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Coronavirus: What's happening around the world on Monday – CBC.ca

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The European Medicines Agency recommended conditional approval for a coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer to be used across the European Union.

Following a closed-doors expert meeting Monday, the EU drug regulator said it was recommending the shot be licensed for use in people over 16 years of age, with some exceptions. The pharmaceutical companies will need to submit followup data on their vaccine for the next year.

“This is really a historic scientific achievement,” said Emer Cooke, the head of the agency. “It is a significant step forward in our fight against the pandemic.”

The approval needs to be rubber-stamped by the EU’s executive branch on Monday evening. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that the EMA’s approval was decisive moment.

Authorities in Germany and several other European countries have said they hope to begin vaccinating people on Dec. 27.

“Today is a particularly personal and emotional day for us at BioNTech,” said Ugur Sahin, the company’s chief executive and co-founder. “Being in the heart of the EU, we are thrilled to be one step closer to potentially delivering the first vaccine in Europe to help combat this devastating pandemic.”

“We are standing by ready to start the delivery of initial vaccine doses across the EU as soon as we get the green light,” Sahin said.

The European regulator came under heavy pressure last week from countries calling for the vaccine to be granted approval for use as quickly as possible. EMA originally set Dec. 29 as the date for its evaluation of the vaccine made by Germany-based BioNTech, but moved up the meeting to Monday after calls from the German government and other countries for the agency to move more quickly.

The vaccine has already been given some form of regulatory authorization in at least 15 countries, including Canada.

A worker is seen at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Berlin on Monday. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

Britain and the U.S. authorized the vaccine to be used according to emergency provisions, meaning the shot is an unlicensed product whose temporary use is justified by the pandemic that has killed almost 1.7 million people worldwide to date, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Health Canada said its approval was made under an interim order that allowed it to “assess information submitted by the manufacturer as it became available during the product development process, while maintaining Canada’s high standards.”

“Canadians can feel confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in place,” the health agency said in a Dec. 9 statement announcing the authorization of the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine.

In a statement last week that appeared to address concerns by some in Europe about the speed of the process, the EMA stressed that the vaccine would only be approved after a scientific assessment showed its overall benefits outweighed the risks.

“A vaccine’s benefits in protecting people against COVID-19 must be far greater than any side-effect or potential risks,” it said.

Scientists are still waiting for more long-term followup data to see how long immunity from the vaccines lasts and if there are any rare or serious side-effects. Final testing of the vaccine is still ongoing. More information on whether the shot works in children is needed, in addition to its effects in pregnant women.

The vaccine is not made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there’s no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

On the day Britain began its vaccination campaign, authorities warned people with severe allergies not to get the shot after two people suffered serious allergic reactions; it’s unclear if the reactions were caused by the immunization.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as of Friday they had seen six cases of severe allergic reaction out of more than 250,000 shots of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine given, including in one person with a history of vaccination reactions.

BioNTech and Pfizer offered the EU 400 million doses of the vaccine, but the bloc’s executive Commission chose to buy only 200 million doses, with an option for 100 million more.

The EMA plans to hold a meeting on Jan. 12 to decide if the coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna should be licensed. It has reviews ongoing for a shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and another from Janssen, but neither of those have made a formal request for the EMA to approve their vaccine.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, meanwhile, said “timely efforts” to prevent and control the spread of cases of COVID-19 involving the new coronavirus variant observed in Britain are needed, but infections have already been reported in at least three other countries in Europe.

The Stockholm-based agency said in a “threat assessment” Monday that while preliminary analysis in the U.K. suggests the new variant is “significantly more transmissible” there is no indication that infections are more severe.

ECDC said a few cases with the new variant have been reported already by Iceland, Denmark and the Netherlands. It also cited media reports of cases in Belgium and Italy.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 507,795 with 76,859 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 14,228.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to address the public Monday afternoon after sources said the entire province will be sent into lockdown on Dec. 24. The province — which as of Sunday had 875 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 261 in intensive care units — has seen six days straight with more than 2,000 daily cases of COVID-19.


What’s happening in the U.S.

U.S. congressional leaders reached agreement on Sunday on a $900 billion US package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy and individuals battered by the surging coronavirus pandemic, with votes likely on Monday.

The package would be the second-largest economic stimulus in U.S. history, following a $2.3 trillion aid bill passed in March. It comes as the pandemic accelerates, infecting more than 214,000 people in the country each day. More than 317,000 Americans have already died.

The package would give $600 direct payments to individuals and boost unemployment payments by $300 a week. It also includes billions for small businesses, food assistance, vaccine distribution, transit and health care. It extends a moratorium on foreclosures and provides $25 billion in rental aid.

WATCH | Millions in U.S. at risk of homelessness without support, eviction ban:

Millions of renters in the U.S. are in limbo as they wait for a new COVID-19 financial package from Congress. Without an extended evictions ban and other financial support, many of those renters could become homeless. 1:59

The United States is monitoring the new strain of COVID-19 emerging in Britain, multiple U.S. officials said, adding that it was unclear whether the mutated variant had made its way to the U.S.


