California, N.Y. to Open New Stadium Vaccine Sites: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford have started looking at how to re-engineer their coronavirus vaccine to defeat new mutations, saying a tweaked injection could be ready by autumn.
GlaxoSmithKline Plc agreed to work with CureVac NV to help boost production of its experimental vaccine and improve the shot to help protect against multiple variants.
California and New York announced plans for new stadium sites for mass inoculations. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy loosened indoor capacity restrictions for restaurants. New York City expanded vaccine eligibility to taxi drivers and restaurant workers, two weeks before indoor dining is scheduled to reopen.
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Winter Weather Hampers U.S. Vaccinations (4:35 p.m. NY)
The headlong rush to vaccinate U.S. residents bogged down this week, as snow blanketed the Northeast and appointments for life-saving shots were missed or canceled.
The U.S. administered 868,000 doses Monday, 33% fewer than the seven-day rolling average of 1.3 million that day. Northeast states showed steep declines in daily rates, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. In Maryland, for instance, daily doses were a whopping 65% less than the state’s daily seven-day rolling average on Sunday and 58% less on Monday.
California Plans New Mass Vaccination Sites (3:40 p.m. NY)
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a partnership with the Biden administration to open a mass vaccination site at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home of the Oakland A’s baseball team, as the most-populous state tries to ramp up an inoculation effort that has trailed other parts of the U.S.
Speaking in Oakland, Newsom said the site and one at California State University in Los Angeles should be operational on Feb. 16. California has tripled the number of daily shots it administers and expects to get 1.06 million doses this week, Newsom said.
The state is now seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel” after a brutal winter surge, Newsom said. California reported 10,501 new cases Wednesday, compared with more than 50,000 a month ago. The seven-day positivity rate is down to 6.1% -- less than half its peak on Jan. 7 -- while hospitalizations have fallen about 30% in recent weeks, Newsom said.
Australian Open Tennis Players Isolate (3:40 p.m. NY)
After 28 days without a coronavirus case in the community, Melbourne reported its first from a worker at a quarantine hotel housing Australian Open tennis players, prompting a tightening of rules in the nation’s second-most populous city.
Masks are now mandatory in all public indoor spaces and the number of visitors allowed in homes halved to 15. The increase in office capacity for returning public and private sector workers that was slated for Monday has been paused as the city moves swiftly to track contacts of the case.
The state government said all Australian Open players, officials and support staff who were staying at the Grand Hyatt during the entire period were considered casual contacts of the case and must immediately isolate and get tested. Tennis organizers said there will be no matches at Melbourne Park on Thursday, according to a statement on Twitter. The tournament is due to kick off Feb. 8 with reduced attendance limits of up to 30,000 spectators.
Yankee Stadium Opens for Vaccinations Friday (2:45 p.m. NY)
New York City’s Yankee Stadium will open as a mass vaccination site for Bronx residents on Friday, with 15,000 appointments available in the first week of operation, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday.
The site aims to increase vaccinations for eligible residents of the Bronx, where Covid-19 cases are the highest among the city’s five boroughs, according to a news release.
Targeting locations with higher positivity rates will help to keep the infection rate down but also will “help ensure equity in our vaccine distribution process,” Cuomo said.
The state, city, the New York Yankees baseball team, SOMOS Community Care and the National Guard are partnering to establish the location.
Houston Rodeo Disrupted for Second Year (12:29 p.m. NY)
The 2021 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was canceled on Wednesday amid concerns about the safety of large public gatherings.
The rodeo, originally scheduled to run for three weeks beginning in early March, was postponed until May earlier this year. On Wednesday, organizers announced the event -- which typically attracts 2.5 million attendees and employs almost 4,000 -- would be scrapped. Last year’s rodeo was halted after the first week as the virus began to circulate in the fourth-largest US city.
Associated events including the downtown Houston rodeo parade and the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest also have been canceled, organizers said.
N.J. Loosens Restaurant Restrictions (11:17 a.m. NY)
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy loosened indoor capacity restrictions for restaurants and other businesses to 35% from 25%.
