39.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed, 19.1 million administered: U.S. CDC

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 19,107,959 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Friday morning and distributed 39,892,400 doses.

The tally of vaccine doses are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, vaccines as of 9:00 a.m. ET on Friday, the agency said.

According to the tally posted on Jan. 21, the agency had administered 17,546,374 doses of the vaccines, and distributed 37,960,000 doses.

The agency said 16,243,093 people had received one or more doses, while 2,756,953 people got the second dose as of Friday.

A total of 2,289,284 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.

(Reporting by Trisha Roy in Bengaluru)

British PM says new variant may carry higher risk of death

By Michael Holden and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday the new English variant of COVID-19 may be associated with a higher level of mortality although he said evidence showed that both vaccines being used in the country are effective against it.

“We’ve been informed today that in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant – the variant that was first discovered in London and the southeast (of England) – may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” he told a news briefing.

The warning about the higher risk of death from the new variant, which was identified in England late last year, came as a fresh blow after the country had earlier been buoyed by news the number of new COVID-19 infections was estimated to be shrinking by as much as 4% a day.

Johnson said however that all the current evidence showed both vaccines remained effective against old and new variants.

Data published earlier on Friday showed that 5.38 million people had been given their first dose of a vaccine, with 409,855 receiving it in the past 24 hours, a record high so far.

England and Scotland announced new restrictions on Jan. 4 to stem a surge in the disease fueled by the highly transmissible new variant of the coronavirus, which has led to record numbers of daily deaths and infections this month.

The latest estimates from the health ministry suggest that the number of new infections was shrinking by between 1% and 4% a day. Last week, it was thought cases were growing by much as 5%, and the turnaround gave hope that the spread of the virus was being curbed, although the ministry urged caution.

The closely watched reproduction “R” number was estimated to be between 0.8 and 1, down from a range of 1.2 to 1.3 last week, meaning that on average, every 10 people infected will infect between eight and 10 other people.

But the Office for National Statistics estimated that the prevalence overall remained high, with about one in 55 people having the virus.

“Cases remain dangerously high and we must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control,” the health ministry said. “It is essential that everyone continues to stay at home, whether they have had the vaccine or not.”

Britain has recorded more than 3.5 million infections and nearly 96,000 deaths – the world’s fifth-highest toll – while the economy has been hammered. Figures on Friday showed public debt at its highest level as a proportion of GDP since 1962, and retailers had their worst year on record.

(Additional reporting by William James, Alistair Smout, Andy Bruce and Sarah Young; Editing by Alison Williams)

Nearly 38 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed, 17.5 million administered: U.S. CDC

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 17,546,374 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Thursday morning and distributed 37,960,000 doses.

The tally of vaccine doses are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, vaccines as of 9:00 a.m. ET on Thursday, the agency said.

According to the tally posted on Jan. 20, the agency had administered 16,525,281 doses of the vaccines, and distributed 35,990,150 doses.

The agency said 15,053,257 people had received 1 or more doses while 2,394,961 people have got the second dose as of Thursday.

A total of 2,089,181 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.

(Reporting by Trisha Roy in Bengaluru)

35.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed, 16.5 million administered: U.S. CDC

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 16,525,281 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Wednesday morning and distributed 35,990,150 doses.

The tally of vaccine doses are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, vaccines as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the agency said.

According to the tally posted on Jan. 19, the agency had administered 15,707,588 doses of the vaccines, and distributed 31,161,075 doses.

The agency said 14,270,441 people had received 1 or more doses while 2,161,419 people have got the second dose as of Wednesday.

A total of 1,908,256 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru)

New COVID-19 variant defeats plasma treatment, may reduce vaccine efficacy

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The new COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa can evade the antibodies that attack it in treatments using blood plasma from previously recovered patients, and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of vaccines, scientists said on Wednesday.

Researchers are racing to establish whether the vaccines currently being rolled out across the globe are effective against the so-called 501Y.V2 variant, identified by South African genomics experts late last year in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“This lineage exhibits complete escape from three classes of therapeutically relevant monoclonal antibodies,” the team of scientists from three South African universities working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) wrote in a paper published in the bioRxiv journal.

“Furthermore, 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralizing antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma,” they wrote, adding that their conclusions “highlight the prospect of reinfection … and may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”

The 501Y.V2 variant is 50% more infectious than previous ones, South African researchers said this week. It has already spread to at least 20 countries since being reported to the World Health Organization in late December.

It is one of several new variants discovered in recent months, including others first found in England and Brazil.

The variant is the main driver of South Africa’s second wave of COVID-19 infections, which hit a new daily peak above 21,000 cases earlier this month, far above the first wave, before falling to about 12,000 a day.

Convalescent blood plasma from previous patients has not been shown to be effective when administered to severely ill patients requiring intensive care for COVID-19, but it is approved in several countries as an emergency measure.

British scientists and politicians have expressed concern that vaccines currently being deployed or in development could be less effective against the variant.

The paper said it remained to be seen how effective current vaccines were against 501Y.V2, which would only be determined by large-scale clinical trials. But results showed the need for new vaccines to be designed to tackle the evolving threat, it said.

(Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Peter Graff)

U.S. exceeds 400,000 coronavirus deaths

By Anurag Maan and Roshan Abraham

(Reuters) – The U.S. coronavirus death toll topped 400,000 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, as the country hardest hit by the pandemic struggled to meet the demand for vaccines to stem the spread of infection.

States including Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina and Vermont have shown signs of vaccine supply strain and are asking for more doses of both approved vaccines, one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other from Moderna.

The number of deaths has spiked since Christmas.

