Pfizer says vaccine gives 100% protection to teens in study

















In this file photo a bottle reading "Vaccine COVID-19" next to US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech logos is viewed on Nov 23, 2020. (JOEL SAGET / AFP)

DUBLIN / BERLIN / SANTIAGO / TUNIS / WARSAW / HAVANA / VALLETTA / QUITO / ADDIS ABABA / PARIS / LISBON / ROME / RIO DE JANEIRO / LONDON / JOHANNESBURG / KIGALI / SAN SALVADOR / LA PAZ / MEXICO CITY / VIENNA / MOSCOW / WARSAW / MADRID – Pfizer Inc. said its COVID-19 vaccine was 100 percent effective in a final-stage trial in kids ages 12 to 15, a finding that could pave the way for teens and pre-teens to get shots before the next school year.

The vaccine is already authorized in the US for people ages 16 and up. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE said they planned to submit the data to regulators in the US and Europe as soon as possible, seeking to amend their vaccine authorizations to include the younger age group.

In the study of 2,260 adolescents, the vaccine produced antibodies against the COVID-19 that exceeded the level seen in vaccinated young adults, Pfizer and BioNTech said in a statement. All 18 cases of Covid-19 in the study were in adolescents who were administered a placebo, the companies said. Side effects were consistent with those experienced by people ages 16 to 25.

A Pfizer spokesperson, meanwhile, said the company is in conversations with the US Food and Drug Administration on what the next steps may be. The FDA declined to comment on how quickly it might act on the data.

AstraZeneca

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday it continues to monitor safety evidence reviews of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine but that the shot’s benefit-risk profile “weighs heavily in favour of its use” amid reports of rare brain blood clots.

Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization, told a briefing the panel was “comfortable” with the vaccine’s use, since many of the countries using it have safety warning signal systems in place and are not reporting problems.

Many European countries briefly stopped using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month while their drug safety authorities investigated rare cases of blood clots.

US study

 A critical component of the immune system known as T cells that respond to fight infection from the original version of the novel coronavirus appear to also protect against three of the most concerning new virus variants, according to a US laboratory study released on Tuesday.

Several recent studies have shown that certain variants of the novel coronavirus can undermine immune protection from antibodies and vaccines.

But antibodies – which block the coronavirus from attaching to human cells – may not tell the whole story, according to the study by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). T cells appear to play an important additionally protective role.

UK

The UK variant that first emerged in Kent and has spread to the rest of the world, crowding out the original in many countries, isn’t more deadly after all, according to a study conducted by Public Health England.

The study’s findings contradict data from late last year that found the variant could be 30 percent more deadly. The scientists noted that it did increase the risk of being hospitalized by roughly that much.

British health authorities on Wednesday warned that Britons should obey the COVID restriction rules and remain cautious over coronavirus in order to check the spread of the virus as people gathered outdoors to enjoy the sunshine.

   "We need to obey the rules as they are," Sian Griffiths, a senior public health official, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

The British government reported 4,040 new COVID-19 cases and another 56 deaths, bringing the tally to 4,341,736 and the toll to 126,670, according to official figures released Tuesday.

More than 30.6 million people have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest data.

Earlier Tuesday, figures from the British Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that weekly coronavirus deaths in England and Wales have fallen to below 1,000 for the first time since October.

There were 963 deaths registered in the week ending March 19 where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, down 36 percent from the previous week, according to the ONS.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 128.25 million while the global death toll topped 2.8 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Africa tally

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded in Africa reached 4,195,068 as of Tuesday noon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The death toll related to the pandemic stood at 112,238, the Africa CDC said, adding that a total of 3,754,469 people across the continent have recovered from the disease.

Austria

Austria is in talks with Russia to buy a million doses of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said on Tuesday.

“There must be no geopolitical blinkers regarding vaccines,” Kurz said in a statement issued by his office, adding that Austria is in talks with Russia and Moscow has offered to sell it a million doses as of April. “The only thing that must count is whether the vaccine is effective and safe.”

