The head of the World Health Organization called Friday for pharmaceutical companies to share manufacturing facilities to increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines.
Speaking at an online news briefing from Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said what is needed is “a massive scale-up in production.”
He noted that France’s pharmaceutical company Sanofi announced it would make its manufacturing infrastructure available to support production of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and called on other companies to do the same.
“We encourage all manufacturers to share their data and technology to ensure global, equitable access to vaccines.”
He also repeated his call for rich nations to share doses with poorer countries once they have vaccinated health workers and older people.
Tedros said 75% of all COVID-19 vaccinations worldwide have been given in just 10 countries, while nearly 130 nations have not given a single vaccination.
“The longer it takes to vaccinate those most at risk everywhere, the more opportunity we give the virus to mutate and evade vaccines,” Tedros said, adding that unless the virus is suppressed everywhere, it could resurge globally.
China's Sinovac Biotech said Friday that late-stage trial data of its COVID-19 vaccine from Brazil and Turkey showed the vaccine prevented hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients in 100% of participants but said it was only 50.65% effective at keeping people from getting infected.
The trial of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine involved nearly 12,400 people and also found the vaccine was 83.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 cases that required any medical treatment.
In the United States, President Joe Biden's administration announced Friday that the Pentagon had approved the deployment of 1,100 active-duty troops to assist with COVID-19 vaccination efforts. It said that number will likely rise soon.
The U.S. supermarket chain Kroger said Friday it would give $100 to workers who get a COVID-19 vaccination, joining a growing number of companies incentivizing employees to get vaccinated.
Coronavirus cases in the United States have been decreasing in recent weeks. However, medical officials are urging U.S. residents to not turn Sunday’s Super Bowl, a yearly football game, into a superspreader event. Fans usually gather at large home parties or in bars and restaurants to watch the game on television. Medical authorities this year, however, are urging football fans to watch the game “with the people you live with.”
In France, coronavirus hospitalizations fell for a third day in a row. Officials said the number of people in the hospital with the virus fell by 194 to 27,614 and the number of people in intensive care fell by five to 3,245.
Greece announced stricter lockdown restrictions in the capital, Athens, as well as other parts of the country to stop the spread of the pandemic. The restrictions include a curfew that will start at 6 p.m. Saturday.
New Zealand said it is open to receiving refugees once again. The new measure comes almost a year after New Zealand closed its doors to foreigners in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fiona Whiteridge, the general manager of New Zealand's refugee and migrant service, said in a statement, “With health protocols in place and safe travel routes, we are ready to welcome small groups of refugee families as New Zealand residents to this country, to begin their new lives.”
In another development Friday, Pfizer told Reuters in a statement that it has withdrawn its application in India for emergency-use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech.
Pfizer did not conduct a trial with its vaccine in India, a measure India usually requires.
Pfizer’s decision to withdraw came after its meeting earlier this week with India’s drug regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization.
The drug regulator said Pfizer’s vaccine was not recommended because there were no data from an Indian trial and because of reported side effects from the vaccine in its use abroad.
Pfizer said it will “re-submit its approval request with additional information as it becomes available in the near future.”
India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported 12,408 new coronavirus cases Friday.
There are more than 105 million global GOVID-19 cases and nearly 2.3 million deaths from the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The United States remains at the top of the list as the location with the most infections, with more than 26.8 million cases, followed by India with 10.8 million and Brazil with 9.4 million.