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Monday, April 19, 2021, 22:36
Russia says Sputnik V shows 97.6% efficacy
By Agencies
Monday, April 19, 2021, 22:36 By Agencies

Vials of the Sputnik V vaccine against the COVID-19 are seen at the Boris Trajkovski sports hall in Skopje as the country start its vaccination campaign, after months of difficulties on April 16, 2021. (ROBERT ATANASOVSKI / AFP)

CARACAS / TORONTO / BRASILIA / CONAKRY / ADDIS ABABA / RABAT / LONDON / PARIS / RHODES / ZURICH / ROME / SANTIAGO / BUENOS AIRES / HAVANA / QUITO / BERLIN / MINSK / LISBON / MADRID / COPENHAGEN - An analysis of the 3.8 million Russians who received both Sputnik V shots between December and March showed that the vaccine has 97.6 percent efficacy, the inoculation’s state-run developers said in a statement Monday.

The data, which compare the infection rate of people who received the shots with the incidence among the unvaccinated population, will be published in a peer-reviewed journal in May, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Gamaleya National Research Center.

Sputnik V demonstrated efficacy of 91.6 percent in a preliminary analysis of its Phase 3 study that was published in The Lancet in February.

Russia reported 8,589 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours on Monday, including 2,279 in the capital Moscow, taking the tally to 4,710,690.

The country also reported another 346 deaths, raising the official toll to 105,928.

Global tally

More people around the world were diagnosed with the coronavirus during the past seven days than any other week since the virus emerged, topping 5.2 million globally, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). 

The worst outbreaks are gaining speed in many countries that are ill-equipped to cope.

The data also showed a 12 percent increase in cases from a week earlier, throwing doubt on hopes that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

Across the world, 141.11 million coronavirus cases have been reported in total while the global death toll topped 3.01 million, according to JHU's tally.

ALSO READ: COVID-19 claims 3 million lives as burden shifts to poorer nations

This photo shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE being kept in cold storage at a vaccination center inside France's national velodrome, in the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines district of Paris, on March 24, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)


The European Union (EU) exercised its option for a further 100 million doses of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine, raising its order from the companies to 600 million doses.

The boost makes the EU deal the partners’ biggest yet, and they’ll aim to deliver all the doses this year, Sean Marett, BioNTech’s chief business and commercial officer, said in a statement. The option to buy an extra 100 million doses was part of a purchase agreement the 27-nation bloc signed with Pfizer and BioNTech in February.

Pfizer and BioNTech last week agreed to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the EU by 25 percent this quarter, bringing forward shipment of 50 million doses that had originally been scheduled for the fourth quarter. 


The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 4,421,627 as of Sunday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The death toll stood at 117,696 while a total of 3,960,793 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease, the Africa CDC said.

African countries have so far received over 33.8 million vaccine doses from different sources, mainly via the COVAX Facility and through bilateral agreements outside COVAX, according to the Africa CDC.  


Argentina on Sunday reported 16,267 COVID-19 infections and 65 more related deaths in a day, bringing the cumulative caseload to 2,694,014 and the toll to 59,228, said the country's health ministry.

There were 270,615 active cases while a total of 2,364,171 patients have recovered.

According to the public vaccination monitor, Argentina has administered more than 6.2 million doses of vaccines since Dec 29.

Schools in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires will open after all on Monday morning after a court over-ruled a federal order requiring classes go on-line for two weeks amid a surge in infections.

The Buenos Aires judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by non-governmental parent and some teachers' groups in the city, demanding a decree that suspended face-to-face classes in the capital region for 15 days be immediately nullified.


A modified version of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine tailored to combat a coronavirus variant first documented in South Africa could be ready by the end of 2021, an AstraZeneca official in Austria said in an interview published on Sunday.

Sarah Walters, AstraZeneca's Austria country manager, told the Kurier newspaper that studies, so far, indicating the existing AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the more infectious variant first documented in South Africa were "too small to draw final conclusions".

"In the meantime, AstraZeneca and Oxford University have started on modifications to the vaccine for the South African variant and we expect it will be ready by the end of the year, should it be needed," Walters told the Kurier.

