WHO against mandatory coronavirus vaccines: Latest updates

Indonesia receives 1.2m doses of China’s vaccine; UK set to vaccinate high risk groups; California enters lockdown.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said persuading people on the merits of a COVID-19 vaccine would be far better than trying to make the jabs mandatory, adding individual countries will decide as to how they want to conduct their vaccination campaigns.

Meanwhile, Indonesia on Monday received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from China with more than a million doses, with another 1.8 million expected to be sent next month.

And in the United Kingdom, the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are set to be administered on Tuesday.

Globally, COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 1.5 million with more than 67 million infections.

Here are the latest updates:

California under new lockdown measures as COVID-19 cases surge

California compelled much of the state to shut down and for residents to stay at home, when some of the harshest coronavirus restrictions in the United States came into effect one day after the state set a record with more than 30,000 new COVID-19 cases.

In the most populated state of the United States, confirmed infections have surged past 1.3 million, bringing dire new records in hospitalisations and deaths.

Read more here

France still far above goal of cases per day

France is still far from reducing its number of new COVID-19 cases per day to 5,000, and the risk of a strong rebound of the pandemic remains high, the health ministry’s top official said.

“For the last few days, the level of infections has stopped falling,” Jerome Salomon told a press conference.

Two government sources told Reuters that France may have to delay unwinding some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions next week after signs that the downward trend in new infections had flattened out.

WHO does not envisage COVID-19 vaccines being made mandatory

The World Health Organization does not foresee countries making it mandatory for citizens to take the new COVID-19 vaccines which have been developed, an official said.

“I don’t think we envisage any countries creating a mandate for vaccinations, ” Kate O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunisation vaccines and biologicals, told a news conference.

Canada set to receive first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine before end of year

Canada will get up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December, assuming it is approved by the health ministry, the government said.

Canadian regulators are due make an approval decision on the vaccine – which Pfizer is producing with German partner BionNTech SE – as early as this week, officials told reporters on December 3.

“Following successful negotiations, Canada will receive up to 249,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020, contingent on Health Canada authorization of the vaccine,” the government said in a statement.

Turkey’s daily COVID-19 deaths at record high 203, total toll exceeds 15,000

Turkey’s daily coronavirus deaths rose to a record 203 in the last 24 hours, data from the Health Ministry showed, bringing the country’s total death toll to 15,103 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Turkey also recorded 32,137 new coronavirus cases, including asymptomatic ones, in the last 24 hours.

On Friday, Turkey had 32,736 new cases, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic in March

Biden names health team to fight pandemic

President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services as one of his administration’s top officials to fight the virus.

Biden, who takes office on January 20, also chose Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, to run the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Biden formally tapped Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as his chief medical adviser on the virus.

US AstraZeneca vaccine trial will clear confusion on how well it works

A top US scientist overseeing COVID-19 vaccine trials expects a large US study to determine how effective AstraZeneca’s experimental inoculation is, following perplexing results from other trials released by the company and partner Oxford University.

AstraZeneca Plc is one of the leading vaccine developers, but interim data released November 23 from trials in Britain and Brazil showed a vastly divergent performance when the vaccine was tested in two different dose combinations.

According to the company, a small group of trial subjects inadvertently received a half dose followed by a full dose, instead of the planned two full doses.

In that group, the vaccine proved to be 90 percent effective at preventing illness. But the larger group that received two full doses showed a 62 percent success rate.

Indonesia expects halal certificate for experimental vaccine

Indonesia’s highest Muslim clerical body is expected to issue a halal certification for the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by China-based Sinovac Biotech, officials said.

Over one million doses of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac arrived in Indonesia on Sunday evening. The government has no exact schedule for distributing the doses.

Greece to extend some COVID rules until early January

Schools, restaurants and courts in Greece will not reopen until January 7, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.

Greece was forced to impose a nationwide lockdown in November, its second this year, after an aggressive surge in COVID-19 cases. It has extended it twice since then, most recently until December 14.

But Petsas said progress was still slow and some restrictions will not be lifted until next month, including a night curfew.

Anger as Kurz blames minorities for spreading COVID-19

Austria has ended its second strict coronavirus lockdown and is applying softer measures, which will include entry restrictions in the coming weeks.

Those rules are designed to limit travel into the country during the Christmas holiday period, conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters last week.

Read more here

Qatar plans ‘normal’ World Cup after vaccines

Qatar is now planning for a “complete normal” World Cup in 2022 after the rapid progress in producing vaccines for the coronavirus, the tournament CEO told The Associated Press ahead of the European qualifying draw.

Across the world sports have resumed in front of limited or no crowds, but the vaccines have provided hope that crowds can return in large numbers from next year.


