Sweden, Denmark halt Moderna virus shot for younger people

Moderna vials sit on a table before they are loaded into syringes at a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States, on April 20, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)

MOSCOW / SANTIAGO / MADRID / LONDON / BERLIN / WARSAW / PRAGUE / AMSTERDAM / FRANKFURT / PRAGUE / ADDIS ABABA / COPENHAGEN / BRASILIA – Denmark will pause the use of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for people under 18 years, after reports of possible rare side effects, such as myocarditis, the Danish Health Agency said on Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sweden said it will pause the use of Moderna's vaccine for people aged 30 or younger over similar concerns.

Sweden’s public health authority cited indications of increased risk for heart inflammation, such as myocarditis and pericarditis, according to a statement on Wednesday. 

“We are monitoring the situation closely and are acting rapidly to ensure that COVID-19 vaccinations are constantly as safe as possible, while also providing protection,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist.

The public health watchdog is instead recommending the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for that age group. The recommendation will be in place until Dec 1.

“People who have been vaccinated recently, with a first or second dose of the Moderna vaccine, don’t need to be concerned as the risk is very small,” Tegnell said. “But it’s good to be aware of what symptoms you need to be vigilant of.”

Africa

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 8,351,133 as of Wednesday noon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The death toll rose to 212,799 while some 7,699,022 patients across the continent have recovered so far, the Africa CDC said.

Canada

Justin Trudeau is poised to announce details of the vaccine mandate for federally regulated industries he used as a wedge issue in his successful bid for a third term in Canada. 

The prime minister and his deputy, Chrystia Freeland, will make an announcement on the “COVID-19 situation” on Wednesday morning in Ottawa, according to itineraries released by their offices. 

A technical briefing with reporters will be held by officials from Transport Canada and the Treasury Board prior to their appearance.

Before triggering an election in which he hoped to regain majority control of the legislature, Trudeau announced his government would make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for for airline and rail passengers, transportation workers and federal employees. 

The incumbent Liberals attempted to use the issue against the rival Conservatives during the campaign, though were held to another minority in the Sept 20 vote. 

In his first full press conference after the election last week, the prime minister said implementing the pledge would be a top priority. Trudeau and Freeland’s announcement will include details on the timing and enforcement of the vaccine mandate, according to reports Tuesday night by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the Globe and Mail newspaper, citing unnamed government sources.

Canada has two major domestic airlines, Air Canada and Onex Corp-owned WestJet Airlines Ltd. State-run Via Rail Canada Inc provides train services.

A healthcare worker inoculates a child with a dose of the Coronavac COVID-19 vaccine at the Providencia school in Santiago, Chile on Sept 27, 2021, during the start of vaccinations in schools for children between ages 6 to 11. (ESTEBAN FELIX / AP)

Chile

Chile has vaccinated 91.53 percent of its target population aged 18 or older with an initial dose or a single-dose vaccine against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.

In a statement, the ministry said 88.74 percent of the target population of 15.2 million people have been fully vaccinated, while more than 3,469,808 people have received a booster shot.

On Sept 30, a state of emergency that had been in force for 19 months was lifted, including a curfew throughout the South American country.

Chile on Tuesday reported 503 new COVID-19 infections and six more deaths in the previous 24 hours, for a total of 1,657,749 cases and 37,506 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.

ALSO READ: EU: People with weak immunity may be given mRNA booster jabs

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day for first the time since May 18, data from the health ministry showed on Wednesday.

On Oct 5, tests identified 1,108 new cases in the country of 10.7 million, according to the data.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech has said repeatedly that the government is not planning any tightening of existing measures, because most of those infected were not inoculated.

As of Tuesday, 5.98 million people have been fully vaccinated.

A woman is vaccinated against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic on June 4, 2021. (ERIKA SANTELICES / AFP)

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Health Minister Daniel Rivera is recommending that COVID-19 vaccines be provided to children as young as 5.

Rivera made the recommendation late Monday after holding meetings with the Dominican Board of Health. The government’s nine-member Health Cabinet will review the request Tuesday, the Ministry said.

If the Caribbean nation does begin offering vaccines to children, it would join Cuba and Chile in doing so. 

Last month, Cuba authorized the use of its homegrown vaccines in children as young as 2. Chile is offering shots to children 6 and older.

The Dominican Republic has reported 361,402 cases of coronavirus and 4,055 deaths due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

This undated image provided by Merck & Co shows their new antiviral medication. Pharmaceutical company Merck & Co said on Oct 1, 2021 that its experimental COVID-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected with the coronavirus and that it would soon ask health officials in the US and around the world to authorize its use. (MERCK & CO VIA AP)

European Medicines Agency (EMA)

A European Union advisory committee will consider starting an accelerated review for Merck & Co’s experimental antiviral pill against COVID-19 following the company’s announcement last week that it will seek emergency-use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration as soon as possible.

The panel will consider starting a “rolling review” in coming days, Marco Cavaleri, the head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy at the European Medicines Agency, said at a press briefing Tuesday.  

That’s a procedure where data is evaluated as it becomes available to speed up the process.

Merck’s new drug, molnupiravir, has led to optimism about the course of the pandemic after early studies show the drug has the potential to cut the rate of hospitalization and death by around 50 percent in mild to moderate COVID-19 patients. 

The study results were so encouraging that Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP elected to begin the process of obtaining regulatory clearance early. 

It’s also a glimmer of hope for the developing world, where vaccinations have been lagging.

Germany

The benefit of a third COVID-19 vaccine shot for immunocompromised and very old people is obvious but it not so clear for younger population, the head of Germany's vaccine advisory committee said on Wednesday.

The committee, known as STIKO, is still working on a recommendation regarding third booster shots for various age groups that are not in the highest risk category, its head Thomas Mertens said.