What’s happening around the world 

As of early Monday morning, more than 76.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world with more than 43.3 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll was approaching 1.7 million.

In Africa, South Africa announced that a new variant of the COVID-19 virus is driving the country’s current resurgence of the disease, which is seeing higher numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The new variant, known as 501.V2, is dominant among new confirmed infections in South Africa, according to health officials and scientists leading the country’s virus strategy.

“It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave,” Prof. Salim Abdool Karim, chair of the government’s ministerial advisory committee, said in a briefing to journalists.

South Africa may see “many more cases” in the new wave than it experienced in the first surge of the disease, said Abdool Karim.

South Africa currently has more than 8,500 people hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing the previous high of 8,300 recorded in August.

A nurse from Lancet Netcare hospital, right, performs a COVID-19 coronavirus test in Johannesburg, South Africa, late last week. (Luca Sola/AFP/Getty Images)

“We are seeing a much earlier and much sharper rise in the second wave or resurgence than we anticipated,” Prof. Ian Sanne, a member of the advisory committee, told South Africa’s News24.

The new strain, different from the one in Britain, appears to be more infectious than the original virus. South African scientists are studying if the vaccines against COVID-19 will also offer protection against the new strain.

Some of the vaccines, including the one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, are undergoing clinical tests in South Africa. The scientists studying the new variant emphasized that preventive measures like wearing masks and social distancing are vital.

In response to the resurgence of COVID-19, the South African government has introduced tougher lockdown restrictions which include limited days and hours for the trade of alcohol and the closure of beaches in areas identified as hotspots.

The country has recorded a total of 912,477 cases, including 24,539 deaths.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong will ban flights from Britain after a more infectious variant of the coronavirus was found in the country, according to the city’s top health official.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Monday asked all residents to celebrate Christmas and New Year at home just with their families and asked organizers to have events close early in the night.

Japan’s daily coronavirus cases have been steadily on the rise and Tokyo hit its new high at 822 last Friday. On Monday, the Japanese capital city found 392 new cases for a prefectural total of 51,838. 

Thailand’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged past 5,000 on Monday as hundreds of migrant workers tested positive for the disease.

Thailand has been one of several Southeast Asian countries that had been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. But on Saturday, health officials reported a daily record of 548 new cases, almost all of them among migrant workers in the seafood industry in Samut Sakhon province, about 35 kilometres southwest of Bangkok, the capital.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said his government would wait to see how the situation looked in a week’s time before deciding on any special restrictions for New Year’s celebrations.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia shut its land and sea borders late on Sunday and suspended international commercial flights temporarily over fears of a new coronavirus strain, but foreign flights already in the country can leave, the Interior Ministry said.

Fellow Gulf Arab state Oman will close its land, air and sea borders for one week starting Tuesday, state television reported on Monday.

In Kuwait, the civil aviation authority added the United Kingdom to its high-risk list of countries on Sunday, meaning all flights from it are banned.

The U.S. remained the hardest-hit country in the Americas, trailed by Brazil, which has seen more than 7.2 million reported cases of COVID-19 and more than 186,700 deaths.

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Trudeau speaks to Pfizer CEO as delays to vaccine shipments get worse – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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MIa Rabson, The Canadian Press


Published Thursday, January 21, 2021 4:39PM EST


Last Updated Thursday, January 21, 2021 8:00PM EST

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by phone Thursday, the same day the company informed Canada delays to its shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are going to be even worse than previously thought.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last week a factory expansion at Pfizer’s Belgium plant was going to slow production, cutting Canada’s deliveries over four weeks in half.

In exchange, Pfizer expects to be able to ship hundreds of millions more doses worldwide over the rest of 2021.

Tuesday, Fortin said Canada would receive 80 per cent of the previously expected doses this week, nothing at all next week, and about half the promised deliveries in the first two weeks of February.

Thursday, he said the doses delivered in the first week of February will only be 79,000, one one-fifth of what was once expected. Fortin doesn’t know yet what will come the week after, but overall, Canada’s doses over three weeks are going to be just one-third of what had been planned.

Trudeau has been under pressure to call Bourla, as the delayed doses force provinces to cancel vaccination appointments and reconsider timing for second doses.

Fortin said some provinces may be hit even harder than others because of limits on the way the Pfizer doses can be split up for shipping. The vaccine is delicate and must be kept ultra frozen until shortly before injecting it. The company packs and ships specialized coolers, with GPS thermal trackers, directly to provincial vaccine sites.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week he doesn’t blame the federal government for the dose delays but wanted Trudeau to do more to push back about it.

“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives.

Trudeau informed Ford and other premiers of the call with Bourla during a regular teleconference to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Thursday, all calls between the federal cabinet and Pfizer had been handled by Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

Ford also spoke to Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow Wednesday.

Trudeau didn’t suggest the call with Bourla made any difference to the delays, and noted Canada is not the only country affected.

