A Saskatchewan-developed COVID-19 vaccine candidate is the latest to be approved for human trials in Canada, and could be ready by the end of 2021, its backers say.
The vaccine candidate is one of two being developed by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan.
VIDO reported Tuesday that it has received authorization from Health Canada to begin a Phase 1 clinical trial through the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax.
Participants will be recruited shortly, VIDO said, with vaccinations starting in January. Volker Gerdts, director and CEO of VIDO, said in a statement that if the three-phase trials prove successful, VIDO’s vaccine candidate could be ready for use by late 2021.
Both of VIDO’s potential vaccines are what are known as protein subunit vaccines, meaning they are created out of specific parts of a dead germ, rather than a live virus or an entire dead germ. Subunit vaccines are often used to protect against hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, whooping cough and shingles, among other viruses and diseases.
Most of the leading vaccines in the race to stop COVID-19 are based on either viral vector or RNA technology. However, VIDO is not alone in developing a subunit vaccine. According to the World Health Organization, 18 of the 61 vaccine candidates that have reached the clinical trial stage are based on protein subunits – including the ones developed by Novavax and Sanofi, for which Canada has reserved 76 million doses and 72 million doses respectively.
Subunit vaccines are typically much simpler to mass-produce than RNA or viral vector vaccines, and do not require ultra-cold storage.
While dozens of potential treatments to mitigate or negate the effects of COVID-19 are in the midst of clinical trials in Canada, only a handful of vaccine candidates have been approved for trials.
In addition to the new VIDO trial, the list includes a vaccine candidate from Quebec-City based Medicago, which entered a combined Phase 2 and 3 trial this month after reporting successful results in early testing. The company said its vaccine candidate, which is unusual in that it is derived from “virus-like particles” found in plants, provoked an antibody response in 100 per cent of the trial subjects.
Toronto’s University Health Network is currently recruiting front-line workers in Ontario to test a potential COVID-19 vaccine that is also the subject of ongoing trials in Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Rounding out the list is CanSino’s Ad5-nCoV, which was approved in the spring to much fanfare but has been at a standstill since, because the promised shipments of the vaccine candidate from China never materialized.
Gerdts, who is leading the development of VIDO’s vaccine candidate, said it is important for the ongoing trials to continue, even though some vaccines developed outside Canada are closer to approval – and in the case of Pfizer’s vaccine, have already been approved here.
“COVID-19 is not going to go away,” he said.
“To have sustainable long-term vaccine access, I think it’s important for Canada to continue on with its own vaccines.”
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca
Some provincial authorities saw encouraging signs in the fight against COVID-19 on Monday, even as experts warned that it’s too soon to draw conclusions from the data and provinces scrambled to deal with a looming shortage of Pfizer vaccines.
As of early Tuesday morning, Canada had reported 715,072 cases of COVID-19, with 73,919 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,120.
Officials in both Quebec and Manitoba noted that case numbers have dropped slightly in recent days and suggested that their populations’ efforts to control the virus could be paying off.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said case numbers in his province appeared to be dipping.
“We’re definitely not out of the woods,” he told a news conference as the province reported 118 cases. “We certainly still have a long way to go before we can return to normal.”
Roussin said the province is looking at easing some restrictions in the coming days, but that any changes would be gradual.
Quebec reported 1,634 new COVID-19 cases, which included about 200 from the previous day that weren’t noted because of a delay. The province had broken the 3,000-case mark in early January and has a seven-day rolling average of more than 1,900 cases a day.
Health Minister Christian Dubé noted on Twitter that the Quebec City region in particular had seen a decline in the number of new infections recently, which he saw as a sign that “the sacrifices that we’re asking of Quebecers are bearing fruit.” However, he asked Quebecers to continue their efforts in order to reduce the number of hospitalizations, which rose Monday after three straight days of decline.
Universite de Montreal public health professor Benoit Masse said it will take another week or two to know whether the downward trend will be sustained and to gauge the impact of the recently imposed curfew. He said the province should know more by Feb. 8, when curfew restrictions are set to lift.
