The Journal Gazette
Saturday, January 23, 2021 1:00 am

Coronavirus roundup

Pfizer vows 40 million doses

Associated Press

Pfizer on Friday committed to supply up to 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year to a World Health Organization-backed effort to get affordable shots to poor and middle-income countries.

The deal is a boost to the global program known as COVAX, as wealthy nations have snapped up most of the millions of coming shots. The commitment, announced at a virtual press conference held by the Geneva-based WHO, is seen as important because Pfizer and its partner BioNTech last month won the first vaccine emergency authorizations from WHO and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticized drugmakers for seeking profits from the pandemic and mostly supplying wealthy countries. Pfizer's 40 million doses – for a vaccine requiring two doses – are a tiny sliver of what's needed for COVAX, which aims to vaccinate billions of people in 92 low- and middle-income countries.

Brazil receives Indian vaccines

Brazil's government on Friday received 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine from India, but experts warned the shipment will do little to shore up an insufficient supply in South America's biggest nation.

Brazil's Health Ministry announced that the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, landed in Sao Paulo before being flown to Rio de Janeiro, where Brazil's state-run Fiocruz Institute is based. Fiocruz has an agreement to produce and distribute the vaccine.

The 2 million doses from India only scratch the surface of the shortfall, Brazilian public health experts told The Associated Press, as far more doses will be needed to cover priority groups in the nation of 210 million people, and shipments of raw materials from Asia have been delayed.

Hong Kong sector under lockdown

Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down Saturday in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening outbreak in the city, authorities said.

Hong Kong has been grappling to contain a fresh wave of the coronavirus since November. Over 4,300 cases have been recorded in the last two months, making up nearly 40% of the city's total.

Coronavirus cases in Hong Kong's Yau Tsim Mong district – a working-class neighborhood with old buildings and subdivided flats – made up about half of the infections in the past week.

UK police break up too-big wedding

Police in London said Friday that they have broken up a wedding attended by 150 people – despite a nationwide lockdown that bars households from mixing. The venue was a school whose principal died from the coronavirus last year.

The Metropolitan Police force said officers found a large number people packed into the north London school with blacked-out windows on Thursday night. The force said that “following enquiries it was established that the group had gathered at the location for a wedding.” Weddings are allowed only in “exceptional circumstances” – such as one partner being dangerously ill – and with a maximum of six people attending.

Police said the organizer could face a 10,000-pound fine. Many guests fled as police arrived, but five people who attended received 200-pound fines.

Florida governor early on milestone

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a made-for-TV moment: A 100-year-old World War II veteran getting a vaccine against the coronavirus. “An American hero,” the governor proclaimed Friday, would be the 1 millionth senior in his state to get a lifesaving shot in the arm.

As it turned out, the assertion was premature, and the Republican governor later walked back the claim, saying instead that the injection was symbolic of the state being on track to hit 1 million doses soon.

State officials acknowledged that it could take a few more days to reach the milestone. DeSantis' own health department reported that, as of Thursday, fewer than 840,000 seniors had received the shot.

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