World Health Organization (WHO) Director-GeneralTedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus has accused wealthy countries of trying to jump the queue in the distribution of vaccines -- and described equitable distribution around the world as both a moral imperative and essential for ending the pandemic.
Tedros told a session of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe on Wednesday that "the promise of equitable access is at serious risk."
"A me-first approach leaves the world's poorest and most vulnerable at risk," he said, and was also self-defeating. "Many countries have bought more vaccine than they need."
"We now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to those in wealthy countries, much of the world could be left behind," Tedros added.
He said some companies and countries were making bilateral deals in an attempt to jump to the front of the queue. This was driving up prices and meant they were "going round" the COVAX mechanism, a WHO program which purchases vaccines in bulk for distribution to poorer countries.
75% of the doses distributed had been deployed in just ten countries, Tedros said, and it was not right that younger, healthy adults in rich countries could get the vaccine before health workers and older people in poorer countries.
The emergence of new variants of Covid-19 has made the speedy and equitable roll-out of vaccines even more important, he added.
Some background: Tedros said WHO's COVAX program had secured contracts for two billion doses from five producers this year and has options for a further one billion doses into next year. The first deliveries of doses bought through the program should be made next month, he said.
However, Tedros continued, the WHO still needed funds to complete the purchases contracted for this year. COVAX needs access to those doses soon, not the "leftovers in many months from now," he said.
One year ago today, the first person was diagnosed with coronavirus in Germany at a Bavarian company, as German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned the country was at the "beginning of a coronavirus epidemic."
Spahn provided assurance that Germany was well equipped to tackle the virus with large amounts of hospital space and warned against unnecessary panic saying "not every cough is a case of coronavirus."
Germans were warned by Chancellor Angela Merkel that the country would enter into its first national lockdown on March 22 while cases and deaths were still low. She added that Germany should expect restrictions like they have "never seen them before."
As people were urged to stay at home, the data showed cases and mortality rates slowing down, leading Merkel to say in May, the first phase of the pandemic was behind them.
We're at a point where we can say we've achieved the goal of slowing the spread and keeping the health care system from being overwhelmed," Merkel said.
But as Germany started to open up and travel restrictions were lifted, a second wave of coronavirus quickly grew, leading Merkel to warn that another -- lighter -- lockdown was to come. Experiencing lockdown fatigue, social distancing became less of a priority and the country battled higher infections and death rates.
On Wednesday, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder marked the grim anniversary, telling CNNs German affiliate they could now identify and isolate the patients effectively. He warned though that the virus was still spreading at great speed.
- Germany's health agency said there'd been 13,202 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 2,161,279.
- According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 982 people died of the disease in the same period, bringing the country's death toll to 53,972.
- Since the start of Germany's vaccine rollout, 1,638,425 first doses have been administered and 283,264 people have received a second dose, according to RKI.
French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has entered an agreement with BioNTech to help produce more than 125 million doses of the German biotech company's coronavirus vaccine for the European Union, according to a statement released on Wednesday.
The statement said production of the shots would begin later this year in the summer period at the Sanofi plant in Frankfurt.
"We are very conscious that the earlier vaccine doses are available, the more lives can potentially be saved," Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said in the statement."Although vaccination campaigns have started around the world, the ability to get shots into arms is being limited by lower than expected supplies and delayed approval timelines owing to production shortages.
"We have made the decision to support BioNTech and Pfizer in manufacturing their COVID-19 vaccine in order to help address global needs, given that we have the technology and facilities to do so. As always, our top priority is to focus our efforts and capabilities on fighting this global pandemic. First and foremost, we will do this by continuing to develop our own COVID-19 vaccines candidates, in parallel with this industrial cooperation."
Sanofi scientists are also developing two vaccine candidates to help prevent and control Covid-19. One, with Britain's GlaxoSmithKline, has been delayed until later this year after it showed an insufficient immune response in the elderly, but according to Sanofi phase two trials with an improved formulation are set to start in February.
Another vaccine the company are working on is with the U.S. firm Translate Bio which uses mRNA technology, similar to Pfizer/BioNTech. Phase one trials are expected to start this quarter.
- The European Union has been widely criticized for the slow rollout of its vaccination program.
- The bloc is calling out vaccine makers AstraZeneca and Pfizer over supply problems and delays that could hinder its recovery from the pandemic.
- EU officials have threatened to introduce export controls on doses as anger mounts.
Read more about criticism of the vaccine delays here
January has already become the worst month for US Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
As of Tuesday, there have been more than 79,000 coronavirus fatalities this month, topping the previous record set in December by more than a thousand, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The grim milestone underpins the growing demand from state officials for more vaccines so that Americans can be inoculated more quickly.
President Joe Biden has pushed for 100 million vaccination shots in the first 100 days of his presidency, but with a long road ahead for vaccinations, he also called for 100 days of mask-wearing.
