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Friday, January 15, 2021, 23:03
Virus: Pfizer temporarily reduces vaccine deliveries to Europe
By Agencies
Friday, January 15, 2021, 23:03 By Agencies

An employee of a mobile vaccination team holds a tray with vaccination pads from the BioNTech and Pfizer in Halberstadt, Germany, Jan 15, 2021. (MATTHIAS BEIN / DPA VIA AP)

LONDON / RABAT / BERLIN / ALGIERS / ADDIS ABABA / ROME / ZURICH / NEW YORK / PARIS / SOFIA / HARARE / ACCRA / OSLO / MINSK - Pfizer will temporarily reduce its deliveries to Europe of its vaccine against COVID-19 while it upgrades its production capacity, the company and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said on Friday.

“We received this message today a little before 10am (0900 GMT). We had expected 43,875 vaccines doses from Pfizer in week 3 (next week). Now it appears that we will get 36,075 doses,” the FHI said in a statement.

The reduction in deliveries is due to Pfizer limiting output so that it can upgrade production capacity to 2 billion vaccine doses per year from 1.3 billion currently, the the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said

The reduction in deliveries is due to Pfizer limiting output so that it can upgrade production capacity to 2 billion vaccine doses per year from 1.3 billion currently, the FHI said.

“This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” said the FHI. “It is as yet not precisely clear how long time it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again.”

Pfizer said it had to make modifications to the process and facility that will require additional regulatory approvals.

“Although this will temporarily impact shipments in late January to early February, it will provide a significant increase in doses available for patients in late February and March,” Pfizer said in a statement.

Non-EU Norway is getting access to the vaccines obtained by the European bloc thanks to Sweden, an EU member that will buy more than it needs and sell them to Norway.

The institute said there would be no delays in the rollout of the vaccines to Norwegians as it had built reserves of vaccines in Norway since it had begun receiving deliveries.


Global tally

Led by the US, the world is about to hit a frightening COVID-19 benchmark, with 2 million people dead and few expectations for the numbers to start dropping any time soon.

The confirmed infections around the world have topped 93 million by Thursday. 

“You want to get to the point first where the virus can’t outrace you,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health and co-director of the Global Health Justice Partnership. “It’s very hard to project out in any fine level of resolution how many people will be dead from this, in even 6 months to a year.”

With the rollout of the Pfizer Inc-BioNTech SE vaccine and the Moderna Inc. shot going slowly in the US, and virtually non-existent in many parts of the world, the odds of controlling the outbreak before the summer at the earliest are slim, especially because it can take weeks for an infected person to die.

“We have a great forest fire of a pandemic happening,” Gonsalves said in a phone interview. “But if you have just a bucket of water in a forest fire, then you aren’t doing well.”

US

Mayors of some three-dozen US cities have asked the incoming Biden administration to send COVID-19 vaccine shipments directly to them, bypassing state governments, saying local officials were best positioned to ramp up lagging inoculations.

The move came as Biden, who takes office on Wednesday, readies a US$1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal intended to bolster the nation’s response to the virus and galvanize the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines

“While it is essential to work with state and local public health agencies, healthcare providers, pharmacies, and clinics, there is a need to be nimble and fill gaps that are unique to each local area,” said the letter from 37 mayors, including those of New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Biden will on Friday outline his plan to ramp up vaccinations against COVID-19 as he prepares to take office amid soaring infection rates and an early rollout by the Trump administration he called “a dismal failure.”

Biden has promised to take more serious action to curb the virus than his predecessor, President Donald Trump, and get 100 million vaccine shots into the arms of Americans during his first 100 days in office.

READ MORE: Denmark's virus vaccination program takes the lead in EU

Canada

Canada’s healthcare system, long a source of national pride for being more equitable than the US, has struggled so hard to deliver COVID-19 vaccines that some of its citizens are heading to Florida to get their jab.

At Century Village East, a retirement community in Deerfield Beach packed with Canadian residents, medics vaccinated 4,000 people over eight days this month. 

