(Bloomberg) — Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE agreed to double the supply of their Covid-19 vaccine to the U.S., as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in many nations. The U.S. said it has administered more than 1 million shots in 10 days, more than any other nation.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher regulations across a swath of England in an effort to rein in the mutant strain of coronavirus that’s spreading quickly across the country. Germany’s coronavirus deaths rose by 986, the most since the start of the pandemic.
South Korea and the Philippines moved to temporarily suspend U.K. flights, while Japan is strengthening entry regulations for people traveling from Britain. Air travel from Britain to France resumed after a two-day halt, although with eligibility restrictions and a virus testing requirement.
China Vaccine Trial Data Is Withheld (5 p.m. NY)
A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd. was found to be more than 50% effective in a Brazilian clinical trial, though researchers delayed releasing more information at the request of the company.
A 50% efficacy rate is a minimum standard set by U.S. regulators for emergency authorization of Covid vaccines. Messenger RNA vaccines from Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. have produced far better results, reducing symptomatic Covid cases by well over 90% in giant trials.
The late-stage trial of Sinovac’s vaccine in Brazil, involving about 13,000 participants, suggested the shot is “safe and effective,” authorities at the Butantan Institute and from the state of Sao Paulo said. They were asked to not disseminate the information until it was thoroughly reviewed in China as part of a contractual agreement, they said.
“Our goal was for the shot to be more than 50% effective,” state Health Secretary Jean Gorinchteyn said at a press conference. “A vaccine that reaches at least that is already cause for celebration.”
U.S. Vaccinations Surpass 1 Million (2:17 p.m. NY)
The U.S. now leads the world in Covid-19 vaccine shots administered, with 1,008,025 doses given in the 10 days since the first doses were cleared for use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State-led vaccination campaigns are rolling out shots from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., focused at first on hundreds of thousands of health-care workers around the country who have been battling the virus on the front lines in hospitals. The vaccines require two shots weeks apart to deliver the highest level of protection.
China, which has several home-grown vaccines, has vaccinated more than 650,000 people and says it has administered 1 million doses. That figure could in fact be far higher, or at least higher than the U.S. total, since the country has provided infrequent updates on its effort. Russia has vaccinated 440,000 people. Both countries got a head start in August by authorizing domestically produced vaccines before they’d been fully tested.
N.J. Sees Most Hospitalizations Since May (2:15 p.m. NY)
New Jersey hospitals reported 3,841 patients with Covid-19 symptoms, the highest number since May 13, Governor Phil Murphy said.
“They are not good,” Murphy said of the new statistics, which stem from 4,919 newly confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the state’s total this year to 445,138. Its positive test rate stood at 12.97%. Hospitals reported 765 patients in intensive-care units, 63% of them on ventilators. At the pandemic’s peak in New Jersey last spring, 2,080 were overwhelming hospital ICUs, he said.
The state recorded 103 new deaths, the second consecutive day that fatalities exceeded 100. The total number of deaths so far stands at 16,521, with another 1,954 probably attributable to the virus. One piece of good news: The rate of viral transmission was 0.97, which equals less than one infection per person in the population.
Still, “these numbers are sobering,” the governor said of the broader trends. A week ago, they were declining, and “now they are as high as seven months ago.”
Fauci Says U.S. Wants Samples of U.K. Strain (1:45 p.m. NY)
The U.S. is trying to obtain samples of the mutant strain of SARS-CoV-2 that’s arisen in the U.K. for testing at the National Institutes of Health, according to Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease doctor.
“We at the NIH are in communication with our colleagues in the U.K. to try and get the isolate to work with,” Fauci said in a taped interview that will air on Bloomberg Television. “We need to take this seriously and we need to investigate it much further.”
The variant doesn’t appear to make infected people more ill than other strains, and vaccine makers have said they believe their shots will raise immunity against it. Nevertheless, several countries have cut off transportation links to the U.K. to minimize the risk of spread, although France has reinstated the flow of shipments.