Ontario also reported its lowest number of COVID-19 cases since early January, with 2,578 new infections, but the province completed a little more than 40,000 tests Sunday, compared with more than 60,000 the day before.
British Columbia reported 301 new cases on Monday, its lowest increase in over two months. However, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the risk of spreading the virus remains high.
She said there is increased transmission in the Interior and Northern health regions because of social gatherings, which are what caused a jump in infections in B.C.’s Lower Mainland a few months ago.
The news was less positive in New Brunswick, where the Edmundston region entered the province’s highest pandemic-alert level, ushering in new restrictions on businesses in the region after a record-breaking number of new cases on Sunday. The province reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday after recording 36 the day before.
Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 290 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths.
Across the North, there were no new cases confirmed in the Northwest Territories, though officials are investigating probable cases in Fort Liard. There were no new cases reported in Yukon or Nunavut.
Vaccine supply questions
Provinces were also reviewing their vaccine programs to contend with a reduced supply of Pfizer-BioNTech doses after the company said last week it was cutting back on promised deliveries over the next month as it works to expand production.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday that his province was pausing appointments for people to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine due to the supply shortage.
“Even with a new shipment of Pfizer expected later this week, we won’t have enough supply to continue with new first-dose appointments,” he said, noting that the province had set aside vaccines for people who were due for their second doses, and those appointments would continue. Alberta reported 474 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 11 additional deaths.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, had a similar message as her colleague in Manitoba on Monday, saying Alberta is “making progress” but is “not out of the woods yet.”
Manitoba stopped booking new appointments over the weekend, but health officials announced Monday that those bookings would resume, with room for about 4,000 new appointments this week and next.
Ontario also acknowledged it was working with a supply crunch that would see its next two shipments of Pfizer vaccine reduced by 20 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. Health Minister Christine Elliott said the situation would last until late February or early March when larger shipments begin to arrive.
The province announced that a new hospital set to open in Vaughan would be used to relieve a capacity crunch because of rising COVID-19 admissions. Elliott and Premier Doug Ford said the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital would add 35 new critical care beds and 150 medical beds to the province’s bed capacity.
Hospital capacity has been a concern in many provinces, with doctors in Ontario and Quebec being told to prepare for the possibility of implementing protocols to decide which patients get access to life-saving care in the case of extreme intensive care unit overcrowding.
Nationally, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are still increasing, according to Canada’s chief public health officer. Dr. Theresa Tam noted that hospitalizations tend to lag one or more weeks behind a surge in cases.
“These impacts affect everyone, as the health-care workforce and health system bear a heavy strain, important elective medical procedures are delayed or postponed, adding to pre-existing backlogs,” she wrote in a statement.
She said an average of 4,705 COVID-19 patients a day were being treated in Canadian hospitals during the last seven days, including an average of 875 in ICUs.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:55 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
WATCH | WHO chief warns of ‘catastrophic moral failure’ over vaccine distribution:
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 95.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with more than 52.7 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than two million.
In the Americas, U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s incoming White House press secretary says his administration does not intend to lift coronavirus travel restrictions for Europe, the U.K., Ireland and Brazil.
The message from Jen Psaki came Monday evening after the White House said President Donald Trump had lifted the restrictions for those countries, effective Jan. 26. Psaki then tweeted: “On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.”
She went on: “In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Trump imposed the travel restrictions early in the pandemic to slow the spread of the coronavirus to the U.S. They prevented most people without American citizenship or residency from travelling to the U.S. from the affected regions.
Brazil kicked off a nationwide COVID-19 immunization program on Monday by distributing doses of a vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech following an emergency use authorization, although the pace of vaccination will depend on delayed imports.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday the government aimed to compensate for a reduction in deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc. with those from other providers.
South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine doses, will be getting nine million from Johnson & Johnson, the health ministry said. The hardest-hit country in Africa, South Africa has seen more than 1.3 million reported cases and more than 37,000 deaths.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the government will extend physical distancing measures due to expire this week as the city remains on heightened alert after the number of COVID-19 infections climbed back into triple digits.