Belgium

All COVID-19 indicators are "in the red" and continue to rise in Belgium, greatly impacting intensive care units, where the number of patients has increased tenfold, Yves Van Laethem, inter-federal spokesperson for COVID-19, said on Tuesday.

There were a total of 2,818 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Belgium, 739 of whom were in intensive care.  

Infections have also spiked in recent weeks. From March 20 to March 26, the Sciensano institute recorded an average of 4,751 new infections per day.

By Tuesday, 1.3 million Belgian adults have received one first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, accounting for roughly 13 percent of the total adult population, Sabine Stordeur, member of the country's Vaccination Task Force, said.

To date, Belgium has recorded 872,936 COVID-19 cases and 22,921 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Bolivia

A second batch of vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm arrived in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba on Tuesday to help advance the country's mass immunization campaign against COVID-19.

The shipment was received by Bolivian Foreign Affairs Minister Rogelio Mayta, Health Minister Jeyson Auza and Chinese Ambassador to Bolivia Huang Yazhong.

"These vaccines are of paramount importance … they contribute to the largest immunization campaign carried out by Bolivia, and to fighting the pandemic. These vaccines signify life," Mayta said.

Commuters wearing face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic crowd a platform while waiting for a public Rapid Transit Bus (BRT) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 30, 2021. (BRUNA PRADO / AP)

Brazil

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday signed an executive order to disburse 5.3 billion reais (US$918.08 million) in new loans to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as the country hit a record tally of 3,780 deaths in the past day.

Total coronavirus fatalities reached 317,646 and 84,494 new cases were registered in the last 24 hours, totaling almost 12.7 million.

The new loans will be used to prop up Brazil’s health system, the finance ministry said. The health ministry will receive the funding and said it will use it at over 2,600 public health clinics, as well as to build more hospital beds.

On Tuesday, older Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro state waited in long lines under the strong sun to get vaccinated. While Brazil hoped to have 46 million doses of the vaccine in March, it ended up receiving only 22 million.

Also on Tuesday, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa said the Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine, developed by India’s Bharat Biotech, did not meet its manufacturing standards.

Bharat and its Brazilian partner Precisa Medicamentos said in a statement that they would appeal the decision and would present evidence that it is complying with all requirements.

Meanwhile, Anvisa issued a good practices certificate for Janssen’s facilities. 

Brazilian foundation Fiocruz expects to file a request to start testing the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in children, the head of the organization Nisia Trindade, said in an online event promoted by the World Health Organization.

ALSO READ: WHO: Animal-to-human virus transmission most likely

Bulgaria

Bulgaria will reopen restaurants and pubs with open-air space, as well as gyms, theaters and museums with limited capacity from April 1, the health ministry said in a statement. Kindergartens will reopen April 5. 

Bulgaria registered a record number of 5,176 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the country’s infection tally to 338,426, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The previous daily record of 4,851 new cases was reported last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, 155 more patients have died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 13,068, the ministry said.

The total number of recoveries increased by 3,219 to 255,692, while the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive-care patients stood at 9,811 and 748, respectively.

Meanwhile, 13,183 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered during the same period, taking the total number of vaccine doses administered in the country to 458,731.

Chile

Chile signed an agreement with CanSino Biologics Inc. for 1.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that will start to arrive in May, the government’s Vice-Minister of Trade Rodrigo Yanez said in an interview.

The country has already received close to 13 million total shots against COVID-19 and it’s expecting the arrival of an extra 15 million doses by June to reach herd immunity in the first half of the year, Yanez said. 

CanSino, which is a one-shot vaccine, will provide 1.8 million doses, while the remaining supply will come from Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and AstraZeneca.

Chile's health ministry reported on Tuesday 5,394 new COVID-19 cases and 37 more deaths, bringing the overall caseload to 989,492 and the toll to 23,107.

Croatia 

Croatia made mask-wearing mandatory in all open spaces in the capital, Zagreb, as the British variant now accounts for 80 percent of new cases, Deputy Premier Davor Bozinovic told reporters. The number of new cases on Wednesday reached 2,763 in the country.