Murphy also lifted the 10 p.m. curfew on indoor restaurant service. All changes are effective Friday.
“We’re able to take this step today because the data says we can,” he said Wednesday at a press briefing.
World Economic Forum Moves Annual Meeting (11 a.m. NY)
The World Economic Forum proposed to reschedule the Special Annual Meeting in Singapore to mid-August due to travel restrictions and the current state of the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting had been scheduled for late May.
NYC Expands Eligibility to Restaurant Workers (10:43 a.m. NY)
Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that New York will expand vaccine eligibility to restaurant workers, taxi drivers and people who live in homes for developmentally disabled people as well as those who work there.
The decision follows Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directive to leave the decision of eligibility expansion up to localities after he decided to reopen indoor dining in the city on Feb. 14.
Africa to Start Receiving Covax Shots (10:37 a.m. NY)
Covax, the global program that strives to ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines, has allocated millions of doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s shots to African countries and aims for its first deliveries by the end of the month.
Nigeria, the most populous nation on the continent, stands to receive 16 million doses, while Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are in line for 9 million and 7 million doses respectively, according to an interim distribution forecast published Wednesday. Other African countries will get a smaller number of vaccines.
NYC Health Commissioner Tests Positive (10:19 a.m. NY)
New York City’s health commissioner, Dave Chokshi, has tested positive for Covid-19, he said in a statement Wednesday.
“I now have mild symptoms, but they are manageable,” Chokshi said. “I have been in touch with New York City’s Test and Trace Corps to ensure that anyone who was potentially exposed is offered services and care. This is a reminder – if we ever needed one – that Covid is still with us and we all must continue to wear masks, wash our hands, socially distance and stay home if feeling ill.”
Bristol Myers Joins Covid Antibody Race (10:10 a.m. NY)
Bristol Myers Squibb Co. has clinched a deal with the Rockefeller University for the rights to a Covid-19 therapy that combines two antibodies, the drugmaker said Wednesday.
Rockefeller launched the experimental treatment into human trials in mid-January. The agreement grants Bristol Myers an exclusive license to develop, manufacture and commercialize the therapy globally.
U.S. Companies Add More Jobs Than Expected (8:16 a.m. NY)
U.S. companies added more jobs than forecast in January, a sign that the labor market may be gradually improving as Covid-19 infections begin to ebb.
Company payrolls increased by 174,000 during the month, according to ADP Research Institute data released Wednesday. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for an increase of 70,000.
Chile Expands Vaccination Program (7:44 a.m. NY)
Chile, the Latin American country that has procured the most vaccines per capita, expanded its inoculation program Wednesday to include the elderly.
People lined up at state-run health centers and private clinics to receive the first dose of the Sinovac vaccine. The government is putting into practice a program that begin with people age 90 and higher and essential workers. In coming days, the age limit will fall progressively.
Serbia Appeals for More of Chinese Vaccine (7:16 a.m. NY)
Serbia has appealed for more Chinese vaccine doses after being the first in Europe to import shots from Sinopharm last month, the office of President Aleksandar Vucic said. The initial shipment of 1 million doses put the Balkan country ahead of the rest of continental Europe in inoculation.
Hong Kong to Double In-School Capacity (6:45 a.m. NY)
Hong Kong to allow up to one-third of a school’s student capacity to return to classes on a half-day basis after the February’s Lunar New Year holiday, double the current capacity. School campuses have been closed as the city battles an extended wave of the coronavirus, which has led authorities to enact some of its strictest restrictions since the start of the pandemic.
Astra, Oxford to Work on Re-Engineered Shot (6:43 a.m. NY)
AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford are planning to have a re-engineered shot that protects against new mutations available by the fall in time for the next round of immunizations that may be required before winter.
Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford trials, said switching out the genome sequence, manufacturing and completing new studies for a vaccine against variants should be fairly quick.
Moderna Offers South Africa Vaccines in First (6:23 a.m. NY)
Moderna offered to supply its coronavirus vaccine to South Africa, in what would be its first deal to sell shots to an African nation, a person familiar with the talks said.
