COVID-19: Israel Vaccinates Over Two Million People

A Israeli healthcare worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a woman at the Kupat Holim Clalit clinic in Jerusalem, on January 14, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

 

The number of people inoculated in Israel for coronavirus passed the two million threshold Thursday, with the prime minister saying there was “light at the end of the tunnel”.

Israel “will become the first country to emerge from the corona crisis,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted.

“We see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, all smiles as he watched an Israeli woman become the second millionth to receive the Covid-19 jab.

“I am the second millionth,” to be vaccinated in Israel, read a sign held by 22-year-old Margaret Alsoso as she received her first dose of the vaccine in the city of Ramla near Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu — who faces yet another re-election contest and a corruption trial over the coming weeks — has sought to highlight his personal role in the inoculation campaign.

The prime minister was the first to get the jab on December 19, when Israel launched its inoculation campaign with the vaccine made by US-German pharma alliance Pfizer-BioNTech.

In early January authorities said two million people would receive a two-dose Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the month.

As of Thursday only 150,000 people had received both of the two doses.

But as Israel pushes aggressively with its vaccination drive, it is also witnessing a surge in the pandemic with some 9,000 coronavirus cases registered daily.

The country, currently in its third national lockdown, has recorded more than 523,000 cases, including around 3,850 deaths, according to the health ministry.

– Obligations to Palestinians –

Amnesty International has called on Israel to provide coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, saying the Jewish state is obliged to do so under international law.

Israel has come under harsh criticism after Public Security Minister Amir Ohana last month said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to receive the vaccines.

Five Israeli human rights organisations on Monday filed a supreme court petition urging authorities to vaccinate Palestinians in Israeli custody.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Thursday the first doses of the vaccine would be distributed to prisons next week, adding that a medical committee would decide who would get the first jabs.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a rights group, 190 Palestinian inmates, out of around 4,400 held in Israeli jails, have tested positive for coronavirus since April.

The Palestinian Authority has not publicly said whether it has sought vaccines from Israel.

But on Monday the Palestine Liberation Organisation called on the international community “to hold Israel to account” and ensure the Jewish state provides vaccines to all Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

20 Doctors Contract COVID-19 In Kwara Within Three Weeks

Kwara Senator, Eight Others Arrested Over Alleged Killing Of Two

 

About 20 doctors in Kwara State have become infected with COVID-19 within the past three weeks.

President of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Dr Badmus Habeeb, disclosed this to Channels Television during a phone interview on Wednesday.

He lamented that members of the association are battling with the pandemic “based on the available resources”.

“About 20 of our members have become infected in the last two to three weeks.

“I must reiterate that this is not the best of times for us, our families and the affected patients,” he said.

Habeeb, however, noted that the discovery of vaccines have brought hope and relief for everyone.

But he lamented that there is a poor resource setting in the country, where the necessities to make the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines easy and possible, are not readily available.

“So, it seems we may never be able to get the vaccine anytime soon,” he said.

The UITH-ARD President said the vaccines have so far proven to be effective and therefore, urged Nigerians to get vaccinated when it arrives, while adhering strictly to other COVID-19 guidelines.

“The public should adhere strictly to the laid down guidelines on the prevention of COVID-19 by NCDC,” he warned.

UK Helps Raise $1 Billion In Global Vaccine Donations

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP


Britain said on Sunday it has helped raise $1 billion (818 million euros) from global donors towards the drive to help “vulnerable countries” access coronavirus vaccines, by match-funding contributions.

The UK said, in addition, it has committed £548 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), after matching with £1 every $4 pledged by other donors.

Canada, Japan and Germany are among the countries to make contributions that it matched, helping the AMC raise more than $1.7 billion in total so far.

The fund will allow for the distribution of one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to 92 developing countries this year, according to Britain’s Foreign Office.

“We’ll only be safe from this virus, when we’re all safe — which is why we’re focused on a global solution to a global problem,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

The announcement came as Britain marks the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in London, hosting UN Secretary-General António Guterres for a so-called virtual visit starting Sunday.

