WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Intervals: Virus Update
A passenger wearing a protective mask dispenses sanitizer next to a temperature screening point at Asok BTS station in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photographer: Andre Malerba/Bloomberg)

WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Intervals: Virus Update

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged that vaccines be given according to how they were authorized, in a rebuke to officials attempting to alter the timing and dosage of shots. Experts advising the World Health Organization recommended against extending the interval between two doses, a plan under consideration in the U.K.

The European Union is negotiating with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE on a deal that could double its supply of the companies’ vaccine, people familiar with the talks said, as leaders across the region face questions over the pace of Covid-19 immunizations.

Britain rolled out fresh support for businesses after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country would enter a third lockdown. Germany extended its lockdown and tightened restrictions, while Italy extended some limits to counter the risk of a resurgence.

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WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Intervals: Virus Update

Puerto Rico to Relax Lockdown Measures (4:55 p.m. NY)

Puerto Rico’s new governor is opening beaches and parks, rolling back a curfew and ending Sunday lockdowns to give hard-hit businesses some breathing room.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi, who took office on Saturday, said the new measures will be in effect for 30 days starting Friday. Even so, masks, social distancing and capacity restrictions at businesses remain in place across the U.S. territory of 3.2 million people.

During a press conference Tuesday, Pierluisi said he was taking his cues from health officials and the private sector, but that he would adjust the restrictions if there were signs that infections were on the rise again.

Puerto Rico has reported 136,540 “confirmed, probable and suspected” cases of the coronavirus and 1,562 deaths due to Covid-19. Health officials say they have administered 70,000 Covid-19 vaccines since beginning the inoculation campaign Jan. 15.

Johnson Says 1 in 50 in England Has Covid (2 p.m. NY)

WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Intervals: Virus Update

One person in every 50 now has coronavirus in England, the British government said, as medics raced to vaccinate millions of people against the disease.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said 23% of all over-80s in England have now been given a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, meaning some of the most vulnerable patients are getting the protection they need.

More than 1 million people in the country are infected, while in London one in 30 people are infected.

Indian Vaccine Hesitancy High Even After Approvals (1:45 p.m. NY)

A survey of Indian citizens conducted after their country granted emergency approval to two coronavirus vaccines over the weekend found that 69% remained hesitant around getting Covid-19 jabs and wouldn’t rush to get them immediately -- the same level as last month before the regulatory nods.

Poor communication in India has “led to a level of distrust building amongst citizens,” said LocalCircles, a New Delhi-based pollster that received 8,723 responses to a question about vaccine hesitancy. Many Indians don’t believe enough information is “available when it comes to vaccine side-effects, efficacy, etc. from trials, which combined with declining case loads in India are top reasons why people are becoming hesitant.”

WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Interval (1:15 p.m. NY)

Experts advising the World Health Organization on vaccine policies recommended against spreading the interval between two doses beyond 28 days, following a move by the U.K. to extend the period between shots to as much as 12 weeks in an effort to maximize coverage.

Countries facing “exceptional circumstances of vaccine supply constraints” can delay administration of the second dose of two-shot vaccines for a few weeks, according to a statement from Alejandro Cravioto, chairman of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, but data on safety and efficacy after only one dose is lacking.

Arizona Sees Record Deaths (12:55 p.m. NY)

Arizona on Tuesday reported 253 deaths from Covid-19, a record for the state that brought its total tally during the pandemic to 9,317. The latest number may reflect a backlog of cases: Arizona reported just three deaths in the previous two days.

China’s Dalian Asks People in High-Risk Areas Not to Leave City (12:30 p.m. NY)

WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Intervals: Virus Update

China’s Dalian city announced that people in mid-to-high Covid-19 risk areas shouldn’t leave the city, and those in lower-risk areas have to provide a negative Covid test proof from the past three days if they need to depart, according to a statement from the city.

Separately, Shijiazhuang city, which reported 30 asymptomatic Covid-19 cases on Jan. 4, will suspend in-person classes at primary schools, middle schools and kindergartens, according to the city’s education bureau.

N.Y. to Ask Cops, Unions to Help on Vaccinations (12:05 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will ask police departments, fire departments and transit workers to organize their own distribution and vaccination systems.

“They have their own employees who can do the vaccines,” the governor said at a briefing Tuesday. “To the extent we can have the essential workers use their own employees or their own health-system provider to do their own vaccines, that removes a burden from the retail system if you will, it removes them from the hospital system.”

Larger teachers unions, police departments and the Fire Department of New York could run their own vaccine programs to alleviate the burden on systems dealing with the general public, he said. If they don’t have capacity, that’s fine, he said.

Cuomo also expressed concern about the variant of the virus first detected in England. “The U.K. strain is highly problematic and it could be a game-changer,” he said.

The governor called for the federal government to mandate testing for people flying in from other countries. “Not a travel ban, just mandatory testing. We have gone through this,” he said.

N.J. Records Most Deaths Since May (11:55 a.m. NY)

New Jersey reported 138 deaths, the most since May, and 5,400 new cases, Governor Phil Murphy said at an event in Iselin. Positive test results were more than double the number reported on Monday. “It gets worse before it gets better,” Murphy said of the pandemic.

Hospitals reported 3,702 people under Covid-19 treatment, and that figure has been mostly steady. But the number of intensive-care patients ticked up slightly, to 679, after dropping for six straight days.

