Turkey reports 30,021 new infections, the highest number this year. The number of deaths rose by 151. The number of new infections in the Netherlands rose to 8798, the highest level since the beginning of January. The National Health Institute (RIVM) has predicted an increase in cases by the end of April, despite all lockdown measures.
EU denies report on vaccine deal with London
The UK is said to be on the verge of signing a vaccine deal with the European Union. Like the English newspaper The Times reported in its Saturday edition, the deal could remove the risk of EU deliveries being halted. In return, the British government is ready to forego some long-term supplies of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which is to be exported from Holland. In the context of the EU Commission, the report was dismissed as nonsense at the weekend.
Astra Zeneca should not leave Europe for the time being
Astra Zeneca corona vaccine manufactured in the EU is not expected to leave Europe for the time being. “We have the tools and will ensure that everything stays in Europe until the company meets its commitments again,” announced EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton on Friday.
The British-Swedish group is accused of failing to fulfill supply agreements with the EU. The company has drastically reduced its deliveries due to production delays. “I’m just reminding you that we expected 120 million cans in Q1 and we ended up getting 30 million,” said Breton, referring to the first quarter of 2021. “So we had a problem with this company.”
The EU tightened its oversight of coronavirus vaccine exports on Wednesday and created more opportunities to block deliveries to countries that have higher vaccination rates like the UK or that do not leave the vaccine doses produced in the country in question.
Breton commented on a visit to the pharmaceutical company Reig Jofre in Barcelona, which is due to fill the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from mid-June. Europe should be the world leader in coronavirus vaccine production by the end of the year, Breton said. 52 production sites are involved in the process across the continent. In the summer, possibly around mid-July, the EU could have vaccinated enough people to achieve “global immunity”.
Norway continues to suspend vaccinations with Astra Zeneca
Norway does not want to use the vaccine from the Swedish-British manufacturer Astra Zeneca again for the time being. “There is still great uncertainty about possible serious side effects,” it said on Friday in a message from the health authority Folkehelseinstitutt FHI. “The FHI believes that more time should be spent on gaining more knowledge about these serious incidents.” The FHI emphasized that the decision was based on incidents in Norway.
Like many other countries, Norway stopped the drug two weeks ago because some people who had been vaccinated had developed blood clots. Four people have now died in Norway after being vaccinated. A direct connection has not yet been proven. A national group of experts is now investigating the cases, it said. They also work closely with neighboring countries.
Denmark extended the stop of vaccinations with the Astra-Zeneca preparation by three weeks on Thursday. In Iceland, Finland and Sweden, the vaccine is only given to older people because there have been no serious side effects in this age group.
In Norway, the number of people infected has risen rapidly in recent weeks, and the incidence is higher than in Germany. The capital city of Oslo is hardest hit with almost 600 infected per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days.
Biontech / Pfizer review vaccine on younger children
Biontech and Pfizer have started studies on the effectiveness and safety of their corona vaccine in children up to and including the age of eleven. So far, the vaccine that the Mainz-based company developed together with the US manufacturer has been conditionally approved for young people aged 16 and over. Studies for the age group twelve to 16 are already underway. Now children from six months of age are also included in the studies, as a Biontech spokeswoman for the German Press Agency reported.
“Younger children, who make up a large part of the world’s population, play a crucial role in our fight against Covid-19,” said the company. If the studies are successful and the regulatory authorities approve the product, the companies estimate that the vaccine could be available to younger children in early 2022.
Other vaccine manufacturers have also started studies in children. According to the Association of Researching Drug Manufacturers (vfa), this is one of the requirements of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which are linked to the conditional approvals for adults. Manufacturers usually work their way up to younger and younger children by age group.
The first subjects under the age of eleven were vaccinated on Thursday, Pfizer and Biontech reported on Friday. This is part of the ongoing Phase One, Two, and Three trials to review the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of Pfizer / Biontech’s BNT162b2 vaccine.
Healthy children between six months and eleven years of age would be included. According to the information, two thirds of the subjects will receive the actual vaccine, one third a placebo. Around 4,500 children between the ages of eleven and six months in the United States and Europe are expected to take part.
Phase one is about the right dose. For this, the children are divided into three age groups: five to ten years, two to five years and under two years. The oldest group begins, initially with 144 participants, then the younger groups should follow step by step. In phases two and three, the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the vaccine dosage determined for the individual age groups are checked.
The vaccine has been tested on children between the ages of twelve and 15 as part of phase three since autumn 2020. 2259 children in this age group are reported to be taking part. The data are promising and should be published soon.
According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, vaccines can only be approved for those age groups for which data on efficacy and safety from clinical trials are available. In this case, the existing approval would be extended to younger people by means of a so-called change notification.
Brazil reports more than 100,000 new infections
Brazil reports more than 100,000 new infections, more than ever before. The number of deaths rose by 2,777, the Ministry of Health announced on Thursday. The record number comes one day after Brazil exceeded 300,000 deaths from the pandemic. This makes the country the second highest death toll worldwide after the United States.
Given the increasing numbers of infections in Brazil, Mexico and Chile, Argentina is stopping flights from these countries. From Saturday, the flight connections with the three states would be cut until further notice, reported the state news agency Télam, citing government circles on Thursday.
The Argentine government recently asked the citizens of the South American country to refrain from traveling abroad. Returnees must be in quarantine for at least ten days. Those who test positive for Corona upon entry must move to a hotel at their own expense for the period of isolation.
In Argentina, around 2.3 million people have been proven to have been infected with the coronavirus, and around 55,000 patients have died in connection with Covid-19. In view of the approaching autumn in the southern hemisphere, the authorities are currently arming themselves for the second corona wave.
Austria decides hard Easter lockdown for Vienna and other regions
In Vienna and other eastern regions of Austria, corona measures are tightened around the Easter holidays. A short “Easter break” is necessary to avert an impending overload of the clinics in the capital and in Lower Austria and Burgenland, said Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens).
The seven-day incidence in the eastern federal states is almost 300, well above the Austrian average of around 247. That has to do with the strong spread of the British virus variant, which also leads to severe Covid diseases more quickly, said Shooting in front of journalists.
That is why there is now a need for a “breakwater” against the pandemic. “We really want to massively run down operations in this Easter phase,” said the minister. Dealers, hairdressers and masseurs close from Maundy Thursday to the Tuesday after Easter. Business for daily needs is excluded, announced Anschober after long negotiations with the heads of government of the three federal states. In contrast to Germany, shops and companies in Austria are usually open on Good Friday. Furthermore, people should only go outside for walks, sports and urgent trips over the holidays.
Schools will switch to online teaching for a week after Easter. In addition, the mask requirement in companies and in busy places outdoors is tightened. Commuters from neighboring countries to the east, such as the Czech Republic and Hungary, have to present two negative tests per week instead of the previous one.
The Austrian government followed the withdrawal of the German Corona Easter rest by Chancellor Angela Merkel extremely closely, the German Press Agency learned from informed circles. Nevertheless, it was ultimately decided to tighten the rules. The situation in the intensive care units was an important argument. In Vienna and Lower Austria, more than half of the beds intended for Covid 19 patients are already occupied in intensive care units. Burgenland is approaching the two-thirds mark.
Before the decision, Austria’s trade association criticized the leaked plans. Closed days cost jobs, but did not prevent infections, said association boss Rainer Will. “The only company that would benefit massively from this and can look forward to an early Easter present is Amazon.”
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