The Latest: AstraZeneca, EU to hold vaccine delivery talks
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca has intensified with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker denying the EU’s assertion that it had pulled out of talks on vaccine supplies.
AstraZeneca says it still plans to meet with EU officials in Brussels later in the day. The talks will be the third in as many days. AstraZeneca rejected the EU’s accusation that the company had failed to honor its commitments to deliver coronavirus vaccines.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said last week it planned to cut initial deliveries in the EU to 31 million doses from 80 million. AstraZeneca says the amounts in its contract with the EU were targets that couldn’t be met because of problems in expanding production capacity.
The EU, which has 450 million citizens, is lagging behind in its roll out of coronavirus vaccine shots for its health care workers and most vulnerable people.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
AstraZeneca and EU to meet in Brussels to talk over vaccine production delays. French drugmaker Sanofi to produce coronavirus vaccines of its rival Pfizer s ince its own vaccine won’t be ready until late 2021. U.S. boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages. IOC, Tokyo Olympics to unveil rule book for beating pandemic.
— Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh started vaccinations against coronavirus in the nation’s capital, with the hope of administering more than 30 million doses over next few months.
Runu Beronica Costa, a senior nurse of the Kurmitola General Hospital, got the first shot of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. She was followed by a doctor, a military official, a traffic policeman and a senior official of the government’s health department.
Their vaccination was broadcast live as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina witnessed the process remotely and thanked them. Hasina urged all to come forward to eventually get their shots.
The campaign started as Bangladesh has received 7 million doses since Thursday from India. Two million doses were gifts from the Indian government while the rest was purchased from the Serum Institute of India.
Bangladesh has recorded 532,916 confirmed cases and 8,055 deaths.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahrain says it’s discovered a mutated strain of the coronavirus on the island kingdom and will send students to learn from home for the next three weeks.
The island in the Persian Gulf off Saudi Arabia also says it would stop dining-in service at restaurants and cafes for the next three weeks as well.
The restrictions will begin from Sunday. The kingdom didn’t identify what strain of the virus it had discovered there in an announcement carried by the state-run Bahrain News Agency.
Bahrain has been trying to vaccinate its public amid the pandemic. It has registered some 100,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 370 deaths.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ health minister says a steady decrease in coronavirus infections three weeks into a nationwide lockdown is allowing for the start of the gradual, targeted lifting of closures and restrictions.
Constantinos Ioannou says the first to re-open on Feb. 1 will be hair and beauty salons, followed a week later by retail stores, shopping malls and elementary schools. Students in their final year of high school will go back to classes on Feb. 8.
He says it’s projected that 100,000 people will be vaccinated by the end of March including those over 80 and front-line health care workers.
MOSCOW — Moscow’s mayor lifted some coronavirus restrictions in the Russian capital, citing a downward trend in new infections.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says employers are no longer required to have 30% of staff work from home, although a recommendation to continue doing that remains. Sobyanin has also allowed cafes, restaurants and bars to operate between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“Over the past week, the number of new infections didn’t exceed 2,000-3,000 a day … More than 50% of beds in coronavirus hospitals are free for the first time since mid-June,” Sobyanin said. “The pandemic is on the decline … and it’s our duty to create conditions for the economy to recover as fast as possible.”
The number of new coronavirus infections reported by Russian authorities has been on the decline this month, dropping from up to 25,000 a day in early January to under 20,000 this week. In Moscow, the number of daily new infections dropped to under 2,000 on Wednesday, from roughly 5,000 two weeks ago.
Russia has reported a total of 3.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 70,000 deaths in the pandemic. In December, Russian authorities launched a vaccination campaign with the domestically developed Sputnik V, which is still undergoing advanced trials to ensure its safety and effectiveness.
PARIS — French drug maker Sanofi says it will help manufacture 125 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by rivals Pfizer and BioNTech, while its own vaccine candidate faces delays.
Germany-based BioNTech will initially produce the vaccines at Sanofi facilities in Frankfurt, starting in the summer, according to a Sanofi statement Wednesday. The company did not reveal financial details of the agreement.
The French government has been pressing Sanofi to use its facilities to help make rival vaccines, given high demand and problems with supplies of the few vaccines that are already available.