Guterres will on Monday meet Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as Alok Sharma, who was this week designated full-time president of the UN’s next major climate summit, COP26, in November.

Sharma had previously done the role part-time alongside his UK government job of secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, which he left Friday.

Ahead of the virtual visit, Guterres said he was honoured to “renew our cause of overcoming global challenges together, and celebrate a country that was instrumental in creating the United Nations”.

Also on Monday, Guterres and global leaders will try to reignite international environmental diplomacy with a biodiversity summit to launch a critical year for efforts to stem the devastating effects of global warming and species loss.

The One Planet Summit, a largely virtual event hosted by France in partnership with the United Nations and the World Bank, will include French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Union chief Ursula Von der Leyen.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip Receive COVID-19 Vaccine As UK Cases Surpass Three Million

A file photo of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
A file photo of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

 

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip received Covid-19 vaccinations on Saturday, Buckingham Palace said, as the country surpassed three million cases since the pandemic began last year.

A source told the domestic Press Association news agency that the 94-year-old queen and Philip, 99, were given the injections by a royal household doctor at Windsor Castle.

“The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have today received Covid-19 vaccinations,” a Buckingham Palace spokesman said, in a rare public comment on the private health matters of the long-serving monarch.

It is understood the queen decided the information should be made public to prevent inaccuracies and speculation.

No further details about the vaccinations were released.

The queen and Philip have spent much of the pandemic in self-isolation at Windsor because of their advanced age, and this year cancelled their traditional family Christmas at her Sandringham estate in eastern England.

More than 1.5 million people in Britain have so far received virus jabs, as the biggest immunisation programme in its history ramps up with priority given to the elderly, their carers and health workers.

The country, which has so far begun administering two types of approved vaccines, is racing to inoculate as many people as possible as a coronavirus variant pushes infections and deaths to unprecedented levels.

Britain on Saturday passed the grim milestone of three million cases during the pandemic, after the government announced another 59,937 new cases.

It also recorded another 1,035 fatalities from the virus, taking the total death toll to 80,868, one of the highest in Europe alongside Italy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a third stay-at-home order at the start of the week as cases continue to spiral since Christmas.

Medical chiefs are racing to boost treatment capacity as hospitals risked being overwhelmed, while the government steps up its mass inoculation campaign.

It is banking on the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines to halt the spread of the virus.

UK regulators also this week approved US firm Moderna’s Covid vaccine — the third to be authorised for use across the country.

The government aims to have inoculated 15 million of the most vulnerable groups, including frontline NHS staff, by mid-February, and has deployed the armed forces to help with the rollout.

 

AFP

Pope Francis To Receive COVID-19 Vaccine Next Week

This photo taken and handout on January 6, 2021 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis holding a live streamed Angelus prayer for the Epiphany, from the library of the apostolic palace in the Vatican. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP
This photo, taken and handed out on January 6, 2021, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis holding a live-streamed Angelus prayer for the Epiphany, from the library of the apostolic palace in the Vatican. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

 

Pope Francis has called opposition to the coronavirus vaccine “suicidal denial” urging people to get the jab and saying he would get vaccinated himself next week.

“Next week, we will start to do it here (in the Vatican) and I made an appointment, we must do it,” he told Canale 5 in segments released on Saturday from an interview set to be broadcast the next day.

“There is a suicidal denial which I cannot explain, but today we have to get vaccinated,” the pontiff said.

 

AFP

Governors Will Take COVID-19 Vaccine On Television – Fayemi

Governor Fayemi meets with Buhari at the State House in Abuja on January 8.

 

The Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi, has announced that governors will take the COVID-19 vaccine on live television to demonstrate to their residents that the vaccine works.

Governor Fayemi made this known on Friday to State House correspondents after a private meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari where security, the economy and vaccine management were discussed.

Read Also: [COVID-19] EU Doubles BioNTech/Pfizer Vaccine Order To 600 Million Jabs

He also noted that the president has agreed to convey to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the need to use influencers such as religious leaders, entertainers, and athletes to engender the confidence of citizens at the state and local level.

