Vaccine updates: India, Canada, Europe, South America

AstraZeneca
A vial and sryinge are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo in this illustrationtaken January 11, 2021.
Image Credit: REUTERS

LONDON: British pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca reported on Friday $275 million (227 million euros) in sales from its Covid vaccine in the first three months of the year.

It is the first time that the company discloses figures from sales of one of the world’s leading vaccines. AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 jab was developed with the University of Oxford and has been key in Britain’s rapid vaccination drive. The company is selling it at cost price.

However, public confidence in the jab has taken a blow over worries of links to very rare blood clots, and the company is in a legal fight with the EU over delivery shortfalls. The company made the disclosure in an earnings statement showing that net profit doubled in the first quarter to $1.56 billion, compared with $780 million a year earlier.

Canada’s largest provinces to soon offer Covid vaccines to all adults

OTTAWA: The two Canadian provinces hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Ontario and Quebec, will make Covid vaccines available to all adults starting in May, officials said Thursday.

The health ministers for the provinces, which account for almost two-thirds of the country’s population, said age eligibility for jabs would be lowered incrementally. In Quebec that means eligibility for those 18 years and older by mid-May, with Ontario following a week later. A ramp up of shipments to the provinces would allow authorities to “accelerate our vaccine rollout and get more shots into arms,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

“This is exciting news,” she added, echoing comments at a separate news conference by Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube who announced that the province “will be able to give a first dose to all adult Quebecers who want it by June 24.”

Canada has signed deals with seven pharmaceutical firms for some 400 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, and approved four for use so far – the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs.

The country’s vaccine rollout, which has been plagued by delays, will soon get a boost from increased Pfizer and Moderna shipments. To date, more than 13 million doses of vaccines have been administered in Canada, according to federal public health authorities.

Some 1.2 million Covid infections have been reported, including more than 24,000 deaths. Two-thirds of both cases and deaths were in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario in particular has been struggling with a new wave of infections led by variants, prompting Ottawa to dispatch soldiers this week to hospitals to help care for a record number of critical Covid patients. Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Howard Njoo also announced on Thursday a seventh case of blood clots associated with low platelets linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. One of the seven has died.

Amid vaccine shortage, first lot of Sputnik V vaccines to land in India on May 1

New Delhi: The first lot of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia will arrive in India on Saturday. The rollout of the Russian vaccine is expected to augment India’s third phase of the vaccination drive which also begins tomorrow.

India is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases in the second wave of pandemic and is registering the highest daily deaths and positive cases. On top of it there is an acute shortage of vaccines which has crippled the speed of vaccination drive. Several major states in the country have already postponed the launch of the third phase of vaccination which makes everyone above 18 eligible to get the jab.

Sputnik V is the third vaccine India has given go-ahead to after ‘Covishield’, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and ‘Covaxin’, the indigenous vaccine manufactured by Bharat Biotech. Covishield is manufactured by Serum Institute of India. The first tranche of vaccine is expected to arrive in Hyderabad tomorrow according to diplomatic sources

Indian envoy to Russia Bala Venkatesh Varma said India expects between 150,000 to 200,000 ready-made vaccines to be available very quickly in the early part of May.

Pfizer seeks EU approval for use of its COVID vaccine in children

Pfizer is applying to EU regulators to have its vaccine approved for children aged 12 to 15 in a move that could help European countries to achieve herd immunity.

The US firm and its German partner BioNTech say their submission to the European Medicines Agency is based on a study of more than 2,000 adolescents that showed the vaccine to be safe and effective.

The children will continue to be monitored for longer-term protection and safety for two years. Pfizer is also asking US regulators to extend the vaccine’s emergency use authorisation to children in the same age group. German Health Minister Jens Spahn welcomed the news that the vaccine might soon be used for older children.

“This can make a further real difference to our vaccine campaign, if approval is granted,” he said on a visit to a vaccine manufacturing plant in the German town of Reinbek.

Ugur Sahin, co-founder and chief executive of BioNTech, said the jab could be available for those age groups from June if EU approval is granted.

Telangana permitted to fly drones for experimental delivery of COVID vaccines

Hyderabad (Telangana) [India], April 30 : The Telangana government on Friday was granted a conditional exemption for drone deployment by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for conducting experimental delivery of COVID vaccines.

According to an official media release, “The drone usage permission has been granted for conducting experimental delivery of COVID-19 vaccines within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) Range using drones.”

The permission for flying unmanned aerial vehicles has been granted for a period of one year or until further orders. However, these exemptions will be valid only “if all conditions and limitations as stated for the respective entities are strictly adhered to”. “Trials will also assist in assessing conditions such as population, degree of isolation, geography, etc to identify regions that specifically require drone deliveries.”

Earlier this month, similar permission was granted to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for conducting a feasibility study of COVID-19 vaccine delivery using drones in collaboration with IIT Kanpur.

The grant of these permissions is intended to achieve the dual objectives of faster vaccine delivery and improved healthcare access.

South America’s football federations to receive coronavirus vaccines

ASUNCION: South America’s football governing body, CONMEBOL, said it was all set to distribute, free of charge, 50,000 coronavirus vaccines donated by China among its 10-member federations.

The shipment of vaccines produced by China’s Sinovac pharma company arrived Wednesday in Montevideo, Uruguay, from where they will be dispensed. “The vaccines will… make the international competitions safer, starting with the CONMEBOL Copa America 2021, due to start on June 13,” the confederation said.

The Copa America tournament, like the European Championship, was due to take place last year but was postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be co-hosted by Argentina and Colombia, both countries with a high burden of coronavirus cases and deaths.

CONMEBOL said it would target thousands of players competing in both the men’s and women’s competitions, referees, technicians and other staff.

In the case of unused vaccines, individual associations must allocate doses to people who need them, subject to CONMEBOL approval, the body said. “The criterion is that no vaccine is wasted, and that the football environment is given priority,” it added.

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