"We are confident that we will fulfill our commitment to deliver 300 million doses to the European Union this year," Walters also said.


Belarus reported 1,300 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, taking its tally to 344,223, according to the country's health ministry.

The death toll rose by 10 to 2,423 while the total recoveries increased by 1,479 to 334,852, the ministry said.


Brazil recorded 42,980 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 1,657 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said on Sunday.

Brazil has registered more than 13.9 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 373,335, according to ministry data.

Healthcare personnel provide medical care to 60-year-old COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit at the Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Canada, April 13, 2021. (NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP)


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he’ll deploy additional health-care workers and equipment to help Ontario, the country’s most populous province, which is struggling to contain a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.

“First, we are mobilizing federal health-care workers from across government departments to deploy to the front lines of Ontario, specifically the GTA where the situation is most critical,” Trudeau said, referring to the Greater Toronto Area. “From National Defence to Immigration, departments across the federal government are standing up support.”

The government will also seek to boost rapid testing, especially for essential workers, Trudeau said.

Meanwhile, Ontario will begin offering AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to people turning 40 or older this year, according to a government source.

The change will be announced on Monday and go into effect across the province on Tuesday, according to the source. The vaccine has already been distributed to pharmacies but currently can only be given to people turning 55 or older this year.

Ontario reported 4,250 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The Ontario Hospital Association said 59 patients were admitted to intensive care on Saturday, bringing the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs to 737.

Across the country, an average of 8,669 new cases have been reported daily from April 9 to 15, up 26 percent from the prior seven-day period, data from Canada’s chief public health officer showed.


The CoronaVac vaccine against COVID-19 from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac has proven to be very effective in preventing infections, hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units and deaths, a Chilean official said on Sunday.

Minister of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation Andres Couve made the remarks while receiving the eighth shipment of the vaccines to the country.

The official cited a study the Chilean government presented Friday, which indicated that the CoronaVac vaccine has an efficacy of 67 percent in preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

More than 7.6 million people have been inoculated against the virus in Chile, including 5.2 million who have received both doses, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health.

In nine Chilean regions, COVID-19 cases decreased in the last seven days, and in six regions, cases decreased in the last 14 days, the ministry said.

The ministry reported on Sunday 7,294 new cases and 122 more deaths, bringing the tally to 1,124,718 and the toll to 25,177.


Cuba has registered 1,037 COVID-19 cases and 13 more deaths, the highest daily toll on record, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Sunday.

In total, the country has recorded 93,511 confirmed cases and 525 deaths, the ministry said.


Denmark's health authorities said it may be possible for people to choose to have the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine if they wish, Ritzau news agency reported on Monday.

Denmark last week became the first country to stop using AstraZeneca's vaccine altogether over a potential link to a rare but serious form of blood clot.


Ecuador reported 2,389 new COVID-19 cases and 43 more deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 360,546 and the death toll to 12,720, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Sunday.

Another 4,983 deaths are considered to be COVID-19 related, but not verified, according to the ministry.

The province of Pichincha continued to be the epicenter of the virus in the country, with the capital city of Quito reporting the most cases.


French President Emmanuel Macron said US citizens will be able to travel to the country again in the summer. 

France is working on a “special pass” to allow Americans who are vaccinated to enter the country, in addition to an ongoing EU initiative to create certificate for European citizens to travel, he said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Macron also said Russia’s Sputnik vaccine was not a “solution” to accelerate France’s vaccination campaign because it will “take time” for the European Medicine Agency to approve and produce the vaccine in Europe.

Meanwhile, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said it was necessary to restore confidence in AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

“We’re still counting on this vaccine,” he said on Europe 1 radio on Monday. Independent scientific studies show that for people over 55 “there aren’t any risks and the vaccine is safe and effective,” he said. 

Health ministry data showed that 5,893 people were in intensive care units with COVID-19, 16 more than on Saturday.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital rose by 460 to 30,789, ending a streak of five consecutive daily falls.

Meanwhile, 140 additional deaths in hospitals and 29,344 new infections were logged.