This, according to the governor will help to address the cultural and religious concerns around taking the vaccine.

Trudeau Frustrated By Slow Vaccines Rollout

In this file photo Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on January 9, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. Dave Chan / AFP
In this file photo Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on January 9, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. Dave Chan / AFP

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in his first address of the new year that he was “frustrated” by the slow pace of COVID-19 inoculations across Canada, three weeks into a vaccination campaign.

The Canadian government has so far distributed 424,500 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — the only ones authorized to date in Canada — to its provinces and territories responsible for the vaccination program, according to official figures.

But only about 148,000 doses of vaccine have been administered so far, according to local media.

“I think all Canadians, including me are frustrated to see vaccines in freezers and not in people’s arms,” Trudeau told a news conference.

Trudeau is scheduled to speak Thursday with provincial and territorial leaders to discuss “how the federal government can support and help in getting these vaccines more quickly to Canadians,” he said.

The ultimate goal, he said, was to “get vaccines to every Canadians who wants them by September.”

Canada has placed orders and secured options for more than 400 million doses of vaccines from seven pharmaceutical firms, for its population of 38 million.

The pace of infections has accelerated since the Christmas holidays, with more than 5,600 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 617,065 and more than 16,000 deaths.

Quebec, one of the hardest-hit provinces, reportedly plans to impose a new lockdown starting on Saturday, on the heels of strict measures ordered last month to slow the spread of the COVID-19 illness.

According to the daily La Presse, citing unnamed government sources, Quebec public health officials who are concerned hospitals may be overwhelmed are also pressing for a curfew.

Mexico Approves AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Mexico on Monday authorized the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for emergency use in the country, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls.

Deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell announced on Twitter that Mexican regulators had approved the vaccine, which has also been authorized by Britain, India and Argentina.

Lopez-Gastell said the vaccine could be available in March. “It depends on the private entities that work on it to specify the production capacity,” he explained later during a routine afternoon conference.

It is the second coronavirus vaccine authorized by Mexico, which on December 24 began a mass immunization program using the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, with priority given to health workers.

Some 30,000 workers, about a quarter of what was planned in the first stage, had received the vaccine by Sunday, according to the government.

Mexico, which has reported more than 127,000 Covid-19 deaths and around 1.4 million cases, has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 77.4 million doses of its vaccine.

READ ALSO: Britain Locks Down Over COVID-19 Surge Despite New Vaccine Rollout

Together with Argentina, it also has an agreement with the British drugs giant to produce its vaccine to supply to Latin American nations.

It also has a preliminary purchase agreement with China’s CanSino Biologics and is part of the international COVAX mechanism aimed at ensuring equitable access for all countries.

The government has promised to make vaccinations available free of charge across the country of almost 129 million people — a massive logistical challenge involving the armed forces.

Britain Locks Down Over COVID-19 Surge Despite New Vaccine Rollout

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 11, 2020 A laboratory technician supervises capped vials during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

Schools and colleges across Britain closed on Tuesday ahead of a national lockdown as the country battled to control surging coronavirus cases that are threatening to overwhelm its healthcare system.

The tough new measures were announced Monday even as Britain began rolling out the Oxford-AstraZeneca shots, a possible game-changer in fighting Covid-19 worldwide, and as vaccine programmes in the United States and Europe stumbled.

Scotland began its lockdown Tuesday, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said all of England, the UK’s largest nation, would close down from Wednesday — possibly into mid-February.

The latest virus moves are aimed at containing a severe wave of infections with a new coronavirus strain believed to spread faster.

“With most of the country already under extreme measures, it’s clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out,” Johnson said in a televised address.

Similar to a first March-June lockdown last year, the new moves include the closure of schools and a ban on leaving home for all but exercise and essential shopping.

As Britain ramped up its inoculation programme Monday with the shots developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, pressure was growing on European authorities to speed up their vaccine approvals process.

The European Medicines Agency is yet to approve the Moderna vaccine, and it has said a decision on the AstraZeneca jab is unlikely in January.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders were expected Tuesday to extend a shutdown in Europe’s top economy as coronavirus deaths mounted despite tough restrictions in the run-up to the holidays.