Ireland Officials Find U.K. Variant (1:15 p.m. NY)
Irish health authorities said a variant of the coronavirus has arrived from the U.K., and warned the situation was at its most worrying since March. Almost 1,000 new cases were recorded Wednesday, the latest in a spike in numbers which has prompted the government to introduce new restrictions, including closing bars and restaurants on Christmas Eve for at least three weeks.
N.Y. Extends Eviction Moratorium (1:10 p.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will extend the state’s moratorium on evictions, which is set to expire Jan. 1.
Cuomo also implored federal officials to do more to stop or contain the spread of the new Covid-19 variant reported in the U.K, such as blocking flights from that country or requiring those passengers to test negative before boarding planes.
Meanwhile, the state is talking with the Buffalo Bills football team about using rapid testing to allow 6,700 fans into the team’s upcoming playoff game.
The state Department of Health “proposes testing prior to the game and contact tracing afterward to see what the effect was,” Cuomo said of the plan, which hasn’t been finalized. Health officials remain concerned about inadvertently creating situations where large numbers of fans gather without masks.
Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said the state would work with the team to get all fans tested beforehand. Masks will be required at all times. “We’ll have proof of a negative result prior to entering,” he said. “My concern here is, we can control how fans come into the stadium, but the parties are where this virus can spread.”
Spain to Vaccinate 2.3 Million in 12 Weeks (1:05 p.m. NY)
Spain plans to vaccinate about 2.3 million people over a 12-week period starting on Dec. 27. Spain will receive 4.5 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arriving in weekly batches from Dec. 26, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Wednesday. The vaccine campaign will mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic just as cases begin to rise again in Spain after a steady decline in the infection rate over the past few months, he said.
One Severe Allergic Reaction Reported in NYC (12:05 p.m. NY)
One of the more than 30,000 New York City health-care workers who have received the Covid-19 vaccine so far has had a severe adverse reaction.
City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi declined to identify the worker, who he said was treated for anaphylaxis after getting the Pfizer shot, and is in stable condition.
The reaction was a unique but serious “adverse event with a health-care worker, who had a significant reaction,” Chokshi said. Such reactions are uncommon in vaccines, which are very safe overall, he said Wednesday at a press briefing.
“For the vast number of New Yorkers who have allergies, the Covid vaccine will be safe for you,” Chokshi said. “If you have had an allergic reaction to a vaccine or any medicine you took by injection, it’s important for you to have a conversation with your doctor before you get vaccinated.”
Jay Varma, de Blasio’s health adviser, said small risks have to be balanced against the risks of infection, which include deaths and long-term complications.
U.K. Reports Record Number of Cases (11:30 a.m. NY)
The U.K. reported the most new cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began as it sent more areas of the country into its toughest level of virus restrictions
Nearly 40,000 new cases of the virus were reported on Wednesday, and 744 new deaths were reported within 28 days of a positive test, the highest since the end of April.
“The rapid rise in cases is hugely worrying,” Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said in a emailed statement, warning that each new case is a someone who could become seriously unwell.
Earlier on Wednesday the U.K. government said more areas of England will enter its tier 4 virus restrictions, and said it had found new cases of a second type of a more infectious Covid-19 strain.
NYC Enforces Quarantine on Arrivals (11:05 a.m. NY)
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will strictly enforce quarantine rules for all travelers arriving in the city during the holidays, particularly those from the U.K., where a highly contagious new Covid-19 strain has been detected.
All visitors arriving at New York City’s airports will fill out forms that will be forwarded to the state. Every traveler also will receive a city health department order to quarantine via certified mail to their home or hotel. All travelers from the U.K. will have sheriff deputies visiting their homes and hotels, he said. Visitors may avoid extended quarantine by getting tested before they travel and after they arrive, he said.
Travelers ordered to quarantine will be offered support services including free hotel stays and food delivery, if necessary. Violators will be subject to $1,000 fines per day, the mayor said. Motorists coming into the city will also be checked. About 10,000 car-stops have already been made in recent weeks. Those checks will be conducted more intensively over the holidays, the mayor said.
“If you violate the quarantine you are endangering everyone in the city,” de Blasio said. “We will collect those penalties.”
Moderna Shot Approved in Canada (10:40 a.m. NY)
Canada’s public health authorities approved Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine, the second shot to be licensed in a country that’s secured more doses per person than any other around the world.
Approval of the Moderna shot will allow Canada to expand its vaccination campaign beyond initial inoculation sites in urban centers. Northern regions have specifically requested doses from the Massachusetts-based company due to less-cumbersome refrigeration requirements.
NYC Records Most Hospitalizations Since May (10:35 a.m. NY)
New York City is seeing the biggest surge in Covid-related hospitalizations since May.
The number of people admitted on Monday jumped to 224, above the city’s early-warning marker of 200, from 196 the prior day. The city’s seven-day average hospitalization rate also is climbing, to 3.19 per 100,000.
During the height of the outbreak earlier this year, New York had an average of 13 new admissions per 100,000 a day and more than 12,000 hospitalized at one time. As of Monday, about 2,200 were in city hospitals for Covid illness.
Merck in $356M Deal With U.S. for Therapy (10:30 a.m. NY)
The U.S. government agreed to pay Merck & Co. $356 million for tens of thousands of doses of an experimental treatment for severe Covid-19, adding to its arsenal of potential therapies at the same time that a mass immunization effort is getting underway.
Under the deal, Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. accelerator for coronavirus therapeutics and vaccines, will fund manufacturing and secure supply of 60,000 to 100,000 doses of the drug, called MK-7110, through the end of June.
Johnson Imposes Tougher Rules on Swath of England (10:20 a.m. NY)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher regulations across a swath of England in an effort to control the mutant strain of coronavirus that’s spreading quickly across the country.
Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Most of Hampshire and the remainder of Essex will now face the strictest rules under the government’s 4-tier system, from 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday in a press conference.
U.K. Daily Infection Rate Accelerates (9:50 a.m. NY)
In the U.K., cases are increasing by as much as 6% a day, new guidance shows. Last week, new daily infections were rising by as much as 4%. The most recent reproduction range, or R number, for the virus is 1.1-1.3, compared with 1.1-1.2.
Denmark Orders an Additional 2.6 Million Pfizer/BioNTech Doses (9:10 a.m. NY)
Denmark ordered an additional 2.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine outside of the European Union’s purchasing agreement. Austria exercised an option to purchase another 1 million shots.
Croatia said it will start vaccinations on Dec. 27 with the first 9,000 doses from Pfizer-BioNTech. The country of 4.2 million has ordered 5.9 million doses of vaccine.
U.S. to Get Extra Vaccine Doses (7:34 a.m. NY)
Pfizer and BioNTech SE agreed to supply an additional 100 million doses of their vaccine to the U.S. The agreement brings the total number of doses to be delivered to the U.S. to 200 million, the companies said Wednesday. The drugmaker expects to deliver all the doses to U.S. vaccine and drug accelerator Operation Warp Speed by July 31.
Italy Finds New Strain With No British Link (7:15 a.m. NY)
The new Covid-19 strain was found in an infected person in Italy’s Adriatic region of Marche, Ansa newswire reported, citing an Ancona hospital virologist. The person didn’t have any direct contacts with the U.K. and is in quarantine. It’s the first Italian case involving the new strain with no apparent British links.
Thailand Omits New Cases Among Migrant Workers (6 a.m. NY)
Thailand reported 46 new cases on Wednesday, down 89% from Tuesday’s tally, as it omitted new infections among migrant workers who comprised the majority of cases in an outbreak reported earlier this week.
“We’re not going to report the number of cases found during proactive search operations among the migrant workers,” Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, Covid-19 center spokesman, said on Wednesday, while not disclosing a reason for the omission.
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