"The brutal truth is it's going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated. Months. In the next few months, masks, not vaccines, are the best defense against Covid-19," Biden said while announcing the federal government would buy and distribute more vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer.
With those additional doses, Biden said there would be enough to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans -- nearly the entire US population -- by the end of summer or early fall.
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At least 297 Covid-19casesas of Tuesdayhave been linked to an unauthorized religious school run by a missionary group in South Korea's Daejeon city.
Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said during a briefing that the caseshave been reported out of sixfacilities connected to the school.
Authorities areinspecting32 out of 40operating facilitiesrun by the missionary group, Tae-ho added, and have issued guidelines to help local governments deal with unaccredited religion-based educational facilities.
New cases: South Korea recorded 559 daily new Covid-19 on Tuesday, 516 of which are locally transmitted cases, according to a press release by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Wednesday.
The country's tally now stands at 76,429, including 1,378 deaths.
Its not too soon to start thinking about how the world should respond to the next pandemic, even as the current one rages on, according to Bill and Melinda Gates.
In the couple's annual letter released Wednesday, theysay that thecoronavirus pandemics disproportionate impact on people of color and women has a domino effect on communities.
"Bill and I are deeply concerned, though, that in addition to shining a light on so many old injustices, the pandemic will unleash a new one: immunity inequality, a future where the wealthiest people have access to a COVID19 vaccine, while the rest of the world doesnt," Melinda writes.
The Gates Foundation has invested $1.75 billion in the fight against coronavirus, and most of that funding has gone toward producing and procuring medical supplies, including backing researchers who develop new treatments, and working with partners to ensure safe transport of these drugs and vaccines to poorer parts of the world.
"From the beginning of the pandemic, we have urged wealthy nations to remember that COVID19 anywhere is a threat everywhere. Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of disease will keep popping up. Those clusters will grow and spread. Schools and offices will shut down again. The cycle of inequality will continue. Everything depends on whether the world comes together to ensure that the lifesaving science developed in 2020 saves as many lives as possible in 2021."
The Gates say their foundation has partnered withhistorically Black colleges and universities to expand diagnostic testing capacity on their campuses, to helpmeet the demand for local community testing asinequalities grow, as well ashelping partners understand the virus' impact on pregnant women and babies, so they continue to receive essential health services.
"The unfortunate reality is that COVID19 might not be the last pandemic ...To prevent the hardship of this last year from happening again, pandemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as we take the threat of war," Bill writes.
Peru will lock down 10 regions, including the capital Lima, from January 31 to February 14, President Francisco Sagasti announced on Tuesday.
Metropolitan Lima and the Lima region, Callao, Ancash, Pasco, Hunuco, Junn, Huancavelica, Ica and Apurmac will be locked down after being classed under "extreme" Covid-19 risk.
Residents in those regions will be allowed out of their homes for one hour per day under the restrictions.
Interprovincial land and air transport services have been suspended, according to Sagasti.
"This requires confinement, that is, quarantine," the President explained in a message to the nation.
Another nine regions of the country are at "very high" risk level, and the rest are at "high."
President Joe Biden'spledge that there will be sufficient Covid-19 vaccines for300 million Americansby the end of summer represents a bold and politically risky response to criticism that his pandemic plan lacks ambition.
In effect, the President is putting a date on a return of a semblance of normal life -- with no guarantee that he can deliver.
If the President succeeds, Tuesday may be remembered as a key turning point in a pandemic exacerbated by the former Trump administration's disastrous response. Should he fall short, the credibility of his new presidency will take a serious hit, that would not only prolong the crisis into another fall and winter but would also hamper his ambitious program on other key issues.
In a show of presidential power six days into his term, Biden sought to galvanize the action of federal, state and local governments into the kind of unified, national effort that had up until now been lacking during this once-in-century crisis.
Signs that there is finally a federal government that is not in denial and has a coherent plan could give businesses, from cruise lines to restaurants, the capacity to plan ahead -- a crucial factor in the recovery of the economy from its pandemic stasis.
And Biden's aggressive, daily, actions designed to combat the pandemic since taking office may also inject a sense of urgency on Capitol Hill as Republicans question the need for a rescue package that is vital to speeding up vaccinations.
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Myanmar will begin its Covid-19 vaccination rollout to frontline health care workers and volunteers on Wednesday, according to state media outlet Global New Light Myanmar, citing the country's Health Ministry.
Myanmar received 1.5 million doses of the Covishield/AstraZeneca vaccine on January 22.
The nationwide rollout will start on February 5 for government workers and the general public, Global New Light reported. The program will prioritize higher-risk individuals and those in areas more prone to infection.
Myanmar has a population of more than54 million people, according to United Nations data.