– US vaccine sabotage –

The ease of storage and use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine compared with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna alternatives could mean greater access for less wealthy nations in the fight against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 85 million people with more than 1.8 million known deaths.

Mexico on Monday followed India in approving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use.

The efforts to accelerate vaccinations come as concerns grow about the potentially more transmissible variant spreading out of control.

The Chinese firm Sinopharm said Monday its vaccine — with a claimed effectiveness of 79 percent — remains effective against the new variant.

In the United States, the worst-hit nation in the world, the rollout of vaccines has been plagued by logistical problems and overstretched hospitals and clinics.

But authorities also face the challenge of conspiracy theories spread on social media that could increase vaccine hesitancy and outright rejection — and even sabotage.

That threat was illustrated last week in the US state of Wisconsin, where a pharmacist was accused of intentionally spoiling hundreds of Moderna doses because of a baseless conspiracy theory.

Steven Brandenburg, who appeared before a judge Monday, “told investigators that he believed that Covid-19 vaccine was not safe for people and could harm them and change their DNA”, according to a police statement quoted by local media.

– ‘Existential crisis’ –

Mass vaccinations are considered key to breaking the back of the pandemic, which has impacted all walks of life and severely restricted activities that involve large gatherings.

The world of sport has been hit hard, with events postponed, cancelled entirely, or held in empty arenas.

Organisers of the Australian Grand Prix said a final call on staging the race will be made in the coming weeks, with strict travel restrictions and Australian quarantine requirements in place because of the new variant.

The pandemic has also hammered the live music industry, with Britain’s summer festivals such as Glastonbury into “existential crisis”.

Lockdowns and restrictions have forced music venues to shutter in Britain, and in many other parts of the world.

“There is a real threat that the vast majority of the 2021 season will not happen either,” UK Music, an industry organisation, warned Tuesday, calling for greater government support.

France Promises Faster Vaccine Rollout After Criticism

Health workers take nasal swabs from people for both Covid-19 antigen and RT-PCR tests at a drive-through testing site in Marseille on December 21, 2020. (Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP)

 

The French government, under pressure for lagging behind EU neighbours in rolling out Covid vaccinations, promised on Tuesday to dispense jabs much more quickly and catch up.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said more than 2,000 people had been vaccinated on Monday and that the “cruising speed of vaccinations will catch up with our neighbours in the coming days”.

The French campaign had rolled out just over 500 doses as of January 1, with critics calling that figure “a scandal” compared with the 200,000 people immunised in Germany in a similar timeframe, after the EU-wide rollout began a week ago.

President Emmanuel Macron, under pressure to take personal responsibility, met officials including Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday to discuss the logjam.

READ ALSO: Britain Locks Down Over COVID-19 Surge Despite New Vaccine Rollout

“By Thursday we will increase numbers in a major way,” Veran told RTL radio, saying that “we will be on an exponential curve”.

France would now “amplify, accelerate and simplify” its vaccination strategy, he said.

Veran said vaccinations for people over 75 years of age who are not in care homes would be authorised by the end of January, covering five million people.

He said the campaign would also be widened to include firefighters and home helpers over 50.

France was currently taking delivery of 500,000 doses of a vaccine developed by Pfizer per week, Veran said.

Once approved for the EU, 500,000 doses of a vaccine by Moderna would be added every month, he said.

Scepticism about vaccines is making the government’s task harder.

Just 40 percent of French want to take the vaccine compared with 77 percent in Britain, according to an opinion poll last week by Ipsos Global Advisor in partnership with the World Economic Forum.

Veran also said that France had detected “about 10 suspected or confirmed cases” of a new variant virus strain that emerged in England, adding that authorities were watching the highly-contagious mutant virus “like hawks”.

French health authorities on Monday reported 4,022 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 2.66 million.

French deaths from Covid totalled 65,415, they said, after 380 new deaths were recorded.