The positivity rate was 15% as of Jan 1, but Murphy cautioned that the figure may be unusually high because people tested on the holiday were likely to be experiencing symptoms.

U.K. Reports Record Cases (11:30 a.m. NY)

The U.K. reported 60,916 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the most on record since the pandemic began. The country also reported 830 deaths, compared with a seven-day average of 611.

NYC Mayor Rips Cuomo’s Hospital Fine Threat (11 a.m. NY)

WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Intervals: Virus Update

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed back against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s threat to levy fines on hospitals that don’t administer vaccines quickly enough.

“Why don’t we stop talking about fines and start talking about the freedom to vaccinate?” de Blasio said during a Tuesday briefing.

New York City has administered only about 119,000 doses out of the 480,550 vaccines delivered. The city began inoculations in mid-December. “I take full responsibility” for speeding up the vaccinations, the mayor said.

Mitchell Katz, president of the city Health & Hospitals system, said everyone in all 11 public hospitals involved in direct patient care has been vaccinated in the past three weeks. His next goal is to vaccinate all staff, he said.

New York City’s Covid-19 infection data trended lower last weekend, with the seven-day average of new cases dropping to 4,064 as of Sunday, from 4,402 the previous day, and hospitalizations for that day totaling 210, just 10 above the public health safety threshold, after hitting a two-week high of 243 on Dec. 28.

Citywide tests had a 9.03% positivity rate over a two-week average as of Sunday, down from 9.22%. The rate of hospitalization in the population stood at 4.07 per 100,000 for the second consecutive day.

Germany Restricts Movement (10:35 a.m. NY)

Germany extended its lockdown and tightened restrictions as pressure mounts on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to contain the coronavirus spread and speed up vaccinations.

Merkel and state leaders agreed on Tuesday to limit non-essential travel to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) for people living in areas with more than 200 cases per 100,000 people, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Denmark on Maximum Alert Amid Variant Concerns (9:38 a.m. NY)

Denmark raised its Covid-19 alert level to the maximum and introduced fresh restrictions amid concerns over the more transmissible variant of the virus found in Britain.

The Nordic country’s alert level was moved up to five from four, signaling that contagion levels risk overwhelming the health service. While the number of new cases has fallen from its December peak, health officials say the presence of the British mutation on Danish territory could extend the state of emergency further.

Dutch to Start Immunizations, Last in EU (9:28 a.m. NY)

The Netherlands will start its vaccination program Wednesday, giving the first shot to a nursing home employee. The start was moved forward by two days, but the country is still the last EU member to begin immunizations. Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged his government should have been better prepared.

WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Intervals: Virus Update

The country saw a decline in new cases in the past seven days, even as the number of deaths and of patients admitted to intensive care units climbed, health agency RIVM reported Tuesday. Overall, RIVM concluded that “convincing effects” of the latest lockdown have not yet been achieved.

Ireland May Toughen Restrictions, PM Says (8:28 a.m. NY)

The closure of construction sites and manufacturing operations is “on the agenda” for a decision by the government in coming days, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in an interview with RTE.

Schools may also stay closed in January, as new infections hit records after spiraling out of control over the past month, he said. Martin said curbs are likely to remain in place until a substantial share of the population is vaccinated. Some 35,000 vaccinations will be given this month, he said.

Ireland reported “a considerable surge” in cases and hospitalizations on Tuesday. Local media reported that 25% of new cases were linked to the more contagious variant of the virus first detected in England.

France Finds U.K. Covid Variant in Paris Region (7:24 a.m. NY)

The more transmissible Covid variant discovered in the U.K. has been found in a patient in the Paris region, Paris hospitals head Martin Hirsch said on France 2 TV. Health authorities have completed contact tracing on the patient and the case “is under control,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch expects Paris region hospitals and nursing homes to vaccinate more than 10,000 staff and residents this week. French officials have come under fire for lagging behind other countries in rolling out vaccines. “For the next three weeks, we have the locations, we have the people, we have the doses, and we’re pressing ahead,” Hirsch said.

EU Seeks More Pfizer-BioNTech Doses (7:02 a.m. NY)

WHO Advisers Warn Against Extending Dose Intervals: Virus Update

The EU is negotiating a new contract that would include 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as well as an option for as many as 200 million more, people familiar with the matter said. Governments across the EU face scrutiny over the slow pace of their vaccine rollouts, and shots from other drugmakers such as AstraZeneca Plc won’t be available for weeks at the earliest.

Iran Fatalities Lowest Since June (6:45 a.m NY)

Iran recorded 98 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest daily figure since June 18, and 6,113 new coronavirus cases. In all, the country has reported 1,255,620 infections and 55,748 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. Also Tuesday, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said Iran had reported its first case of the new variant in a patient who had returned from the U.K.

Germany Considers Tighter Curbs (6:05 a.m. NY)

Germany may need to tighten lockdown restrictions as well as extend existing curbs as officials struggle to distribute a vaccine fast enough to stem the pandemic.

Regional leaders lobbied in favor of tougher curbs ahead of talks Tuesday with Chancellor Angela Merkel to decide the next steps in fighting the disease. Merkel and the 16 state premiers will consult by video conference amid general agreement that the closing of non-essential stores, restaurants and leisure facilities last month needs to be extended beyond Jan. 10.

Officials have yet to find a consensus on whether to open shuttered schools after the holidays, and are also discussing a chancellery proposal to limit how far people living in areas with high infection rates can move from their homes, local media reported.

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