China has conditionally approved a second COVID-19 vaccine for public use.
The National Medical Products Administration said in a statement Saturday that regulators approved the use of Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s CoronaVac the day before.
A vaccine developed by a Chinese institute affiliated with the state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) was approved for public use two months ago.
The Sinovac vaccine, which is being administered in at least five other countries, was given emergency approval last July for people at high risk for infection, such as health care workers and employees of state-owned companies.
Conditional approval of the vaccine allows its use for the general public while research continues. The company must submit current data and reports of any adverse effects after the vaccine is sold on the market.
A third candidate vaccine from Sinopharm has already been administered to high-risk groups in China, while a fourth candidate from CanSino Biologics is being administered to military personnel.
Developing countries buy vaccine
Some poorer countries, alarmed at watching rich countries receive millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses, are deciding not to wait for vaccines from the World Health Organization and other groups, and have instead started striking their own vaccine deals.
Juan Carlos Sikaffy, president of the Honduran Private Business Council, told The Associated Press that Honduras “cannot wait on bureaucratic processes or misguided decisions” to give citizens “the peace of mind” offered by COVID-19 vaccines.
The Honduran Private Business Council participated in a vaccine-buying deal for the Central American country by providing a bank guarantee.
Serbia has also gone to the vaccine market, even though it has already paid 4 million euros to WHO’s COVAX program, created to distribute the COVID vaccines fairly.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he could not wait for COVAX after watching rich countries buy up so many of the precious shots.
“It’s as if they intend to vaccinate all their cats and dogs,” he said.
The head of the World Health Organization called Friday for pharmaceutical companies to share manufacturing facilities to increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines.
Speaking at an online news briefing from Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “a massive scale-up in production” was needed.
He noted that France’s pharmaceutical company Sanofi announced it would make its manufacturing infrastructure available to support production of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and called on other companies to do the same.
“We encourage all manufacturers to share their data and technology to ensure global, equitable access to vaccines,” Tedros said.
He also repeated his call for rich nations to share doses with poorer countries once they have vaccinated health workers and older people.
Tedros said 75% of all COVID-19 vaccinations worldwide have been given in just 10 countries, while nearly 130 nations have not given a single vaccination.
“The longer it takes to vaccinate those most at risk everywhere, the more opportunity we give the virus to mutate and evade vaccines,” Tedros said, adding that unless the virus is suppressed everywhere, it could resurge globally.
China’s Sinovac said Friday that late-stage trial data of its COVID-19 vaccine from Brazil and Turkey showed the vaccine prevented hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients in 100% of participants. But the company said the vaccine was only 50.65% effective at keeping people from getting infected.
The trial of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine involved nearly 12,400 people and also found the vaccine was 83.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 cases that required any medical treatment.
Biden sends in troops
In the United States, President Joe Biden’s administration announced Friday that the Pentagon had approved the deployment of 1,100 active-duty troops to assist with COVID-19 vaccination efforts. It said that number would likely rise soon.
The U.S. Supreme Court told the western state of California on Friday that it could not prohibit indoor worship services because of the pandemic, but that it could temporarily maintain a ban on singing and chanting indoors. The court’s orders came after two churches sued over the state’s lockdown measures. The court ruled that California could limit indoor services to 25% of a building’s capacity.
New York’s Yankee Stadium was transformed Friday into a COVID-19 vaccination hub. The iconic stadium is located in the Bronx, a mostly Black and Hispanic borough that has experienced high infection and death rates from the coronavirus.
Currently, only Bronx residents are eligible to receive the COVID shots at the stadium, where members of the National Guard have been deployed to assist in the vaccine campaign.
Jacqueline Soto, 55, a school secretary from the Bronx, told Reuters on Friday “I was on a wait list for three weeks, desperate to get a vaccine. … I was unsuccessful. But today I’m here. I just went on the link yesterday and already I got the appointment today, and I’m happy to be here.”
The U.S. supermarket chain Kroger said Friday that it would give $100 to workers who get a COVID-19 vaccination, joining a growing number of companies who are incentivizing employees to get vaccinated.
Coronavirus cases in the United States have been decreasing in recent weeks. However, medical officials are urging U.S. residents to not turn Sunday’s Super Bowl, a yearly football game, into a superspreader event. Fans usually gather at large home parties or in bars and restaurants to watch the game on television. Medical authorities this year, however, are urging football fans to watch the game “with the people you live with.”
Hundreds of people protested Saturday in the streets of Tunisia, which has yet to receive any vaccines. Frustrated Tunisians decried the lack of jobs, poor living conditions and the economic crisis worsened by the pandemic. They also demanded the release of those arrested during protests earlier this year.
Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced a government reorganization and promised that the new team would focus on deep reforms to improve conditions in the North African country.
Greece announced stricter lockdown restrictions in the capital, Athens, as well as in other parts of the country to stop the spread of the pandemic. The restrictions included a curfew that began at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Also Saturday, South Korea began easing its restrictions on businesses outside the capital, allowing them to stay open an additional hour, to 10 p.m. Small-business owners and self-employed people have been calling for an easing of restrictions imposed as the country seeks to control the coronavirus outbreak. However, businesses in Seoul, the capital, will still close at 9 p.m.
Cuba imposed a strict nightly curfew Friday in the capital, Havana, as the country struggles to contain a resurgence of the spread of the coronavirus. The Havana Province Defense Council said people and vehicles would be restricted from moving about between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Cuba reopened its airports three months ago and eased lockdown measures after apparently bringing the outbreak under control. But the relaxed measures triggered a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases last month.
As of Saturday afternoon EST, there were more than 105.6 million global GOVID-19 cases and 2.3 million deaths from the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
The United States remained at the top of the list as the location with the most infections, with more than 26.8 million cases, followed by India with 10.8 million and Brazil with 9.4 million.