In world first, Denmark ditches AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot













United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agents perform temperature checks as part of the COVID-19 measures at the entrance of a refugee registration site in Ndu, Bas-Uele province, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jan 21, 2021. (ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

BRUSSELS / OTTAWA / PARIS / BRUSSELS / MEXICO CITY / SAO PAULO / LONDON / BUENOS AIRES / WASHINGTON / LISBON / KIEV / SANTIAGO / PORT-LOUIS / HAVANA / CARACAS / RABAT / BERLIN / ROME / QUITO / ADDIS ABABA / TUNIS / WINDHOEK / KAMPALA / KINSHASA / CAPE TOWN / MOSCOW / COPENHAGEN / WARSAW / BUCHAREST – Denmark on Wednesday became the first country to stop using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine altogether, following news of its possible link to very rare blood clot cases, health authorities said.

The decision will push back the scheduled conclusion of Denmark’s vaccination scheme to early August from July 25, they said.

Results of investigations into the blood clots “showed real and serious side effects,” health agency head Soren Brostrom said in a statement.

“Based on an overall consideration, we have therefore chosen to continue the vaccination programme for all target groups without this vaccine.”

Denmark will allow people from countries in the EU and Schengen Area to enter the country from May if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the foreign ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Denmark’s government agreed with parliament late on Tuesday on a plan to gradually reopen the Nordic country’s borders, starting on April 21.

As of May 1, fully vaccinated people, including tourists, in EU or Schengen countries with low infection rates will be allowed to enter Denmark with no demand that they present a negative COVID-19 test or go into quarantine.

DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo will start its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on April 19 with 1.7 million AstraZeneca doses it received from the COVAX global vaccines sharing scheme after delaying the rollout for more than a month.

Congo received the vaccines on March 2 and was expected to begin the inoculation campaign almost immediately but delayed rollout after several European countries suspended use of the shots.

A government statement late on Tuesday said a task force had determined that the AstraZeneca vaccines already available in the country presented no risks to the population.

Congo has reported 28,542 infections and 745 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 137.2 million while the global death toll topped 2.95 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Boxes of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines sit at a warehouse of Hungaropharma, a Hungarian pharmaceutical wholesale company, in Budapest, Hungary, April 13, 2021. (SZILARD KOSZTICSAK / MTI VIA AP)

J&J

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) decided to delay the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine in Europe. The company is reviewing blood clot cases with European health authorities.

J&J also said it’s pausing the administration of its vaccine in all clinical trials while it updates guidance for investigators and participants.

The pause in the vaccine rollout marks another setback for the world’s inoculation campaign, just as it was picking up speed in Europe and other regions where immunizations have lagged.

The drugmaker suspended shots in Europe after US officials urged pausing vaccinations to review rare cases of deadly brain clots, similar to those seen with AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine. 

In the European Union (EU), which is struggling to quell a fresh wave of the pandemic, the suspension came as the bloc was finally accelerating vaccinations after trailing far behind the US and UK. Without J&J’s one-dose shot, it would take until December to inoculate three-quarters of the the EU population, according to Airfinity Ltd., a London-based research firm.

The stakes are higher for poorer countries reliant on COVAX. The group has an advance purchase agreement for as many as 500 million doses of the J&J shot. The African Union signed a deal last month for 400 million doses this year and next, with deliveries set to start in the third quarter.

Italy and other EU countries will now hold onto their doses and use other vaccines until the FDA gives the green light on the J&J shot, according to people familiar with the plans, who asked not to be identified because the discussions aren’t public.

READ MORE: US calls for pause to J&J vaccine over rare blood clots

Argentina

Argentina reported a record 27,001 new COVID-19 cases, hitting a total of 2.58 million, according to the country’s evening report.

It recorded another 217 deaths, reaching a total of 58,174.

Health Minister Carla Vizzotti warned that the South American country was seeing an accelerated increase in cases that are impacting the health system.

Argentina's vaccination campaign against COVID-19 has seen 5,696,664 doses being administered so far.

The Sinopharm vaccine being used by Argentina has an efficacy similar to the AstraZeneca vaccine and many other vaccines, "which is almost 80 percent," Vizzotti told reporters.

The data on the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine "is very good … What has also been shown is that it seeks to reduce the severity and fatality" of the disease, Vizzotti added.

