Indian officials announced Tuesday that Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla has been approved to distribute its partner Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, as the country seeks to ramp up its vaccination program to prevent a third wave of the virus.
The authorization will now allow the Moderna vaccine to be imported into India. It will be the fourth COVID-19 vaccine given emergency approval for use in the country, after AstraZeneca and partner Serum Institute of India's Covishield, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Russian-developed Sputnik V.
So far, India has administered about 330 million doses, more than the overall shots administered in the United States. But with a population of 1.36 billion, the vaccination rate is much lower than several other countries. India has the world's second-highest number of infections, with more than 30 million cases and almost 398,000 deaths.
European Soccer Championships
Separately, the European Commission – the European Union's executive wing – has warned organizers of the European Soccer Championships they need to carefully assess holding the semi-final and final of the tournament, considering the recent surge of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus in Britain.
The games are scheduled for next week at London's Wembley stadium, with more than 60,000 fans expected – 75 percent of capacity.
European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, who oversees EU public health policy, told reporters in Brussels Tuesday he urged the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) it needs to cautiously approach the situation. He said German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU parliament members agree with him.
He said the issue is not one the European Commission could formally weigh in on.
Elsewhere in the world, in Australia, four major cities are now heading into lockdown due to the growing presence of the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19.
Authorities in the eastern state of Queensland imposed a three-day lockdown for the capital, Brisbane, and other neighboring regions that took effect late Tuesday. In Western Australian state, the capital Perth entered a four-day lockdown. The cities of Darwin, the capital of Northern Territory state, and Sydney in New South Wales state are already under lengthy lockdowns.
At least 150 newly confirmed coronavirus cases across Australia have been traced to a Sydney airport limousine driver who had been transporting international air crews.
Australia has been largely successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 due to aggressive lockdown efforts, posting just 30,560 total confirmed cases and 910 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. [[Australia - COVID-19 Overview - Johns Hopkins (jhu.edu) ]]. But it has proved vulnerable to fresh outbreaks due to a slow rollout of its vaccination campaign and confusing requirements involving the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the dominant vaccine in its stockpile.
Health officials are now offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults under 60 years of age, lifting a restriction imposed due to concerns of a rare blood clotting condition that has been blamed for at least one death. Adults under the age of 60 had only been able to receive the two-shot Pfizer vaccine, which is in far less supply than the AstraZeneca shot.
The delta variant of COVID-19, which was first detected in India, has now been identified in more than 80 countries and continues to spread rapidly across the globe. Portugal, Spain and Hong Kong have announced new restrictions on travelers from Britain, where nearly 95% of its COVID-19 cases are of the delta variant. The United States on Monday raised its travel advisories to Liberia, Uganda, Mozambique and Zambia and United Arab Emirates to Level 4 — "Do not travel" — due to their increasing rates of COVID-19 infections.
This report contains information from the Associated Press, Reuters, and the Agence France-Presse.