Sanofi and British partner GlaxoSmithKline will start a new phase-2 trial of their COVID-19 vaccine next month, Sanofi said. The two companies said last month that their vaccine won’t be ready until late 2021 because the shot’s effectiveness in older people needed to be improved.
BEIJING — China has given more than 22 million coronavirus vaccine shots to date as it carries out a drive ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday, health authorities said Wednesday.
The effort, which began six weeks ago, targets key groups such as medical and transport workers and has accelerated vaccinations in China. About 1.6 million doses had been given over several months before the campaign began.
“The carrying out of vaccination has been ongoing in a steady and orderly manner,” Zeng Yixin, vice chairman of the National Health Commission Said at a news conference.
He said that 22.76 million doses had been administered as of Tuesday. It’s not clear how many people that represents since the vaccine is given in two doses, and some may have received their second shot.
China, which largely stopped the spread of the virus last spring, has seen fresh outbreaks this winter in four northern provinces. About 1,800 new cases have been reported since mid-December, including two deaths.
Authorities are strongly discouraging people from traveling during the Lunar New Year holiday, a time when Chinese traditionally return to their hometowns for family gatherings.
NEW DELHI — India has vaccinated 2 million health workers in less than two weeks and recorded 12,689 new coronavirus positive cases in the past 24 hours, a sharp decline from a peak level of nearly 100,000 in mid-September.
The health Ministry said the daily new cases had fallen below 10,000 on Tuesday with 9,102 cases. The daily new positive cases were 9,304 on June 4 last year.
India’s fatalities dropped to 137 in the past 24 hours from a peak level of 1,089 daily deaths in September. India’s total positive cases since the start of the epidemic have reached 10.6 million, the second highest after the United States with 25.43 million cases.
India started inoculating health workers on Jan. 16 in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. Authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported new 559 cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily increase in 10 days, as health workers scrambled to slow transmissions at religious facilities, which have been a major source of infections throughout the pandemic.
The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday brought the national caseload to 76,429, including 1,378 deaths.
The agency said 112 of the new cases came from the southwestern city of Gwangju where more than 100 infections have so far been linked to a missionary training school. An affiliated facility in the central city of Daejeon has been linked to more 170 infections.
Nearly 300 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where infections have been tied to various places, including churches, restaurants, schools and offices.
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska has detected the state’s first known case of the coronavirus variant identified last year in the United Kingdom, officials said Tuesday.
The infected person is an Anchorage resident who had traveled to a state where the variant had already been detected, the Alaska health department said. The person first experienced symptoms on Dec. 17, was tested three days later and received a positive result on Dec. 22.
The resident lived with another person in Anchorage, who also became ill. Both isolated and have since recovered, officials said.
It was not yet clear if the second person also was infected with the variant. Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, said in a news release that the discovery of the variant is not surprising because viruses “constantly change through mutation.”
He said this is one of several “variants that has been carefully tracked because it appears to spread more easily and quickly than other strains of the virus.”
Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said it is likely the variant will be detected again soon.
BOSTON — In his annual State of the Commonwealth address, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker defended his vaccine distribution plan, which some have criticized for being confusing and too narrowly focused at first.
Baker said the state is prepared to distribute and administer all the vaccine shots delivered by the federal government and is rapidly expanding the number of vaccination sites.
“Vaccinating 4 million adults in Massachusetts as the doses are allocated by the federal government is not going to be easy. But be assured that we will make every effort to get this done as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said. “We can only move as fast as the federal government delivers the vaccines.”
SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday touted big improvements in distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, but he also urged residents to remain vigilant as new, more contagious variants of the disease spread in the state.
Inslee said more than 36,000 doses were administered in Washington on Sunday and 39,000 on Monday — a big jump from about 16,000 a week earlier, and on the way toward the state’s goal of 45,000 per day.
The number of vaccines actually administered could be even higher, given lags in reporting, but as of Monday more than 500,000 doses had been administered statewide, with four mass vaccination sites due to open this week.
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the federal government is boosting vaccine supplies to the states by 16% over the next three weeks, giving states more certainty about upcoming deliveries than the one-week notice the Trump administration had been providing.