Belgium

Two million people in Belgium have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, said Sabine Stordeur, member of the Vaccination Taskforce, on Tuesday.

That's roughly twenty percent of the total population, or one in five people in the country.

Between April 3 and April 9, an average of 3,485 people tested positive per day for the coronavirus, representing an infection rate of 9.4 percent.

"Coronavirus indicators are in the green," Yves Van Laethem, a spokesperson, said at a press conference of the Crisis Center and the Federal Public Health Service.

To date, Belgium has recorded a total of 927,229 COVID-19 cases and 23,503 deaths.

Brazil

Brazil’s Senate on Tuesday launched a probe into President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The congressional investigation, known by its Portuguese acronym as a CPI, can result in a number of actions, including the referral of possible wrongdoing to law enforcement. In practice, the inquiry is a political headache for Bolsonaro, who is already facing record disapproval amid Brazil’s worst coronavirus wave.

Brazil on Tuesday reported 3,808 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising its pandemic death toll to 358,425.

According to the Ministry of Health, during the same period, tests detected 82,186 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections to 13,599,994.

With hospitals overwhelmed and 80 percent of COVID-19 intensive care unit beds occupied, Brazil, which has reported a daily average of 3,068 deaths over the past seven days, is registering the most coronavirus deaths for a single country, according to data from the Council of State Health Secretariates.

Those infected are getting younger with over 50 percent of intensive care beds occupied by patients under 40 years old, according to a study published over the weekend by the Brazilian Association of Intensive Medicine.

Brazil’s P1 coronavirus variant, behind a deadly COVID-19 surge in the Latin American country that has raised international alarm, is mutating in ways that could make it better able to evade antibodies, according to scientists studying the virus.

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People line up for COVID-19 tests outside a testing site in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on April 13, 2021. (ZOU ZHENG / XINHUA)

Canada

Canada said on Tuesday it was talking to Johnson & Johnson (J&J) about reports that its COVID-19 vaccine might cause rare blood clots, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a surge in dangerous virus variants could threaten progress made so far.

Health Canada, the federal health ministry, said it was working with the manufacturer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other international regulators.

Separately, Canada said it had recorded its first case of the rare blood clot with low platelets condition after someone received the AstraZeneca Plc COVID-19 shot. The person is recovering, the health ministry said. 

“More contagious and dangerous variants are spreading and threatening the progress we’ve made,” Trudeau told a briefing, saying the situation was extremely serious as the number of cases jumps and the healthcare system struggles to respond.

Chief public health officer Theresa Tam said new cases had risen by 33 percent over the last week. The number of daily cases is now over 8,100, about the same as during the peak of the second wave earlier this year.

As of Tuesday evening, Canada has reported 1,078,562 cases, including 23,392 deaths, according to CTV. 

Chile

More than 7.4 million people in Chile have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health said Tuesday.

The government's goal is to vaccinate 15 million people, or 80 percent of the population, in the first half of 2021 in a bid to achieve herd immunity.

Health Minister Enrique Paris told reporters that 7,444,769 had received one shot of the vaccine, and 4,815,079 had received both doses.

According to the health ministry, infections have increased by 11 percent in the last 14 days.

The ministry on Tuesday reported 5,718 new cases and 35 more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the totals to 1,088,710 cases and 24,518 deaths.

Colombia

Colombia’s capital will impose quarantines beginning on Friday 12 am to Monday 4 am amid an increase of virus cases, Mayor Claudia Lopez said at a press conference.

The city decreed a “red alert” for its hospital network.

Cuba

Cuba registered 1,060 new COVID-19 infections in one day, bringing the tally to 88,445, the Ministry of Public Health said on Tuesday.

The country also logged nine more deaths, lifting the toll to 476, the ministry said.

"The number of deaths remains high," said Francisco Duran, the ministry's national director of hygiene and epidemiology.

Havana reported the highest number of cases at 616, with an incidence rate of 359.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in the country.

Ecuador

Ecuador's Ministry of Public Health on Tuesday reported 519 new COVID-19 cases and 46 deaths in one day, bringing the cumulative tally to 347,589 with 12,421 deaths.

The ministry also reported another seven "probable deaths" from the disease for a total of 4,930.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 1,568 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the national count to 232,512 as of Tuesday evening, said the country’s health ministry.

Another 22 deaths were reported during the same period, bringing the toll to 3,230, said the ministry.

The country reported 1,838 new recoveries, taking the total recoveries to 173,818.