EU Defends Its Slow COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer-Biontech Covid-19 corona virus vaccine at the ‘Am Birkenwaeldchen’ senior citizens’ park in Zeulenroda-Triebes, eastern Germany, on December 27, 2020. (Photo by Bodo Schackow / POOL / AFP)

 

The European Commission on Monday said its Covid-19 vaccine strategy will get the EU past “bumps on the road” that have slowed a roll-out of jabs across the bloc.

“It’s obvious that such a complex endeavour is always going to bring with it difficulties,” spokesman Eric Mamer told journalists.

EU countries started inoculations on December 27 with the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, but progress has been much slower than in the United States, Britain or Israel.

The vaccine — developed in Germany — is the only one currently authorised for use in the European Union, whereas the United States uses it alongside one made by American firm Moderna, and Britain as of Monday also started using one by UK outfit AstraZeneca.

While the US, Britain and Israel have each already given vaccines to more than a million of their citizens, EU countries have been lagging far behind. France, for instance, has given a first jab to just over 500 people. Germany has started immunising 200,000.

The European Commission emphasised it had bought access to “almost two billion doses” of six potential vaccines — four times the population of the entire European Union.

READ ALSO: UK Set For Tougher COVID-19 Rules As Cases Surge

But the European Medicines Agency has not said how many of the other vaccines were safe and effective enough to be used, although it has said it could decide on the Moderna vaccine later Monday.

“We don’t put all our eggs in one basket,” said another Commission spokesman, Stefan De Keersmaecker.

He said that the Commission was currently negotiating to get more doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, above the 300 million already secured. He did not give a figure.

De Keersmaecker noted, however, that “one of the main bottlenecks that we are all experiencing now is the production capacity”.

Mamer also said that the Commission was not responsible for each EU member state’s roll-out.

“It is the member states who then decide whether they want to buy a specific vaccine and how many doses of that vaccine. It is not us,” he said.

“I don’t think that the issue is really the number of vaccines, it is the fact that we are at the beginning of a roll-out.”

AFP

Thousands Receive COVID-19 Vaccine In Beijing

People walk to a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine center in Beijing on January 4, 2021, as China races to innoculate millions before the Chinese New Year mass travel season in February. GREG BAKER / AFP
People walk to a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine center in Beijing on January 4, 2021, as China races to innoculate millions before the Chinese New Year mass travel season in February. GREG BAKER / AFP

 

Thousands of people lined up in Beijing Monday to receive a Covid-19 vaccine as China races to innoculate millions before the Chinese New Year mass travel season in February.

More than 73,000 people in the Chinese capital have received the first dose of the vaccine over the last couple of days, state media reported Sunday, including community workers and bus drivers.

Health authorities on New Year’s Eve granted “conditional” approval to a vaccine candidate made by Chinese pharma giant Sinopharm, which the company said had a 79 percent efficacy rate.

An AFP journalist saw people being bussed into a temporary vaccine centre at a central park, after being instructed to fill in electronic forms about their health status and any allergies at an outside gate.

Some were wearing two layers of surgical face masks.

One man surnamed Gu, a catering worker in his 30s, told AFP his employer had booked him a vaccine appointment at the centre, and that he wanted the jab “for peace of mind.”

“I believe any adverse effects will be controllable,” he said.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed queues outside local hospitals and community health centres as people waited to read consent forms and have their temperatures taken before getting the jab.

Health officials said gyms and empty factories were among centres being used for the vaccination programme.

China plans to vaccinate millions this winter in the run-up to Lunar New Year in mid-February.

Beijing has already administered around 4.5 million doses of largely unproven emergency vaccines this year — mostly to health workers and other state employees destined for overseas jobs, according to authorities.

But China now plans a gradual rollout for the vaccine starting with key groups considered to have a high risk of exposure to the virus, including port and food logistic workers and people planning to return to studies abroad.

China — where the coronavirus first emerged late in 2019 — has broadly stamped out the virus inside its borders, introducing swift local lockdowns and mass testing when cases emerge.

But the country has stepped up testing and movement controls after a recent spate of small local outbreaks, including a handful of cases in Beijing.

 

AFP