During the past three weeks, U.S. coronavirus fatalities have totaled 63,793 compared with 52,715 deaths in the three weeks prior to Christmas, an increase of 21%, according to a Reuters analysis.

The daily COVID-19 death numbers crossed 4,000 for the first time on Jan. 6.

Eighteen U.S. states, including California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington reported their highest daily death numbers in January, according to the Reuters tally.

The number of coronavirus cases has risen across all U.S. regions and on Tuesday crossed 24 million since the pandemic started.

While seriously ill patients are straining healthcare systems in parts of the country, especially in California, the national rate of hospitalizations has leveled off in the past two weeks and was near 124,000 on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan, Roshan Abraham and Chaithra J in Bengaluru; Editing by Howard Goller)

Moderna says possible allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccine under investigation

(Reuters) – Moderna Inc said on Tuesday it had received a report from California’s health department that several people at a center in San Diego were treated for possible allergic reactions to its COVID-19 vaccine from a particular batch.

The company’s comments come after California’s top epidemiologist on Sunday issued a statement recommending providers pause vaccination from lot no. 41L20A due to possible allergic reactions that are under investigation.

“A higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported with a specific lot of Moderna vaccine administered at one community vaccination clinic. Fewer than 10 individuals required medical attention over the span of 24 hours,” the epidemiologist said in a statement.

The vaccine maker said it was unaware of comparable cases of adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot or from other lots of its vaccine.

A total of 307,300 doses from the lot remain in storage, Moderna said, of the total 1,272,200 doses that were produced in the batch.

Moderna said it was working closely with U.S. health regulators to understand the cases and whether pausing the use of the lot was warranted.

Nearly a million doses from the lot have already been distributed to about 1,700 vaccination sites in 37 states, Moderna said.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Shinjini Ganguli)

Brussels targets vaccinating at least 70% of EU adults by summer

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union states should aim to vaccinate at least 70% of their adult populations against COVID-19 by the summer, the European Commission recommended on Tuesday.

Each of the EU’s 27 governments are managing their own vaccination campaigns, including their pace and which groups get priority. The Commission’s recommendations are not binding.

The 70% goal could mean inoculating over 200 million people, most likely with vaccines which need two doses per person. The EU has so far given a first dose to about 5 million people since it started its rollout at the end of December, the Commission said.

To meet its ambitious goal, the EU executive said it will work to boost the production capacity of vaccine makers with measures that could include investment in plants and faster regulatory procedures to authorize them.

As a mid-term target, by March at least 80% of people over the age of 80, and 80% of healthcare workers should also be vaccinated in each EU state, the Commission said.

The EU has ordered nearly 2.3 billion doses of approved and candidate COVID-19 vaccines, but only the shots developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have so far received regulatory clearance in the bloc. They both need two doses to provide full protection.

The EU has secured 600 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech and, despite early snags in deliveries, expects them to be delivered by the end of this year.

Moderna said it expects to deliver at least 80 million doses to the EU by the third quarter. Decisions on EU approvals of the vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are expected in coming weeks.

The Commission is also urging EU states to boost their capacity to sequence the coronavirus in order to detect new variants.

It called on EU governments to sequence at least 5% of all positive tests whereas at the moment many states test less than 1% of samples.

“Vaccinations will still take time until they reach all Europeans,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said, adding that meanwhile testing and sequencing must be increased.

The Commission also said it was working with EU states to adopt a common approach by the end of the month on vaccination certificates to facilitate travel.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop, John Stonestreet, Philippa Fletcher, Alexandra Hudson)

New York governor asks Pfizer to directly sell COVID-19 vaccine doses

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked Pfizer Inc Chief Executive Albert Bourla on Monday if the state could buy COVID-19 vaccine doses directly from the U.S. drugmaker.

Pfizer, however, told Reuters that such a proposal would first require approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“With hospitalizations and deaths increasing across the country this winter, we are in a footrace with the virus, and we will lose unless we dramatically increase the number of doses getting to New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a letter to Pfizer’s CEO.

Cuomo said he was appealing to Pfizer directly as the company was “not bound by commitments” that Moderna Inc made as part of Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s program to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

No state has purchased vaccines directly from the producer. Cuomo’s letter did not state how many doses he was seeking or how he would pay for it.

Pfizer said it was open to collaborating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a way that would ensure quick vaccine distribution to as many Americans as possible.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Howard Goller)

Mexico aims to make up for Pfizer vaccine shortfall with others

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday the government aimed to compensate for a reduction in deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc with those from other providers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday it was in advanced talks with Pfizer about including its vaccine in the agency’s portfolio of shots to be shared with poorer countries.

Mexico had been expecting weekly deliveries of some 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech SE. As a result of the U.S. drugmaker’s WHO agreements, Mexico would for now only be receiving half that total, Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference.

It was not clear how long the reduction would last. Pfizer did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is currently the only one being administered in Mexico, which has reported the fourth-highest death toll from the pandemic worldwide.

Mexico has also signed deals to acquire vaccines from Britain’s AstraZeneca Plc and China’s CanSino Biologics. Mexico has approved the AstraZeneca shot and expects to have it by March. It is still reviewing the CanSino vaccine.

Lopez Obrador also noted Mexico was about to complete its review of a Russian vaccine, and would soon have it available, an apparent reference to the Sputnik V product.

Mexico suffered a setback to its drive to inoculate the public with the news over the weekend that the official in charge of the program, Miriam Veras Godoy, had stepped down for personal reasons, according to the health ministry.

(Reporting by Raul Cortes; Editing by Bill Berkrot)