About 12.5 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

A doctor (2nd right) takes a swab sample from a man to test for COVID-19 at a testing station inside a pub in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district on April 16, 2021. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP)


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 11,437 to 3,153,699, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday. 

The reported death toll rose by 92 to 80,006, the tally showed.


Greece began opening to tourists on Monday with few bookings but hopes for a better season to help make up for a 2020 devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Rhodes island, where most visitors are from abroad, hoteliers are scrubbing, polishing and painting in anticipation of a make-or-break year.

Greece will formally open on May 14 but starting Monday, tourists from the European Union, the United States, Britain, Serbia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will not quarantine if they are vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19.


Guinea received on Sunday a shipment of 300,000 Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines purchased from China and is also set to receive a donation of 200,000 Sinopharm shots, Guinean Foreign Minister Ibrahima Khalil Kaba said.

Kaba gave no further details on the Sinopharm donation.

Guinea is reporting 93 new coronavirus infections on average each day, 59 percet of the peak in March. There have been 21,460 infections and 138 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.

The West African country has administered at least 109,296 doses of COVID vaccines so far, according to government data compiled by Reuters.

Assuming every person needs two doses, that's enough to have vaccinated about 0.4 percent of the country's population.

READ MORE: Global vaccine supply 'incredibly tight', COVAX 'needs funds'


Italy has held discussions with Moderna, Novartis and ReiThera about domestic production of mRNA-based shots, the Financial Times reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

The talks with Novartis and ReiThera included the option of manufacturing mRNA vaccine developed by CureVac in Italy, the newspaper reported, and the talks between Novartis, ReiThera and the Italian government were at an early stage.

Italy reported 251 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday against 310 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections edged down to 12,694 from 15,370.

Italy has registered 116,927 deaths linked to COVID-19, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world.

The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 23,648 on Sunday, down from 24,100 a day earlier.

There were 163 admissions to intensive care units, the same as on Saturday. The total number of intensive care patients declined to 3,311 from 3,340.


Fourteen people, including senior officials, have been arrested in Malawi and Labour Minister Ken Kandodo has been sacked over misuse of COVID-19 funds, President Lazarus Chakwera and police said on Sunday.

Chakwera said in a televised address he had commissioned an audit into how 6.2 billion Malawian kwacha (US$7.95 million) intended for the country's coronavirus response program had been spent, and that this had identified that funds had vanished, been misused and left idle.

Malawi's police said a total of 14 people had been arrested so far, including an immigration official and 10 individuals working at district councils.


Mexico's health ministry on Sunday reported 1,506 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 111 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,305,602 infections and 212,339 deaths.


Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 505,811 on Sunday as 364 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Health, the death toll went up by one to 8,945, 430 people were in intensive care units.

Another 273 new recoveries were reported, bringing the total to 491,810, according to the statement.

Oxford study

People who have fought off the COVID-19 virus will be deliberately reinfected in a first-of-its-kind trial at the University of Oxford that may shed light on how to develop more effective vaccines against the pathogen.

Researchers are looking for 64 healthy, previously COVID-infected volunteers from 18 to 30 years old to be studied under controlled, quarantined conditions for at least 17 days, the UK university said Monday. Participants will be infected with the novel coronavirus and followed for a year.

One of the goals of the study is to determine how much virus, on average, it takes to infect someone who’s had the virus earlier. In a second phase of the study, a different group of patients will be given that dose and studied for their immune responses, Oxford said.

Participants who develop Covid symptoms will be treated with an antibody drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that’s been authorized by US regulators, Oxford said. Subjects will only be discharged from the quarantine unit when they are no longer infected and not at risk of infecting others, according to the statement.


Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on Sunday that 183,000 jabs were administered against COVID-19 this weekend, and the vaccination of 170,000 teachers and school staff has completed.

According to Costa, "the vaccination process is proceeding in its normal terms" and Portugal "is ready to fulfill the objective" of its immunization process.

Costa predicted that "the entire population over 70 years old may be vaccinated" by the end of this month of April, and people over 60 years old by the month of May.