Getting the vaccine in people’s arms has been a central challenge for governments around the world, but Canada’s had it especially tough. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines for ordering four times what the Canadian population required, but the bulk are vaccines the country hasn’t approved yet. The rollout also was stymied by challenges of distributing doses across the vast expanses of the world’s second-largest country.

About 1 in 100 Canadians have been vaccinated, a third the rate in the US and a quarter of the UK’s, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. That has made Florida’s vaccine program a magnet for Canadian retirees, known as snowbirds, who spend the winter in the state. 

In Canada, the first batch of 30,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses arrived in Montreal on Dec 13. Early confusion about transportation protocols led to delays, as did a decision in Ontario, the country’s most populous province, to close vaccination clinics over the Christmas holidays, citing staffing shortages.

Information about which groups will receive their shots when has been patchy. Frontline workers and elderly residents of long-term care facilities are first in line, but beyond that, there are more questions than answers - and signs the normally compliant nation is losing patience.

News of a pilot program that pushed some prisons to the top of vaccine distribution lists sparked outrage, even as health officials said the move was justified. 

Moderna 

Moderna plans to test a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine beginning in July, CNBC reports. Trial sites have begun contacting participants from earlier studies, CNBC reports, citing an email shared by one of the people.

Healthcare workers transport a patient from an ambulance to Maimonides Medical Center, a hospital in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park, on Jan 4, 2021 in New York City. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

Germany

The number of coronavirus infections in Germany rose above 2 million, and the number of deaths reached almost 45,000, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.

Alarmed by the high infection rate, the number of deaths and recent COVID-19 mutations, Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a meeting of top officials from her party on Thursday that she wants “very fast action”.

The German leader is working to reach a consensus with state premiers on additional curbs amid fears that a more contagious variant may cause infections to spiral out of control, a government official said. A meeting to review pandemic measures, which was slated for Jan. 25, was moved forward to Tuesday, according to her spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Germany’s cabinet-level corona task force will meet on Monday, according to Seibert.

The prime minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, hopes for new consultations to take place early next week, “hopefully on Tuesday”, she told broadcaster ZDF on Friday.

Germany’s coronavirus cases increased by 22,368 to 2,000,958 in a day, according to RKI data on Friday. The reported death toll rose by 1,113 to 44,994.

According to a separate tally by Johns Hopkins University, Germany's toll rose by more than 1,500 for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The country’s COVID-19 fatalities have almost tripled since the end of November and now total more than 45,000, according to the tally.

There were 34,222 new cases in the 24 hours through Friday morning, according to JHU.

A clear majority, 67 percent, of German citizens wants to get a COVID-19 vaccination, according to a Politbarometer survey published by the German public broadcaster ZDF on Friday. The figure stood at 51 percent in end November.

RKI said Friday that more than 961,600 people in Germany have received a COVID-19 jab.

UK

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has started to level off in some parts of England and may have peaked in others, a major British study showed Friday.

According to data published by the MRC (Medical Research Council) biostatistics unit at Cambridge University, the infection rates appeared to have peaked in the East and West Midlands and are falling in regions including London and the southeast of England.

However, infections are still on the rise in the southwest and the northeast of England.

The UK reported 48,682 new cases on Thursday, bringing the tally to 3,260,258, official data showed. Deaths rose by 1,248 to 86,015, the data showed.

The British government on Thursday announced its decision to ban arrivals from more than a dozen South American countries and Portugal from Friday following the detection of a new coronavirus variant.

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: "I've taken the urgent decision to BAN ARRIVALS from ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, BOLIVIA, CAPE VERDE, CHILE, COLOMBIA, ECUADOR, FRENCH GUIANA, GUYANA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, SURINAME, URUGUAY AND VENEZUELA -- from TOMORROW, JAN. 15 at 4 a.m. following evidence of a new variant in Brazil."