Cuba

Cuban health authorities reported on Tuesday 1,008 new COVID-19 infections in the last day, the highest figure in two weeks, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 74,212.

The country also saw four more deaths, pushing the toll to 421.

“Today's indicators show the complexity of the epidemiological situation, since there is significant transmission in a large part of the country," the Public Health Ministry's national director of hygiene and epidemiology Francisco Duran said during his daily broadcast.

Havana, the country's pandemic epicenter, registered 558 cases in the last day and an incidence rate of 314.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest on the island.

READ MORE: Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda is sending virus skyrocketing

Ecuador

Ecuador’s health system is under severe strain from a spike in coronavirus infections, doctors in the country’s capital said on Tuesday, adding that some Quito hospitals are working above capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

“The saturation of the health system is not only in Quito but at the national level,” Dr. Victor Alvarez, president of the doctors association of the state of Pichincha, where Quito is located, told reporters. “Seeing images of patients lying on the ground, or perhaps on a military mattress, receiving oxygen in emergency units, that’s sad.”

In some Quito hospitals, entire families wait in emergency areas in hopes of being given a open bed, Dr. Edison Ramos, a coordinator at Carlos Andrade Marin hospital, said in an interview with a local television station.

Ecuador recorded 2,201 new COVID-19 infections and 34 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 327,325 and deaths to 11,912, the Public Health Ministry reported on Tuesday.

A total of 16,780 people either died from the disease or were suspected of having it but passed away before being diagnosed.

As of March 27, a total of 174,642 people had received one shot of COVID-19 vaccine while 60,358 have received both jabs, according to health ministry data. 

El Salvador

El Salvador on Tuesday began inoculating teachers against COVID-19 using vaccines made by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac.

El Salvador received the first batch of vaccines from Sinovac on Sunday, hoping to accelerate the inoculation of its population, which began on Feb 17 with the first phase among doctors, nurses and health workers.

The government also intends to give priority to all education workers so that the country can resume in-person classes under safer conditions on April 6.

El Salvador has reported 64,431 cases and 2,006 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said Monday.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 1,976 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the tally to 204,521 as of Tuesday evening, the Ministry of Health said.

The death toll went up by 16 to 2,841, said the ministry.

Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries increased by 1,435 to 156,625.

EU

The European Union will have delivered 107 million vaccines by the end of this week, reaching the bloc’s targeted goal for the first three months of the year.

The milestone was confirmed by European Commission spokesperson Dana Spinant. It was a revised goal that had to take into account multiple delays in the deliveries from AstraZeneca Plc.

Europe’s medicines regulator said on Wednesday it had not yet identified any risk factors such as age, sex or a previous history of blood clotting disorders, for clotting cases reported after inoculation with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks, the European Medicines Agency reiterated, but cautioned that people should be aware of the remote possibility of rare blood clots occurring, and must seek immediate medical attention in case of symptoms.

Spain expects digital vaccine certificates to ease travel within the European Union to be ready in June at the latest, Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Wednesday.

“We are in Brussels with a proposal made by the Commission to the European Parliament,” Gonzalez Laya told Onda Cero radio station, saying the parliament had agreed to fast track the certificates to ease travel in Europe.

The vaccine certificates would not prevent non-vaccinated people from travelling, Gonzalez Laya said, but people with the certificate would go through borders faster while others would have to go through all the existing controls.

The Digital Green Certificate that the European Union (EU) plans to introduce this summer to enable safe travel within and between its member states will enable a return of international tourism, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said during his visit on Tuesday to the headquarters of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Schinas met with UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili before holding a press conference. The two sides agreed that the new EU certificate could restore confidence and change the trend.

"It has three elements: proof of vaccination, a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result or proof of being immune after having suffered from COVID …It is proof that you don't present any risk," said Schinas, adding that the parameters for the certificate "will be the same" across Europe.

Schinas said he expected all 27 EU member states to agree on the proposal for the certificate and to implement it within the next two months.

France

French President Emmanuel Macron will deliver a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening, his office said, as a fast-spreading third wave of COVID-19 infections threatens to over-run hospitals.

The Elysee Palace did not say whether Macron would announce further restrictions to counter the virus as the country’s death toll nears 100,000.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that schools should be closed to rein in the spread of the COVID-19 virus, speaking ahead of possible new restrictive measures to be announced later in the day by the government.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care increased by 98 on Tuesday to breach the 5,000 threshold, reaching 5,072, the highest number this year.

Large groups of people pack the Vauban park in Lille, northern France, March 30, 2021. (MICHEL SPINGLER / AP)

Health Minister Olivier Veran told parliament on Tuesday: “We will not let doctors be in a situation where they have to choose among patients” to treat, amid a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Veran said the next 24-48 hours would be key in assessing the impact of new confinement measures taken 10 days ago to limit the spread of highly contagious variants and that the government was ready to take additional measures if necessary.

France on Tuesday also reported that the number of new cases increased by 30,602 to 4.58 million, a week-on-week increase of 6.3 percent, the highest week-on-week increase since the end of November.

The health ministry reported 381 new deaths, including 45 deaths in retirement homes over several days, taking the cumulative death toll to 95,337.

The country is targeting between 1.9 million and 2 million COVID-19 vaccine injections this week, up from 1.8 million last week, said a health ministry official on Tuesday.

Germany

The head of Germany’s intensive-care and emergency medicine association said he’s “deeply worried” about the pressure Covid-19 patients are putting on ICUs and called for tougher lockdown measures.

“I can very well understand that people are tired and everyone wants this to be over, but we are in an especially critical phase of the pandemic, if not the most critical,” Gernot Marx, president of the DIVI lobby group, said in an interview with ARD television. “If we wait longer then we’ll have 6,000 or 7,000 intensive-care patients and we are really scared about that because it would mean the system is overburdened.”

The number of virus patients in ICUs climbed to 3,668 on Wednesday and the occupancy rate rose to 86% according to the latest data from DIVI.

German federal and state health ministries agreed that from Wednesday AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine can be used for people aged 60 and above, following further reports of a rare brain blood disorder, a document on their agreement showed.

Acting on advice from Germany’s vaccine committee, known as STIKO, the ministries also agreed the Anglo-Swedish firm’s vaccine could be used for high-risk patients aged below 60 as well as for high-priority groups such as medical workers.

READ MORE: German states halt AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60

People aged below 60 who have already received a first AstraZeneca shot have the option of either receiving their second shot as planned, if they are high priority, or to wait for STIKO to issue its recommendation, which it is expected to do by the end of April.

Earlier, STIKO recommended the shot only be used for people aged 60 and above “on the basis of available data on the occurrence of rare but very severe thromboembolic side-effects”.

STIKO is also looking into the possibility of administering a second shot with a different COVID vaccine, the document showed.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 17,051 to 2,808,873, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by 249 to 76,342, the tally showed.

Greece

Greece reported 4,340 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic. The last record was 3,586 new cases on March 23. 

Despite the rise, the government is coming under increasing pressure to begin a faster easing of lockdown measures to help the retail and restaurant sectors. 

Medical advisers to the government will meet Wednesday to formulate recommendations, with non-essential shops seen reopening in some form from April 5 and citizens allowed to move again outside the municipality where they live from April 3. 

A ban on movement between regions will likely continue.

Hungary

Hungary, which currently has the world’s highest COVID-19 death rate, reported a jump in fatalities as the virus situation worsened sharply across most of eastern Europe.

The rapid spread of the virus is testing the resolve of the region’s governments to enact even tougher curbs to arrest the more contagious U.K. variant, which is now widespread. Currently 10 out of the 11 countries with the highest level of fatalities as a share of population are from eastern Europe.

Hungary recorded 302 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic, and 6,700 new COVID-19 cases across the country, the government said on Wednesday.

The central European country of 10 million has recorded the highest daily per capita fatalities in the world for several days, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Its health care system has come under extreme stress, the government has said, despite a vaccination program that has reached a fifth of the population already, one of the fastest inoculation drives in Europe.

There were more than 12,000 coronavirus patients in hospital on Tuesday, 1,492 of them on ventilator, the government said. 

IATA

Global airline industry body IATA said on Wednesday a digital travel pass for COVID-19 test results and vaccine certificates would be launched on the Apple platform in mid-April.

The digital travel pass, currently in the testing phase, had been planned to be launched by the end of March.

IATA Regional Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East Kamil Alawadhi said it was expected to launch on the Apple platform around April 15, and later for the Android platform.

“But the application will only achieve its success once airlines, different countries, airports adopt it,” Alawadhi said.

Iceland

Iceland said travelers from so-called danger zones, which is most of Europe, will need to stay in a special hotel for their obligatory five-day quarantine upon arrival. The reason is that infections have been spread by visitors who have broken quarantine to view a new volcanic eruption.

Ireland

Ireland will begin easing some restrictions from April 12, after more than three months in lockdown. 

Travel restrictions will be loosened while some sports and construction will resume, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a national address. 

Limits on household mixing will also be reduced. The government may open so-called non-essential retail in May and hotels in June, depending on the state of the virus, Martin said. 

Martin said the government expects that close to 3 million vaccine doses to be administered by the end of May, which will account for about 60 percent of the country's total population. 

Meanwhile, Ireland is to require arriving passengers to take a COVID-19 test on arrival in addition to one taken in the days before traveling, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

The Irish government is considering health officials’ advice to add more countries including the United States, Germany and France to a list of jurisdictions subject to mandatory hotel quarantine on arrival, Varadkar said.

The Irish Department of Health on Tuesday reported 368 new cases and 14 additional COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the tally to 235,444 and the toll to 4,681.

The department said that as of March 27, over 800,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Ireland.

People visit the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, on Feb 1, 2021 as it reopens after the government lifted some restrictions aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19. (CECILIA FABIANO / LAPRESSE VIA AP)

Italy

Italy will impose a mandatory five-day coronavirus quarantine for people arriving or returning from trips to European Union countries until April 6, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

Travellers must also take a COVID-19 test at the end of the quarantine period. Similar measures were already in place for trips to countries outside the European Union.

The decree will be effective the day after its publication either Tuesday night or Wednesday, a ministry spokesman said.

In another development, Italy is evaluating a measure to categorize medical staff who refuse to be vaccinated as “unsuitable” for their jobs, Labor Minister Andrea Orlando said in an interview with Sky TG24.

“We need to avoid having fragile citizens in contact with workers who don’t want to be inoculated,” Orlando said.

Italy reported 529 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday against 417 the day before, the health ministry said, as a new study showed the more contagious variant first discovered in Britain now accounts for nine out of 10 new Italian cases.

The daily tally of new infections  rose to 16,017 on Tuesday from 12,916 on Monday.

In total, Italy has registered 108,879 fatalities linked to COVID-19 and 3.56 million cases to date.

Italy’s top health institute, the ISS, said on Tuesday that the variant first detected in southern England last autumn now accounted for 87 percent of new cases in Italy, accelerating from a prevalence of 54 percent in the previous study in February.

Another variant, currently responsible for a surge in contagion and mortality in Brazil, accounts for 4 percent of new infections in Italy, the ISS said, down marginally from 4.3 percent last month.

Kenya

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on Wednesday it has stepped up COVID-19 containment measures inside national parks and reserves as the country reels from a third wave of infections.

Enhanced measures will be applied in wildlife sanctuaries in Nairobi and the counties of Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Nakuru that were placed under lockdown as ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday.

"In addition, parks, reserves and sanctuaries that fall in these counties will close all picnic sites and other sites where visitors have a tendency to congregate," the KWS said in a statement.

Visits to wildlife sanctuaries in the other 42 counties would continue normally, but with strict observance of COVID-19 containment measures, according to the statement.

Kenyans have begun getting inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines for a fee after the nation’s authorities approved the shots for emergency purposes.

A single shot costs 7,700 shillings (US$70.30), according to Nairobi-based lawyer Donald Kipkorir, who got an injection Tuesday.

Malta

Malta is planning to start welcoming back tourists as from June, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said on Tuesday, as he unveiled the island's new plan to restart the industry badly dented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bartolo said at a press conference that the government will inject 20 million euros (US$23.4 million) through an aid package designed specifically to kickstart the tourism industry devastated by the pandemic.

Bartolo said discussions were under way with the European Commission as it was hoping to allow the use of green passports for those who are already vaccinated and which would allow them to travel without any restrictions.

Health authorities on Tuesday announced 55 new cases, the lowest this year and the current number of active cases dropped to less than 900.  

Mexico

Mexico on Tuesday reported 5,068 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 807 more fatalities, bringing the country’s total to 2,232,910 infections and 202,633 deaths, according to data from the health ministry.

The occupancy rate for general hospital beds was 19 percent while those with ventilators were 23 percent full. No states, including Mexico City, have hospital occupancy above 50 percent.

Morocco

Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 495,421 on Tuesday as 665 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, the Moroccan Health Ministry said.

The COVID-19 death toll  rose to 8,813 after six more fatalities were added during the last 24 hours, it said in a statement.

The total number of recoveries increased by 580 to 483,165, the ministry said, adding that there were 427 people in intensive care units.

So far, a total of 4,315,802 people have received one COVID-19 shot while 3,566,498 people have received the second dose as well.

People wearing face masks walk in the Old Town in Warsaw, Poland, on March 30, 2021. (JAAP ARRIENS / XINHUA)

Poland

Poland reported its highest number of coronavirus-related deaths so far this year on Wednesday, amid a third wave of the pandemic that is putting the country’s health service under extreme strain.

The country reported 653 deaths on Wednesday, health ministry data showed. There were 32,874 new cases. 

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that all Poles who want to be vaccinated will be able to do so by August.

He said on April, 5 million doses of the vaccines by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford should arrive in Poland, adding that starting in the second half of April, the first tranche of the vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson would be added to the mix, which Poland has ordered a total of 16 million doses.

Poland plans to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of the second quarter, the government’s vaccine coordinator, Michal Dworczyk, said on Tuesday.

Starting April 5, jabs will also be given at smaller hospitals, pharmacies, at rescue services, and so-called drive-thru points.

As of Tuesday, 5,963,933 Poles have received at least one vaccine dose in the country of 38 million population.

Portugal

Portugal registered on Tuesday two COVID-19 related deaths, the lowest daily toll since Sept 6, 2020, bringing the total number of fatalities to 16,845 since the beginning of the pandemic, said the Portuguese Directorate-General for Health (DGS).

The number of newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients stood at 584 on Tuesday, the lowest figure since Sept 23, DGS' epidemiological bulletin showed.

Another 388 new cases have been reported in the past 24 hours, pushing the tally to 821,104.

So far, a total of 1,169,676 people have received the first dose of vaccine while 472,270 have had both jabs.

Russia

Russia has registered the world's first coronavirus vaccine for animals Carnivac-Cov, the country's agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said Wednesday.

Clinical trials began in October and involved dogs, cats, arctic foxes, minks among other animals, said Rosselkhoznadzor deputy head Konstantin Savenkov.

"The results of the research allow us to conclude that the vaccine is harmless… Animals that were vaccinated developed antibodies to the coronavirus in 100 percent of all the cases," he added.

Russia on Wednesday reported 8,275 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,286 in Moscow, pushing the national case tally to 4,545,095 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus task force said that 408 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing its death toll to 98,850.

Rwanda

Rwanda is set to conduct a second-dose inoculation for its citizens against COVID-19 on April 2, Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije said Tuesday.

"All citizens who received the first dose of the vaccine will get the second jab at the right time. Rwanda is ready to receive more than 500,000 procured vaccine doses for the second inoculation," Ngamije told journalists at  a press conference in Rwandan capital city Kigali.

Rwanda expects to vaccinate 30 percent of the population by the end of 2021 and 60 percent by the end of 2022, according to the ministry.

As of Monday evening, Rwanda has reported 21,490 confirmed cases, 19,860 recoveries and 305 deaths.  

South Africa

The sale of alcohol will be restricted as South Africa will remain at lockdown Alert Level 1 over the Easter holidays, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday night.

The ban was imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, he said.

However, consumers will be able to buy alcohol in restaurants and bars until late at night.

Ramaphosa said religious gatherings would be permitted during Easter, with a limit of no more than 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors.

On the vaccination program, Ramaphosa said phase two would commence in mid-May after securing millions of doses from Johnson & Johnson.

So far, South Africa has recorded over 1.5 million COVID-19 cases with more than 52,000 deaths.  

Spain

Spain has decided to extend AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccination to essential workers over 65 years old to protect a small group of people who have not yet retired, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The age cap had been imposed because early clinical trials had featured very few people 65 or older.

Spain was so far using the AstraZeneca only for people aged 18-65 years, focusing on essential workers such as police, firefighters or teachers.

But that meant a small number of essential workers over 65 were left out of the vaccination effort, the ministry said, clarifying the impact of a decision announced late on Tuesday.

The country has administered 7.7 million doses and fully inoculated 2.64 million people and aims to have 70 percent of its 47 million population vaccinated by the end of summer.

Sweden

The number of new infections in Sweden is rising, but tougher restrictions are not the way to bring a “third wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic under control, Sweden’s top epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell said on Wednesday.

Sweden, which has shunned strict lockdowns throughout the pandemic, saw a near 10 percent increase in COVID-19 admissions to intensive care wards last week, while the number of people testing positive has surged.

“To shut more hasn’t been shown to be a success story,” Tegnell said in an interview in daily Dagens Nyheter.

“Basically, what we need is more adherence to the advice and the restrictions that are already in place. I am extremely convinced that we have implemented the most important measures already.”

Switzerland 

The rate of new coronavirus infections has doubled in Switzerland since mid-February, and is now approaching a so-called reproduction rate of almost 1.2, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters. The growth rate is accelerating even if not yet an “explosion,” Berset said.

More than 900,000 people have been vaccinated in the country so far, about 10% of the population. The country has received 1.8 million doses, which will be used in the coming weeks and months, according to Berset.

Tunisia

Tunisia’s health ministry on Tuesday reported 1,002 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 252,171.

The death toll rose by 28 to 8,788, the ministry said in a statement.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 1,161, including 300 in intensive care units, while the total number of recoveries reached 216,712, it added.

Ukraine

The Ukrainian capital will close all schools from April 5 and will limit all public transport to special permits, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at a briefing.

Ukraine reported 407 COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period, a record number of fatalities for the Eastern European country.

A total of 1,662,942 COVID-19 cases and 32,418 deaths have been registered in Ukraine as of Tuesday, while 1,307,076 patients have recovered, according to the health authorities. 

The health ministry received 689 reports of side effects after vaccinations using the AstraZeneca shot in the first month of the country’s inoculation program, authorities said on Tuesday.

From Feb 24 to March 28, nearly 200,000 vaccinations were conducted and 689 people reported adverse reactions, the State Expert Center of the Ministry of Health said on Facebook.

US

US COVID-19 deaths surpassed 550,000 on Tuesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of confirmed cases topped 30.39 million, the tally showed.

COVID-19 deaths in the countryare expected to bottom out in the next two weeks and then may inch higher as the nation races to blunt an incipient new wave of cases with its vaccination campaign.

A plateau or small increase – instead of the hoped-for decline – could mean tens of thousands of additional fatalities.

The deaths are likely to dip to 6,028 in the week ending April 10 before slightly increasing, according to the COVID-19 Forecast Hub, a project from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Reich Lab. 

Venezuela

Venezuela has received doses of EpiVacCorona, Russia’s second coronavirus vaccine, which will be used as part of trials, President Nicolas Maduro said on state television.

“We will proceed to sign the agreements for the acquisition of a new 100 percent powerful, effective vaccine, which is Russia’s second vaccine, EpiVacCorona,” Maduro said. 

During a meeting with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov, Maduro thanked Russia for supplying its Sputnik-V vaccine.