EU

European Union countries formally agreed on Wednesday to launch COVID travel passes as a step towards reopening to tourism this summer and will negotiate details with the bloc’s lawmakers in May, two diplomatic sources said.

The certificates would allow those vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or with negative test results to travel more easily in the EU, where restrictions on movement have weighed heavily on the travel and tourist industry for over a year.

The 27 EU member states “underlined their commitment to have the framework ready by the summer of 2021,” said a document endorsed by national envoys and seen by Reuters.

European Union countries will receive 50 million more coronavirus vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech in the second quarter, the head of the EU Commission said on Wednesday, as deliveries expected at the end of the year will be brought forward.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the earlier deliveries, which will start this month instead of in October, will take total supplies to the EU from Pfizer to 250 million doses in the second quarter in a move meant to compensate for lower supplies from AstraZeneca and possible problems with Johnson & Johnson.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE will raise COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the European Union by 25 percent this quarter, helping the bloc overcome delays to the shot from Johnson & Johnson.

The US drugmaker and its partner will bring forward 50 million deliveries scheduled for the fourth quarter, adding to the 200 million doses already planned. The company provided about 66 million in the first three months of the year.

The EU Commission has decided not to renew COVID-19 vaccine contracts next year with companies such as Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Italian daily La Stampa reported on Wednesday, citing a source from the Italian Health Ministry.

However, Europe’s drug regulator said on Wednesday it planned to issue a recommendation on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine next week, but that it continued to believe the benefits of the shot outweighed the risks of side effects.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is reviewing a small number of cases in the United States of very rare blood clotting disorders among people who had received the J&J vaccine.

The Commission is seeking clarification from J&J about the company’s “completely unexpected” announcement of delays in vaccine deliveries to the EU, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Despite the US’ decision to delay rolling out the J&J shot, Belgium said it would not stop its rollout at this stage, while the Dutch drug regulator said benefits of the J&J vaccine outweighed possible risks, and Spain said it was not aware of any delay.

France

President Emmanuel Macron will meet Thursday with ministers to prepare the rules for reopening French businesses next month, the Elysee Palace announced.

Macron said in March that bars and restaurants would be back in business in mid-May with outdoor seating, and that cultural establishments also would reopen.

The country is eyeing a restart even as it prepares to cross the threshold of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. 

On Tuesday, France recorded 39,113 new infections and 345 additional deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the totals to 5.1 million confirmed cases and 99,480 deaths.

France suspended all flights to and from Brazil until further notice as concern grows over the spread of the Brazilian variant of the virus.

The country, which is under a national lockdown, is struggling to contain the pressure on its health system, with intensive-care unit occupancy remaining on a steady increase in the past few weeks, reaching 117.7 percent on Tuesday.

Germany

Germany’s rate of COVID-19 infections climbed further beyond a key threshold, a day after the government approved legislation that mandates tougher restrictions in virus hotspots.

The seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 people rose to 153.2, the most since Jan 13, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) public-health agency said on its website.

The number of confirmed cases increased by 21,693 to 3,044,016 while the reported death toll rose by 342 to 79,088, RKI data showed Wednesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel faced opposition on Wednesday to a plan to seek new powers to force coronavirus lockdowns on areas with high infection rates, with the imposition of curfews drawing particular fire given the country’s authoritarian past.

Merkel earlier urged lawmakers in both houses of parliament to support the legislation, which triggers stricter curbs when the incidence rate climbs above 100.

Merkel on Tuesday said her decision to ask parliament for temporary powers that enables her government to enforce nationwide coronavirus lockdowns was necessary to curb a third wave of the pandemic in Germany.

“One thing is helping us enormously: as we prepare for those restrictions, the vaccination campaign is in progress and building momentum every day,” Merkel said.

Italy

Italy’s AIFA could discuss the possibility of using Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine only for people over the age of 60, the head of the medicines agency told a paper on Wednesday.

The remarks by AIFA director Nicola Magrini came a day after Health Minister Roberto Speranza was quoted as saying on Tuesday by Italian news agencies that the J&J shot is important for the fight against coronavirus and will need to be used.

Italy reported 476 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday against 358 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 13,447 from 9,789.

Italy has registered 115,088 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3.79 million cases to date.

In another development, Italy could revitalize the smartphone app it launched last year to trace COVID-19 infections and use it for so-called vaccine passports, Innovation Minister Vittorio Colao said Tuesday.