The new ban was announced after a meeting of senior British government officials on Thursday, the BBC reported.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday told MPs in the House of Commons, lower house of parliament, that the government was "concerned" about the new virus variant detected in Brazil.

The UK aims to have all people over 50 vaccinated by the end of March as the government prepares to more than double the pace of the program next week, the Times reported, citing unidentified Whitehall sources.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic started centralized online registry system for vaccination of people over 80 years old this morning. 

The website, which collapsed as it was overwhelmed by demand, registered 78,000 people and reached currently full capacity of 3,000 places available for reservation of vaccination within 1.5 hours.

The country, which is one of the hardest hit by pandemic in Europe, is grappling with the lack of jabs available, as well as with creating an efficient system for distributing the doses. 

The Czech Republic started giving its first doses to medical workers and seniors in elderly homes late last year.

Ambulances wait outside the emergency room (ER) at Scripps Mercy Hospital in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, California on Jan. 11, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

WHO

The most urgent focus now for the World Health Organization (WHO) is ensuring that all countries have access to vaccines on an equitable basis, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

He also said at the 6th Meeting of the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 that there are two urgent issues now: the first is the recent emergence of new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the second is the potential use of vaccination and testing certificates for international travel.

"I'm sure, like me, your main hope and wish for 2021 is that together we can end the pandemic and help to restore a sense of normalcy in all countries. The rollout of vaccines is of course giving all of us hope of light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

He stressed that "We are all in this together, and we must all come out of it together."

ALSO READ: Virus: African Union secures about 300 million vaccine doses

EU

The European Medicines Agency hasn’t yet had applications for Russian and Chinese vaccines, but the agency is in discussions with a Russian developer of shots, according to Executive Director Emer Cooke.

The EMA is still targeting end-January for its evaluation of the AstraZeneca vaccine, she said, adding that she is hopeful though the time line is “challenging” and “things can go wrong” with approval time frames.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) may secure an extra 50 million doses of Moderna's vaccine as the bloc seeks to accelerate inoculations, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal being arranged by the European Commission would bring to 210 million the total number of vaccine doses from Moderna for EU countries, with the additional supply costing 33 percent more than the 160 million doses covered by the original accord, said one of the people.

Spain

Spain reported a record number of new cases for the third consecutive day as regions put in place restrictions to contain the spread. The Health Ministry reported 16,676 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, more than double those reported on Monday. Deaths over the past week rose to 774, from 576 on Monday.

France

French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced a new series of stricter COVID-19 rules -- among them an earlier nationwide curfew -- as the pandemic "is under control" but remains "worrying" because of the new rapidly spreading variants.

Speaking at a press conference, Castex said that a night-time ban on people's movement, in force since mid-December, would be brought forward by two hours across the national territory. The earlier curfew has already in place in 25 out of the country's 101 departments.

Starting from Saturday, the country's 67 million inhabitants are ordered to stay at home from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for at least two weeks. Permissions will be available for those who have health emergencies and those who work at night, he added.

Besides, all non-European travelers arriving in France would have to present a negative COVID-19 test less than 72 hours before boarding their flights. They would have to self-quarantine for seven days and then take a second test, he added.

Norway

Norway says there are risks that COVID -19 vaccinations may be too risky for the very old and terminally sick, after 23 people died within a short time of receiving their first shot.

Of those deaths, 13 have so far been autopsied with the results suggesting that common side effects may have contributed to severe reactions in frail, elderly people, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

“For those with the most severe frailty, even relatively mild vaccine side effects can have serious consequences,” the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said. “For those who have a very short remaining life span anyway, the benefit of the vaccine may be marginal or irrelevant.”

Norway has so far given at least one dose to about 33,000 people, focusing on those considered to be most at risk if they contract the virus, including the elderly. Most of the shots given are from BioNTec/Pfizer, with the Moderna vaccine now also being administered.

Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Health Ministry on Friday morning reported a daily record high of 6,728 COVID-19 recoveries in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of recoveries to 150,370.

The previous daily record of 4,290 recoveries was reported on Dec 12.

Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed infections reached 210,951, after 535 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, the ministry said, adding that the death toll rose by 47 to 8,396.

The ministry also said that the number of active cases fell to 52,185, the lowest figure since Nov 10.

A total of 648 Bulgarians were vaccinated in the last 24 hours, raising the total number of inoculations in the country to 17,686.

Georgia 

Georgia reported 1,177 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing its total to 245,789, according to the country's National Center for Disease Control and Public Health.

Among the new cases, 496 were confirmed in the capital city of Tbilisi, the center said.

As of Friday, 229,196 COVID-19 patients in the country have recovered, while 2,893 died, it said.

Belarus

Belarus reported 1,941 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, taking its tally to 221,604, according to the health ministry.

The total recoveries increased by 2,054 to 204,500 while the death toll rose by 10 to 1,564, the ministry said.

Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez tours a vaccination site for senior citizens on Jan 14, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

Portugal 

Portugal reported the biggest daily increase in confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak. There were 10,698 new cases reported Thursday, more than the previous record of 10,556 on Wednesday, taking the total to 517,806. The total number of deaths rose by 148 to 8,384, following Wednesday’s record increase of 156.

The government on Wednesday announced new confinement measures, ordering most shops to close from Friday.

Italy

Italy needs to reimpose strict lockdown measures across the country as the current system of on-again/off-again curbs has failed to prevent a coronavirus resurgence, a senior government adviser said.

The government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also needs to step up its preparations for a phase of mass vaccinations due to start in March, Walter Ricciardi, an adviser to Health Minister Roberto Speranza, said in an interview.

Italy may get about 20 million people vaccinated against COVID-19 before summer and about 25 million people after summer, reaching herd immunity in October-November, Ricciardi said.

Italy on Thursday reported 17,246 new COVID-19 cases, pushing total active infections to 561,380, according to the latest numbers posted by the Ministry of Health.

The figures also showed that the death toll has risen to 80,848, up by 522 from the previous day. Meanwhile, another 20,115 patients have recovered, bringing overall recoveries since the start of the pandemic to 1,694,051.

Of the total current infections, 535,713 people are isolated at home with mild or no symptoms, 23,110 are hospitalized with symptoms, and 2,557 are in intensive care.

On Wednesday, the government extended the state of emergency, which was declared on Jan. 31, 2020 to curb the coronavirus pandemic, to April 30 this year.

Russia 

Russia recorded 24,715 more COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, roughly the same as in the previous day, the country's COVID-19 response center said Friday.

The national tally has thus increased to 3,520,531 with 64,495 deaths and 2,909,680 recoveries, the center said.

Moscow, Russia's worst-hit region, reported 5,534 new cases, taking the city's total to 882,962.

More than 95.6 million COVID-19 tests have been conducted across the country.

Ukraine

Ukrainian Health Ministry will not suggest extending strict quarantine, Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Health Viktor Lyashko said on Thursday.

"Health Ministry will not yet suggest extending the strict quarantine after Jan. 25," Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted Lyashko as saying on Thursday.

According to the official, the Ministry of Health expects to switch to adaptive quarantine, which will increase restrictions only in those regions of Ukraine where an unfavorable epidemiological situation is observed.

Sweden

Sweden's COVID-19 death toll surpassed 10,000 on Thursday, with authorities warning that the fatalities would continue to rise.

Swedish Public Health Agency on Thursday registered another 351 deaths caused by COVID-19, taking the national death toll to 10,185. Meanwhile, 6,580 new confirmed cases brought the cumulative infections to 518,783.

"Unfortunately, we expect that the increase will continue as we have an extensive spread of infection in the country," Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of the department of microbiology at the Public Health Agency, said at a press conference.

Poland

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin has tested positive for COVID-19, a ministry spokesperson confirmed on Thursday.

Sasin, who also heads the Ministry of State Assets, has started self-isolation at home, ministry spokesman Karol Manys told Polish media.

