India has reported its highest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases. The health ministry said Friday it had recorded 131,968 new cases in the previous 24-hour period. Friday’s toll beats out the record count of 126,789 cases that the ministry reported Thursday.
Germany’s health minister said Friday his country is on the verge of being overwhelmed by the coronavirus with nearly 4,500 people in intensive care. “If this continues, it will be too much for our health system,” Jens Spahn said, according to Reuters. “We need a lockdown.”
Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., are scheduled to open COVID vaccination eligibility Monday to residents as young as 16.
Several nations have issued new guidelines over the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after the European Union’s medical regulator announced a link between the vaccine and very rare, possibly fatal blood clots.
Britain, where the vaccine was developed jointly by the British-Swedish drugmaker and scientists at the University of Oxford, said it will offer alternatives for adults under 30. Oxford researchers have also suspended a clinical trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine involving young children and teenagers as British drug regulators conduct a safety review of the two-shot regimen.
Reuters said Spain and the Philippines will limit the vaccine to people over 60 years old, while The Washington Post said Italy has issued similar guidelines.
The European Medicines Agency recently said the blood clots should be listed as a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but continued to emphasize that its overall benefits outweigh any risks. Rare blood clots have been associated with the deaths of at least 14 people across Europe.
AstraZeneca has been the key vaccine in Britain’s exceptionally speedy inoculation campaign, which has outpaced significantly the vaccination rates in the rest of Europe. But the vaccine has had a troubled rollout elsewhere, initially because of a lack of information from its late-stage clinical trials on its effect on older people, which has slowed vaccination efforts throughout Europe. Many nations stopped administering the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports first surfaced of the blood clotting incidents.
The vaccine is critical also to Europe’s immunization campaign and crucial in the global strategy to supply vaccines to poorer countries. The vaccine is cheaper and easier to use than rival vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Meanwhile, a global COVID-19 vaccination alliance said Thursday it has delivered more than 38 million vaccine doses to over 100 economies since its distribution campaign began about six weeks ago.
The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative, commonly known as COVAX, said it reached the milestone 42 days after delivering its first doses to Ghana.
COVAX, created to provide equitable access to vaccines worldwide, said the doses were manufactured by AstraZenca, Pfizer and the Serum Institute of India and delivered to six continents, including 61 of the world’s 92 lower-income countries.
The initiative, co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization and others, said it hopes to ship vaccines to all countries that have asked for doses by the end of June, despite vaccine shortages in March and April and increased demand in India.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that New Zealand is suspending travel from India beginning Sunday due to a surge of coronavirus cases among travelers from that country. The ban will remain in effect until April 28, and will include New Zealanders returning from India.
India has reported more than 13 million total coronavirus cases, the world’s third highest tally.
The U.S. has more than 31 million COVID cases, the world’s highest count, followed by Brazil with 13.2 million.