Mauritius

The first batch of China's Sinopharm vaccines arrived in Mauritius Tuesday evening to help boost the country's vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

Mauritian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alan Ganoo, Minister of Health and Wellness Kailesh Jagutpal and Charge d'Affaires ad interim of the Chinese Embassy in Mauritius Gong Yufeng attended the donation ceremony held at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.

In his speech at the ceremony, Ganoo hailed the arrival of the Chinese vaccines, saying that Mauritius is grateful to the Chinese government for providing vaccines to the country at a time of difficulty, which once again bore witness to the friendship between Mauritius and China.

Mexico 

Mexico’s government reported 4,293 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 592 more fatalities, according to data from the health ministry on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 2,286,133 infections and 210,294 deaths.

Mexico plans to begin phase 1 clinical trials of "Patria," a locally-developed vaccine against the novel coronavirus, the National Council for Science and Technology said Tuesday.

Phase 1 trials on humans follow initial testing on animals, and will be carried out between April and May with around 100 volunteers aged 18-55 who are completely healthy, said Maria Elena Alvarez-Buylla, director of the council, at a press conference.

The "Patria" vaccine has already demonstrated its effectiveness against COVID-19 in pre-clinical tests on different species of animals, such as mice or pigs, Alvarez-Buylla said.

If the vaccine passes the phases of clinical trials in humans, it could be ready for use by the end of 2021, said Alvarez-Buylla.

Health workers prepare to administer shots of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at Madejski Stadium in Reading, England, April 13, 2021. (STEVE PARSONS / POOL VIA AP)

Moderna

Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine remained more than 90 percent effective after six months, according to a new analysis of data from the company’s final-stage trial.

Beginning two weeks after the second dose, the shot was more than 90 percent effective overall, and more than 95 percent effective at preventing severe cases, according to a statement. The company didn’t release further details and said the follow-up results were preliminary as the study is continuing.

Moderna also said that data from mouse studies showed that several variant-specific vaccines and booster shots it’s testing produced higher levels of antibodies against variants in lab animals. The company said it would release the animal data in a preprint and plans to submit it for publication in a scientific journal.

Moderna also said that as of April 12, it had delivered 132 million doses of vaccine, including 117 million to the US.

Morocco

Morocco registered 684 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the tally in the North African country to 502,961 the health ministry said in a statement.

The total number of recoveries increased to 489,288 after 656 new ones were added.

Meanwhile, the death toll rose by six to 8,915, the ministry said, adding that there were 446 people in intensive care units.

So far, 4,495,477 people have received one COVID-19 shot, and 4,155,395 people have received both doses.

Namibia

Eleven people died of COVID-19 in Namibia in the past 24 hours, bringing the toll to 586 by Tuesday, an official with the Ministry of Health and Social Services said.

Ben Nangombe, the executive director in the ministry, said during a daily COVID-19 update that his country was concerned about the number of COVID-19 deaths, which has shown an upward trajectory.

According to Nangombe, Namibia recorded 162 new cases in the last 24 hours.

To date, Namibia has reported 45,949 confirmed cases with 43,984 recoveries.  

So far, 3,122 doses of vaccine had been administered since the rollout began on March 19.  

Netherlands

Lockdown measures in the Netherlands will be prolonged until at least April 28 as the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions continue to strain the country’s health system, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press briefing in The Hague on Tuesday evening. 

If fewer patients are admitted, Rutte’s government announced a plan to reopen Dutch society, with first steps including reopening outdoor seating areas and end to a much-debated nighttime curfew.

Pfizer

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE expect to deliver more vaccines to the EU this quarter than currently targeted, offering good news to the bloc after deliveries of J&J’s shot were paused.

The US drugmaker said it’s “on track to significantly exceed established commitments” by the end of June. The EU is expecting some 200 million doses from Pfizer and BioNTech, up from about 66 million in the first three months of the year.

Poland

Poland will reopen kindergartens and allow open-air sports from April 19, but other restrictions will be extended by a week, the health minister said on Wednesday.

Hotels will remain closed until May 3, Adam Niedzielski also said.

Portugal

The Portuguese Directorate-General for Health (DGS) said Tuesday that nearly 1.6 million people have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sunday, representing over 15 percent of Portugal's population.

Since the start of the vaccination campaign, more than 600,000 people have received the two doses required for complete immunization, accounting for six percent of the population.

According to the DGS, Portugal has already received 2,684,460 doses of vaccines against COVID-19 and has distributed 2,360,167 doses to vaccination centers throughout the country.

Romania

Romania's Prime Minister Florin Citu said on Wednesday he has fired Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu after weeks of mounting tensions over how to handle the new coronavirus pandemic, potentially endangering the centre-right coalition government.

Deputy Prime Minister Dan Barna has been appointed interim health minister, Citu said in a statement.

Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, following his first shot on March 23.

Putin made the announcement at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society via video link.

"I hope that everything will be fine. Not just hope, I have confidence in it," he told the participants.

After receiving the first jab last month, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin was feeling well and would not take a single day off.

Russia on Wednesday reported 8,326 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,837 in Moscow, taking the national infection tally to 4,666,209 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus taskforce said that 399 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the death toll to 104,000. 

Somalia

Somalia's health ministry on Wednesday rolled out doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by China to boost the war against COVID-19 pandemic in the Horn of African nation.

The country's deputy minister of health Ahmed Hussein received his first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine during the launch of the exercise in Mogadishu.

Hussein said his country was gratitude to China for the support in the fight against COVID-19 in Somalia.

The rollout of the jabs at a hospital in Mogadishu comes after the Horn of African nation on April 11 received a batch of Sinopharm vaccine.

South Africa

South Africa is facing delays to vaccine supplies because of “unreasonable terms” being demanded by manufacturers including Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

J&J won’t sign off on 20 million doses until the company gets a letter from the trade and industry minister expressing support for its investment in local drugmaker Aspen, Mkhize told lawmakers.

The country’s vaccine deals with J&J and Pfizer have non-refundability clauses, meaning that downpayments will not be returned under any circumstances, Mkhize said. He added that South Africa was paying US$10 per dose for the J&J and Pfizer vaccines.

The country has halted the rollout of J&J vaccines after health agencies in the US recommended it’s suspension, citing concerns about rare and severe blood clotting side effects.

More than 289,000 people have received the J&J inoculations as part of the government’s vaccine rollout in South Africa. No adverse blood clotting side effects have been recorded as a result of the vaccine, Mkhize said.

Meanwhile, Mkhize announced that South Africa has successfully negotiated for another 10 million doses from Pfizer, which means that the country has secured 30 million doses of Pfizer vaccine for this financial year.

READ MORE: Africa struggles with 2% of world's vaccine doses

Switzerland 

Switzerland will investigate ways to strengthen domestic COVID-19 vaccine and drug development and production, the government said on Wednesday, reacting as global demand far outstrips supply due to rising infections at home and abroad.

“The Interior Ministry will be tasked with working together with the Finance Ministry and Department of Economic Affairs to determine in what form the federal government can strengthen the development and production of COVID-19 medicines, including vaccines and treatment, in Switzerland,” the Swiss government said in a statement.

Tunisia

Tunisia’s health ministry on Tuesday reported 1,664 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 274,604.

The death toll rose by 64 to 9,396, the ministry said in a statement.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 2,195, including 436 in intensive care units, while the total number of recoveries stood at 228,267, it said.

A total of 166,093 Tunisians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the figures published by the ministry on Tuesday.

Uganda

Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda on Tuesday said a night curfew imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 will stay despite pressure from the parliament to have it revised.

Rugunda told parliament that the night curfew imposed in March last year will continue to be enforced between 9 pm to 6 am daily throughout the country.

"Projections indicate that we should not relax our guard because the number of positive cases reported has started unfortunately to increase, especially in urban areas, border districts and trading centers," he said.

UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reduced the length of his trip to India later this month because of the COVID-19 situation in the country, his spokesman said on Wednesday, adding he would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We’ve been in close contact with the Indian government about the PM’s upcoming visit in light of the COVID situation in India. As a result of these discussions the prime minister has made the decision to reduce the length of the visit,” he told reporters.

Another 2,472 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 4,375,814, according to official figures released Tuesday.

The country also reported another 23 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 127,123. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

More than 32.2 million people have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

A UK study into using different COVID-19 vaccines in two-dose inoculations is being expanded to include shots made by Moderna and Novavax, researchers said on Wednesday.

The trial, known as the Com-Cov study, was first launched in February to look at whether giving a first dose of one type of COVID-19 shot, and a second dose of another, elicits an immune response that is as good as using two doses of the same vaccine.

