- South African variant arrives in US
- NYC vaccine logjam eases
- AstraZeneca battle with EU intensifies
- Germany recommends AZ shot only for people 18-64
- US cases near 26MM
- Global cases near 101MM
- WHO team ready to start investigation in China
- Cuomo lifts restrictions on hot spots
- CCP tightens security in Beijing
- Russia offers vaccine help
- South Africa's first vaccines arrive Feb. 1
- Africa secures another 400MM doses
- Vietnam reports outbreak
- Mexico's AMLO recovering from COVID infection
- Malaysia sees cases top 4.1K
- South Korea starts emergency vaccination program next month, while most will wait until Oct.
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Update (1150ET): After Germany cast doubt on the efficacy of AstraZeneca's COVID vaccines when public health authorities said it shouldn't be given to patients over the age of 64, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the shortage of COVID vaccines is finally starting to ease up.
In other New York-related news, state officials warned Thursday that the true tally of patients who died in nursing homes due to COVID is closer to 8.7K, according to AG Letitia James, nearly 2x the tally from before.
But the biggest news in the US on Thursday morning is confirmation that the COVID-19 mutant strain first identified in South Africa has finally been confirmed in the US. Two cases have been identified in South Carolina, according to the Associated Press.
The two cases don't appear to be connected, a phenomenon that one doctor described as "frightening" because...it means there could be more undetected cases within the state...said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. "It’s probably more widespread."
Dr. Krutika's comments notably follow by just a few days remarks from Gov. Cuomo and others who said for the first time that they would soon be forced to start reopening "non-essential" businesses.
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The battle between Brussels and AstraZeneca intensified Thursday due to the shortage of AstraZeneca vaccine doses, as the company (which developed the vaccine with the help of the UK's Oxford University) doesn't have enough doses to supply all of Europe during the first three months of the year. Talks held last night were apparently not very constructive, according to the FT, as they did little to resolve the dispute over whether AstraZeneca should distribute tens of millions more doses to the EU than it had planned, depriving other countries (including the UK) of promised doses.
The dispute between AZ and the 27 remaining EU governments (now that the UK has left the bloc) escalated last night, as the pharma company continued to insist that its contract with the EU doesn't require it to stick to this original delivery schedule. It must only make its "best effort" to do so. EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said late on Wednesday that the European bloc remained "united and firm" in its belief that "contractual obligations must be met”.
"We regret the continued lack of clarity on the delivery schedule and request a clear plan from AstraZeneca for the fast delivery of the quantity of vaccines that we reserved for Q1," she tweeted after the talks with AZ CEO Pascal Soriot and other executives. "We will work with the company to find solutions and deliver vaccines rapidly for EU citizens." The EU says AstraZeneca will only be able to deliver roughly 25% of the 100MM or more doses expected during the first three months of the year, dealing a heavy blow to the European bloc’s already lagging vaccine rollout.
While the EU panics about the shortage of vaccine supplies, the Russian team behind the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya has offered to send the bloc doses of "Sputnik V", warning that the EU deserves "diversified" doses of the vaccine, RT reports.
Germany has recommended that AstraZeneca vaccine shots be used only for 18 to 64-year-olds, just days after the country pushed back against plans to export the vaccine. The German group of researchers, which evaluates vaccines for the German government, said there was insufficient information on the shot’s effectiveness for people 65+.
Whether AZ manages to ramp up supplies, or not, the EMA (The EU's pharma regulator) is expected to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as Friday.
Globally, at least 100.97MM people have tested positive, while 2.2MM have died. In the US, 25.6MM have tested positive, while 429K have died.
Across the US, cases and hospitalizations have continued to decline. Deaths are more mixed, with some states seeing deaths rise, while others are seeing deaths fall.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted restrictions in most hot spots across the state, declaring an end to the post-holiday surge in cases and hospitalizations.
Finally, Beijing is ratcheting up requirements needed to enter the capital city ahead of the biggest CCP political meeting of the year. Now that their two week quarantine period is over, WHO investigators will soon begin their inspection of Beijing, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
After becoming the first EU member to approve Russia's "Sputnik V" vaccine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban is planning an order that will "automatically" approve vaccines in emergencies if the shots are already being used in another country. The Philippines version of the FDA, meanwhile, has approved AstraZeneca's vaccine the second to be approved in the Philippines after Pfizer.
Here's some more COVID news from overnight and Thursday morning:
- South Africa’s first vaccines will arrive in the country on Feb. 1, signaling the start of an inoculation program that has been criticized for its tardiness (Source: Bloomberg).
- Vietnam reported a coronavirus outbreak in two northern provinces, triggering movement curbs and prompting a plunge in stocks (Source: Bloomberg).
- The Africa Centres for Disease Control has secured an additional 400m doses of the Covid-19 vaccine through the Serum Institute of India, as the continent undergoes a surge in cases during a second wave that is far worse than the first (Source: FT).
- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is resting and in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, his spokesman said in an interview (Source: Bloomberg).
- Malaysia reports 4,094 coronavirus cases, raising the cumulative total in the country to 198,208 infections.The health ministry also conforms 10 new deaths (Source: Nikkei).
- South Korea will start "emergency" candidate vaccinations shortly, before moving on to vaccinate members of the general public some time during the third quarter (Source: Nikkei)
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Now that officials have apparently brought the Beijing in and around outbreak under control with a heavy hand, China revealed that 54 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday, down from 75 cases reported a day earlier. Of these, 41 were locally transmitted infections compared with 55 a day earlier.