Europe, which on the weekend thought its delayed doses would only be for one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to Bourla, now seems poised to be affected longer. Italy is so angry it is threatening to sue the U.S.-based drugmaker for the delays.

Mexico said this week it is only getting half its expected shipment this week and nothing at all for the next three weeks. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also reported delays getting doses. Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said more countries were affected but wouldn’t say which ones.

Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March and that is not going to change with the delay. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over 7 1/2 weeks to meet that commitment.

Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.

Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.

Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

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Trudeau speaks to Pfizer CEO as delays to vaccine shipments get worse – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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MIa Rabson, The Canadian Press


Published Thursday, January 21, 2021 4:39PM EST


Last Updated Thursday, January 21, 2021 8:00PM EST

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by phone Thursday, the same day the company informed Canada delays to its shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are going to be even worse than previously thought.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last week a factory expansion at Pfizer’s Belgium plant was going to slow production, cutting Canada’s deliveries over four weeks in half.

In exchange, Pfizer expects to be able to ship hundreds of millions more doses worldwide over the rest of 2021.

Tuesday, Fortin said Canada would receive 80 per cent of the previously expected doses this week, nothing at all next week, and about half the promised deliveries in the first two weeks of February.

Thursday, he said the doses delivered in the first week of February will only be 79,000, one one-fifth of what was once expected. Fortin doesn’t know yet what will come the week after, but overall, Canada’s doses over three weeks are going to be just one-third of what had been planned.

Trudeau has been under pressure to call Bourla, as the delayed doses force provinces to cancel vaccination appointments and reconsider timing for second doses.

Fortin said some provinces may be hit even harder than others because of limits on the way the Pfizer doses can be split up for shipping. The vaccine is delicate and must be kept ultra frozen until shortly before injecting it. The company packs and ships specialized coolers, with GPS thermal trackers, directly to provincial vaccine sites.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week he doesn’t blame the federal government for the dose delays but wanted Trudeau to do more to push back about it.

“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives.

Trudeau informed Ford and other premiers of the call with Bourla during a regular teleconference to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Thursday, all calls between the federal cabinet and Pfizer had been handled by Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

Ford also spoke to Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow Wednesday.

Trudeau didn’t suggest the call with Bourla made any difference to the delays, and noted Canada is not the only country affected.

Europe, which on the weekend thought its delayed doses would only be for one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to Bourla, now seems poised to be affected longer. Italy is so angry it is threatening to sue the U.S.-based drugmaker for the delays.

Mexico said this week it is only getting half its expected shipment this week and nothing at all for the next three weeks. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also reported delays getting doses. Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said more countries were affected but wouldn’t say which ones.

Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March and that is not going to change with the delay. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over 7 1/2 weeks to meet that commitment.

Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.

Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.

Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

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Trudeau speaks to Pfizer CEO as delays to vaccine shipments get worse – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

Published

 on


MIa Rabson, The Canadian Press


Published Thursday, January 21, 2021 4:39PM EST


Last Updated Thursday, January 21, 2021 8:00PM EST

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by phone Thursday, the same day the company informed Canada delays to its shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are going to be even worse than previously thought.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last week a factory expansion at Pfizer’s Belgium plant was going to slow production, cutting Canada’s deliveries over four weeks in half.

In exchange, Pfizer expects to be able to ship hundreds of millions more doses worldwide over the rest of 2021.

Tuesday, Fortin said Canada would receive 80 per cent of the previously expected doses this week, nothing at all next week, and about half the promised deliveries in the first two weeks of February.

Thursday, he said the doses delivered in the first week of February will only be 79,000, one one-fifth of what was once expected. Fortin doesn’t know yet what will come the week after, but overall, Canada’s doses over three weeks are going to be just one-third of what had been planned.

Trudeau has been under pressure to call Bourla, as the delayed doses force provinces to cancel vaccination appointments and reconsider timing for second doses.

Fortin said some provinces may be hit even harder than others because of limits on the way the Pfizer doses can be split up for shipping. The vaccine is delicate and must be kept ultra frozen until shortly before injecting it. The company packs and ships specialized coolers, with GPS thermal trackers, directly to provincial vaccine sites.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week he doesn’t blame the federal government for the dose delays but wanted Trudeau to do more to push back about it.

“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives.

Trudeau informed Ford and other premiers of the call with Bourla during a regular teleconference to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Thursday, all calls between the federal cabinet and Pfizer had been handled by Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

Ford also spoke to Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow Wednesday.

Trudeau didn’t suggest the call with Bourla made any difference to the delays, and noted Canada is not the only country affected.

Europe, which on the weekend thought its delayed doses would only be for one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to Bourla, now seems poised to be affected longer. Italy is so angry it is threatening to sue the U.S.-based drugmaker for the delays.

Mexico said this week it is only getting half its expected shipment this week and nothing at all for the next three weeks. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also reported delays getting doses. Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said more countries were affected but wouldn’t say which ones.

Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March and that is not going to change with the delay. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over 7 1/2 weeks to meet that commitment.

Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.

Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.

Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

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