 15 million.

With the virus showing no sign of abating, leading health officials are once again sounding the alarm of further spread when people gather for the year-end holidays [File: Jae C. Hong/AP]

US coronavirus cases crossed the 15 million mark as regulators moved a step closer to approving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) health ministry says an interim analysis of in-country phase-three clinical trials of Chinese-made Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine has 86 percent efficacy against the infection.

Meanwhile, Oxford University and AstraZeneca became the first COVID-19 vaccine makers to publish final-stage clinical trial results in a scientific journal, clearing a key hurdle in the global race to produce safe and effective drugs for the new coronavirus.

Here are the latest updates:

COVID-19: Poor left behind as rich nations ‘hoarding vaccines’

A new report has found that as many as 90 percent of the population in dozens of poorer countries will miss out on the coronavirus vaccine next year because most of the supply has already been taken by rich nations.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance says that rich countries have hoarded enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over.

Read more here.

Stocks get shot in the arm as COVID-19 vaccines start roll-out

Asian shares rose to a record high and United States stock futures gained on Wednesday as investors tracked positive news on COVID-19 vaccines and ongoing efforts to launch more fiscal stimulus.

Investors are hopeful that new coronavirus vaccines now being administered to the most vulnerable will begin to allow governments to eventually open up their economies and revitalise growth.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.51 percent. At one point the index reached 646.10, an all-time peak.

Read more here.

US total COVID-19 cases top 15 million as surge expands

US coronavirus cases crossed the 15 million mark as regulators moved a step closer to approving a COVID-19 vaccine, offering hope of slowing a pandemic that killed 15,000 Americans in the last week alone.

Record cases in at least three states – Arizona, Alabama and Ohio – pushed the cumulative case load to over 15 million, according to a Reuters tally of state and county data.

With the virus showing no sign of abating, leading health officials are once again sounding the alarm of further spread when people gather for the year-end holidays.

Another 203,474 infections were reported in the US on Monday and 1,582 people died [File: Matt Dunham/AP]


India says it may approve COVID-19 vaccine in weeks

India’s Health Ministry has announced that some COVID-19 vaccines are likely to receive licences in the next few weeks and outlined an initial plan to immunise 300 million people.

Health officials said on Tuesday that three vaccine companies have applied for early approval for emergency use in India: Serum Institute of India, which has been licensed to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine, Pfizer Inc and Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech.

Read more here.

People in England won’t have COVID19 vaccine choice in first months of rollout

People will not have a choice over which COVID-19 vaccine they will receive in the first months of rollout, England’s Chief Medical Officer said, adding the initial option would be either to receive a good vaccine or get no vaccine.

Chris Whitty said that by next autumn, there could be enough supply of different types of vaccine with different properties for there to be clinical reasons why one would be more suitable for a certain person that the other.

“A situation where we have enough vaccines that you have a choice which one you wish, (that) will be a very nice problem for us to have.”

“It is not the problem we have at the moment and it is not problem we’re going to have for the next four months,” Whitty told lawmakers.


British regulator issues allergy warning over new COVID-19 vaccine

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued precautionary advice to National Health Service (NHS) trusts against administering the the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to people with “significant” allergic reactions, British media reported.

This includes reactions to medicines, food or vaccines.

The measure came after two healthcare workers who received the jab on Tuesday – the first day of the UK rolled out mass vaccination – suffered allergic reactions, reported British media. Both are reportedly recovering.

Two healthcare workers who received the jab on Tuesday suffered allergic reactions [File: Victoria Jones/Reuters]


UK regulator to assess best dose regimen of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Britain’s medical regulator will examine all the data from trials of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca, including which dosing regimen is best to use, the regulator’s chief executive said.

“Our regulatory review is all encompassing. We will look at all available data,” June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), told lawmakers after a study showed the vaccine had efficacy of 62 percent for trial participants given two full doses, but 90 percent for a smaller sub-group given a half, then a full dose.

“Clearly, we have great interest into the possible reasons for the different doses having a different efficacy… readout,” she said.

“The position is we will look at every piece of evidence… part of that will be to examine with great rigour, the basis for the appropriate dosage regimen.”


France says will delay easing of lockdown if necessary

France will delay relaxing some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions if necessary to stave off a third wave of infections, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

France is due to reopen cinemas, theatres and museums and allow citizens to move between regions on December 15, but there are signs it may not meet preconditions to enter into the second phase of rolling back the curbs.

“If we consider that … we must modify this second phase (of lifting lockdown measures), then of course we will do it,” Attal told CNews television.

President Emmanuel Macron will discuss the matter with senior ministers on Wednesday.

Israel gets first delivery of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Israel received its first batch of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring the pandemic’s end was “in sight” and vowing to get the first jab.

“This is a great celebration for Israel,” he said on the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, as a fork-lift truck started unloading the cargo from a red and yellow DHL air freighter.

“The end is in sight,” Netanyahu said referring to the disease which has infected 348,948 Israelis, 2,932 of them fatally, according to a Wednesday update.

“What is important to me is that Israeli citizens get vaccinated,” he added.

The shipment was the first of eight million doses ordered from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer BioNTech.[File: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]


Indonesia records highest daily COVID-19 death toll of 171

Indonesia reported 171 more deaths from the coronavirus, marking the Southeast Asian country’s highest daily rise in fatalities and taking the total number of deaths to 18,171, data from its COVID-19 taskforce showed.

The data also showed 6,058 new cases, taking the total number of infections to 592,900.

Indonesia has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths from COVID-19 in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths from COVID-19 in Southeast Asia [File: Achmad Ibrahim/AP]

Russia reports 26,190 new coronavirus cases, 559 deaths

Russia  reported 26,190 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,145 in Moscow, taking the national total to 2,541,199 since the pandemic began.

Authorities said 559 had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 44,718.


Merkel says should close shops after Christmas until January 10

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she agreed with recommendations to close shops in Europe’s largest economy after Christmas until January 10 and opposed opening hotels so that families can visit each other over the holiday period.

Speaking in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, Merkel said experience showed the second wave of a pandemic was harder than the first, adding that there were still far too many people infected with the coronavirus in Germany.

She said people in Germany had not reduced their contact with others to a sufficient degree.

Germany has imposed a “lockdown light” in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus, leaving only schools and shops open [File: Michael Kappeler/Reuters]


Ukraine reports record daily coronavirus-related deaths

The number of daily coronavirus deaths in Ukraine jumped to 276 from the previous record of 257 fatalities registered in November, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said.

He also said 12,585 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 845,343 cases with 14,204 deaths.

Mnuchin says he presented $916bn relief proposal to Pelosi

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he has presented a $916bn proposal for coronavirus relief that includes money for state and local governments and liability protections for businesses during a conversation with Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday.

“As part of this proposal, we will fund it using $140bn in unused funds from the Paycheck Protection Program and $429 billion in Treasury funds,” Mnuchin said.

UAE says Sinopharm vaccine has 86-percent efficacy

The United Arab Emirates health ministry says an interim analysis of in-country phase-three clinical trials of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine has 86-percent efficacy against the infection.

It also said it had registered the Chinese vaccine, for which it approved emergency use in September for certain groups. The ministry statement provided few details but marked the first public release of information on the efficacy of the shot.

The UAE conducted a trial beginning in September of the vaccine by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm involving 31,000 volunteers from 125 nations. Volunteers between 18 and 60 years old received two doses of the vaccine over 28 days.

A nurse prepares to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a London hospital [File: Frank Augstein/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies