Tunisia announces to stop using J&J COVID-19 vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson on Nov 17, 2020. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

JOHANNESBURG / LONDON / OTTAWA / TUNIS / NEW YORK / LISBON – Tunisian Health Ministry decided to suspend using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine (Janssen), the official Tunis Afrique Presse reported on Monday.

The Health Minister Ali Mrabet said at a press conference on Monday that Tunisian government made this decision after the US Food and Drug Administration decided to limit its use due to worrisome complications, including blood clots.

He added that the Health Ministry will ensure the necessary follow-up after an international alert launched by the World Health Organization concerning the suspension of using Janssen vaccine.

He added that the ministry is making an inventory of the Janssen vaccine which will be destroyed thereafter.

The FDA's recommendation to restrict the use of Janssen was based on the results of a recent study that demonstrated this vaccine had caused blood clots in some people in several countries around the world.

Mrabet stressed that no such cases resulting from the use of Janssen were recorded in Tunisia.

About 1.3 million doses of Janssen have already been used in this country since the onset of COVID-19.

The Janssen vaccine was authorized for emergency use in the United States on Feb 27, 2021. 

Canada

Toronto, the largest city in Canada, formally ended on Monday the municipal state of emergency against COVID-19 after more than two years.

Toronto Mayor John Tory made an official declaration terminating the municipal emergency, which was first declared on March 23, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release issued by the municipal government.

"While the City of Toronto is no longer operating under an emergency declaration in response to COVID-19, our work to help people get vaccinated and to lead the economic recovery is continuing," Tory said.

Vaccination remains the single best tool to protect against serious illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19, the news release said.   

Toronto, home to more than 2.9 million people, has reported 312,996 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,234 related deaths, and more than 7 million COVID-19 vaccination doses have been delivered in the city, according to the latest data updated on May 6, 2022 on the website of the municipal government. 

In this file photo taken on Dec 16, 2021, a man receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic set up at Chester Cathedral as the UK steps up the country's booster drive to fight a "tidal wave" of Omicron. (PAUL ELLIS / AFP)

COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine makers are shifting gears and planning for a smaller, more competitive booster shot market after delivering as many doses as fast as they could over the last 18 months.

Executives at the biggest COVID-19 vaccine makers including Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc said they believe most people who wanted to get vaccinated against COVID-19 have already done so – more than 5 billion people worldwide

Executives at the biggest COVID-19 vaccine makers including Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc said they believe most people who wanted to get vaccinated against COVID-19 have already done so – more than 5 billion people worldwide.

In the coming year, most COVID-19 vaccinations will be booster shots, or first inoculations for children, which are still gaining regulatory approvals around the world, they said.

Pfizer, which makes its shot with Germany's BioNTech SE, and Moderna still see a major role for themselves in the vaccine market even as overall demand declines.

Upstart US vaccine maker Novavax Inc and Germany's CureVac NV, which is working with GlaxoSmithKline, are developing vaccines they hope to target at the booster market.

The roles of AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson, whose shots have been less popular or effective, are expected to decline in this market.

"It becomes a very competitive game with companies battling it out with pricing and for market share, even for vaccines that are considered to be the best, like Pfizer and Moderna," said Hartaj Singh, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co.

It is not known yet how many booster doses will be needed. Second booster shots are currently recommended in some countries for only a subset of the population.

It is also unclear if vaccine makers will sell a redesigned shot this fall and each fall afterward, as flu vaccine makers do to match circulating strains, and what impact that might have on waning demand.

Portugal

With a daily average of 1,150 new cases per million inhabitants, Portugal is the European Union country with the most COVID-19 infections in the last seven days, said a study released on Monday.

Portugal's number is more than double the EU's daily average, which is 447 new cases per million inhabitants, according to calculation by analysts from Our World in Data, a research project based out of Oxford University.

As for the number of new daily deaths per million inhabitants, Portugal is the eighth country in the European Union, with an average of 1.97 COVID-19 deaths in the last seven days.

The EU average of new daily deaths is 1.43, while the world average is 0.2.

A picture taken on May 8, 2021 shows a sign of the World Health Organization at the entrance of their headquarters in Geneva amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

WHO

The World Health Organization and its COVID-19 vaccine partner Gavi have no immediate plans to buy shots made by Aspen Pharmacare, the two bodies said, dealing a blow to Africa's efforts to develop its own vaccine production capacity.

Aspen completed a deal in March to package, sell and distribute Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in what was lauded as a game-changing moment for an under-vaccinated continent frustrated by sluggish Western handouts.

But the South African company's expectations of high demand in Africa, where just a sixth of adults are fully vaccinated, have not materialized. Its CEO warned last week it would be forced to re-purpose about half of its vaccine production capacity if orders did not pick up. 

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Africa's top public health body, has called upon organizations procuring shots for the continent to prioritize sourcing from African producers.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters after a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol in Albany, New York, Aug 24, 2021. (HANS PENNINK / AP)

US

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said on Sunday she has tested positive for COVID-19.

Being asymptomatic, Hochul said via Twitter that she will be "isolating and working remotely" in the coming week.

"A reminder to all New Yorkers: get vaccinated and boosted, get tested, and stay home if you don't feel well," Hochul tweeted.