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IDB Mobilizes $1 Billion for Vaccinations in Latin America

Relatives of patients suspected of having the novel coronavirus wait at the COVID-19 triage area of the General Hospital in Mexico City on Dec. 13, 2020.

The Inter-American Development Bank pledged $1 billion Wednesday to help Central American and Caribbean nations fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The IDB will devote the money to purchasing vaccines, strengthening national institutions distributing the shots and building immunization capacity.

The pledge is in addition to $1.2 billion the bank already mobilized in the region to pay for testing and treatment.

Wednesday’s announcement came as Latin America reported surges in COVID-19 cases and deaths. According to the Reuters news agency, roughly 33% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths were recorded in Latin America, though the region accounts for only 9% of the global population.

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About a quarter of Mexico’s population has been exposed to the virus, officials said. Over 115,000 Mexicans have died of the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center.

A new set of tight restrictions took effect Wednesday in Germany to try to curb a rising number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

The hard lockdown mandated the closing of all nonessential businesses and limiting private gatherings to no more than five people. The restrictions, which will remain in effect until January 10, were imposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday after talks with Germany’s 16 regional governors.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s central disease control center, reported 952 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, shattering the previous single-day record of 598 posted just last Friday.

Germany’s seven-day incidence of new cases has also set a record, rising to nearly 180 per 100,000 people.

Health Minister Jens Spahn called on the European Union’s regulatory agency late Tuesday to give final approval of the vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech by Christmas. The vaccine is being administered to health care workers in Britain and the United States, after government regulators quickly approved its use after a thorough review process.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the White House announced Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence would receive the vaccine on Friday.

President-elect Joe Biden will be vaccinated next week, according to the transition team.

Regulators with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Tuesday that its preliminary analysis of a second vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health confirmed its safety and effectiveness.

The report revealed that four volunteers in the late-stage clinical trial developed Bell’s palsy, a condition that involves temporary paralysis or weakness in facial muscles. Three of those participants had received the two-dose vaccine, while the other one was given a placebo.

The approval process of the Moderna vaccine is now in the hands of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which meets Thursday. If the committee gives its approval, the FDA would the grant the vaccine an emergency use authorization.

The FDA granted emergency approval Tuesday of an over-the-counter COVID-19 test developed by Ellume, an Australian-based health care technology company. The self-administered home kit returns test results within 15 to 20 minutes through a smartphone application. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

As the United States, Britain and other nations escalate efforts to vaccinate citizens against the virus that has sickened more than 73.5 million people worldwide, causing more than 1.6 million deaths, a new study says at least one-fifth of the world’s population may not have access to a vaccine until 2022, as wealthier nations buy more than half of next year's potential doses.

The study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health came just days after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned about the rise of “vaccine nationalism” among the world’s richest nations at the expense of much poorer countries.

Separately, two of the world’s biggest annual New Year’s celebrations are either being curtailed or canceled because of the pandemic. New York City is banning visitors from the city’s historic Times Square to witness the iconic “ball drop” that counts down the final seconds of the year.

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, officials announced Tuesday that the city is calling off its annual New Year’s Eve beach party, which normally attracts hundreds of thousands of people with live music and a spectacular fireworks display.