"The more difficult question is when the healthy people in our country who are in the age group between 18 and 59 will be vaccinated again. The data situation is more difficult to assess," Mertens told journalists in a news conference.

Meanwhile, Germany will hold talks on whether it needs to make bulk purchases of Merck & Co's promising drug candidate for the treatment of COVID-19, its health minister said on Wednesday.

Germany had always secured access to effective COVID-19 treatments early, minister Jens Spahn told a news conference, when asked whether the country would seek to buy Merck's molnupiravir, which has shown promise in a trial.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 235.90 million while the global death toll topped 4.81 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 10,000 people joined a protest of organizers and fans of music festivals stage against the government's COVID-19 restrictions on large-scale outdoor events in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on Sept 11, 2021. (PETER DEJONG / AP)

Netherlands

A Dutch court on Wednesday dismissed a call to scrap the 'corona pass' required to enter restaurants, bars, museums, theatres and other public places in the Netherlands.

The court in The Hague said the government had the right to demand proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test to limit the spread of the coronavirus as most other social distancing measures were lifted last month.

It said the government had made it convincingly clear that unvaccinated people have a higher risk of a coronavirus infection and of infecting others.

It dismissed the claim by opponents that the rules discriminated against those unwilling or unable to be vaccinated.

"So far, it is not clear that there is a difference in treatment for which no objective, reasonable reason exists," the court said.

The government introduced the corona pass late last month, despite strong opposition in parliament, as Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was needed to prevent a new wave of infections. Workplaces are not included in the scheme.

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose 2 percent in the week through Tuesday, to 72 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the number of new COVID-19 patients in hospitals remained stable at the lowest level in months.

Pfizer

Pfizer Inc will study the effectiveness of its vaccine against COVID-19 by inoculating the whole population over the age of 12 in a town in southern Brazil, the company said on Wednesday.

The study will be conducted in Toledo, population 143,000, in the west of Parana state, together with Brazil's National Vaccination Program, local health authorities, a hospital and the federal university.

Pfizer said the purpose was to study the behavior of COVID-19 in a "real life scenario" after the population has been vaccinated.

"The initiative is the first and only of its kind to be undertaken in a developing country in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company," Pfizer said.

Poland

Poland's daily COVID-19 cases have risen by around 70 percent in the past week to over 2,000, a government official said on Wednesday, warning the country that a fourth wave of the outbreak is gathering pace.

Poland's health service was stretched to its limits in the spring by a third wave of the pandemic that saw daily cases exceed 35,000, but authorities believe vaccinations will help control the number of infections this autumn.

"Today's data is a very fast flashing red light," Waldemar Kraska, a deputy health minister, told public broadcaster Polskie Radio 1, adding that there were 2,085 cases reported on Wednesday.

"This is the last moment when we should get vaccinated, because the fourth wave is definitely accelerating, and in those regions where the number of vaccinated people is the lowest."

Poland has seen the pace of its vaccination program slow in recent months, and many people in rural southern and eastern regions have decided not to get vaccinated.

However, Kraska said the government was not planning to return to the large-scale restrictions on public life seen during previous waves of the pandemic.

Romania

Romania is running out of ICU beds designated for coronavirus patients as cases spike to a new daily record. 

The EU’s second least-vaccinated country had 1,480 patients in ICUs on Tuesday. It also reported more than 15,000 daily cases and over 250 deaths. Some 130 ICU beds are still reserved for potentially severe COVID-19 cases.

The country's hospitals will suspend any non-essential surgeries and other medical procedures for 30 days in order to free up as many beds as possible for COVID-19 patients, according to deputy interior minister Raed Arafat.

An elderly man wearing a face mask and gloves to protect against the coronavirus rides a subway car in Moscow, Russia, Sept 12, 2021. (ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO / AP)

Russia

Russia reported 929 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, the largest single-day death toll it has recorded since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus task force also said it had recorded 25,133 new cases in the last 24 hours, a slight increase from a day earlier.

ALSO READ: Kremlin blames record virus deaths on slow vaccination rate

Slovakia

Slovakia reported 1,971 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the highest daily tally since March 23, amid a surge of infections largely among unvaccinated people.

The health ministry said three quarters of the cases confirmed by PCR testing were among people who had not been vaccinated.

The number of patients with or suspected of having COVID-19 rose to 753, the ministry said, staying below peaks of nearly 4,000 in March.

About 52 percent of the Slovak adult population is fully vaccinated compared with an overall rate of 74 percent in the EU, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Spain

Spain on Tuesday approved administering of third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are based on the same messenger RNA technology, for people aged 70 or over, the health ministry said.

Spain has fully vaccinated around 78 percent of its population, and authorized the booster shot from six months after people receive their second jab, the ministry said in a statement. The campaign to administer the boosters will begin at the end of October.

The country had already authorized booster shots for cancer patients, nursing home residents and other vulnerable groups.

UK

Britain has reported 33,869 new cases of COVID-19, government data showed on Tuesday, meaning cases reported between Sept 29 and Oct 5 were down 2.3 percent compared with the previous seven days.

A further 166 people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19, taking the seven-day total down by nearly 16 percent from the previous week.

A total of 48.99 million people had received a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus by the end of Oct 4 and 45.02 million people had received a second dose.

United States

The COVID-19 death toll in the US this year is poised to surpass the number of fatalities in 2020. The wave fueled by the Delta strain is waning in the US, but daily infections are still hovering near 100,000 and more than 1,800 people are dying every day, on average.

The US has the world’s highest death count at more than 703,000, of which 351,985 were recorded in 2020, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The toll for 2021 has crossed 351,000 as of Tuesday morning.

More than a 100,000 Americans succumbed to the virus in the last four months – a time when safe and effective vaccines were widely available in the nation.