Inovio doses first volunteer as part of its COVID-19 vaccine mid-stage trial

Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc has said it has dosed the first participant in a mid-stage clinical trial testing its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, INO-4800.

The Phase 2 portion of the Phase 2/3 study will enroll about 400 participants who are 18 years or older, to assess the vaccine’s ability to produce immune response and to determine the appropriate doses for a later study, the company said.

Inovio said it plans to fully enroll the Phase 2 segment of the trial, which is being funded by the US Department of Defense, by the end of this month.

Germany should prioritise nursing home residents for COVID-19 shots: Experts

Germany should administer its first COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff in senior citizen and nursing homes, as well as those aged over 80, according to draft recommendations by its expert panel seen by Reuters.

Other priority groups include healthcare workers who are exposed to the virus due to their jobs, such as those working in emergency medicine, as well as staff treating vulnerable groups like transplant and cancer patients, the experts said.

Iran’s top banker says US blocking COVID-19 vaccine purchase

The United States is actively trying to prevent Iran’s efforts to buy a COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX, a global initiative undertaken by the World Health Organization, according to the chief of Iran’s central bank.

Abdolnasser Hemmati said it must be “recorded in historical memory” that Iranian efforts to buy a vaccine through COVAX have been hampered due to money transfer issues arising due to the sanctions imposed by the US against Iran.

Read Maziar Motamedi’s full story here.

Thousands of Hungarians could participate in trials of Russian vaccine

Some 3,000 to 5,000 Hungarians could participate in clinical trials for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Hungarian Human Resources Minister Miklos Kasler said on Facebook.

Hungary’s plans to conduct trials of and possibly produce the Russian vaccine, an unprecedented step for an EU member state, have added to existing friction with Brussels.

Under EU rules, Sputnik V must be authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) before it can be marketed in any state of the 27-nation bloc, the EMA has said.

Turkey ends first weekend lockdown

Turkey has ended its first weekend of partial lockdown, while daily overnight curfews continue. The restrictions were imposed last week when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said citizens would not be allowed to leave home between 9pm and 5am on weekdays, or at all on weekends.

“Life is back to normal across Turkey, especially in the capital Istanbul,” said Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, pointing at open shops and cafes along Istiklal street, one of the city centre’s main avenues.

Police check documents of foreign tourists at the entrance of Istiklal Street during a nation-wide curfew [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Despite restrictions, coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours hit above 30,000, with more than 190 reported deaths.

Denmark shuts down parts of the country

Denmark is about to implement further lockdown measures in parts of the country to curb a recent spike in coronavirus infections.

The news was given by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen who said bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas will have to close on December 9 in 38 municipalities, including Copenhagen.

As part of the restrictions, which will be in place until January 3, students in upper primary school, high schools and universities will be sent home.

Pakistan: COVID-19 patients die after oxygen supply runs out

Seven coronavirus patients have died in a hospital in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar after oxygen supplies run too low.

The accident took place at the Lady Reading Hospital where almost 100 patients in an isolation ward were left for hours on reduced oxygen because of delivery delays. Most of them included COVID-19 cases.

“An investigation later showed that there was criminal negligence, because nobody was manning the storage tanks with what was supposed to have a minimum of 10,000 litres of oxygen available,” said Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reporting from Islamabad. “However there was none, there was no back-up supply either and no staff on location,” Hyder added.

2021 edition of Paris Air Show cancelled

Next year’s edition of the Paris Air Show has been cancelled due to COVID-19, according to organisers.

The biannual show, usually held in June, is the world’s key event for the aerospace industry, showcasing civilian and military aircraft and equipment.

An Airbus A380 belonging to Portuguese company Highfly performs on the last day of the Paris Air Show [Eric Piermont/AFP]

No need to impose broad lockdown: Kremlin

The Kremlin said there was no need to impose lockdown restrictions to curb the sharp rise in coronavirus cases since September and that the current set of measures in place were widely seen by authorities as enough.

Comments were made as infections in Russia surged to record highs in recent weeks. Earlier on Monday, authorities confirmed 28,142 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 7,279 in Moscow.

Pakistan team hit ‘mentally, physically’ by isolation in NZ

Pakistan’s cricketers say they have been “mentally and physically” affected by New Zealand’s strict COVID-19 protocols, which have kept the players holed up in their quarantine hotel for nearly two weeks.

Coach Misbah-ul-Haq said the team was looking forward to exiting managed isolation [File: Gareth Copley/Getty Images]

Coach Misbah-ul-Haq said the team was looking forward to exiting managed isolation, with New Zealand Cricket saying the latest virus tests had all come back negative and they should be allowed out on Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

Sinovac secures $515m to double vaccine production capacity

China’s Sinovac Biotech has secured $515m in funding to double the production capacity of its coronavirus vaccine with efficacy data on its experimental medicine due this month.