China was dealing with coronavirus outbreaks across its frigid northeast on Tuesday, prompting additional lockdowns and travel bans ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday. The country reported another 118 cases on Tuesday, with 43 of those in the province of Jilin. Hebei province just outside Beijing saw another 35 cases, while Heilongjiang province bordering Russia reported 27 new cases.
Beijing, where some residential communities and outlying villages have been placed under lockdown, reported just one new case.
A fourth northern province, Liaoning, has also imposed quarantines and travel restrictions to prevent the virus from further spreading, part of measures being imposed across much of the country to prevent new outbreaks during the holiday.
Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale.
Hebei’s provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, has been building a complex of prefabricated housing units to allow the quarantine of more than 3,000 people as it struggles to control more infections.
China has reported a total of 88,454 cases and 4,635 deaths since the novel coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. China does not include people who test positive but have no symptoms in its count.
A multinational team of investigators from the World Health Organization is currently in Wuhan undergoing two weeks of quarantine before beginning field visits in hopes of gaining clues into the origins of the pandemic.
New Zealand said it was looking to secure a small batch of COVID-19 vaccines early to protect its high-risk workers, as pressure mounts on the government to vaccinate its population.
Pakistan on Monday approved the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, a government statement said, two days after AstraZeneca’s vaccine developed with Oxford University received a similar authorization.
In Europe, eurozone finance ministers pledged continued fiscal support for their economies on Monday and discussed the design of post-pandemic recovery plans as the European Commission warned the COVID-19 crisis was making the bloc’s economic imbalances worse.
Norway has pledged to help fight the global pandemic by donating vaccines to low-income countries as soon as the vaccines are approved, its foreign aid minister said Tuesday.
“Ensuring COVID-19 vaccines reach people in the world’s poorest countries isn’t just about being charitable or acting on a moral imperative. It’s also in the best interest of every country to do so,” Dag-Inge Ulstein, the Norwegian minister for International Development, told The Associated Press.
“If the virus is circulating in one country, the rest of the world remains at risk.”
Ulstein gave no timeframe or figures for vaccine quantities but said the rollout will take place “in parallel to the current vaccination of the Norwegian population.”
Norway’s move came a day after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lambasted drugmakers’ profits and vaccine inequalities around the world.
Swiss authorities, meanwhile, have started mass-testing residents and visitors in St. Moritz after a new variant of the coronavirus was detected in the upscale ski resort area.
People were asked to register online and come in for free tests to a local gym and a beverage store on Tuesday after two luxury hotels were put under quarantine Monday. All schools, kindergartens and skiing schools were closed.
Officials said at least two dozen cases were detected in the two hotels, which local media identified as the Palace and the Kempinski hotels. The Kempinski said late Monday that health authorities had confirmed cases of the mutated coronavirus among the hotel’s employees.
“Local health officials have ordered that all guests and staff at the hotel should be quarantined to minimize exposure to the public,” a spokeswoman for Kempinski told The Associated Press. “The hotel is strictly following the advice of the local health authorities and World Health Organization guidelines.”
All people in St. Moritz who were five and older were asked to participate in the test, which was voluntary. Swiss media reported that the variant detected in St. Moritz was first found in South Africa.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 8:50 a.m. ET
Canadian snowbirds getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida face backlash from some residents – CBC.ca
The story has made national headlines in the United States: Foreigners aged 65 and older in Florida, including Canadian snowbirds, are being offered the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some snowbirds who made the journey to Florida this winter — despite Canada’s advisory not to travel abroad during the pandemic — are counting their lucky stars, as they could wait months to get the shot in Canada. But they also face a backlash from some locals who argue non-Floridians shouldn’t get early access to vaccines that are currently in short supply.
“We’re first. Get to the end of the line if they want to come,” Florida resident Judy Allen told a local NBC TV station on Friday at a vaccine clinic in Sanford, Fla., north of Orlando.
A week earlier, Canadian snowbirds Andrew Paton, 75, and his wife, Jill, 74, each got their first vaccine dose at a clinic in a gated community in Palm City, Fla., where they own a home. They’re set to get their followup shot on Feb. 4.
“I’m just glad I got it,” said Andrew Paton, who is from Toronto. “Our American friends are thrilled. We’re part of this community. Let’s get everybody vaccinated if we can.”