Discussions have started, though no deal has been concluded, the person said. Business Day newspaper earlier reported that Moderna offered to sell South Africa 20 million doses, with the first arriving in May, citing a health activist from a group called the C19 People’s Coalition.
Germany Calls in Troops (6:16 p.m. HK)
Germany has boosted the number of Army troops helping in the fight against the pandemic by 5,000 to 25,000 and will call up more reservists as well, as Chancellor Angela Merkel is under increasing pressure to speed up a lagging vaccination program.
From guarding vaccine shipments to helping with mobile medical units, soldiers are being deployed throughout the country. On Wednesday, a team of 26 health workers equipped with 150 beds, 50 ventilators and other supplies set off for Portugal to help fight the spike of cases there.
Israel Widens Vaccination Drive to Young Adults (5:26 p.m. HK)
Israel’s Health Ministry has instructed the country’s health-service providers to prepare to extend their vaccination drive to all people over the age of 16 starting Thursday. The country is trying to reinvigorate the pace of vaccination, which has slowed this week to about half of the government’s target of 200,000 shots a day.
Antibodies Remain 6 Months After Infection: Study (5 p.m. HK)
The vast majority of people who contract Covid-19 still have antibodies at least six months after infection, a new study involving more than 20,000 people showed.
Some 88% of participants who tested positive for a previous infection retained antibodies for six months, according to the report by UK Biobank, a major biomedical database. The number was 99% at three months.
The results follow other, smaller studies that indicate a level of immunity following a natural infection for at least 6 months. Health officials have said it’s still unclear how long protection through vaccines could last.
‘Contagion’ Movie Shaped U.K. Vaccine Rollout (4:55 p.m. HK)
U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the 2011 movie “Contagion” influenced his planning for the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.
“In the film, it shows the moment of highest stress around the vaccine program is not in fact before it’s rolled out,” Hancock told LBC radio on Wednesday. “It’s afterwards, when there is a huge row about the order of priority.” The British government asked for “very early” clinical advice on who should get the shots first and laid it out to the public, he said.
France Blasts Hungary for Vaccine Approach (4:16 p.m. HK)
France’s junior minister for EU affairs, Clement Beaune, condemned Hungary for a go-it-alone approval of Russian and Chinese vaccines outside the European Union process. Instead, he suggested that Russia should submit its Sputnik V vaccine to European regulators to ensure it’s vetted according to the same criteria as others.
“The Russians haven’t submitted their vaccine to European authorities and we would invite them to do so,” he said Wednesday on LCI television.
Singapore Authorizes Moderna Vaccine (4:10 p.m. HK)
Singapore approved Moderna’s vaccine for use in the country with an interim clearance. A review of the clinical data found that benefits of the vaccine outweigh any known risks, according to Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority.
Denmark to Offer Digital Corona Passport (3:52 p.m. HK)
Business travelers in Denmark will be offered a digital coronavirus passport at the end of the month, in a move designed to facilitate exporters affected by international restrictions, the government said Wednesday. The electronic document will contain information about an individual’s Covid-19 and vaccination history.
China Ready to Provide Vaccine Doses to Covax (3:42 p.m. HK)
China said it’s ready to supply 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses to the Covax effort, primarily for emergency use in developing countries, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing in Beijing.
Sinopharm, Zhifei Vaccines Attack Variant (3:31 p.m. HK)
The vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Zhifei Biological work against the variant found in South Africa but with slightly weaker protection, Jiemian.com reported, citing an article by authors including George Gao Fu, head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Glaxo, CureVac Team Up to Develop Shots (3:25 p.m. HK)
GlaxoSmithKline and CureVac will work together to create next-generation messenger RNA vaccines. The companies aim to have a candidate approved by 2022 as part of a 150 million euro ($180 million) deal, they said in a statement.
Glaxo will also manufacture as much as 100 million doses of CureVac’s current mRNA vaccine, which is in late-stage trials. Drugmakers are looking to accelerate the development of shots as new variants emerge, sparking fears some vaccines could become less effective.
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