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Jabs in US, Russia as India cases dip

Eight European countries say they will co-ordinate the start of their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns as the pace of inoculations accelerates in the US and Russia while authorities in India have registered an easing in coronavirus infections.

The statement released by Italy and also signed by the health ministers of Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland said the countries will promote “the co-ordination of the launch of the vaccination campaigns” and will rapidly share information on how it is proceeding.

Separately, European Union regulators moved up a meeting to assess the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to December 21, more than a week earlier than planned, under pressure from Germany and other members of the bloc.

Russian authorities said on Tuesday that vaccination against COVID-19 with the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine has started in all regions of the country.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to start “large-scale” vaccination in Russia two weeks ago, even though the Sputnik V vaccine is still undergoing advanced studies needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

The shots have been offered to medical workers for several months even though the vaccine was still in the middle of late-stage trials, and more than 150,000 people in Russia have already been vaccinated, according to its developers.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Tuesday the vaccine has been delivered to all Russian regions and the shots are being administered in more than 1200 medical facilities across the country.

Medical workers, teachers and social workers are the first in line to get the shots.

In the United States, hundreds more hospitals around the country began dispensing Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shots to their workers on Tuesday in a rapid expansion of the vaccination drive.

A day after the rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus shots, the Food and Drug Administration said its preliminary analysis confirmed the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.

A panel of outside experts is expected to vote to recommend the formula on Thursday, with the FDA’s green light coming soon thereafter.

The Moderna vaccine uses the same technology as Pfizer-BioNTech’s and showed similarly strong protection against COVID-19 but is easier to handle because it does not need to be kept in the deep freeze at minus 70C.

India on Tuesday registered its lowest single-day COVID-19 caseload in more than five months.

The number of new cases dropped to nearly 22,000 after having registered more than 90,000 daily cases during the pandemic’s peak in September.

“India has achieved several significant milestones in its fight against COVID-19… The daily new cases stand at 22,065 after (a gap of) 161 days,” the health ministry said in a statement.

According to the ministry, this is the lowest number of cases recorded within a single day since July 7, when 22,252 cases were registered.

The fresh cases took India’s total coronavirus caseload since that start of the outbreak to more than 9,906,000, while 354 new deaths have been recorded since Monday, taking the total death toll to 143,709.

India continues to be the second most affected country by the pandemic after the US which has registered more than 16.9 million cases so far.

The ministry highlighted that India had recorded one of the lowest mortality rate by the disease, about 1.45 per cent, among the worst-affected countries.

It also said that the number of active cases had declined drastically to below 340,000 with an “exponential rise in recovery”.

More than 72.11 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 1,623,547 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

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