But not everyone is on side. A few days after getting the shot, Paton said someone sent a letter to the board of his gated community, complaining that Canadian residents were offered the vaccine.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “We’re not taking it from anybody. Everybody in this community who wanted one could get one.”
Unlike Canada, Florida is offering COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone aged 65 and older during the first phase of its vaccine rollout. While the state discourages visitors from coming specifically to get the shot, seasonal residents are welcome to sign up.
That policy has especially angered some Floridians who have yet to secure a vaccination appointment due to a slower-than-planned rollout.
“They’re taking it from people that are ahead of them … It’s not their stockpile,” said Clare Archer, 67, of Englewood Isles, Fla., south of Tampa.
Archer is a dual Canadian-American citizen who grew up in northern Ontario and has lived in Florida for the past 25 years. She said due to the short supply of vaccines in her region, both she and her husband have yet to snag an appointment.
And even though she has Canadian roots, Archer said she objects to snowbirds both travelling to Florida during a pandemic and getting the vaccine before some Floridians.
“They absolutely should not be here,” she said. “It’s beyond infuriating.”
WATCH | Why Canada’s vaccine rollout is so slow:
Several Florida politicians are also angry. Last week, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced he’s trying to revise the rules so that non-permanent residents in Miami are last in line to receive the vaccine.
And on Jan. 10, Rick Scott, one of the state’s U.S. senators, declared on Twitter: “Vaccines must go first to Floridians.”
This is deeply concerning. Vaccines must go first to Floridians, starting with our health care and front line workers and most vulnerable populations. This week, I asked for answers from <a href=”https://twitter.com/HealthyFla?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@HealthyFla</a> and more info on Florida’s vaccine distribution: <a href=”https://t.co/ASBzKoMnh7″>https://t.co/ASBzKoMnh7</a> <a href=”https://t.co/FcWFfmk5jP”>https://t.co/FcWFfmk5jP</a>
It’s up to each U.S. state to decide who gets priority during the vaccine rollout. In a news conference earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis explained why he’s not turning away seasonal residents who meet the current age requirement.
“We’re a transient state,” he said. “People who are here, four or five months a year, they have relationships with doctors, they get medical care in Florida.”
Canadian snowbirds on Good Morning America
Visitors in Florida getting the vaccine has become such a hot topic, the popular TV show Good Morning America covered the issue in a news segment on Friday.
“Residents across America — even Canada and Argentina — flocking to Florida … leading to what some are calling vaccine tourism,” the segment said.
The story featured Canadian snowbirds Shelton and Karen Papple of Brantford, Ont. The couple travelled to their home in Fort Myers before Florida announced its vaccine plans, and are both scheduled to get their first dose on Monday.
Papple, 66, told CBC News he has no qualms about getting vaccinated in Florida.
“We live here, we pay taxes,” he said. “We’re all in this together. It’s a world problem and everybody should be banding together.”
He said he also believes that reports of Canadians flocking to the state to get the vaccine are overblown, because there are plenty of hurdles. On top of securing a vaccine appointment, you must test negative for COVID-19 before travelling to Florida (effective Jan. 26); stay in Florida for up to a month to get the second dose; receive another negative COVID-19 test before returning to Canada; and quarantine for 14 days upon your return.
But some Canadians are still willing to make the trip.
Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone of Toronto’s Travel Secure said about 100 of his snowbird clients who originally decided not to head to Florida this winter due to the pandemic are now planning to travel to the state to get vaccinated.
But these aren’t cases of “vaccine tourism,” he said, because his clients plan to stay for the rest of the winter.
“They all own property and are really just exercising their right, I guess, to head down to a state that is offering vaccines,” said Firestone.
Papple suggests that as Florida secures and doles out more doses, the backlash against foreigners like him getting the shot will calm down.
“As things go along, the more and more people get vaccinated, I think that becomes a duller story.”
To help speed up the rollout, the state is now offering vaccine shots at a major pharmacy chain in the state. And more than a dozen federal lawmakers representing Florida, including Sen. Marco Rubio, have asked federal officials to beef up Florida’s vaccine supply to accommodate its large number of seasonal residents.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday – CBC.ca
With hospital intensive care units in parts of Ontario reaching capacity due to COVID-19, a new hospital will open in Vaughan, Ont., next month to help relieve pressure on other facilities in the Greater Toronto Area, the province announced Monday.
The Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, due to open Feb. 7, will be a “dedicated resource to support the province’s COVID-19 response,” taking in critical patients from other hospitals, Premier Doug Ford said.
“It’s like reinforcements coming over the hill,” Ford said, adding that the province is also adding 500 additional surge capacity hospital beds in Toronto, Durham Region, Kingston, Ont., and Ottawa.
Canada’s vaccination efforts against COVID-19 took a notable step forward on Monday with the opening of mass immunization centres in Toronto and Brandon, Man. This follows the opening of a similar immunization supersite in Winnipeg two weeks ago.
Toronto’s supersite is being described as a “proof-of-concept” clinic that will help the city fine-tune the operation of its future clinics, “ensuring safety and increasing efficiency in advance of wider immunization,” according to a city news release.
Retired general Rick Hillier, who heads the province’s vaccine distribution plan, told CBC News on Sunday that Ontario wants to have everyone vaccinated by late July or early August.
The Toronto site is not open to members of the public and will instead operate with a sample group of health-care workers, including those involved in harm reduction and Streets to Homes staff who support the city’s vulnerable populations.
The clinic aims to vaccinate 250 people per day. However, due to the delay in obtaining the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Europe, the clinic inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is set to close until further notice after the work day on Friday, said Matthew Pegg, head of the city’s immunization task force.
He said anyone who got a first dose of the vaccine at the clinic will be able to receive a second dose within the recommended time frame.
Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, which is the fewest logged on a single day in about two and a half weeks. However, the province’s labs processed just 40,301 test samples for the novel coronavirus, nearly 20,000 fewer than the day before.
The province also reported 24 new deaths and a total of 1,571 patients with COVID-19 in hospital. Of those, 394 were being treated in intensive care units and 303 were on ventilators — the first time the latter has climbed above 300 since the pandemic began.
Meanwhile, vaccinations got underway at the mass vaccination site in Brandon on Monday morning, following an initial hiccup in which hundreds of health-care workers with immunization appointments were given the wrong address.
Joanna Robb, a cytotechnologist who works at Shared Health’s Westman Lab, which deals with COVID-19 specimens, was the first to receive a dose of the vaccine.
“You hear the death tolls every day and the numbers, and it’s heartbreaking,” Robb said. “And we can do something.”
The Brandon site was slated to give out more than 550 shots on Monday alone, provincial officials said. The centre will be open 12 hour a day, seven days a week, for eligible health-care workers.
Manitoba registered 118 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Monday. Forty-six of the new cases are in the province’s North Health Region.
WATCH | Manitoba opens 2nd COVID-19 vaccination supersite:
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6:40 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 715,073 cases of COVID-19, with 75,461 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,120.
Over the weekend, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand sought to allay Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international vaccine deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.
Anand said on Twitter she has been in touch with the drugmaker and was assured that it is “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible.” The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.
New Brunswick has rolled back the Edmundston and Grand Falls region to a more restrictive red phase, and other regions face the same prospect as the province continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The province reported 26 new cases on Monday. That follows a tally of 36 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — 24 of them in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, about 380 kilometres northwest of Saint John — marking its highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.
The move to red-phase restrictions, which took effect in the region at midnight, mean som businesses — including movie theatres, barbershops and hair salons — must close, while restaurants can only operate with takeout and delivery. However, schools will remain open with additional health measures in place.
The rest of Atlantic Canada has not seen the recent spread of COVID-19 infections to the extent that New Brunswick has.
Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case on Sunday, in a person who returned home from work in Alberta.
P.E.I. reported four new cases on Monday, three of them linked to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and one involving someone who was in contact with a previously reported case, the province said in a news release.
In Quebec, high schoolers headed back to classrooms on Monday after a month at home, joining elementary students who returned to in-person instruction a week before the older kids. Among other health precautions, students must wear medical-grade masks and will be tested immediately if they show any COVID-19 symptoms.