Sasin had undertaken quarantine four times after being exposed to the coronavirus previously -- including two cases in which other government officials tested positive for the virus.

Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking at the Reuters Next conference, also said he was opposed to the idea of obliging people to carry digital proof that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Healthcare workers care for a Covid-19 patient in the ICU ward at the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart, Germany, on Jan 12, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

Ecuador 

Ecuador on Thursday reported 1,687 new daily COVID-19 cases, bringing its total caseload to 226,002 since the start of the outbreak here on Feb. 29.

According to the Health Ministry, 12 more COVID-19 patients died in the same 24-hour period, raising the death toll to 9,648, in addition to another 4,598 probable deaths from the virus.

Of Ecuador's 24 provinces, 17 are seeing the virus spread at a faster rate, leading to intensive care units that are on average 85 percent full.

A COVID-19 vaccination drive is set to begin Jan. 18, Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said Thursday in an interview with local television.

Argentina 

Argentina invested 27.75 million pesos (about US$321,000) in computer tablets to facilitate the vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Some 1,220 tablets were delivered to hospitals in the different provinces "in view of the historic vaccination being undertaken throughout the country," the ministry said in a statement.

"The tablets will help strengthen the monitoring that the Health Ministry is carrying out on the progress of the vaccination campaign," according to Secretary of Health Equity Martin Sabignoso.

"In addition ... they are being used in the provinces for multiple purposes," including registering people for follow-up treatment, providing telemedicine services, and enabling COVID-19 patients in isolation to "communicate with their families," said Sabignoso.

Brazil

Most of Brazil's 5,570 municipalities have enough syringes to begin vaccinating residents against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the National Front of Mayors (known by its Portuguese acronym FNP) announced Thursday.

After meeting in Brasilia with Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, FNP President Jonas Donizette said the immunization campaign can begin as soon as the federal government distributes the vaccines authorized by Brazil's Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa).

Brazil's northern state of Amazonas moved to send 235 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 to other states as its healthcare system was stretched to the limit, Governor Wilson Lima said Thursday.

Hospitals in state capital Manaus are crowded and lack the oxygen needed to treat infected patients, he said.

Overwhelmed hospitals led to four consecutive days of record-high fatalities from COVID-19, with 144, 150, 166 and 198 burials per day from Sunday to Wednesday, respectively, according to official data.

Brazil recorded more than 1,000 deaths from the coronavirus for the third consecutive day, reporting 1,131 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the national death toll to 207,095, the government said Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Health, 67,758 new cases were registered in the past day, the third day in a row with more than 60,000 infections, raising the total caseload to 8,324,294.

Chile

Cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Chile increased by 36 percent in the last week, amid a resurgence of infections in the middle of the summer season, Health Minister Enrique Paris said Thursday.

In its daily report, the Chilean Ministry of Health reported 4,177 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the accumulated total to 656,712.

Meanwhile, 90 deaths were reported in the same period, for a total of 17,294 deaths.

Chile's government announced this week it will tighten lockdowns in several areas and step up restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Africa

Africa's COVID-19 tally rose to 3,176,575 as of Friday while the death toll stood at 76,752, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The new COVID-19 variants that have been reported in several African countries could undermine efforts to contain the pandemic, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said that robust mitigation measures are required to avert pressure on the continent's public health systems amid the spread of new strains of the virus.

"Even if the new variant is not more virulent, a virus that can spread more easily will put further strain on hospitals and health workers who are in many cases already overstretched," Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

She said that enhanced vigilance is key to avert transmission of coronavirus in Africa in the light of new mutations and upticks linked to easing of containment measures.

The Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Thursday disclosed that five African countries represent about 69 percent of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases across the African continent amid uneven impact of the pandemic on the continent.

The five highly-affected African countries include South Africa with 1,296,806 cases, Morocco with 456,334 cases, Tunisia with 170,895 cases, Egypt with 153,741 cases, as well as Ethiopia with 129,922 cases.

Nigeria

The Nigerian government on Thursday directed all schools to reopen on Jan. 18 despite a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.