This would represent the immunization of "96 percent of the population in the age group" with a higher mortality rate of COVID-19, said Costa.

More than 2.5 million people have been vaccinated in the country, according to health authorities.

READ MORE: Russia, Chinese firm agree on production of Sputnik V in China


Spain will study the effects of mixing different coronavirus vaccines, government researchers said on Monday, responding to shifting guidelines on the safety of the AstraZeneca’s shot.

The trial will draw on a sample of 600 people of all ages from across Spain, said Jesus Frias Iniesta, clinical research coordinator at Carlos III.

A UK study on mixing vaccines was expanded last week to include shots made by Moderna and Novavax, while France and Germany are considering giving an alternative to under 60s who received a first dose of AstraZeneca.

Spain's health ministry is considering delaying second doses of some coronavirus vaccines for under 80 year olds to maximize the number of people who have received at least one injection, El Mundo newspaper reported on Monday, citing an official document.

Under the proposal, patients would receive a second shot of vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna afteright weeks rather than the current three, El Mundo reported. 

Despite delays to the deployment of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and supply disruptions to the AstraZeneca's one, Spain still expects to have half its 47-million population fully inoculated by late July.

Data released on Friday showed 7 percent of the population had received a full course, while 19 percent had received at least one dose.


Ten people died in Britain in the space of 24 hours after testing positive for COVID-19 within the previous 28 days, according to official data - the lowest number since Sept 9, although reported deaths tend to fall at the weekend.

According to the data, 1,882 new COVID-19 cases were recorded, bringing the tally to 4,387,820.

So far, 32.849 million people had received the first dose of a vaccine, up from 32.693 million on Saturday, according to the data.

The leaders of Britain's biggest hospitality businesses have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to "stick" with England's roadmap to exit the lockdown and reopen the economy.

British health officials are investigating a COVID-19 variant originating in India but as yet they do not have enough evidence to classify it is as a variant of concern, Susan Hopkins of Public Health England (PHE) said on Sunday. 

PHE has said it has identified 77 cases of the variant in Britain.


The US is “in somewhat of a precarious position” with a seven-day average of more than 60,000 new COVID-19 infections per day, though vaccinations will bring the number down, Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on ABC’s This Week.

“That’s good news, we’ve got to keep that up,” he said. “But we also have to make sure that people don’t throw caution to the wind and declare victory prematurely.”

He also said a decision on how to resume vaccinating Americans with the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus shot will probably come by Friday. 

Just more than half of US adults have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed on Sunday, with nearly 130 million people aged 18 years or more having received their first shot.

That figure makes up about 50.4 percent of the total adult US population, according to the CDC, marking a milestone for the country that has seen over 560,000 deaths from the pandemic, the highest for any single nation, as the government ramps up the pace of vaccination.

The US had administered 209,406,814 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Sunday morning and distributed 264,505,725 doses, the CDC said on Sunday.

READ MORE: US administers 205.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday the government has made a second payment to the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVAX initiative to access around 11 million COVID-19 vaccines.

The government last week said it had made an initial US$64 million payment to COVAX for a first batch of vaccines, after complaining that U.S. economic sanctions aimed at ousting Maduro were blocking the payment. Maduro did not specify the amount of the second payment.

Venezuela has so far received just 800,000 doses of Russian and Chinese vaccines for its population of around 30 million.

Venezuela has reported about 180,000 coronavirus cases, including 1,800 deaths, though the opposition and doctors' organizations warn the true toll is likely higher due to a lack of testing.


Zimbabwe is emerging stronger in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to support from local partners and friendly countries such as China, Russia and India, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Sunday.

In an address to the nation to mark the country's 41st independence anniversary, Mnangagwa also paid tribute to frontline and security workers for their dedication to duty, and the citizens for their steadfast adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

Zimbabwe is grateful for the financial and material support and solidarity from friendly nations and development partners in its efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, Mnangagwa said.

He assured citizens that the vaccines being administered by the government were safe, and urged eligible citizens to get vaccinated.

To date, a total of 276,095 people have received their first jab and 35,806 have gotten both jabs.

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