The province reported 1,634 new cases on Monday, though it noted that a delay in the transmission of laboratory data caused a delay in the reporting of cases to public health departments on Sunday, as well as a drop in the number of new cases reported.
It also reported 32 deaths, nine of which occurred in the last 24 hours and 23 that occurred between Jan. 11 and 16.
Saskatchewan added 290 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Monday.
The province administered 2,449 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday. The total number of vaccines administered in the province has now reached 22,618.
Alberta will have no more COVID-19 doses available to administer by the end of Monday or early Tuesday due to the Pfizer supply disruption, Premier Jason Kenney has announced.
The premier told a news conference on Monday that the province is putting a temporary hold on the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure it has enough vaccine to provide a second dose to people who have already received their first shot.
Alberta reported 474 new COVID-19 cases and 11 new deaths on Monday. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said 739 people are in hospital with the respiratory illness, 120 of whom are in intensive care.
British Columbia on Monday reported 1,330 new cases of COVID-19 and 31 more deaths over the last three days. As of Monday, 87,346 people in B.C. had received at least one dose of vaccine.
WATCH | Risks of hockey arenas amid pandemic:
In the North, Northwest Territories health officials placed the hamlet of Fort Liard under a two-week containment order after three cases were discovered in the community.
A dozen employees of Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine in Nunavut are now in self-isolation after a worker at the mine tested positive for COVID-19, the company said in a news release on Friday. There have been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.
Meanwhile, members of Yukon‘s two mobile COVID-19 vaccination teams held one last dry-run at a Whitehorse high school on Friday before hitting the road.
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday, more than 95.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.5 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than two million.
The head of the World Health Organization says it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in rich countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people in poorer countries.
Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus kicked off WHO’s week-long executive board meeting — virtually from its headquarters in Geneva — on Monday by lamenting that only 25 vaccine doses have been provided in a single poor country, while more than 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer nations.
“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country — not 25 million, not 25,000 — just 25. I need to be blunt,” Tedros said. He did not specify the country.
Tedros again criticized “bilateral deals” between drug companies and countries that hurt the ability of the WHO-backed COVAX program, which aims to get vaccines to all countries based on need.
“Most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries, where the profits are highest, rather than submitting” data to WHO, he said, so it can approve vaccines for wider use.
In Europe, France on Monday began a campaign to inoculate people over 75 against the coronavirus, as its death toll rose past 70,000 over the weekend.
The new variant of COVID-19 first detected in Britain is now starting to gain a foothold in Belgium, officials say, with cases reported in several northern schools on top of an outbreak in a nursing home.
Officials in the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz quarantined employees and guests of two luxury hotels, closed ski schools and kept schoolchildren home from class on Monday after a dozen positive tests for a highly infectious coronavirus variant.
In Asia, a Chinese province grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases is reinstating tight restrictions on weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, threatening violators with criminal charges.
The notice from the high court in Hebei province did not give specifics but said all types of social gatherings were now being regulated to prevent further spread of the virus.
In the Americas, California became the first U.S. state on Monday to record more than 3 million known COVID-19 infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. California only reached 2 million reported cases on Dec. 24 and has the highest count of any state. Nearly 34,000 deaths in the state have been attributed to the novel coronavirus.
Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the coronavirus pandemic will get worse in the U.S. before it gets better, projecting another 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the first five weeks of president-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Klain said Biden was inheriting a dire situation, saying even with vaccines, “it’s going to take a while to turn this around.” Biden has set a goal of injecting 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a goal Klain said they were on pace to meet.
Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to months of delay and political disputes.
Brazil currently has six million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days and is awaiting the arrival of another two million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.
In Africa, South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine, has been promised nine million doses by Johnson & Johnson, the Business Day newspaper reported.
South Africa has delayed reopening schools as it faces a rapid resurgence of COVID-19 overwhelming the country’s hospitals and driven by a more infectious variant of the virus.
Ghana’s president said Sunday that infection rates are skyrocketing and include variants of the virus not before seen in the country, filling treatment centres and threatening to overwhelm the health system.
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