Volunteers, who will have received either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, will be randomly allocated to get either the same vaccine, or the Moderna or Novavax vaccine, for a second dose.

Another study to directly compare immune reactions between Pfizer’s and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines found strong and broadly similar antibody responses in over-80-year-olds after a first dose of either shot, scientists said on Wednesday.

Ukraine

Vaccinations with the CoronaVac vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech began in Ukraine on Tuesday, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said.

Stepanov said the CoronaVac vaccine will be provided to elderly people and their caretakers as well as social and educational workers, police officers, military personnel, and athletes preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

As of Tuesday, 1,872,785 COVID-19 cases and 37,758 deaths have been registered in Ukraine, while 1,430,234 patients have recovered, according to the health authorities.  

US

The US has seen an upward trend in COVID-19 cases for four consecutive weeks, as social distancing and mask mandates were lifted in some areas and more variants transmitted across the country.

Since March 20, the 7-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases in the country has consistently remained higher compared with the previous 7-day moving average, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

New COVID-19 hospitalizations have also gone up, rising 7.3 percent from the previous 7-day period, according to the CDC.

As of April 10, the US had recorded more than 21,000 cases of the coronavirus variants, according to the latest data of the CDC.

Meanwhile, Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said Johnson & Johnson's vaccine pause would not have a "significant impact" on US vaccination efforts. He said the country would have "more than enough supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to continue the current pace of about 3 million shots per day".

Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Albert Bourla said on Twitter that the company ramped up production and will be able to deliver 10 percent more doses to the US by the end of next month than had been previously agreed on.

In another development, dozens of schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation's second largest school system, reopened Tuesday for in-person classes after a yearlong closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday announced that all people aged 16 and over in San Francisco are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

A US health advisory panel on Wednesday is set to review six reported cases of rare blood clots in women who received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine one day after federal regulators paused the use of the shot to assess the issue.

A city worker disinfects a subway station to curb the spread of the new coronavirus in Caracas, Venezuela, April 13, 2021. (ARIANA CUBILLOS / AP)

Venezuela

Venezuela’s government wants funds frozen in the United States to be put toward paying for coronavirus vaccines and will keep working with the opposition to negotiate this payment, the head of the government-controlled legislature said on Tuesday.

Allies of opposition leader Juan Guaido have for months been in talks with state officials to buy vaccines through the COVAX program using funds frozen by the US Treasury as part of sanctions against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Jorge Rodriguez, head of the National Assembly dominated by the ruling Socialist Party, said talks regarding the “kidnapped” funds would continue.

“If more of the kidnapped resources are used, it would be to buy the vaccines that are needed via the (Pan American Health Organization) and the (World Health Organization),” Rodriguez said in a news conference.

Zambia

Zambia will begin its COVID-19 vaccination program on Wednesday using AstraZeneca shots secured through the COVAX Facility to inoculate about 3.7 million people, Health Minister Jonas Chanda said. 

The southern African nation, which has to date recorded 90,218 cases and 1,229 deaths, will begin with frontline health workers.

Zambia 

Zambia on Wednesday launched the COVID-19 vaccination program against the pandemic.

The national launch, which was held at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the country's highest referral hospital in the country's capital Lusaka, was attended by officials from the health ministry, cooperating partners and private sector representatives.

The launch involves the first pillar of the program under the COVAX Facility consisting of 228,000 doses of AstraZeneca manufactured in India.

The first pillar will cover 20 percent or 3.6 million of the eligible over 18 years people and will target front-line health workers and other people at most risk. A total of 8.3 million people are targeted to be vaccinated.

Minister of Health Jonas Chanda said the launch of the program signifies the government's commitment to the fight against the pandemic.

Zimbabwe

Gatherings of more than 50 people will not be allowed during Zimbabwe's 41st independence anniversary celebrations this Sunday as the government seeks to cut the spread of COVID-19, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has said.

The announcement comes as some schools in the country have been hit by the pandemic since they reopened last month, with one boarding school in Matabeleland South province recording 117 cases out of a population of 281 learners and teachers.

However, the minister said hospital admissions for COVID-19 cases had dropped.

As of Tuesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 37,330 cases, 34,932 recoveries and 1,543 deaths related to COVID-19.

A total of 218,516 people in the country have received their first COVID-19 jab while 29,839 have received both jabs.