AstraZeneca said on Saturday that its coronavirus vaccine offered only limited protection against mild cases of the South African variant of the virus. The company based its conclusion on early data from a trial and study released by South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand and Oxford University.
“In this small phase I/II trial, early data has shown limited efficacy against mild disease primarily due to the B.1.351 South African variant,” said an AstraZeneca spokesman.
“However, we have not been able to properly ascertain its effect against severe disease and hospitalisation given that subjects were predominantly young healthy adults. Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started adapting the vaccine against this variant and will advance rapidly through clinical development so that it is ready for Autumn delivery should it be needed,” the company added.
France has reported a fall in new infections and hospitalizations from the coronavirus. The fall comes at a time when the country has steadily increased vaccinations against the virus. The country has rolled out the AstraZeneca vaccine after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
About 1.86 million people in France have received the first shot of the vaccine, while 247,260 people have received the second dose.
On Saturday, France reported 20,586 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, marking a third straight day when cases fell. Meanwhile, hospitalizations fell by 245 from the previous day.
In Germany there is growing dissatisfaction with the German government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent poll conducted by research institute YouGov. The results of the poll came out just days before state and federal leaders are going to decide whether to extend a nationwide lockdown that is currently runs until February 14.
In the poll, only 50% people rated the government’s management positively. People cited the slow distribution of the vaccines as a reason for their dissatisfaction. About 345,600 doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive on Saturday, followed by 391,200 doses next week.
In Switzerland, about 500 people in the town of Zug have protested while wearing white protective suits. People shouted slogans and expressed their dissatisfaction with restrictions imposed to control the pandemic.
Protesters carried placards that read, “wearing a mask is modern slavery”, while loudspeakers blared that “denounce those you love”.
The protests in the well-known tax haven come at a time when the country’s health minister, Alain Berset has said that existing restrictions would stay in place till at least the end of February, and probably longer, if the virus continued to spread.
The UK has reported 825 new deaths from the coronavirus, taking the overall death toll to 112,092.
The country has rolled out the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to 11.5 million people.
Romania’s prime minister Florin Citu has said that the country wants to produce one of the EU approved coronavirus vaccines. Citu said that further formalities were being undertaken to ink a production deal. He didn’t disclose the timeline of the project.
Denmark has announced that everyone entering the country through land or ports would be subject to a coronavirus test on arrival from Sunday. After the test, the person has to undergo a ten day quarantine at home.
Denmark’s government said that those who didn’t follow the rule would be given a fine of €470. The country has imposed the measure in light of the spread of new variants of the coronavirus. The only exceptions are those transporting goods in border areas and commuters.
Denmark’s measures come at a time when its neighbor Sweden also enforced the requirement of a negative coronavirus test at the border. The measure is applicable till March 31 on people above the age of 18.
Venice has moved its carnival celebrations this year online. The event will be broadcast live on Saturday and Sunday from Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, featuring 90 minute programs with artists.
The carnival in Venice is normally attended by thousands of people, and includes masked balls, gondola parades and fireworks. Last year’s event were called off abruptly after Italy was struck by a massive outbreak of the coronavirus. Italy is currently under curfew, with people not allowed to move out after 10 pm.
Chile vaccinated over 550,000 people against the coronavirus within three days. The country’s ministry of health said that over 112,000 doses were administered to people above the age of 85 on Friday alone.
Chile has a target of vaccinating 5 million people by March end. The country is administering the Pfizer vaccine, along with the vaccine from Chinese company Sinovac. The country has also inked supply deals with Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.
am/aw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)