The directive followed a comprehensive appraisal of a school resumption proposal by stakeholders, Ben Goong, spokesperson for the Nigerian education ministry, told reporters.

"Parents and respective institutions must ensure full compliance with COVID-19 protocols, including the compulsory wearing of face masks by all students, teachers, and workers in all schools, temperature checks, and handwashing facilities at strategic locations in all schools," said Goong.

Zimbabwe 

Zimbabwe lost its second minister to COVID-19 as Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Ellen Gwaradzimbe, aged 60, died on Friday.

Gwaradzimba's son, Rememberance, told state broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation that his mother died Friday morning at a local hospital where she was receiving treatment.

Her death comes after that of then Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Perrance Shiri, who succumbed to the virus in August last year.

A total of 47 deaths were reported in Zimbabwe on Thursday, the highest daily figure since the onset of the pandemic in the country last March.

To date, the pandemic has killed 636 people in the country, according to the Ministry of Health and Child care.

Meanwhile, 1,112 new cases were recorded, the second highest number registered in a single day, bringing the national tally to 25,368.

Algeria 

Algeria on Thursday reported 267 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total infections in the North Africa country to 103,127.

The death toll from the coronavirus in Algeria rose to 2,822 after three new fatalities were recorded, said the Algerian Ministry of Health in a statement.

Meanwhile, 201 more patients recovered from the disease and were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries in the country to 70,052.

Zambia 

The reopening of schools in Zambia has been delayed by two weeks due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, the country's presidency said on Friday.

Students were expected to return to schools on Jan 18, but the date has been pushed back to Feb 1.

Zambia on Thursday reported the largest single-day new COVID-19 cases as the second wave of the pandemic takes its toll on the southern African nation.

The country reported 1,700 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the cumulative cases to 32,800, according to figures released by the health ministry.

The cases were picked from 9,038 tests done during the period, bringing the total tests since the pandemic broke out in the country last March to 739,188.

About 936 patients were discharged during the same period, bringing the total recoveries to 22,504 while five people died, bringing the total deaths to 514.

South Africa

South Africa’s health department expects to finalize accords to buy millions of additional coronavirus vaccines within about a month and has agreed on an expedited payment process with the National Treasury to avoid delays in delivery.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said this week that his administration had secured 20 million vaccine doses this year, without giving any detail on who would supply them or what they would cost. His announcement came days after the government struck a deal for an initial 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine from The Serum Institute of India Ltd, with first shipments set to arrive this month.

The 20 million doses will include a previously announced allocation from the COVAX initiative that will be sufficient to inoculate 6 million people, but excludes those from the Serum Institute, said Anban Pillay, a deputy director-general in the health department.

Ramaphosa told Johannesburg-based Talk Radio 702 on Friday that the country’s other suppliers will include Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and possibly Moderna.

Pillay denied the health department had been remiss and said the country is on track to meet its target of vaccinating two-thirds of the population of 60 million within 12 months - which would enable it to achieve herd immunity.

Meanwhile, South Africa has postponed the opening of schools for the 2021 academic year  by two weeks to Feb 15 due to surging infections.

Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Ministry of Health on Thursday reported 467 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the national count to 129,922.

The ministry also said the COVID-19 death toll stood at 2,008, including two new fatalities recorded over the same period.

With 182 more recoveries registered, the total number came to 114,749, said the ministry.

Ghana

Ghanaian health authorities confirmed 175 new COVID-19 infections Friday, taking the tally to 56,981, according to data from the Ghana Health Service (GHS).

The country has a total of 341 deaths and 55,236 recoveries in this pandemic, while the number of active cases stood at 1,404.

The GHS said the Greater Accra region remained the epicenter with 31,953 cases, followed by Ashanti with 11,164 cases.

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has described Ghana's current COVID-19 situation as dire and alarming.

The GMA cautioned in a statement that there was potential for an exponential rise in cases, leaving most designated treatment and isolation facilities in the country overstretched.


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