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U.K. Becomes First Country to Approve Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine

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The vaccine will be made available across the United Kingdom from next week. PHOTO: AFP

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom became the first country to formally approve the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a great milestone in the fight against the pandemic.

What We Know:

  • The first vaccinations are set to arrive and be administered next week, the government said. However, the initial batch of 800,000 will cover a moderately small amount of healthcare workers, care home staff and residents, and seniors over the age of 80.
  • The vaccine has been approved more quickly than any other in history. Its rapid development surpassed the 15 to 20 years it normally takes to produce these types of medicines.

  • President Donald Trump has blamed the Food and Drug Administration for “dragging its feet,” while the FDA states it’s just taking the time to make the right call. The British government said Wednesday, FDA regulators will discuss the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, by which time it will already be accessible across the U.K.

“It’s fantastic,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated. “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”

  • According to Johns Hopkins University, the U.K. has one of the highest Covid-19 deaths globally, behind only Italy, Spain, Peru, and Belgium.
  • The vaccine by Pfizer, a U.S. pharmaceutical giant, and its German partner BioNTech is one of three front-runners that have produced promising results in recent weeks. Clinical trials found it was 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, Pfizer said.
  • The U.K. ordered 40 million doses, sufficient for a third of the population, given that this is a two-shot regimen. None of these have been delivered yet, and most of them won’t come until next year. Every time a new shipment is sent over, it will have to be tested again by the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA.
  • The shots must be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, needing specialist dry-ice freezers that some doctor surgeries and even some hospitals do not have. Pfizer-BioNTech states the vaccine can be kept for its final five days at normal refrigerator temperature.

In the U.S., Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have sent forms to the FDA for emergency use permission. The FDA is expected to meet to talk about the vaccines next week.

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Coronavirus

Cuomo Wants New York to Buy Vaccine Directly from Pfizer

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The Governor of New York is seeking to buy the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer. The company itself is already saying they won’t do it.

What We Know:

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the Trump Administration has failed to deliver enough COVID-19 vaccines to his state, so he wants to buy more doses directly from the manufacturer. Cuomo has asked Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla whether it would be possible to cut out the middle man. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded eligibility to more than 7 million New Yorkers from 5 million practically overnight, stated Cuomo said Monday in a letter to Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla. “No can do,” Pfizer replied.
  • The company said it’s open to collaborating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a way that will allow the drugmaker to distribute its vaccine to as many Americans as possible quickly. It will still need the okay from the government to do so, according to Bloomberg. Pfizer told CNBC that model would first have to be cleared under the emergency use authorization granted by the Food and Drug Administration for the drug’s use.
  • According to the most recent CDC figures, Trump had promised that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by the end of 2020, but as of Monday, just 12.2 million had gotten their first dose. However, public health and chain supply experts said a shortage of vaccines isn’t the only reason it’s taking so long to get the shots into American arms.
  • The federal government has left the distribution details up to local governments, which were no match for the overwhelming demand. And federal guidelines meant to get the most vulnerable vaccinated first have reportedly resulted in thousands of doses going to waste.
  • New York has ramped up its vaccine administration over the past five weeks, from about 35,000 during the first week to 330,000 last week, the governor said. To date, more than 1 million doses have been administered. The state is in a footrace with the vaccination rate and the COVID-19 infection rate. The state’s positivity rate is down statewide, and the hospitalization rate is slowing. Still, new variants of the virus could bring another wave, Cuomo said.

The Government is urged to begin testing all international travelers immediately and to stop those coming from the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil, where variants have emerged.

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France Imposes Earlier Curfew and Tightens Border Control

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France is preparing to tighten restrictions following an increase in coronavirus cases.

What We Know:

  • Last Thursday, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that the country plans to strengthen border controls and bring forward its night curfew, from a previous 8 p.m. to now 6 p.m., in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus infections.

“We must do everything to prevent this variant from spreading and ensure that it does not become the dominant variant,” Castex said.

  • The new curfew will come into effect on Saturday, January 16th. Starting Monday, all people traveling to France from outside the European Union will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test and self-isolate for a week upon arrival. A new protocol for countries in the European Union will be worked on ahead of the European Summit approaching on Jan. 21st.
  • The Prime Minister assured that the uptick in cases would not require a complete shutdown of the country. However, if the epidemic worsens, the government will be swift to order a new shutdown. For now, the country is on track to administer more than 1 million COVID-19 shots by the end of the month.
  • According to U.S. News, France has the seventh-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world with nearly 70,000 deaths. The government is particularly worried by the more-transmissible coronavirus strain first detected in Britain, which now accounts for about 1% of new cases.

Like much of the rest of the world, the French government is trying its best to balance a surviving economy and a surviving population.

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Disneyland Will Serve As A ‘Super’ Covid-19 Vaccination Site

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Disneyland in Anaheim, California will become a mass Covid vaccine distribution site, according to Orange County officials.

What We Know:

  • Disneyland Resort will become the first of five “super point-of-dispensing” (super POD) locations whose large capacity makes it possible to inoculate thousands of people every day. The decision came as the state reported over 30,000 new cases and 264 deaths on Monday.
  • Orange County supervisor, Doug Chaffee, said in a statement that super POD sites will be “absolutely critical in stopping this deadly virus”. California Governor Gavin Newsom revealed other super POD locations across the state, including Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, Cal Expo in Sacramento, and Petco Park in San Diego which should be opening to the public this week.
  • “We recognize that the current strategy is not going to get us to where we need to go as quickly as we all need to go,” Governor Newsom said. “That’s why we’re speeding up the administration not just for priority groups but opening up large sites to do so.” Newsom said the state’s goal was to vaccinate 1 million people by the weekend.
  • “Disneyland Resort is proud to help support Orange County and the City of Anaheim with the use of our property, and we are grateful for all of their efforts to combat COVID-19,” Dr. Pamela Hymel, Chief Medical Officer, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, told CBS News. “After a year in which so many in our community have faced unprecedented hardship and uncertainty, there is now reason for optimism with the administration of a vaccine.”
  • The park has been closed to the public since mid-March when the pandemic began, which contradicts its sister resort, Walt Disney World in Florida, which has been open since July, with a reduced number of guests.

California ranks 42nd out of 50 states in its vaccination rate per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control data.

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