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COVID-19 vaccine shipments arrive across EU before rollout – The Times of Israel

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The first shipments of coronavirus vaccines have arrived across the European Union as authorities prepared to administer the first shots to the most vulnerable people in a coordinated effort on Sunday.

The vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer arrived by truck in warehouses across the continent on Friday and early Saturday after being sent from a manufacturing center in Belgium before Christmas.

The rollout marks a moment of hope for a region that includes some of the world’s earliest and worst-hit virus hot spots, including Italy and Spain, and others, like the Czech Republic, that were spared the worst early on only to see their healthcare systems near their breaking points in the fall.

Germany, Hungary and Slovakia began giving out their first coronavirus vaccine shots on Saturday only hours after receiving their first shipments, upsetting the European Union’s plans for a coordinated rollout Sunday across the bloc’s 27 nations.

Hungarian head physician Adrienne Kertesz receives a vaccine from head of the National Institute of Hematology and Infectology Janos Szlavik, right, after the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines against the new coronavirus bought by Hungary arrived at the Southern Pest Central Hospital in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)

Altogether, the 27 EU member states have seen at least 16 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 336,000 deaths.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen released a video celebrating the vaccine rollout, calling it “a touching moment of unity.”

“Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The COVID-19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU,” she said.

The vaccine rollout will help the bloc project a sense of unity in a complex lifesaving mission after it faced a year of difficulties in negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain. It also brings a sigh of relief for EU politicians who were frustrated after Britain, Canada and the United States began their vaccination programs earlier this month.

Medical staff look over an order sheet as they receive part of a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shipment at the UZ Leuven hospital in Leuven, Belgium, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 (Nicolas Maeterlinck, Pool via AP)

“It’s here, the good news at Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a news conference Saturday. “At this moment, trucks are underway across Europe, across Germany and its regions, to deliver the first vaccine. More deliveries will follow the day after tomorrow. This vaccine is the decisive key to end this pandemic.”

“It is the key to getting our lives back,” Spahn said.

The rollout is the result of coordination on the part of all 27 member states, helping the bloc to also project a sense of unity in a lifesaving mission of logistical complexity after difficulties in negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain.

The first doses, however, are limited to just under 10,000 doses in most countries, with the mass vaccination programs expected to begin only in January.

Vaccines are unpacked from under dry ice in a large box in the Clinical Pharmacy of the University of Debrecen in Debrecen, Hungary, after the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines against the new coronavirus arrived in the country Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 (Zsolt Czegledi/MTI via AP)

Each country is deciding on its own who will get the first shots — but they are all putting the most vulnerable first.

French authorities said they will prioritize the elderly, based on the high impact on older populations in previous virus surges in France. The French medical safety agency will monitor for eventual problems.

Germany, where the pandemic has cost more than 30,000 lives, will begin with those over 80 and people who take care of vulnerable groups.

Spanish authorities said early Saturday that the first batch of the coronavirus vaccine to reach the country had arrived in the central city of Guadalajara — where the first shots will be administered on Sunday morning at a nursing home.

A nurse in Rome at Spallanzani Hospital, the main infectious diseases facility in Italy’s capital, should be the first in the country to receive the vaccine, followed by other health personnel.

Romanian servicemen, wearing masks to protect against coronavirus, prepare to unload boxes containing the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines at a military-run facility, in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

In Poland, the first two people to be vaccinated on Sunday will be a nurse and a doctor at the Interior Ministry hospital in Warsaw, the main coronavirus hospital in the capital, followed by medical personnel in dozens of other hospitals.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki recently called it the patriotic duty of Poles to get vaccinated — a message directed at a society where there is a high degree of vaccine hesitancy born from a general distrust of authorities.

In Bulgaria, where suspicions also run high, the first person to get the shot will be Health Minister Kostadin Angelov, who has promised an aggressive campaign to promote the benefits of the shots.

In Croatia, where the first batch of 9,750 vaccines arrived early on Saturday, a care home resident in Zagreb, the capital, will be the first to receive the vaccine on Sunday morning, according to state HRT TV.