China’s Sinovac Biotech has secured $515m in funding to double the production capacity of its coronavirus vaccine [Nelson Almeida/AFP]

The investment from China’s Sino Biopharmaceutical comes as Sinovac expands supply deals and trials of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac with more countries following positive results in early to mid-stage clinical trials.

Read the full story here.

France unlikely to reach 5,000 daily cases goal

Eric Caumes, one of France’s top coronavirus experts, said today that the number of new cases per day is unlikely to fall to a 5,000 target by December 15, as the population is not sufficiently respecting physical distancing measures.

The head of infectious diseases at Paris hospital La Pitié-Salpêtrière, also warned that if the French are not careful over Christmas and year-end holidays, it will lead to a third wave of the virus in mid-January.

President Emmanuel Macron has said the French lockdown could be lifted on December 15, if by then the number of new infections per day has fallen to 5,000.

Chef Louis-Philippe D’Introno serves customers outside the Cafe Le Bex in Paris, as the French government keeps bars and restaurants closed [Charles Platiau/Reuters]

Russia approves clinical trials for Chinese vaccine

Russia has granted approval for clinical trials to be held for the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Ad5-Ncov involving 8,000 volunteers, according to the Interfax news agency.

Ad5-nCoV is a vaccine candidate co-developed by CanSino Biologics and a Chinese military-backed research unit.

Indonesia received 1.2 million Chinese vaccine doses

Indonesia has received 1.2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by China’s Sinovac, officials said, as the world’s fourth-most populous nation struggles to get soaring case rates under control.

The doses arrived in Jakarta late Sunday on a flight from Beijing, with another 1.8 million expected to be sent next month.

Although Chinese regulators have yet to clear any of the country’s vaccines for mass distribution, they have approved some advanced candidates for emergency use.

Britain’s vaccine distribution under way

Britain is getting ready to administer the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, with the National Health System giving top priority to vaccinating the over-80s, front-line healthcare workers and care home staff and residents.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept at -70C (-94F) and only lasts five days in a regular fridge. For that reason, it will first be administered in 50 hospitals. About 800,000 doses are expected to be available within the first week.

International flights back to Melbourne after 5 months

The Australian city of Melbourne welcomed its first international passenger flight in five months, an arrival that will test the state of Victoria’s revamped hotel quarantine system.

Victoria reopened to international flights following an extended closure due to the coronavirus pandemic [James Ross/Reuters]

More than 20,000 infections were recorded in Victoria earlier this year when hotel staff contracted the virus from people returning from overseas. The outbreak has been widely blamed on failures of private contractors to follow protocol.

The new system will greet Australians arriving on a flight from Sri Lanka, who no longer be allowed to leave their rooms under the new hotel quarantine restrictions.

Travellers arrive at a hotel in Melbourne where Australians returning from overseas will quarantine [William West/AFP]

India’s Serum Institute seeks approval for vaccine

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer by volume, has sought government approval for emergency-use authorisation of the coronavirus vaccine that it developed in partnership with the University of Oxford and British drugmaker AstraZeneca.

“As promised, before the end of 2020, @SerumInstIndia has applied for emergency use authorisation for the first made-in-India vaccine, COVISHIELD,” the company CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Twitter.

The experimental vaccine can be stored at two to eight degrees Celsius and can be distributed more easily in India, which has the world’s second-highest number of infections at 9.6 million.

Read the full story here.

Military to help with COVID-19 surge in S Korea, Japan

South Korea and Japan are deploying their militaries to assist healthcare workers in combatting COVID-19, with South Korean soldiers called in to expand coronavirus testing and tracing and Japanese military nurses tapped to fill a shortage of staff at hospitals in the hard-hit regions of Hokkaido and Osaka.

A medical worker holds a portable fan during in sweltering heat while police officers are tested for COVID-19 at a makeshift clinic at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency in Seoul, South Korea [File: Ahn Young-joon/AFP)

Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, ordered the government to mobilise “every available” resource to track infections and to expand testing by deploying the military and more people from the public service, presidential Blue House spokesman Chung Man-ho told a briefing.

Read the full story here.

California imposes stay-at-home order

A new stay-at-home order has been been imposed on Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, as the coronavirus crisis spirals out of control with a speed that has exceeded health officials’ most dire projections.

Some 33 million Californians will be subject to the new order, representing 84 percent of the state’s population. The state mandated the restrictions in the Southland and Central Valley as capacity in hospital intensive care units hit dangerously low levels.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies