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International update: Combining vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer-BioNTech safe suggests study

By Paul Dennis

19 May

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,404,990 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 164 million world wide.

US: US Covid -19 infections are nearing 33 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 587,219 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

India: India’s daily Covid-19 deaths rose by a record 4,529 to reach 283,248, government data showed. New cases totalled 267,334.

Argentina: Argentina reported a record one-day coronavirus death toll of 745 on Tuesday as the country is hit by a second wave of infections that has brought the number of positive tests recorded in a 24-hour period to 35,543.

Malaysia: Malaysia reported 47 new coronavirus deaths, a new record in fatalities for a second successive day.

Singapore: Employees at DBS, HSBC and Mizuho Bank Ltd. were among 27 new coronavirus cases identified in the local community by Singapore authorities on Tuesday as the number of unlinked infections in the country persists. Some 11 of the 27 confirmed cases in the community have not been traceable. There are now 19 active virus clusters in the country, up from 11 a week earlier, according to health ministry data. The government is lengthening the time between vaccination doses in an effort to administer first shots to more adults as it races to stem transmissions.

Thailand: Infections continued to spread among inmates and workers in Thai prisons, accounting for almost half the country’s daily cases. Thailand on Wednesday reported 3,394 new infections and 29 fatalities, bringing the nation’s total caseloads to 116,949 and 678, respectively. Some 1,498 of the new cases were from prisons. More than 10,000 new Covid-19 cases have been reported in about a dozen densely-packed Thai prisons.

Vaccine news

Spain: Combining doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer-BioNTech is safe and gives people high levels of immunity, according to a study by Spain’s Instituto de Salud Carlos III. The research institution conducted one of the first studies into the combined use of shots that includes clinical trials. The study administered 441 people younger than 60 years old a first dose of AstraZeneca and a second of Pfizer-BioNTech. Results show an increase in antibodies after the second dose and mild secondary effects that didn’t require hospitalization. The research was prompted by the appearance of blood clots in some people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

US: Covid-19 vaccination coverage in the US was generally lower in rural counties than in urban ones, according to a report published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, adult vaccination coverage was 38.9% in rural counties and 45.7% in urban counties. Coverage among age groups and among men and women in rural counties also lagged behind urban counties. The study analyzed data on adults who received their first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, from mid-December to early April. Residents of rural communities have limited access to intensive care and are at a greater risk for severe Covid illness or death, the report said, so vaccination disparities between urban and rural counties hinder efforts to reduce severe illness and death nationally.

Africa: An extended halt to exports of Covid-19 vaccines from India risks undermining vaccination efforts already under way in Africa, according to one of the continent’s top health officials.

India: India’s Serum Institute will prioritize making vaccines for its home country, delaying deliveries to other nations and the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative until the end of the year. The firm, the largest vaccine manufacturer, is licensed to churn out at least one billion doses of AstraZeneca’s shot.

South Africa: South Africa vaccinated 39,371 people over two days as it began a broad rollout of vaccines. The slow-pace of the vaccination program, which is initially using the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, highlights the challenges the country is facing in reaching its aim of the inoculating the 40 million it needs to reach so-called herd immunity. The government has said the program will pick up pace. While almost 480,000 South African health workers have been inoculated as part of a trial with single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the government has come under criticism for delays to the broad rollout.

Singapore: Singapore has authorised the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds in order to extend protection to more groups.

Singapore will lengthen the time between vaccination doses to six to eight weeks, in an effort to stretch out limited supply that could see its entire adult population receive a first shot by the end of August.

Ukraine: Ukrainian lawmakers have voted to dismiss the health minister who has faced criticism for the slow pace of the nation’s coronavirus vaccination effort, AP reports.

Bahrain: Bahrain will vaccinate adolescents aged 12-17 with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, state news agency BNA said, citing the country’s national medical taskforce for combatting the coronavirus on Tuesday.

Mexico: Mexico aims to ensure its population has had at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot by October, before the onset of colder weather, the president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Tuesday.

Lockdown updates

Algeria: Algeria has backed off a decision to reopen land borders closed because of the coronavirus pandemic but will go ahead with a plan to partially resume international flights from next month, the presidency said on Tuesday.

Kuwait: Kuwait’s cabinet said on Tuesday that direct commercial flights for India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are limited to departing flights only, while cargo flights will continue, until further notice, the cabinet wrote on Twitter.

Sudan: Sudan will restrict all travellers who have visited India within the prior two weeks, the country’s health emergency committee said in a statement. India’s Covid-19 caseload topped 25 million on Tuesday, and there are concerns about the spread of a new, highly infectious variant, B.1.617, first found there.

Germany: Residents of two tower blocks in Germany have been put under quarantine after a woman was diagnosed with the infectious Covid Indian variant, an official said.

Japan: Okinawa in southern Japan will ask the central government to expand a coronavirus state of emergency to include the prefecture, Jiji reported in a one-line dispatch.

Canada: Quebec, the Canadian epicenter of the crisis early on in the pandemic, has announced a reopening plan as the local government estimates 75% of adults will be at least partially vaccinated by 15 June. A curfew in place since January will be lifted on 28 May. Three days later, restaurants will be able to open in most regions of Quebec, followed by bar patios on 11 June. The government is also set to allow visits inside private homes from 14 June.

Turkey: Turkish officials failed to persuade Russia to lift a ban on flights between the two countries at the end of May, a setback for a tourist sector attempting to recover from a year of pandemic restrictions as new cases fall. Moscow is now expected to allow tourists to travel to Turkey, a popular destination for Russians, from mid-June at the earliest, according to a senior Turkish official with direct knowledge of the matter.

Economy updates

Asia: Equity investors in Asia are screening hospitalization rates and watching predictions on virus peaks as countries in the region struggle with a fresh jump in cases. The pandemic’s resurgence has already worsened Asian stocks’ underperformance against global peers this year. With efforts by countries to reopen their economies taking a hit, the severity of restrictions, the pace of increase in caseloads, the preparedness of governments and progress in vaccination rollouts have become key yardsticks for stock traders.

Thailand: Thailand plans to borrow an additional 700 billion baht ($22.3 billion) to fund measures to counter the worst wave of Covid-19 to hit Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, people familiar with the matter said. A meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha on Tuesday approved the new borrowing plan from the finance ministry, the people said, declining to be identified before a public announcement.

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