HRT TV also reported that authorities would launch a pro-vaccination campaign that will include celebrities and other public figures getting the vaccine on camera.

“We have been waiting for this for a year now,” Romanian Prime Minister Florin Catu said on Saturday after the first batch of the vaccine arrived at a military-run storage facility there.

A refrigerated truck is escorted by Italian Police as it arrives at the Spallanzani hospital to deliver the first doses of vaccine for COVID-19 in Rome, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

The vaccinations begin as the first cases of a new variant of the virus that has been spreading in the UK have now been detected in France and Spain. The new variant has caused several European countries to restrict traffic with Britain.

A French man living in England arrived in France on Dec. 19 and tested positive for the new variant Friday, the French public health agency said in a statement. He has no symptoms and is isolating in his home in the central city of Tours.

Meanwhile, health authorities in the Madrid region said they had confirmed the variant in four people, all of whom are in good health. Regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero said that the new strain had arrived when an infected person flew into Madrid’s airport.

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but further studies are needed to be completely certain.

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What is the Delta variant of coronavirus with K417N mutation?

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 India said on Wednesday it has found around 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Below is what we know about the variant.

WHAT IS DELTA PLUS?

The variant, called “Delta Plus” in India, was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

WHERE ALL IT HAS BEEN FOUND?

As of June 16 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994839/Variants_of_Concern_VOC_Technical_Briefing_16.pdf, at least 197 cases has been found from 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday around 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first 5 cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the UK and Indian cases.

WHAT ARE THE WORRIES?

Studies are ongoing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination.”

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council for Medical Research.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Pune, Bhargav Acharya and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru and Alistair Smout in London; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Giles Elgood)

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Colon Cancer Rates Have Increased: How Can You Improve Your Gut Health?

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The majority of colon cancer cases are more common among older citizens. However, research has found that colorectal cancer rates have been rising in healthy people under 50. The rate has increased over the ten years. Medical professionals recommend screening from age 45. A colorectal screening test is done to ensure that the individual does not have any signs of cancer.

A study found that there has been a surge in colorectal cancer in younger generations and could become the dominant cause of cancer-related deaths by 2030. Since the risk is alarming, everyone needs to take their gut health seriously. Here are some things that people can do to improve their well-being.

Consider Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a type of colon cleanse that treats digestive issues such as constipation and bloating. Chronic constipation can lead to colon cancer, so it is vital to deal with the issue before it worsens. Colon hydrotherapy is offered at a few places, including a wellness colonic clinic in Toronto where the staff is committed to providing solutions for their clients’ digestive health.

Cleansing your colon can help improve digestion, relieve constipation, reduce gas, rejuvenate skin, and increase energy. The process involves flushing the colon with a large volume of water. It can be beneficial to speak to the professionals at the clinic and discuss your concerns with them. They will educate you about the process and answer any concerns you may have. The treatment can seem overwhelming but can also be helpful for your gut health.

 

Consume Sensibly

Your food intake plays a significant role in your gut health. If you have gut problems, it may be worthwhile to speak to a doctor and change your diet. You should also consider finding out if you have any food intolerance. There may be trigger foods such as oil or dairy that could be causing discomfort.

Even if you do not have any problems with your food consumption, it is never wrong to watch what you eat. Foods with probiotics or high fibre content can be good for you. Eating the right foods can improve your overall health too.

Stay Hydrated

Water almost seems like a magical drink sometimes. From skin problems to digestive issues, it can improve many situations. Consuming a good amount of water every day can balance good bacteria in the gut and promote your health. Hydration can also help your organs function properly and improve cognitive function.

Say Goodbye to Extreme Stress

It can be challenging to bid farewell to stress forever. However, chronic high levels of stress can impact your abdomen and your overall health. There is a connection between the brain and gut, and stress can cause your stomach to become anxious.

Long-term stress can trigger several gut problems such as indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea. Look for ways to reduce stress levels so that your gut can remain healthy.

Some health problems are inevitable with age, but you can do your best to stay healthy and deal with any issues you face. Prepare yourself to fight any disease beforehand, and your body will thank you.

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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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